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Optimize Product Images for Google Part I: Be Found in Image Search


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Get your product images ranked at the top of search engine results. Learn why SEO matters for your images too!

SEO-optimized, high quality images matter now more than ever before. Customers have numerous sophisticated gateways to search and can make purchasing decisions without ever reading traditional product copy or browsing your website. Your product images must both showcase your product through professional photography and attract customers through search engine optimization.

Any retailer operating online should have quality product images, visibility on social media, respect marketplace guidelines, and attract customers with SEO optimized product images.

How does SEO work for a Google Image search?

Visual search (Google Images,Google Shopping, and Pinterest, among others) is a powerful and increasingly common way to find new products. It is critical that you add keywords to your images so that potential customers will easily be able to find you. We don’t mean embedding text in the image; far from it. Your product image will speak for itself to your customers, but there are several opportunities for you to speak to the search engines by including text identifying your image. You need to master the following techniques if you want to SEO optimize your product images and sell more!

Add keywords so that potential customers will be able to find you in Images searches

Add keywords so that potential customers will be able to find you in Images searches.

Name Your Files Descriptively

Naming is a key component of image SEO. Search engines can parse text more easily than they can analyze image content, so always name your image something that represents the product being featured. Do not use automatically generated names like “IMG78234209.jpg.”

Choose file names that tell what the image is about

Choose file names that tell what the image is about

Use Image Alt Text to Describe Images

These are meaningless names to you, to customers, and to search engines. Instead, if you sell dresses and you have uploaded an image of a red dress for the summer season, you might name it “red-summer-dress.jpg.” Now the search engine has some idea what your image might be, and we can reinforce that idea with other SEO strategies. Remember also that descriptive file naming will be helpful for users who come across your images and share them through social media or other means. Your file name should be able to stand on its own.

Google and other search engines have a hard time interpreting images. They depend largely on file names and HTML tags like “alt text.” The alt text (literally “alternate text”) of an image serves three purposes.

First, it displays on your webpage or in an email if a user is unable to load the image due to low bandwidth or other technical difficulties. Second, it often appears in a web browser when you mouse-over an image. Third, it describes the subject matter of an image to Google.

Alt text

Google then uses this information to determine the best images to return in a search query. Some wrong and right examples of alt text for an image of a red dress for the summer season:

Wrong: alt=”” (empty)

Right: alt=”red-summer-dress”

Try to avoid adding irrelevant keywords, misspellings, and synonyms. They can confuse Google’s algorithm and will not bring your images to the top positions. Remember that this text may be visible to customers, so be careful.

Add Image References to Surrounding Page Text

Create context for the search engines and your customers. Surround your product images with keyword references similar to the alt text and filenames. This will reinforce the image’s meaning to Google, and Google will value your text more when it is consistent.

To continue our example of a red summer dress, you might have the following product copy on the page:

“Attract attention this upcoming season by arriving at any event in a bold, eye-catching red summer dress.”

Google recommends providing descriptive titles and captions for your images too, so consider adding those when relevant.

Submit an Image Sitemap

Google recommends website owners submit Image Sitemaps in order to increase the likelihood that your images will be found in Image Search results. A sitemap in general is a list of the pages on your website. In the case of images, you’ll have to add image-specific tags to a Sitemap, or just update an existing Sitemap. Learn how to build and submit an Image Sitemap to Google. Warning: it’s fairly technical.

Does Compressing Images Help?

Compression before and after

Though Google does not have restrictions on what size images will appear in their visual search, you do not want to use RAW or other uncompressed image formats. Compression will ensure faster load times, consume less bandwidth, and consume less disk space. Image compression is a best practice, and generally speaking search engines favor those who follow best practices.

Image compression is a method of significantly reducing the size of an image with limited reduction in image quality. Lossy compression is the most recommended way to compress image files because images experience only a minor reduction in quality but a major reduction in file size. Learn how to improve conversions and page speed with product image compression.

You can increase your chances of making a sale by increasing your chances of appearing in image search results. To optimize your images for search engines, you should take advantage of every text based opportunity to describe your image. Use keywords in your file name, in your alt text, and in product copy surrounding the image on the page. Be consistent. Reinforce your image description to Google, so they can confidently position your image at the top of search results.

Happy optimizing!