28 min read
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Updated: September 12, 2022

Ecommerce Image Optimization for Online Stores

Why Are Optimized Images Important for Ecommerce?

Importance of optimized images

 

Over 50% of consumers claim image quality is more persuasive than product descriptions during the buying phase. Marketers have long known how consumers’ decision-making processes are value-laden, i.e., people are attracted to images espousing their values or aspirations.

Consequently, advertisers meticulously curate images to optimize appeal. In current mobile eCommerce environments, businesses have to apply behavioral psychology and search-engine best practices to their advertising and product images to market their brand in the best light.

Added technical considerations, AKA image optimization, produces high-quality images in the right format, dimensions, size, and resolution for better SEO and customer engagement.

Around one billion people use Google Images every day, and a whopping 10% of the search engine’s traffic comes from image searches. Any online store wanting to rank in Google Images, and influence customers must be intentional about how they present themselves online.

In this sense, image quality is everything because eCommerce consumers likely only have product images to go by. In short, image optimization is a necessary process to boost SEO rankings and improve user experience.

What Is Image Optimization?

Image optimization is the process of creating and delivering high-quality images in the ideal format, size, and resolution to help increase both rankings on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) and user engagement.

Because Google assesses an image’s quality, format, dimension, size, and resolution, the goal is to find the lowest-possible combination of those factors, while keeping the smallest image size; this approach improves SEO.

Image optimization techniques involve compressing image size, using light-image formats, and minimizing the number of images site visitors load in their browsers. It also involves accurately labeling images so search engine crawlers can read them and understand a web page’s context.

Why Are Optimized Images Important for Technical SEO?

Why are optimized images important for technical SEO?

It’s estimated Google handles 3.8 million searches per minute around the world on average. According to Moz, Google Image searches account for about 27% of all search queries on the internet’s top 10 search properties. This includes sites like Google, Facebook, YouTube, Google News, Bing, and more.

Image quality has a direct impact on sales and SEO. Attractive, optimized images entice people to buy products and services and improve page speed. Optimizing images is one of the many SEO techniques that can significantly impact the ranking of your web pages.

Increased Page Load Speed

A slow website kills your bottom line. Large volumes of unoptimized images are typically the reason behind sluggish page load times because high-resolution images consume a lot of bandwidth. And websites with as little as a one-second delay in page load time experience 11% fewer views!

Studies reveal images make up roughly 21% of a total web page’s weight. Therefore, any reduction in image size without compromising quality automatically improves load times, and, subsequently, user experience.

The ideal page load time from an eCommerce customer perspective is less than 2 seconds per site. While many factors—such as your web host and website design—come into play, optimizing images can significantly speed up your website’s loading time.

Improved User Experience

Fast-loading websites create a positive user experience. Optimized images look good on any screen, and consistency is key to building a loyal and satisfied customer base. Fast-loading webpages decrease bounce rates, causing users to spend more time on your website, which provides increased conversion opportunities.

A pleasant user experience also creates a positive association with your brand. User experience is so important to online success because it aims to provide a meaningful experience that lets stores define customer journeys most conducive to sales.

Higher SEO Ranking

As of 2010, Google included page load speed as an SEO ranking factor. Simply put, fast-loading websites rank better than slow ones. Therefore, the faster your website, the more likely it is to rank higher in SERPs.

Furthermore, search engines don’t process visual content the same way humans do. So, image optimization is actually vital for search engines to understand the context of your web pages. Thus, optimizing tags and descriptions in the file names, image alt attributes, and titles is a surefire way to improve SEO.

Technical Requirements for Image Optimization

For better SEO, user engagement, and technical website strength, consider altering the following variables:

Reduce and Compress Images

Understanding the difference between resizing and compressing an image is important for image optimization. Just because you’ve reduced an image’s file size to fit your webpage, does not mean it’s fully optimized.

Resizing an image simply changes its visual dimensions. For instance, you might resize an image from 1920 × 1080 pixels to 480 × 270 pixels to ensure its size is coherent with your website’s layout. However, you’ll probably still need to compress your images.

