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When you open the YouTube app on your phone, what is the first thing you see? The answer is probably a curated set of thumbnails paired with titles that entice you to click. We can think of featured images through this same lens. A featured image is the “YouTube thumbnail” for your website’s content. It grasps the attention of a user while telling them what they are getting themselves into.

Featured images seem relatively straightforward, but recognizing the importance of these images can help you maximize the benefits of having them. A solid featured image is important to deliver SEO benefits. This includes increasing user engagement, making your website more accessible through alt text, and giving your website a marketable “look.” For new and growing businesses, a featured image can be your first chance at engaging with a user and reaping the benefits of your SEO strategy. 


A Featured Image is Your Online Curb Appeal

As we talked about with the thumbnail analogy, a featured image is your opportunity to reel a user in. When internet searches bombard us with titles, URLs, and meta descriptions, a striking image is an aspect our eyes are drawn to. A featured image that is eye-catching achieves the purpose of telling a user why your content is necessary.

Think of a featured image as your first impression. Content accompanied with an image creates ten times the amount of engagement than content with no image. Thus, this first impression is relevant to expanding the reach of your content. This all directly plays to your SEO strategy: who are you trying to reach and how are you reaching them?

Featured images also play a role in your marketing strategy. Users enjoy the familiarity and a recognizable aesthetic, or “look” draws them in. Your featured images are able to clearly display your website’s look, whether on social media, mobile devices, or desktop internet searches. You are on track to increasing the likelihood of a user returning to your site this way. Developing a marketable aesthetic is also easily achievable for new businesses. Use similar fonts, borders, or color patterns in your images to create the consistency that is beneficial to garner user engagement. 

Featured Images Can Go Hand-in-Hand with Your Social Media Strategy

Let’s expand a little bit more on the role featured images play in social media. Creating an image that translates well on the web and on mobile devices can save you a lot of time. For example, one featured image that is displayed on the article itself, on Google in an internet search, and on all of your social media platforms, can kill multiple birds with one stone. You have a quality image that allows you to consistently present your company’s visual branding across all platforms in a quick and easy way.

Especially on social media, images draw more users in than words. A featured image on social media provides users with a pathway. They could see your image on Twitter, click on a link to your website, find the same image on your site, and engage with the content they are looking for. A consistent image and branding across both your social media and website using the same images can help you achieve this pathway.

Additionally, your featured image may be displayed when users click on a link or backlink on other sites. Without a featured image, links could be blank and harm your engagement. By putting a featured image on all of your content, you eliminate this possibility. The internet always has an image to display if your content is ever linked somewhere else. 

A Featured Image Opens the Door for Alternative Text

If you are unfamiliar with alternative text, it is essentially adding a written description to any images on your website. These descriptions can rank for keywords and optimize how your content ranks on image-specific web searches. They also make your images more accessible. These descriptions can be read aloud by screen-reading software.

How does this relate to an SEO strategy and the importance of featured images? Essentially, having a featured image on all of your content opens the door to adding alternative text. This in turn expands the reach of your content, creates more opportunities to rank for keywords, and might catch a user’s eyes on an image search. We encourage using multiple images for your content, but adding a single featured image with alt text to all of your content is an easy step a business can take. For growing companies, being smart with how you are spending your time is necessary. This is a time-efficient baseline that is sure to deliver benefits that will be worth it in time. 


Overall, a featured image is important because it can amp up your content and SEO strategy in a quick and cost-effective way. When developing an SEO strategy, new businesses should concentrate on small steps that will deliver concrete benefits. By developing a visual brand that is displayed on your content and social media through a featured image, you are on your way to growth. Add some alt text to these images. Before you know it you will have a bonafide SEO strategy that delivers the engagement you are striving for. 

Evan Coleman

Evan Coleman is a blogger at Seattle Web Search. He is based in both New Jersey as well as New York, where he attends the University of Rochester majoring in English and Business. He looks forward to learning more about the world of SEO through his work with Seattle Web Search.

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