Website speed is a recognised Google search ranking factor, so the speed and responsiveness of your web pages is important. Optimising product images for users and search often yields significant performance improvements for your website. For example, the fewer bytes a browser has to download, the faster the browser can download and deliver your content.

Additionally, shoppers use image search engines to find a product with just the right look, so it’s important to have images that instantly grab the viewer.

In short, taking the time to optimise your visual content can lead to an increase in conversions, boost search rankings and reduce return rates.

A different view

Product photos showcasing alternate views are a must-have. You want to recreate the experience of a customer walking into a store and being able to pick up a product and look at it from every angle. Showcase your product by displaying pictures from different angles and from different proximities to give customers a feel for what the product will be like in person. An animated 360-degree view video might be overkill, but you could make a simple animated GIF with six or seven photos in Photoshop or with Make a GIF.

If a product comes in different colours or variations, you should display a photo for each possibility. Customers really appreciate it when they can see exactly what that product will look like in a specific colour, as opposed to having to imagine it themselves and have it show up on their doorstep looking completely different.

Optimising Product Images

Multiple product shots capturing an item from different angles is one technique to ensure better conversions.

Consider showing the product in use to give customers the full experience. For example, if you sell dresses, you’ll want to show photos of each dress from different angles while being worn. Some e-commerce apparel sites even offer photos of their clothes being worn by models of differing body types to give customers the fullest picture of how the clothes will look on them.

Bring it in

For your product photos to be at their very best, you’ll want to make sure it’s easy to zoom-in on them. A good zoom should be like giving the customer the ability to pick up your product and bring it right up to their nose. The photo should remain clear, even when zoomed in on, and really highlight the details of your products.

Use high quality images, not low res, blurry or over or underexposed. Other sites are much more likely to link to a good-quality image, which can increase visits to your site. Crisp, sharp images will also appear better in the thumbnail versions displayed in search results, and may therefore be more likely to be clicked on by users.

While quality needs to be high, file size needs to be kept low. A good rule of thumb for e-commerce images is to try to keep your image file size below 70kb. If you’re creating images in Photoshop, use the Save for Web and Devices option. If you’re saving a file as a .jpg (recommended), you can tweak the quality of the image to reduce the file size.

If you don’t have access to Photoshop or graphic software that allows you to control file size and quality, there are numerous online tools you can use for image editing. Adobe even has an online image editing application at photoshop.com.

Online image editing tools:

  • PicMonkey – easy-to-use photo editing tool
  • Pixlr – user-friendly and comes with a free app for your smartphone so you can edit on the go
  • FotoFlexer – a fairly advanced online image editor that even allows you to work with layers
  • GIMP – an open-source, free image editing software application that can be run on Windows, Mac or Linux. It can do everything Photoshop can do, but tends to be a bit clunkier

Common image file types:

  • JPEG images are a traditional file type and can be compressed considerably. For most e-commerce situations,  JPEGs provide the best quality and the smallest file size
  • GIF images are lower quality images than JPEGs and are used for more simple images such as icons and decorative images. GIFs also support animation. It’s great to use GIFs for plain and simple images on a webpage, for example thumbnails and decorative images
  • PNG images are becoming more popular as an alternative to GIFs. PNGs support many more colours than GIFs, and they don’t degrade over time with re-saves like JPEGs. Even though the PNG file type is starting to be used more, the file sizes can still be much larger than what you would find with JPEG images

It’s all in a name

Giving your images detailed, informative alt tags is a useful component of an excellent SEO strategy. Alt tags refer to the text shown in place of an image when the image itself can’t be displayed.

Because search engines like Google can’t see images, they rely heavily on the information in the alt tag to help them understand the subject matter of the image and determine the best image to return for a user’s query.

Descriptive filenames can also be useful to your customers. It’s a good habit to get into looking at your website analytics, and see what phrasing patterns your customers use to perform searches, and apply that formula to your image naming process.

Equally important is to have a clear idea of what your keywords are and include them in the file names of your images. Search engines not only crawl the text on your webpage, but they also search for keywords within your image file names, helping not only your website but also your images to rank highly.

The end game

The entire point of optimising your images is to help increase your bottom line. You need to test your images to see what converts into more business. For example, look at how many product images you feature on a page. You may find reducing the number of images on a page will increase click-through rates and sales due to faster loading times. But it’s also possible that providing more images per page will improve the user experience and lead to more sales.

The only way to know is to test!