Image compression reduces the file size, while still maintaining its resolution and visual dimensions. Think of it like this: When you’re at a live music event and squeeze into whatever space you can find, you aren’t creating more space or adding additional seats (pixels) but rather reducing wasted (uncompressed) space between you and other people.

Technically speaking, compression reduces the complexity of an image’s structure, decreasing the data needed to store it, while still keeping visual fidelity intact. In addition to Adobe Photoshop, JPEG Optimizer and Optimizilla can help streamline compressions.

Generally, the more images you have on your website, the more important it is to reduce their image file size. Website images 70Kb or below tend to work best.

So, to recap: Image size and file size are not the same things.

Image size refers to the dimensions of an image (e.g., 1024 by 680 pixels). File size is the amount of space needed to store it on the server (e.g., 350 kilobytes). Most eCommerce stores have to reduce both image size and file size for optimal website performance.

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Use SEO-friendly File Names

File names should make sense to search engines and humans. For example, the original file name for a dress might be “dress879.jpg.” Renaming it with a clear and descriptive title that contains target keywords such as “Calvin-Klein-Red-Dress.jpg” can improve image SEO.

Search engines crawl your website’s copy and image file names, so using natural language helps them understand what your images are about and ensures they’re ranked accordingly.

We recommend keeping file names between five and six words and using hyphens instead of spaces to separate words. File names should include relevant keywords utilized throughout your website copy.

“Stop” words such as “a,in,the,of,by” can be omitted as they don’t contribute to SEO.

Select the Right File Format

The three popular image formats found on the web are JPEG, GIF, and PNG. In terms of image SEO, JPEG is best because it has universal browser / OS support and offers the highest quality images at the smallest possible size.

JPEG images have two rendering modes:

  • Baseline loading—showing the image at full quality, from top to bottom.
  • Progressive loading—initially displaying a low-quality image, and gradually increasing the quality as more of the image loads.

Progressive JPEGs greatly improve user experience for those with slower internet connections.

Another option is next-generation image formats like WebP and JPEG-XR, which are recommended by Google. However, because they’re not supported by all browsers, PNGs are often a strong alternative, specifically PNG-8 files.

Consider Caching

Caching is the process of temporarily storing image files inside the user’s browser cache or on a proxy server for easy access while minimizing loading time by reducing application requests. In this blog’s context, we’re referring to images; however, caching is applicable to all web content.

Large eCommerce stores use content delivery networks (CDNs) to minimize the distance between the visitors and your website’s servers. A CDN stores a cached version of a site’s content in multiple geographical locations (points of presence or PoPs).

For instance, if a customer from Brazil accesses your US-hosted website, it’s done through a local Brazilian PoP. This is much faster than having visitors’ requests, and your responses, travel the distance between you and your website visitors’ physical locations.

Include Images in Your Sitemap

A sitemap is a file that provides information about pages, videos, images, and other files on your website, as well as the relationship between them, so search engines like Google can efficiently crawl and index pages.

An image sitemap draws specific attention to images, especially since web crawlers can’t crawl images that aren’t listed in a webpage’s source code. Thankfully, you don’t have to create a new sitemap if you use Google’s Sitemaps extension.

With it, you can add important information about images that exist for each URL listed on your sitemap. To make image optimization easier, eCommerce plugins like Yoast SEO automatically include image details when creating sitemaps.

Employ Lazy Loading

Lazy loading is a technical SEO technique whereby certain parts of a webpage—especially images—only load when a user wants to view them, instead of loading everything at once.

For example, a blog post might have an image at the top of the page and another image at the bottom. A person reading the blog post might not reach the bottom of the text for several minutes, so the browser waits to load the picture at the bottom until the reader scrolls down to that section. This allows the page to load more quickly because the browser is loading one image instead of two.

Text Optimization for Images

When search engines determine which image to return for an image query, they have limited information. Therefore, paying attention to alt text can mean the difference between ranking or being invisible in results pages.

What Is Alt Text?

Alt tags (written descriptions of images) appear in place of images on a webpage if they can’t be viewed for some reason. Well-written alt-text improves accessibility and image SEO because it explains not only what an image represents, but also its purpose on the page.

