Best practice for image optimisation on an eCommerce website

In the world of eCommerce, images are everything. When customers can’t see your product on the shelf, pick it up, turn it around and give it a thorough once over, you need to provide the next best thing.
Quality product images.
Quality product images go hand-in-hand with product descriptions. These essential eCommerce elements allow a potential customer to get an idea of what you are selling to determine if it meets their needs.
We’ve all seen the social media stories of individuals purchasing items online without reading the description and then they miss the mark by a mile. Imagine thinking you’re getting a great deal on a dining table set only to discover it’s doll’s house furniture.
Good product imagery paired with a detailed description would help to avoid this.
Adding images to your eCommerce site is a multi-step process. When done correctly, your product images will not only help to drive sales on your site. They will inspire confidence and trust in your brand. And if optimised correctly, they could also help to drive traffic to your website through organic search.
An often forgotten aspect of image optimisation is for search engines. Your customers are using Google Image Search for shopping inspiration, so it’s important to do everything you can to make sure your images appear for relevant searches.

What is eCommerce image optimisation?

There are a few elements to eCommerce image optimisation. First, you need to resize your images to the optimum size without losing quality. Next, you need to make your images discoverable in search. This is achieved through simple SEO steps.

How to optimise your eCommerce images

  1. Give your files a descriptive name
  2. Add an alt attribute
  3. Offer a range of product angles
  4. Resize and compress your images
  5. Pick the correct file type
  6. Optimise the image thumbnails
  7. Add an image sitemap
  8. Think about the load time

Give your files a descriptive name

Whether you take your own photos or hire an agency, you will likely have a selection of images with titles like “IMG_1036.JPG”. Before you upload anything, categorise and rename your images with something descriptive. How you achieve this may depend on the type of products you sell.
Create a system for naming your files that makes sense for your products. For example:
So this image would be “Sofa_Green_Velvet_Front.JPG”

This will help you to organise and find images in the future. It will also help Google and other search engines to understand what the image contains.

Add an alt attribute

Whether using WordPress, Magento or Shopify, you will be given the option to use an Alt attribute for every image. Many people will include their target keyword in the page, but you should also think about accessibility.
Alt tags are used by screen readers so that those who are blind or visually impaired can access the internet. The alt tag should be as descriptive as possible to help those who use a screen reader to access your site.

Offer a range of product angles

Whether selling clothes or candles, people want to see it from every angle.
Imagine if you were trying to sell a car. You wouldn’t just throw up one image up and expect it to sell. You would include images of the front, back, sides and interior. You might include wide angle shots of the whole vehicle and close-up shots of the dashboard, infotainment system and the tyres.
A range of product angles will help the website visitor to understand what they are buying and provide additional context.

Resize and compress your images

Images need to be downsized so they don’t take too much time to load and slow down your website. But they shouldn’t be downsized so much that image quality is lost. Website visitors will get frustrated if they can’t zoom in and see the details. But they will also be frustrated if the image size slows the site down to a crawl.
Through a combination of resizing and compressing your images, you can achieve a balance between quality and load times. If you’re using Photoshop to edit images, you can use the “save for web” feature to make your life easier.

Pick the correct file type

While optimising your images, you may be wondering how large each file should be. You should aim for each file to be below 70 kb. This will provide sufficient detail without slowing down your site.
When saving your image files, you will have a choice between JPG, GIF and PNG. The type of file you choose will impact the quality of the image and the size of the file. In general, JPG will be the best option.

Optimise the image thumbnails

If your site uses thumbnails, proceed with caution. Thumbnails can slow down a website if not used correctly. If you use Shopify, your thumbnails will be generated automatically and you don’t have to lift a finger. WordPress and WooCommerce also do a great job of managing this.
Check the loading time of your category pages if you are worried about the size of the thumbnails. There is also a case of no-indexing these files so that they don’t appear in search listings ahead of the full-size image.

Add an image sitemap

Google will only index images that are mentioned in the page code. So if your website uses Javascript to create a scrolling gallery, then these images might not be crawled by search engines.
WordPress and SEO plugins like Yoast make it very simple to add an image sitemap to your website. You can then submit your sitemap using Search Console to check that everything is working as it should.

Think about the load time

Your product images might not be the only images on the page. You may have decorative images such as backgrounds and hero sliders that help the design but aren’t product images. These should also be optimised to minimise load time.
Remember that your customers will abandon your site if it takes longer than 4 seconds to load.
Every one second delay reduces customer satisfaction by 16%.
And 46% of users won’t revisit a poorly performing website.
With this in mind, it’s important to remember that images serve more than one purpose on your website. You need to strike a balance between these conflicting goals to find success.
Need help getting your eCommerce site up and running? The Auburn team can help. Find out how we can help you to discover success with selling online.