The Healthcare Marketer’s Guide to Image SEO

Keywords, semantic search, meta descriptions. Over the years, you’ve become accustomed to writing for your hospital’s website with SEO in mind. But if you’re not optimizing your images, then you’re leaving rankable assets on the table. The good news is image SEO is fairly simple. Here’s what you need to know.

Include a Photo

Images matter now more than ever, because Google’s algorithm takes user behavior into account. Users are much more likely to read and spend longer amounts of time with your copy if there are also images on the page—or in the post, tweet, e-newsletter, etc. It’s common sense, really, but if you’re the type of person who geeks out on data, you can find plenty related to what visuals do for content consumption.

“Not every searcher is looking for written results when they look something up,” says Braden Becker, senior SEO strategist at HubSpot, who wrote about how the site octupled their blog traffic with image SEO. “So, if you’re not optimizing for image search, you could be missing out on people who prefer the same information in image form.”

Yes, just including a photo with your content can help your search ranking. But there’s more you can do to give your results a bigger boost.

Include the Right Photo

Just as you would spend time selecting the right images for a print piece, you also need to put effort into finding appropriate digital imagery. Slapping just any old stock photo on your article will confuse readers and may have the opposite effect of helping readers remember the information. And being careless with imagery could run you the risk of offending someone or even violating copyright law.

If you have the time, capability and budget, it’s best to use original photography or illustration. But that’s not always practical, so be sure to subscribe to a good stock image site. We like Freepik.

To make your images even more impactful, consider adding text.

“There’s data to suggest text in images can help surface images in highly viewed places, such as featured snippets, because there’s a greater chance these images are important to a user’s learning experience as they consume your content,” Becker says. “Images that help visualize tough concepts for people will reap the biggest rewards as a result.”

Magazine editors brainstorming in the office. Discussing and looking for new ideas for their magazine.

Label Your Photos

Before you upload IMG_0417.jpg into your content management system, take two seconds to give it a descriptive file name.

“You don’t think much about a file name when saving an image to your computer, but search engines need this data to understand how the image relates to written content,” Becker says.

But don’t try to get too clever. Google will assess the image itself to determine what’s being depicted, and it won’t put up with keyword stuffing. So if you’re using an image of a runner, keep it simple by calling it runner.jpg or something similar. Google will dock you for trying to outsmart it with an image file name like running_runner_runs_jogging_jogger.jpg.

But wait, if Google can detect what’s in the image anyway, is this step even worth it? Yes. Because even omniscient Google gets it wrong sometimes. And if the search engine thinks your photo is of, say, a shoulder rather than a knee, you’ll want it to be labeled correctly.

Fill in the Alt Text

Alternative text, or alt text for short, is text that describes an image. If a browser can’t load an image for any reason, it will display the alt text instead. That means most users will never see your alt text, but it’s still there, which means search engines will weigh it in their rankings.

Here, you’ll want to be a bit more descriptive than the image file name. But, again, don’t try to take advantage of this field. Something like “Woman getting a flu shot” is sufficient.

Choose the Right File Type, Size and More

Imagery is essential to SEO, but it also can slow down your page load time, which is another crucial element of SEO. So you’ll need to choose the best file type and size for each image. As a general rule, use .jpg files for photographs and .png extensions for illustrations, screenshots and other graphics.

But don’t stop there. To further cut download time, reduce the size or compress your images as much as possible without sacrificing quality.

“It’s easy to overlook file sizes, but the bigger the file, the longer it can take web browsers to render the page for your users. This slows down your page speed, which is one of the most important ranking factors to search engines like Google,” Becker says. “Compression tools like compressor.io or squoosh.app are quick, free, and help you minimize image file sizes before you upload them to your CMS.”

Well, there you have it. You won’t see drastic changes in your search rankings with image SEO, but it does help. And chances are your competitors aren’t doing all these image SEO best practices, which bodes even better for you.


TotalCom Marketing is a full-service healthcare marketing and advertising agency that believes in getting great results from telling great stories – our clients’ stories. Contact us for more information or view our work here.