For most of us, the first thing we pick up when it comes to search engine optimization is that it all comes down to text and keywords, and we end up effectively missing out on the key role images play. First of all, the role that images play in ecommerce is as vital as it can get, because images are what helps enhance the online shopping experience, it’s what attracts customers, and it’s what helps us make those coveted sales.
In addition to that, optimizing images across your website and even blog is a must if you want to rank better on search engines. While images may seem like a small component to SEO, optimizing them will help increase your visibility on the search engines, and doing all the necessary little steps will help you get more of that coveted organic and high-quality traffic to your ecommerce website.
Ecommerce sites should optimize for images because unlike other types of websites, ecommerce sites are often especially centered and rely heavily on images of their products.
When we optimize our website and its content—including copywriting and images, we do so in order to improve our position on search engines. In order to do so, we must work to make our site more appealing to both users and search engines themselves.
This article is a guide for our Ecommerce Pro blog readers who are looking to understand the importance of image SEO and how to optimize images so that your site can improve its rank on the search engine results page or SERP. Let's get started:
The Importance of Images
Aside from copywriting, images are the next most important component of your website. Over 80% of people report that they are more likely to consume content that includes images and remember it afterward. Text can’t even begin to compete with image on any platform, because that’s just how the human brain is hardwired. The brain processes images faster than words, 60,000 times faster in fact. Think about it, you will be able to instantly recognize a photograph of a dog compared to if you were to read a paragraph description of the furry, toothy, tailed mammal.
When it comes to online shopping, images just make the user experience more interesting. Images often play a decisive role in getting consumers to complete a purchase on your site. Remember that people are drawn to images, and in ecommerce, we use high-quality images to attract, engage, and convert our site visitors.
While there was a time, not too long ago, when the internet was mostly text-based and downloading images could take long minutes, the balance has now shifted in favor of sites with more visuals like images and videos.
When it comes to search engines today, Google tends to rate sites that couple text with images higher than sites that do not. Google’s algorithm also takes into account user behavior metrics like bounce rates and how long a potential customer lingers on your site. These metrics reflect user experience, which images are known to improve.
In accordance with how the internet and search engines work today where Google ranks webpages with images better than those that do not, visual content is now at the forefront of what makes or breaks a website on the SERPs. This fact should signal to anyone looking to improve their rank to optimize images on their website and start working on image SEO in their strategy to optimize their ecommerce site as a whole.
To optimize your online website's images, we have gathered up a number of strategies that will help you improve your search engine visibility:
1. Consider The Images You Use
While using stock photos is fine and well, filling your website with these may impair your ability to rank well. This is because other websites are probably using the same images that you use, and just as unique written content is far better for SEO, the same is most likely true for images.
This is why you should consider populating your site with unique photos and graphics that are specifically taken and created for your site alone.
In addition to using unique images, relevant and high-quality visuals are also important to user experience and SEO. Using images that are unrelated to your site, images that are badly cropped, or blurry pictures will make your site and your online store look poor and unprofessional. High-quality content extends beyond written text to include images, so make sure every visual in your site is up to standard and relevant to the rest of the content.
2. Name your Images
When it comes to naming image files, don’t stick to the randomly generated numbers and letters that your computer assigns. Instead of naming your product image as “ IMG1001”, use a file name that accurately describes what is seen in the image, like “orange-cat-print-tumbler”.
The reason why you should name your image files accurately with relevant keywords is to help search engines determine what is shown in your product image.
It’s important to note that you should avoid creating long file names crammed with keywords as this may have a negative impact on your ranking. Dashes are also preferred and try to stick to nouns and adjectives or descriptive words.
3. Reduce File Size
In a world that moves fast, users have less patience for webpages that take too long to load, so the quicker the better. Today, 47% of internet users expect a webpage to load in two seconds or less, and for every 1-second delay in load time leads to a cataclysmic 7% reduction in conversions. Now let’s think about that for a second.
When you reduce file size, you are effectively improving your page load time. Page load time is an indicator as to how long it takes a webpage to load up, and this is important because it is a major factor that not only affects customer satisfaction, but your search engine rank as well. That’s right, search engines like Google prefer websites that load quickly.
Page load time is heavily influenced by images, so you should always strive to save images at reduced sizes, preferably at 100Kb or less.
4. Choose the Right Format
With regard to file format, the most common that you’ll see are JPG, PNG, and GIF files. The goal of choosing the right file type is to choose the one that will give you a shorter loading time, because search engines and people prefer websites that load quickly.
PNG format usually provides a higher resolution, with the downside being that PNG requires larger file sizes than JPG. GIF, on the other hand, doesn’t support as wide of a color range as the two aforementioned formats, but it does support smaller file sizes, with transparent backgrounds.
When it comes to ecommerce, JPG is a recommended file format according to sources like Shopify that considers JPG format as your “best bet”, because they provide the best quality for the smallest file size.
5. Use Image Alt Text
Also called alt descriptions or alt tags, alt text is a written description that appears in place of an image on a webpage in the event that the image fails to load. An alt tag is an HTML attribute applied to image tags with the purpose of providing text alternatives to images for search engine crawlers, people who use screen readers, and for those who may be visually impaired.
Most significantly to those who want to improve website SEO, alt tags are extremely helpful to Google as they provide descriptions for search engine crawlers, which cannot interpret the visual attributes images. Alt tags help engine crawlers inspect the page, helping them index your site’s images more accurately through the written descriptions that alt texts provide.
Adding alt tags to your ecommerce website adds so much SEO value, and is one of the best ways for your ecommerce products to show up on Google Image searches.
6. Use Image Site Maps
According to Google Support on the best practices on publishing images on your site to increase the likelihood of being found on Google Image Search Results, users are encouraged to use Google image extensions for sitemaps. Sitemaps give search engines like Google more information about the images that are available on your site. This helps Google crawlers index images that are there.
The relevance of site maps for SEO lies in the fact that site maps impart significant information on the content available on your page. This ensures that search engine crawlers are aware of every image on your site.
By giving Google information about the images found in your online store, you are improving the chances that your site will be featured in Google Images.
Back to You
Now you know some of the most basic elements to optimizing your images across your ecommerce website. Following these tips should help you improve your Google Image Search ranking, leading to more traffic, and more sales.
There are many elements to improving your site's SEO and the best practices seem to always be changing. That’s why it’s always better to be on your toes and to stay informed on how to improve traffic to your online business. For more information on how best to build and run your ecommerce or dropshipping business, come and explore the Ecommerce Pro Blog for ecommerce resources that will help you grow as an ecommerce entrepreneur.