WP SEO Tips: Names Have Meaning

February 12th, 2007
WordPress Tips

WordPress by nature has a strong SEO (search engine optimization) platform which helps tremendously with Google, Yahoo!, and MSN — to name a few of the large players in the search industry. As part of society, people use search engines to search for things and more often than not, they end up on someone’s blog — maybe even yours.

But, as a Google user myself, I know that I don’t just use the web search feature. I also use the Google Images search feature to find things that are relevant for what I’m searching for. This is where “names have meaning” comes into play.

When I’m writing an article for my blog, I usually have an image included somewhere in the article. I try to average an image in an article at least once every two or three articles.

We’ll be using Google in all these examples because that’s what I’m the most familiar with. Google is comprised of around 9,000 employees, but the real power behind Google is the 200,000+ servers they have clustered together. The server cluster is exactly what it says, servers — aka robots. Robots don’t have literal eyes as we know humans to have eyes, but they can read text pretty clearly.

Why is image naming important? Googlebot can only see what you write so naming is very important. If Googlebot sees an image that is named 412414124124.jpg and it’s a picture of a red bird, it’s not going to have the fainest clue how to rank it. You may be getting search referrers from Google Images for searches such as ‘4124’ or maybe none at all for that image. But if it were named red_bird_westcoast.jpg, Googlebot would automatically know that it was a picture of a red bird on the West coast.

Okay, but I still don’t get it, why name the images exactly as they are?
It’s good to be naming images exactly what they are so that Googlebot, Yahoo! slurp, MSNbot, all those robots, know exactly what the image is of so the index is created properly and the search engines can direct traffic to your site accordingly.

Right now, Google is driving about half my traffic, but Google Images is ranked second as far as search engine referrers go. That’s exactly the reason I name my images the way I do. If it’s an article about how Google Maps shows reviews now, I’ll name the image I show something like reviews_in_google_maps.jpg and search engines will know exactly what it’s a picture of.

This is the initial post of what you will see as a series of WordPress SEO Tips from me, Jonathan. Just to give you a little background on myself, I am the founder of – a news blog all about what’s happening with Google. I also am the founder of Fireside Media along with quite a few other sites. I specialize in SEO and SEM. I have a work experience background with various marketing companies including Commission Junction. If you have any questions at all for me, please post a comment here or feel free to drop me a line and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks and I hope you enjoy the new series of WordPress SEO Tips!




  1. John Kirk (1 comments.) says:


    I very useful post. Image naming is considerably underused – even by many experienced webmasters. Few people seem to appreciate just how popular image searching is on Google.

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention.


  2. Ajay (72 comments.) says:

    I’ve disabled image indexing on my websites because I realized it caused a large number of hotlinks. I do have the Hotlink protection on, but somehow I’m not comfortable with all my images being indexed, especially photographs.

  3. Ashish Mohta (14 comments.) says:

    AJAY,but what’s the problem u are avoiding abt ..can u explain a little more

  4. Ajay (72 comments.) says:

    I don’t want my photographs searchable, more like a privacy concern. Hence they all have weird numbered names and I also have the image search disabled.

  5. CT (1 comments.) says:

    Most people think image searchbots far more sophisticated than they are. There’s an assumption that they can, indeed, see the images, when really all they’re doing is searching for the nearby text and image filename to suss out what the image actually is. It works pretty well, obviously, but not even close to perfect.

    I always name my image files to something relevant. Not so much for SEO, although it’s certainly worked out that way, but for my own filing system.

  6. Toxic (3 comments.) says:

    Is it not better to use hyphens (-) though than underscores (_) when seperating the words in the name, like WP does with uri.

  7. Jeriko One (4 comments.) says:

    Actually, the filename isn’t that important, or to say unrelevant. For Google’s Image Search (and possibly others as well) is the alt parameter in the img-Tag is of much more value.

    Take this example: Every result is made up from the content of the alt parameter, not the filename.

  8. drmike (10 comments.) says:

    Why not just use alt and title tags for your images? Google and the other search engines pick up on those as well.

  9. Jonathan (83 comments.) says:

    Toxic: I’ve been experimenting with the underscores and dashes for image names. I think mostly I did it because it was habit to use the underscore and easier, but I’ve been forcing myself to try the dash as well. Additionally, there are not many results in that search. I rank fairly high for a lot of image results so I’m on the first page — which is what SEO is all about.

    Drmike: Alt tags are good too, but filenames I’ve seen are more important to search engines.

  10. David Culpepper (1 comments.) says:

    Jonathan, Excellent post and great advice! I am relatively new to blogging and really looking forward to the rest of this series. Thank you!

  11. wordpresser (1 comments.) says:

    very good tips, thank you.

  12. Paul Goscicki (1 comments.) says:

    Anyone who thinks that alt tags and filenames mean a lot to Google image search should watch Human Computation:

    No, really, do it now. It will open your eyes on how images are categorized. Sure, it’s good to have meaningful alt tags and filenames but they are not that important when it comes to image search on google.

  13. CT (1 comments.) says:

    I concur on ALT/TITLE tags not counting for much, Google-wise. I always use both tags on my blog, but never do so descriptively (not proper use, I know, but I like to keep it light). Yet search engines pick up my images and rank them highly regardless. Again, actual filenames carry more weight.

  14. Elaine (1 comments.) says:

    With my blog being one that is for my face and body art business, I include pictures of my work. I always name my images with real names and set up descriptive alt tags for the photos, both on the web site itself and the blog.

  15. Rirath (14 comments.) says:

    It’s worth noting that depending on your content, sometimes image searches aren’t exactly a good thing. Sometimes when people do an image search, all they want is that image — they don’t really care about your blog or post.

    That’s fine if part if your goal is delivering that image to the viewers, but perhaps not so good if you actually want people to stick around. Sometimes it can lead to a bandwidth drain.

    Also, Google Images updates very, very slowly to my understanding.

  16. patung says:

    As other commenters suggested, red_bird_westcoast.jpg is useless, it’s one long nonsense word, something like redbirdwestcoast, use red-bird-westcoast.jpg, underscore is treated as a character, hyphen as a space.

  17. Jonathan (83 comments.) says:

    Patung: I know where you’re coming from, but the results don’t lie. I’ve seen trippled traffic just from Google Images alone from my sites which mean that it is treating it with more care. I’m still testing for the underscore or dash in image names. I know for permalinks that’s how it’s treated, still figuring the images out though.

  18. Elmer W. Cagape (1 comments.) says:

    Having to properly name your images with descriptive filenames doesn’t mean you are optimizing them for image search. It still helps optimize the page itself. We can tell search engines to skip search images at robots.txt.

  19. Jonathan (83 comments.) says:

    Elmer: I am in no way saying you should disregard the optimization for the rest of the page, I was just talking about SEO image optimization specifically — nothing to do with the rest of the page.

  20. Farnoosh (4 comments.) says:

    Hi, I am not sure if this is still being watched or updated. I am searching the same thing you mentioned here: Is it better for search engines searching for images to see a dash or an underscore in the image name? Does underscore get treated as a character,and dash as a space? Thank you so much!

    • Jonathan Dingman (83 comments.) says:


      definitely use dashes. Google has come out and blatantly said that dashes are better than underscores.


      that’d be a good example of dash usage.


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