Image SEO – host images on subdomain or subfolder?

I was a little confused about where to store images for max SEO value. But I got it cleared up so I thought I’d share what I learned.

While I hadn’t found anyone saying to host images on your domain versus your subdomain, I had heard people say you should host your images on your domain. And I’ve also heard people say that Google treats subdomains as separate sites. So logically, I decided that meant host your images on your domain.

Turns out, that’s not the best idea. I asked SEOMoz with one of my question credits, and they told me that you should host your images on a subdomain because hosting them on your domain doesn’t help your SEO and will increase your site load time, which is a ranking factor.

So, now that that’s cleared up, here are some things you can do that will help your image SEO:

Ian Lurie also recommends you put images in your XML sitemap.

10 SEO tips for publishers | Internet Marketing Strategy: Conversation Marketing


Ensure that your robots.txt file does not limit search engines from accessing your image files. This is essential if you want your images to be ranked on Google Image Search. Try not to use javascript links on image files as well as it will limit search engine access as well.”

(This is from a site that doesn’t appear to be live anymore but the URL was

Be sure to get keywords into the following areas:

  • Page title
  • Captions
  • Surrounding Text
  • Alt Tags
  • File Names


    • cathyreisenwitz

      Yes, exactly. This is all about optimizing page speed. As for the second part, I’m not sure I understand. Why would your domain ever be “”

    • cathyreisenwitz

      Yeah, you’d host them on a subdomain of to increase page load speed, which helps your rankings because page load speed is a ranking factor.

  1. Jamie

    Great insight – thanks for the post. You mention that you heard people say you should host images on you own domain, and (according to SEOmoz) a subdomain is preferable for page speed reasons.
    If hosting images on your own domain (let’s call it doesn’t help your SEO, what is the reason for hosting them on a subdomain ( rather than a completely separate domain (
    Is there an issue with demonstrating ownership of images / hosting / hotlinking etc.?

    I’m thinking about this from the point of view of getting the images themselves indexed, since they account for a significant amount of traffic for me, from Google image search.

    • cathyreisenwitz

      Hey Jamie, thanks for stopping by. I think it boils down to Google’s increased ability to connect subdomain ownership to domains. But I honestly don’t know for sure what the benefits are to subdomain hosting versus external hosting. Are you considering hosting on Flikr or something?

  2. Jamie

    Thanks for the reply. It’s a bit complicated, but let’s just say we’re moving to a new domain, and wondering whether to leave the images on the old domain or move them (there’s a lot) to a subdomain of the new domain.

  3. Denny S

    Domain name:

    Does Google/Bing penalize you for having your images hosted by either: or

    This would increase load times but does it hurt with image searches and etc. I am thinkining more in the eCommerce world. Thank you.

    • cathyreisenwitz

      To I’d say no problem. For I’d say it’s less of a penalty and more of a missed opportunity for credit. I’d guess in that case that from Google’s perspective Amazon “owns” those images and therefore gets “credit” for having that relevant content. On the other hand, it’ll be your pages that rank in Google Image search regardless of where the images are hosted. So I’d make my decision based on what’s most important to you. Is it relevant content, load time or ranking in Google Image and Blended search?

  4. William

    – Hello, not sure if this page is still relevant. –

    For SEO purposes, would it help much to have the html file on the sub domain as well?

    OR do the images themselves only need to be on a sub domain?

    example. “” – While the images on this page are located at

    Just curious if either or mattered for speed and seo. Thanks ahead of time.

    • cathyreisenwitz

      Hey William,

      I think that unless the html file is huge, it should be on your domain in a subfolder, since that’s where your content is, which you want Google to rank, and you want to support your domain and help its overall relevancy and ranking.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  5. Sonny Mcaffee

    Google Images is a search service created by Google and introduced in July 2001, that allows users to search the Web for image content. The keywords for the image search are based on the filename of the image, the link text pointing to the image, and text adjacent to the image. When searching for an image, a thumbnail of each matching image is displayed. When the user clicks on a thumbnail, the image is displayed in a box over the website that it came from. The user can then close the box and browse the website, or view the full-sized image.*-

    Have a look at our personal internet site as well

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