Search engine optimization is widely discussed topic when it comes to content and page structure however, one thing I was unable to find is a good discussion on the importance of SEO in product images. This is something that should not be overlooked as correct practices can further propel your website to the top ranks of major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing – especially in the case of an eCommerce product photography where webstores can have hundreds or thousands of product images. Furthermore, search engines have increased the frequency of image search being displayed in natural organic results.
How search engines find product images starts with discovery. This is when search engine robots crawl your website and recognizes each image being displayed. Next, search engines will classify these images based on multiple factors then index them accordingly. It is important to ensure you are classifying these images as simple and relevant as possible for the robots. Below I have outlined best practices for optimizing your images for search engines.
Keyword is the single most important factor in SEO for product images. Keyword factors to consider are:
- Alt Text – This is what Google mainly focuses on when indexing and ranking an image. Alt (or alternative) text is the text used in the placeholder of the image when the browser is unable to display the image. You might ask, “What browser doesn’t show images?” This is a preference of some web surfers who have chosen to disable image viewing in their browsers. For a great article discussing good Alt Text practices please view Writing Great Alt Text (http://webdesign.about.com/od/accessibility/a/great_alt_text.htm)
- Image Title – You will want to be sure to match image names on your webpage to the focused keyword. “An image offers advisory information about the element for which it is set.“ This will reinforce keyword importance and help boost your search engine ranking.
- Text Around the Image – It is always a good practice to include the focused keyword close to the image. Search engines will recognize this and it will benefit your position in search engines.
- Length of Name – It is good to keep an image name under 20 characters
- Avoid Keyword Stuffing – Focus on a relevant name that applies to the product image. Search engines have become smart and have put a large focus on image recognition as of recent.
An important take away here is keyword consistency. You will include the same keyword in the Alt Text, Image Title and also surround the image with that keyword.
- It is a good practice to use web optimized images (72 DPI) in .jpg format. These are more search engine friendly and are often ranked higher than heavier (KB) images in non-popular formats (.PNG, .GIF, .BMP, .TIFF, .RAW, & .Exif)
Search Engine Accessible Image Folder
- To make searching product images easier for the search engines, it is a good practice to provide a page dedicated to all images on your site. This page can be hidden from public view however, ensure it is searchable from search engine robots.
- Location of the image is important when search engines are indexing and ranking your images. The higher the image on the page, the more relevant. Typically it is suggested to include the image above the fold.
Unique Product Images
- Through image recognition, search engines will uncover duplicate images that are elsewhere on the web. In doing so, they group these images together and chose one clear cut winner to display. The rest are grouped and can be viewed if a viewer selects to view similar images. It is best to create unique product images that will be recognized as unique. This will provide a better opportunity to get indexed higher. If you are looking to bring product imaging in-house, consider this Product Photography Software. Shutter Stream is an affordable image capture and processing software that allows users, regardless of experience to create high quality images in seconds.
Related Product Images
- Search engines ask websites to provide visitors an image centric experience. This means, the more images of a single product you can provide the better. Keep in mind the Keyword factor and keep this consistent for the set of images. Too many images can have a reverse effect. Good practice is to have between 2 and 5 product images per page. Multiple product images will help build rank when indexing.
Product Image Quality
- Yes, search engines recognize image quality and will rank images based on quality. High quality images will typically include consistent backgrounds
The above factors provide a good guide to optimizing product images. If your current site does not incorporate the above factors, I would suggest to consider revising your image content and strategy.
Curious to know if image search is increasing your web traffic? Google Analytics provides excellent tools in Analytics that allows users to view search query and the image responsible for sending the visitor to your site. Additional information on image analytic tracking can be found here: http://support.google.com/analytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1308626
360 Product Images have also been proven to help sites rank higher in search engines.
About the Author: Michael Atman is the CEO and Founder of Iconasys. Iconasys is a developer of still and 360 product photography software, product photography lighting and 360 product photography turntable solutions that enable users of any skill level to easily and efficiently create high-quality, web-ready images in seconds. Contact us to learn more.