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Google On Image Filenames & A Surprising SEO Mistake

15 phút
Written by
31 Oct 2022

Google’s Lizzi Sassman and John Mueller discussed the importance of image filenames during a recent Search Off the Record podcast. At one point, they discussed a major mistake people make when it comes to filenames.

We recently did a Google image search for a client’s brand name and discovered that many of their product images were missing filenames. This is a surprising SEO mistake because filenames are an important part of image optimization.

If you’re not sure what we’re talking about, take a look at this article on Google’s image file names and SEO mistakes. In short, every image should have a unique filename that accurately describes the content of the image.

The Importance of Filenames

Although Google’s documentation doesn’t explicitly state whether or not image filenames are ranking factors, they do mention that Google takes note of them in order to help determine what the image is showing. Therefore, it’s recommended by Google that images have filenames that accurately describe their contents.

According to the image guidelines documentation, Google states:

Likewise, the filename can give Google clues about the subject matter of the image.

For example, my-new-black-kitten.jpg is better than IMG00023.JPG.

If you localize your images, make sure you translate the filenames, too.”

It’s always a good idea to give your images clear and concise filenames so that it’s easy to know what they’re all about. This comes in handy for organizational purposes, especially when you have a lot of images to keep track of.

How Important Are Image Filenames?

Google’s Lizzi Sassman and John Mueller discuss the importance of filenames in SEO. They talk about how filenames are used by search engines to index pages, and how important they are for ranking.

“Lizzi Sassman:

So another part where you could focus your attention, I guess, would be the filename.

So words for the name of the image itself.

How important is that?

Because that’s not an area where I have not invested much effort, but I don’t know, like should we?

What if I went and just changed all of the images on our site to have a different filename?

To be more descriptive or, I don’t know… put more words there too, like in addition to alt text?

John Mueller:

We do recommend doing something with the filenames in our image guidelines.

So having descriptive filenames is good.

But I don’t think you would see a significant change if you already do the other things around images, like the alt texts, and the text surrounding the image.

Those are really, really strong signals.

And the filename itself is often… it’s kind of from a technical point of view.

This is what we called it, but it doesn’t provide any real unique information, usually.

Of course, if you don’t do the alt text, or if you don’t have good surrounding text, then, of course, the filename might be the only place where you mention what this image is about.

But if you do the rest, then usually the filenames are okay.”

Something You Need to Know About Google Image Crawling

John Mueller next brings up an important SEO issue in terms of technology.

Technical SEO issues are important to consider when optimizing images for an already established website, as Google’s image crawler operates differently from its text crawler. This means that certain image optimization techniques that might work for text might not work as well for images, and vice versa.

John Mueller continued:

“And the other thing with filenames, especially for images, is when we crawl images, we tend not to crawl them as often, because usually, they don’t change a lot.

Lizzi Sassman:


John Mueller:

So that means if you change all of the filenames across the website, then it’s going to take a lot of time for Google’s systems to see, “Oh, well, this is a new image, and we have to kind of look at it at some point.”

And to understand kind of that connection between the old image and the new one, that’s something that’s just going to take a very long time.

So if you changed all of them at once, my guess is… I don’t know, over a period of a couple of months at least, it’ll be kind of annoying in Image Search in that we kind of drop the old ones first because they’re no longer mentioned on the page and pick up the new ones in a really slow way.

So that’s something where I would try to only do that if it’s really, really critical.

Like when we did the transition from Blogger to the new setup for the blog posts.

Of course, the images had to be moved as well.

And at that point, it was like, “Sure.” It was like, “Change the filename, move the image to a different URL.” “

The main point to take away from this is that Google doesn’t index images very often, so if you rename them, they might not be found in search results for a while.

Changing File Names Has Minimal Impact

Out of all the options, changing the filename of already crawled and indexed images has the least benefit, and you likely won’t see any results.

John Mueller continued:

“But otherwise, once they’re moved on the site, and you’re just like tweaking things, and it was like, “Oh, I have a new system for image filenames.”

I don’t think that would make it better.

That probably would have minimal effect, maybe no visible effect at all.

Lizzi Sassman:

For the amount of effort, yeah.

John Mueller:

And everything drops out for a couple of months. It’s no fun.

Lizzi Sassman:

And room for human error too. To like miss a broken link.

If you need to go swap out, where are these images embedded and stuff?

You could cause more problems with just the mistake of forgetting to update various places where those images were used.”

I can imagine things going wrong.”

Image Filenames and SEO

In this segment of Google’s podcast, they share 4 insights on the topic of image filenames:

  1. Image filenames that are descriptive help Google understand what an image is about, which is helpful for Image Search.
  2. Images with alt text and descriptive text surrounding them provide a stronger signal to search engines about what the image is than images with just a filename.
  3. Changing the image filename of an already indexed image probably won’t have a significant effect and may not improve it.
  4. If you change the filename of an image that’s already been indexed by a search engine, that image may not get crawled and indexed again for months.


Today’s blog post is going to be a bit more technical than our last few. We hope that you find this information interesting and that it is helpful to your own SEO efforts. If you write articles with image filenames, you may be making a critical SEO mistake. So, don’t forget to give your images descriptive filenames that help Google understand what an image is about.

If you have any questions about this topic please contact us anytime at EverRanks. We are always excited when one of our posts is able to provide useful information on a topic like this.


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