See the alt text in bold below, for example:

  • ”<strongblack-cat-sitting-windowpane-sunset.”/>

If your alt tags are missing, a screen reader may read the image file name instead. This can be confusing and disruptive, especially if an image’s file name isn’t SEO-optimized.

Image alt tags are also sometimes confused with image titles or captions. Image titles pop up when a cursor hovers over an image, whereas captions usually appear underneath an image to provide additional details. Normally, visitors don’t see alt tags.

Image Optimization Tips for Alt Text

Performing an audit of your existing images will unveil missed alt text opportunities. The more you optimize images, the better your SEO strategy will be. Following the tips below for alt text best practices.

  • Keep descriptions specific. Use the image’s context and subject to guide you.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing. For example, if your blog post has multiple images, include one keyword in at least one of the images (the one most representative of the topic).
  • Don’t use “image of” or “picture of.” Rather utilize available characters to describe what an image is about.
  • Use less than 125 characters. Screen-reading tools stop reading alt text longer than 125 characters, so keep it short and sweet.
  • Add context related to the image’s topic. For images that don’t feature a recognizable place or person, add context based on the web page’s content. For example, the alt text for an image of hands baking could be “baking birthday cake” or “baking cookies,” depending on the image and the topic of the webpage.
  • Proofread for spelling errors. Misspelled words can affect user experience or confuse search engine bots, so make sure the spelling is correct.
  • Don’t add alt text to every image. Only informative images that add to the context of a page (not purely decorative images) should have alt text.

How does Alt Text Affect SEO?

Alt text is used by Google in combination with computer vision algorithms and the contents of a webpage to understand the subject matter of images. Therefore, it increases the chances of your eCommerce images appearing in image search results.

When developing your content marketing strategy, consider how your target audience prefers digesting information. In some cases, an embedded image works better than a hyperlink. So often, eCommerce businesses tend to think only of product images, yet image optimization applies to all image-based marketing assets.

For example, an online furniture store visitor looking for how to DIY build a table might prefer instructions via images and text. Naturally, these images should be high-quality and fully optimized with alt text.

Tips for Creating Images for Customers, not Robots

Time again, you’ve likely come across marketers advocating the importance of SEO to rank #1 on Google. However, they fail to mention a vital aspect of eCommerce and marketing; the goal is to convert, not to rank number one, although attaining this coveted position does aid the conversion process.

It’s the same with eCommerce images. You create high-quality images to run a successful online store, not to rank #1 on Google, although it does help!

Here’s how to optimize images, so they enhance web performance and conversions.

Don’t Use Stock Images

We’ve all seen cheesy stock images that turn us off from engaging with a brand. When stock photos, and particularly scenario-based ones, aren’t tailored to your brand, they become impersonal and do little to build brand loyalty.

As such, they subconsciously appear untrustworthy because they’re not created to specifically sell your products or services and don’t actually target your audience. There’s also nothing worse than purchasing a stock image already used by other websites.

Originality and authenticity matter in a competitive marketplace. Why have images that look like everyone else’s when you can create unique ones for your online store?

Share User-Generated Images

User-generated content (USG) is content created by customers that’s published on social media or other channels. Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic, even more than stock photos and those created by brands.

USG gives customers a unique opportunity to participate in your brand’s growth, which influences brand loyalty and affinity because people thrive off being part of something greater than themselves, i.e., a brand’s community.

While not necessarily appropriate for your website’s main pages, USG content can be shared on social or embedded in blog posts. Reposting your audience’s content also works to develop and deepen customer relationships.

Add Image Structured Data

Structured data increases the chances of your images showing up as “rich results.” You might think of it as a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying its content. For instance, you can label the name of a product, review content, and add images for search engines.

With structured data, search engines don’t have to use algorithms to know something is a product page because the data already tells them it is. Images with structured data are sometimes displayed as “rich snippets.”

These enhanced search results add visual interest, more information, and greater utility for searchers. Their position, above organic search engine listings, tends to increase click-through rates, and indirectly impact SEO.

