How To – Edit & Optimize WordPress Images

A step-by-step guide to WordPress image editing & optimizing

Partial screenshot of a wordpress website builder page

Looking for ways to get more of your images discovered on search engines? You’re going to have to apply some SEO (search engine optimization) to those images. There are many ways to do that, but the ones below are most likely to be done by anyone with the ability to craft an email. These also happen to hit many of the must-do actions for reaching the goal of showing up on Search.

For simplicity, assume every text element noted in the following has SEO value, so be certain to be mindful of inserting keywords and your brand in the areas noted. That said, don’t take an SEO-first approach here; instead, write to your (human) reader as the primary focus, then review and edit for your marketing purpose. Most edits are likely to be minor. Always focus on the person first (unless, of course, it’s otherwise noted).

Certain settings may make the instructions appear differently to you than what is illustrated. If you find this to be true, adjust your User Role, so these features are available. You may need to discuss with whomever manages your website.

To keep this guide contextually relevant, an effort has been made to keep guiding steps and illustrations on the same page. When referencing “image,” it is inclusive of all files.

Can these tips work for you? “…you took a few hours’ worth of work off my hands and made it foolproof for my coworkers.” says Gina at Bel Air Finishing. Take your time, tackle these in stages – you can do it!

PRO TIP: Before making any edits, first make sure the filename and image scale/size are first optimized.


Screenshot of steps 1&2 on how to optimize wordpress images

1.      Log into your WordPress website, then select Media > Library from the left navigation.

2.      Select any image to edit by clicking (or double-clicking) on it.


Screenshot of steps 3-5 & 13 on how to optimize wordpress images

3.      At the top of the lavender-colored block, double-check that your image File types are .jpg, .jpeg, or .png. The latter scale best, but are slightly larger-in-weight. Make an alternate selection or change file type as needed. Also, check the File size (100-500kb is the goal) and Dimensions (no larger than 1920×1200). Image weights are cumulative, so if you have a single image on a page, 500kb is fine, but if you have five images, 100kb or less is the goal. PRO TIP: The Copy Link at the bottom of the box is the URL to the image and can be used for sharing anywhere online. See step 8 for more info.

4.      Uploaded to; shows all the page(s) where the image is present. Review this to be certain that text changes remain contextually relevant to all the pages that contain the image.

5.      Clicking Edit more details offers more options than editing within the med-blue box. Once you are familiar with editing, you’ll know which box is appropriate for certain edit types.

Step 13 will be discussed later…

STEPS 6-12

Screenshot of steps 6-12 on how to optimize wordpress images

6.      Like step 3 – but the Filename is present in the cell directly above and is editable using certain WordPress plugins – otherwise, this is not editable. Be careful changing filenames as it could delete the image from the page(s) and require you to re-upload a replacement. PRO TIP: the filename is whatever you saved it as on your computer, so it’s best to optimize filenames BEFORE you upload to WordPress. See step 19.

7.      This is the image “Title” and is a strong SEO element, so be sure to include your keyword and brand here.

8.      AKA “Alt Attribute,” write a brief but descriptive note about what this image is about. This is not the same as the Description. This text could show for slow-loading images but will also be read aloud for persons using screen readers and other types of assistive tech. PRO TIP: This is also an anchor text when sharing/linking images!

9.      Captions are used to display text directly below the image and are useful for associating items/people in a group, adding descriptive narrative, or specific text like product model or specifications.

10.   The description is useful to display text when an attachment page (viewable to the left of step 5) is used. While not always visible, this text has contextual relevance to the page and, therefore, an SEO value. In addition to having a text editor feature, links can also be used here. PRO TIP: this has underrated SEO powers!

11.   Text editor feature for the Description element.

12.   Changing the Slug will also change the Permalink (and vice versa) – the Slug will not be visible to everyone if it isn’t visible to you, click on the Edit button for the Permalink (directly below the #7 marker).


Screenshot of step 13 on how to optimize wordpress images

13.   See steps 1 & 2. Clicking on Edit image will allow you to perform some technical image edits – see next steps.

STEPS 14-17+

Screenshot of steps 14-17 on how to optimize wordpress images

14.   Used to Crop, Rotate, Flip, Undo, and Redo (respectively) images. To crop, first, click on the image to initiate the functionality, then just drag the dotted lines.

15.   Scale your images before making any other changes (including cropping) by setting your length and height dimensions here. PRO TIP: sizes are always listed as Length X Height. Typically, 1920×1200 is as large as you want to go, so anything larger might trigger a warning in some audit reports for being larger than its container (allotted space) – this is especially true for how your site acts on a mobile device. Setting dimensions in either of the two boxes then clicking the Scale button will optimize proper Length X Height automatically.

16.   The Aspect ratio can be set here, here are some guides for website, social media, and Google Ads Google ads usage

17.   When changing image scale/size, you have the option of changing all images with these new dimensions, just the thumbnail images, or everything except the thumbnails by selecting any of these radio buttons.

18.   BONUS I – Once you make a change to an image, you will see a Restore Original Image option above the Image Crop feature. This is useful if things didn’t turn out as you thought they would (it happens).

19.   BONUS II – use THIS PLUGIN to swap an existing image with a different or updated one while preserving its filename (useful for some but doesn’t work for all themes). PRO TIP: Click HERE to see more recommended WP plugins.

There are many more WordPress optimization and image edit tactics, but these are somewhat easy for most people to do on their own, and offer a good return for time investment. Can you picture yourself making these edits? Give it a shot!