As fluid as the e-commerce experience has become, shoppers still have hang-ups when it comes to pulling the trigger. A big reason for this is that many stores’ product images leave a lot to be desired. If it’s hard to tell what’s for sale or the photo quality isn’t good enough, many consumers won’t want to take a chance buying it.
When a store takes the time to optimize their images, they can not only improve user experiences and increase sales but also drive more organic traffic. So, let’s look at how e-commerce stores can master image optimization for e-commerce.
Understand Compression and Image Size Best Practices
E-commerce, and really the internet as a whole, is at a standstill when it comes to page-loading and its best practices. Per Google research, the average time it takes to load the average mobile landing page entirely is 22 seconds. However, more than half of users will leave if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load.
So what’s an e-commerce store to do? Make sure every product photo doesn’t have unnecessary resources and is compressed to ensure faster page loading. The consequences of not doing so will hurt your SEO, increase your bounce rate, and of course lead to negative user experiences and lost conversions. Large images that aren’t compressed won’t even load quickly as a thumbnail in Google Images, limiting any chance of earning click-through traffic.
Best practices say to use JPEGs for images that need to be high quality and PNG for simple images. A good rule of thumb to avoid large images is to never upload a product photo in a smaller display size than the original file size unless of course you resize the original image. In general, the goal is to reduce your file size without visibly affecting the image quality. Though the average web page size is around 3MB, aim to limit your page to no more than 2MBs, and ideally even lower. If you’re looking for a way to streamline your image-compression process, tools like Kraken.io and ImageOptim simplify things while Google PageSpeed Insights will test how your improvements. If you want to find a particular image and see how many other sites it's been used on you can also use a Reverse Image Search Engine to reverse search for an image.
Incorporate Technical SEO with Filenames, URLs and Alt Tags
If you’ve been running an e-commerce store for a while then (hopefully) you’re well aware of search engine optimization (SEO). However, it’s important to understand that text-based searches aren’t the only way a shopper could find your website.
According to Search Engine Journal, Google image searches make up one-quarter of all Google searches. This isn’t to say that searches from Google’s web results and image results are of the same quality—far from it. Image searches will often yield misaligned user intents. They might not even be remotely interested in what you offer. But such a large share of searches on the world’s most popular search engine should not be ignored. At the least, getting found on image search can increase brand awareness and facilitate top-of-the-funnel leads.
What things should you be doing to have your images rank? Focus on your file names, image URLs and alt image tags. If your store sells beauty products from home on a platform like Shopify and you’re trying to optimize an image for a facial scrub product, you’d want to title the filename something like “product-name-facial-scrub.jpg” instead of “DSC103879.jpg.”
Keep your filenames relatively short and keyword-friendly, but don’t go overboard with the latter. Image URLs work similarly. And then there are alt image attributes, which are essentially a couple of sentences describing the photo’s details. Again, resist the urge to keyword stuff your alt tags and instead provide an accurate, detailed description. After all, alt tags help SEO, but they’re also used for visually impaired people or if a browser can’t load an image.
Build an Image Sitemap
Optimizing images isn’t rocket science. But given the hundreds or thousands of product photos that comprise e-commerce stores, deciding how to address every issue can be overwhelming. This is why submitting an image sitemap is in any store’s best interest. A branch off of a site’s XML sitemap, an image sitemap is the place to share all your image metadata with Google. If you use a hosted platform for your store, you might not even have to build one. You could get a plugin, or it’s also possible that your e-commerce platform automatically generates an image sitemap, or includes images into your site’s overall sitemap.
Finally, as the last tip, if your site isn’t mobile-friendly and responsive, your efforts will be in vain. Websites designed to fit and interact with mobile screens see improvements in their SEO rankings and user engagement. There you have it. These are the essential elements to mastering e-commerce optimization.