Best Practices for Product Images

Best practices for product images

Product images influence conversion rates, return rates, and even the number of potential customers who see your merchandise online. With the advancement of Smartphone cameras, today’s consumers expect to see exceptional eCommerce images.

Use or Replicate Natural Light

For standard product photos, natural daylight works best. However, it’s not always possible to find a suitable location. Professional photographers will tell you working in a naturally lit room with large windows sometimes doesn’t even cut it. And this is for various reasons.

Firstly, the amount of light might not be enough. Secondly, daylight changes throughout the day, which affects the consistency of your product images. To mimic natural daylight, you’ll want to use LED lights, so you can replicate the hue and intensity of natural sunlight.

Opt for a White Background

We know it’s not the most innovative choice, but white backgrounds showcase your products with minimal distraction. Product images with white backgrounds are timeless, clean, and sophisticated. Simply put: They look professional.

Technically, the true colors of a product are better highlighted against a white backdrop. It also significantly reduces the amount of editing that needs to be done later on and is cheaper. Imagine how labor-intensive it becomes to style hundreds of products with different backgrounds!

Display Multiple Angles

There are six main angles to consider when photographing products:

  • The front angle;
  • Profile angle;
  • 45-degree angle;
  • Back angle;
  • Top shot; and
  • The macro shot.

Each angle offers a different detail and perspective, showing off your product in a way that highlights why it’s worth buying. We’ve all likely experienced the frustration of coming across a product we like online, but there’s only one image of it. Because we can’t see multiple angles, we don’t buy it.

A product image should create a strong mental image of what it’s like in real life, as though your customers are viewing it in-store. As long as you’re selling online, your need for great product photography will grow. Professional product photography makes your business personable and easier to trust.

Use Image Editing Software

Even under the best production conditions, post-production editing is still essential. Editing product images is important to ensure the colors are accurate, remove background noise and retouch imperfections. Editing is highly recommended as long as you’re enhancing images and not misleading customers, editing is highly recommended.

Image editing software like Photoshop and Adobe are the go-to options. However, they come with a price tag. Luckily, there are also free tools that specialize in eCommerce product images. For example, Pixlr is good for photo editing and graphic design.

DIY vs. Professional Product Images

If you’re on a shoestring budget and have time, you might consider taking product photographs yourself. With smartphones and the abundance of resources available online, you’ll be able to take basic product shots.

However, the truth is, 90% of the time, you won’t be able to achieve the same type of high-quality image as a professional photographer. A talented photographer will capture your merchandise in a way that best promotes your online store.

Why Is It Important to Have High-Quality Ecommerce Images?

Selling a product online is significantly easier when your quality images do most of the legwork for you. When consumers weigh up whether to buy something, they’re heavily influenced by its product image.

If you’ve ever tried shopping online by browsing item descriptions instead of photos, you’ll quickly understand the importance of strong visuals. Not only do photos help consumers quickly scan and determine what they want, but they’re also shareable on social media platforms, too.

eCommerce stores don’t have traditional salespeople, so product images remain the main tool for convincing customers to buy. In this way, they build trust between brands and consumers. A lack of quality images may cause consumers to feel skeptical about what they’re purchasing.

High-quality photos optimized for search engines also stand a much better chance of ranking in relevant image searches, which in turn drives more traffic to your product pages.

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Growing a business is hard see how SEO can do the work for you

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Growing a business is hard see how SEO can do the work for you

Hire a Digital Marketing Agency to Optimize Your Images

Beyond boosting the technical strength of your eCommerce website, image optimization also increases sales. At Comrade, our eCommerce gurus will elevate your website by optimizing its images without sacrificing quality.

We can also build your media library with quality photos that enhance your digital presence and brand’s visual identity. Chat to us to find out more about how we optimize images for improved traffic and revenue. We’ll even conduct an SEO audit, absolutely free of charge.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you would like to discuss your project, reach out to our specialists.

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About the Author
Stan Bogdashin
Stan co-founded Comrade Digital Marketing and serves as its marketing strategist and IT expert recruiter.
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