SEO 101: Why images are important for your store’s SEO

Everyone always says not to judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to ecommerce that old adage is a little less true! When you browse an online store and you’re looking at its catalog, what would it really be without great images? Without those visual aids, you can’t really judge that store and determine if it’s what you’re looking for. 

Images are of huge importance to any online store. They show customers what they’re actually buying, after all. In most cases, you probably wouldn’t spend money on a shirt without knowing what it looks like. 

But it isn’t enough just to have great images on your store. If you want them to go further, you need to make sure they’re optimized for search. 

Why images are so important in ecommerce

When you’re shopping in-store, you can see and feel the products you’re thinking of buying. You can get a sense of size, if it’s apparel you can try it on, and in general you can make a call on if that item is suitable for your needs. With ecommerce, you can’t really do that. Instead, you rely on the information you’re given on a product page. One of the key pieces of information you have is the product image. Based on that, you need to make the decision to buy knowing that you also may need to return the item if it isn’t suitable. 

Product images provide product understanding to a customer. When they’re high quality, they can also help reduce returns, and build trust with customers. Essentially, they enhance the customer experience, and help to bring that experience a little closer to what they get in store. 

Why images are valuable for SEO

Now let’s dive into why images are also valuable when it comes to SEO. Of course, normally when we’re talking about SEO content, we’re usually focussing more on written content. Which makes sense, because it’s where you’re going to be able to add the bulk of your keywords and other optimizations. However, having well optimized content applies across all content including visual, i.e. imagery.  

Here are some of the reasons why images are so valuable for your store’s SEO:

  • Makes content more engaging. Visual content is by nature more engaging than written content, and has a more immediate impact. You can write a great product description about a t-shirt, but the impact of seeing it is different. The more engaging your content is, the more likely it will be that a user will stay on your page and explore your site. This engagement is valuable to SEO, as search engines will see that your content is keeping people on the page once they’ve clicked on it from SERPs. 

  • Better satisfies user intent. User intent is a huge part of what determines success in search results. If a user’s search query involves ecommerce, they’re going to expect images. That expectation means that a page without images is going to rank lower. 

  • Potential to appear in image searches. Visual search is becoming more popular with users, as it’s more engaging than sifting through blue links. After all, why click on a bunch of links when you can simply look at a gallery of images to help decide which site to visit? If your images are optimized, they’ll have a better chance of appearing in image search results.

  • Improve accessibility. Say you’re not a native speaker of the language a website is in. That will limit what you get out of a product description. However you can look at an image and understand what you’re looking at. Or maybe you find it difficult to read on a screen, again images will help here. Images can also have alt text attached, helping those customers with visual impairments. Improving accessibility on your store is also great for your SEO.

Images are another tool you can use to improve your store’s content and find opportunities for optimization to climb search rankings.

How to optimize and use image for your store’s SEO

#1 - Reduce image sizes 

Site speed can make a big impact on your store’s SEO. And images are one of the most common culprits when it comes to slowing down a page. Using high quality images is of course important, but large file sizes take longer to load. The easiest way to ensure your store doesn’t fall victim to this is by always ensuring you reduce image file sizes before uploading them to your store. You can use a tool to do this, or you can adjust save settings. 

#2 - Add image alt text

We mentioned earlier that accessibility is great for SEO, and adding image alt text is one way you can improve the accessibility of your images. This is text attached to an image that describes it. This can be used by screen readers for those with visual impairments or disabilities. Alt text will usually be displayed when an image cannot be loaded for whatever reason, so it’s also helpful in these cases for users to understand what the image should be. 

Another benefit for SEO is that you can add keywords into your image alt text as well. This gives more for search engines to crawl, and also means your images stand a better chance of ranking in image search results.

#3 - Add more than one image to demonstrate the product 

Part of good SEO is about maintaining a high quality user experience. That’s everything from technical optimizations like page speed, to the content the user has to engage with. Images are such a big part of ecommerce, and it’s often helpful for customers to have more than one image. Think about the example of apparel - one image from the front is great, but a few different images showing different angles to see the fit is even better.  

Having more images isn’t necessarily something that search engine bots would pick up on, but they’ll make your content more useful and engaging for customers. This in turn will make your page more worthwhile for certain search terms, and this will have the potential to improve your ranking.

#4 - Add other helpful images on product pages, blogs, and landing pages

As well as images that help to provide context for a product, it’s also helpful to add some images and other visual content that will help customers better understand what your content is about. Let’s start with product pages. If you’re selling a product like furniture, technology, skincare, and so on, you can probably provide more useful visual content. That might be a diagram showing dimensions, an image of the product being used, and so on. Adding these to your product page will give users more engaging content, and provide more alt text opportunities. 

La Colombe Brewing Guide Example

As for blogs and landing pages, images help to demonstrate the topic at hand. If you write a blog about coffee brewing techniques, include images of those techniques being performed. If you create a landing page about the benefits of starting a subscription with your store, include images showing what’s included. Images and other visual content provide context, understanding, and better engagement for users.

Many merchants put a lot of time, effort, and money into the perfect images for their website. It’s important to understand their true value not just on the surface level of looking great - they’ll benefit user experience, accessibility, and SEO all at once. By optimizing them and using them in the right way, you’ll improve all three at the same time and provide your customers with a better experience on your store.