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Image optimization is an important part of running a successful eCommerce website. Since people usually begin their search for a product online, your products will have as good of a chance as any to end up in front of a customer, as long as your images are optimized.

Here are some tips for getting your images to display in Google’s image search:

1. Optimize image names

If you have hundreds (or thousands) of photos in your store, optimizing each one can be a daunting task. There are distinct benefits to spending the time to do this, though. In the same way the right proportion of keywords in the content of a web page can help that page rank for the keyword in the search engines, the proper use of keywords in your images can help them rank as well.

Let’s take this particular photo as an example:

Gray 3 Button Mens Suit

The file names for your product images should be descriptive, and include the right amount of keywords. Consider the:

  • image file name
  • image alt tag
  • image name

For this product example, instead of keeping PRODUCTIMAGE22.jpg for the file name, a better choice would be to name the file: Gray-3-Button-Mens-Suit.jpg.

There are a few variations you could use to name this file, but generally it’s best to look at your web analytics to see how your customers are searching for the product. This thread on the SEOmoz Q&A section explains some best practices for image file names.

The alt tag for the image is also important, since a browser will display the alt text when the image can’t be displayed properly. Alt tags are also important for the visually impaired, as they rely on software programs to read the image alt tags to communicate what the images are.

Every image should have a corresponding alt tag. For simplicity, you can use the file name for the image’s alt tag, without the hyphens.

Image Source Code Screenshot

2. Optimize image load times

It may not seem like much, but a few extra seconds of load time on your website can cost you customers. According to Kissmetrics, most consumers wait about 5 seconds on their mobile device before they leave the website. Desktop users are even less patient, waiting 3 seconds on average.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for images: the larger the file size, the longer it will take for the page to load. To combat this problem, you can decrease the size of each image by compressing them.

If your eCommerce site has only a handful of images to compress, you can use any of these image editing tools:

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If you have hundreds (or even thousands) of photos, compressing them one at a time is probably not a viable option. If that’s the case for you, there are a few tools that can compress images in batches.

If your eCommerce platform runs on WordPress, download any of these plugins and run your images through:

There are other, similar tools and extensions for platforms like Magento and Joomla.

3. Choose optimal image file types

Different types of image files can affect the performance of a website, so it’s important to choose the right file type for the right situation.

Three of the most common image file types are:

  • JPEG
  • PNG
  • GIF

JPEG formats typically offer a low file size and good image quality for products, while GIFs are better for smaller icons. PNGs can show more colors than JPEGs and GIFs, but file sizes can be considerably larger.

Here are examples of each type of file:



Jackets PNG .PNG file at 195.3 KB



Jackets JPEG .JPG file at 68.7 KB


Jackets GIF .GIF file at 51.3 KB

4. Create an image sitemap

Google says their goal with image search is to display the most relevant results to users, and that statement is no different than their goal for web search. Along with optimizing your images, you can increase the chance of having your product images indexed by creating an image sitemap, and uploading it to Google Webmaster Tools. This is especially important if your product images are served using JavaScript, and aren’t showing up in the page’s source code. You can also add images to your main sitemap.

There are a number of tools that can generate a sitemap:

5. Integrate social sharing into product images

Social media is an integral part of digital marketing, and social signals do play a part in search engine rankings.

There’s an opportunity for products to gain traction on bookmarking sites like Pinterest, especially if they’re products for the home and garden, or related to the beauty, fashion or food industries. The larger the net your brand casts, the greater chance your website has at attracting new visitors.

To increase the likelihood of your product pages being shared and linked to, social sharing buttons should be added to each page of the website, including product pages and product category pages.

I have always been a fan of Zappos, and they do a nice job of integrating social sharing buttons on their product pages:

Social Buttons Ecommerce Screenshot

“If your product images are beautiful and unique, your potential of achieving additional traffic from the [social] networks alone will be incentive enough to utilize this approach,” says SEO consultant Preston Van Dyke.

“For instance, Everlane.com takes a really unique approach to their product category pages. Check out their Oxford shirts page as an example. Rather than just laying out their shirts in the boring table, like so many eCommerce category pages do, they take an infographic-ish approach with images. I love these pages for a lot of reasons, but they need social sharing integrated right into the experience on the category page.”

Don’t invest time in a social network that isn’t producing any fruit, however. If your customers are not using Pinterest, and Pinterest doesn’t provide any value, don’t incorporate it into your strategy. You should focus time and effort into the social networks that your customers are spending time on, and are will to share and engage with your brand.

With any process, greater insight comes with testing, so continually test and refine the layout and design of your product pages. Conduct interviews, commission surveys and see how customers react to changes. How can changing the angle of the product views increase revenue? Would multiple angles and colors increase conversions? How about increasing or decreasing the number of product images on a page?

Continually ask how you can bring traffic to your products through different means. While image optimization is a part of inbound marketing as a whole, you can increase the opportunity for conversions and revenue with a solid strategy behind your product images.