Optimizing your images for Pinterest and Google, and why it matters

July 23rd, 2013

I thought I would share our Pinterest optimization strategy for those of you looking to maximize the shareability and ROI of images on your websites. First of all, why is it even important? Well, for one thing Pinterest is blowing up. The popular social media site launched in March 2010 and currently has over 70 million users with 2.5 billion monthly Pageviews.

See the entire infographic at Expanded Ramblings.

There are a ton of more great Pinterest stats over on Craig Smith’s blog post from two weeks ago, By the Numbers: 14 Amazing Pinterest Stats, check it out!

Ok, so you get it’s important, there are a lot of people out there using Pinterest and sharing images. How do you tap some of that love for your images? First- there are the images themselves, and second- there are some technical things that you can do to make them more Google and Pinterest friendly. This post focuses on the technical aspects of what you can do, but if you are interested in the content side of things I suggest you check out Colby Almond’s post on Moz.com, Going Viral on Pinterest: Driving Big Traffic and Making Pinterest a Real Marketing Solution. It focuses on Instructographics and how to make great content for Pinterest that will get shared.

But what about more typical images on your site? We have a client who is a custom home builder, we’ll use him for an example of how you can leverage images on your site for Pinterest.

Step One: Save your image file for web

This may seem like an obvious step, but it is amazing how many bloated images I come across. I am referring to both physical and file size. So make sure you don’t let the browser resize your images (prep them in an image editor like Adobe Photoshop). Secondly, make sure you optimize the images for file size. We like using Tiny PNG, which uses lossy compression to squash PNG file sizes. There are other tools out there as well- the point is, resize your images and compress them for file size before you do anything else.

Original Image, JPEG, 119 KB

Now for this image I would normally go with JPEG compression anyway- but for the sake of this illustration I used a PNG to show how much you can gain with one extra step.

Nice gain from using Tiny PNG, eh?

Step Two: Determine your keywords

This is a high level guide for creating keyword relevant file names for your images, you may tweak it to match your segment or market.

Determine keywords for your (or your client’s) business

  • Industry (ie: home building, custom home builder, residential construction)
  • Service (ie: stacked stone, custom trim, hardwood flooring, etc.)
  • Location (ie: Raleigh, Durham, Apex)

Using the keywords, create the image file name

  • Industry + Service Provided + Location or Feature
  • Example: Custom Home Builder Stacked Stone Entryway

Choosing Keywords
If you are unsure of what users are searching and are looking for answers, Google Trends is a great tool you can use to compare search terms.

Industry + Service Provided + Location or Feature (not both)

Step Three: Name Your Image Files

Rename your image files: Just like you can’t tell what DSC_0166.jpg looks like, neither can a search engine spider.

Rename the file using keywords to describe what the image is about. Use hyphens to separate between words instead of underscores. Generally best practice for URLs as well as file names is to utilize hyphens because Google can interpret underscored file names as one one keyword. So custom_homebuilder may be read as customhomebuilder by Google. Play it safe and use hyphens, I think they look better as well!

Using your keywords will help you create a filename like this: 


Step Four: Upload Your Images

If you are working with a CMS like Drupal, WordPress, ExpressionEngine, or something similar you will probably have some kind of image file upload widget. You should be able to provide values for the alt attribute as well as title tag for each image that you upload. If you are managing things by hand take a look at the bottom of this section to see what that looks like. 

Write an Alt Attribute (Pinterest): So really this is the Alt Attribute, but everyone calls it a tag. Just to be stubborn I will call it an Alt Attribute in this post. Write a brief description of what the image is about. If you can include a targeted keyword relevant to the page, do so. An Alt Attribute should basically be able describe the image to a sight impaired person:

  • Describe the image
  • Add hashtags (make it Twitter friendly!)
  • Add your (or your client’s) URL

Ex: Beautiful stacked stone arch entryway on a custom built craftsman style home. #homedesignideas www.mjrosehomes.com

Why is this important? When a user Pins an image straight from a website using the handy dandy Pin It button from Pinterest it automatically pulls in the Alt Attribute as the Pinterest Description. And guess what? People are lazy! This means that there is a good chance they will just leave that Description field alone. I know I do.

Write an image Title Tag: The Title Tag is the text that appears when a user mouses over the image. Much like the Alt Attribute, the Title Tag can give clues to search engine bots about the image. I like to use the Title Tag for credits and attribution.

Ex: Custom stacked stone entryway by MJ Rose Homes, General Contractor: Martin Beam, Subcontractor: Brandco

For those of you hand coding or otherwise, your code should look something like this:

Step Five: Final Thoughts

Ok, so this is a good baseline, but try not to get too formulaic with what you use for your Alt Attributes and Title Tags. Mix it up, and be authentic, the search engines will appreciate that, and more importantly, your users will too. So remember, you are writing for humans first, robots second.

The benefit to prepping your images and attributes this way is that you will have appropriately sized, lean, and accessible images that will be ready to share on Pinterest with prefilled description fields.

Remember, including your hashtag in your Alt Attribute becomes a really easy way to translate the Pinterest description to Twitter! As the web trends towards more images and video this info should serve you well in your image optimization strategies. Cheers!

About The Author

Jason uses his 20 years of experience as a marketer for a wide range of companies and organizations daily in his role as the leader of Coalmarch. As CEO he plays a direct role in the...Find out more!