We already know that high-quality product images increase conversion rates. But did you also know that images can help you rank higher on search engines?

Go search for your products on Google, and then head over to the Images tab. Do you see images from your store showing up? If not, your product photos are not optimized for search engines.

Don’t worry, not many retailers optimize their images either. Most people just ignore it because the upside is small. I mean, it’s not going to get you to rank 1 immediately. Still, the fact is, all these little improvements add up. So when you look at the big picture it really makes no sense to ignore it.

In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about making your product photos SEO-friendly.

 

File Types

Let’s start with a quick rundown of the three most common file types for images. They are JPEGs, PNGs and GIFs.

The JPEG format is the most common one and for good reason. They are high-quality images with smaller file sizes than the other two types. We’ll get into why size matters later.

PNGs are lower quality images and GIFs have the lowest quality. You may have noticed GIFs being used for animations while PNGs are for smaller images that don’t require too much color.

In general, JPEGs are the best for product photos. If you use any of the other file types, you’ll end up with larger file sizes for the same quality. And if you try to reduce the file size you’ll see the quality go down.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should never use the other two file types on your store. You might want to try out PNGs for decorative images, and some fun GIFs in your marketing, like this one –

Funny GIF

File Names

If you’re doing product photography yourself, you’re probably using a smartphone or a digital camera. Devices like these typically generate serial numbers for images. When you import your photos from a camera onto your computer, you’ll see names like IMG_001.jpg, and so on.

Change those names!

Your photo might look beautiful, but search engines can’t tell what it is if you call it IMG_001. You see, they look for keywords within image names too! So change the name to something more descriptive. If you’re selling a leather wallet, call it leather-wallet.jpg. If it’s a branded item, add the brand name in there too for further optimization.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when naming your product photos:

  • Don’t make the file name too long
  • Use hyphens to separate words
  • Don’t use words like ‘the’ and ‘a’ because they don’t add keyword value

Alt Tags

The alt tags in images are really important and often ignored. I assume it’s because most retailers just don’t know what they are for. Well, get ready because I’m going to drop some knowledge onto you.

Alt tags are important for two reasons:

  1. They tell search engines what the image is about, and search engines actually use this information when determining what images to return for a keyword.
  2. Sometimes images don’t load properly due to browser incompatibilities, internet speeds, blocking scripts, and many other reasons. The alt tags are displayed instead so they tell your customers what the image is.

In other words, the alt tag is a text-based alternative to images, get it?

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Without alt tags, browsers will see something like this –

<img src="leather-wallet.jpg" alt=""/>

That’s what your competitors’ tags look like now. But since you’re reading this, you’re going to go in and add descriptive alt tags to your images. In LemonStand, there’s a section dedicated to that within the product editor.

Optimize product photos for search engines

Now your alt tags will look like this –

<img src="leather-wallet.jpg" alt="Brown leather wallet for travellers"/>

Again, like the file name, remember to include your main keywords and any brand names. Also, remember that shoppers see this, so don’t be spammy by stuffing it with keywords.

Captions

Captions provide additional context around your images, which helps search engines identify them better. Additionally, captions provide more text for shoppers to read, keeping them on your product page for longer. In fact, captions are read 300% more than the rest of the copy on a page, so it’s a good idea to add them in.

In the LemonStand screenshot above, you’ll see there’s a box for ‘description’ where the caption goes. So, apart from the conversion benefits, what does this have to do with SEO? Well, average time on page is how search engines measure engagement levels. The longer people stay on your site, the more it says about how engaging your site is, and this helps you rank higher.

File Sizes

Page speed is, in general, an important factor when it comes to SEO and overall user experience. The longer your page takes to load, the more frustrating it is for shoppers. In fact, for every extra second your page takes to load your conversion rate drops 7%.

One of the major factors that affect page speed is image size. The larger the image, the longer it takes to load. That’s why it’s important to find the right balance between image quality and file size. That being said, you don’t need to sacrifice quality for size. LemonStand automatically compresses images, but it you’re using a different platform there are tools you can use –

  • Image Optim – This is a free, open source desktop app that optimizes compression parameters, removes junk metadata and unnecessary color profiles.
  • Jpeg Mini – This is a paid desktop software that claims to be able to reduce image size by up to 80% without reducing quality.
  • Kraken.io – This is a web-based software with image cropping abilities. You can use it for free or upgrade to a paid version with more features.

Image Sitemaps

To get some additional juice out of your images, and to ensure they all get indexed, create sitemaps for them. These will help search engines discover images that they may not have otherwise, like in cases when you load the image using JavaScript.

You probably already have a sitemap for your store. You can either add your image sitemap to this or create a new one. To do this, head to Google Webmaster Tools and follow the instructions for creating sitemaps.

Start Optimizing

Remember, in SEO every little thing counts, and if you can get a bit of extra organic traffic from your product images, why wouldn’t you optimize them?

For further reading on product images, check out our epic post on product photography hacks, or our ultimate guide to DIY photography.