Originally published on Target Marketing
Think back to your last shopping experience. If it took place online, I suspect your mind is teeming with images — and it’s no wonder. According to MIT, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. When everything else is equal, your decision to choose one product over another boils down to how it appears on your screen.
With nearly 60% of consumers believing images are more influential than text when shopping online, you’d be doing your website, marketing, and sales practices a disservice if you skipped one important step: image optimization.
Image optimization involves following search engine and UX best practices for digital images. In addition to helping with purchase decisions, image optimization can improve your search rank. This ultimately strengthens your online visibility, drives more traffic to your website, and leads to higher conversion rates.
While most optimization focuses on product images, smart marketers use these best practices to improve all images — even those tied to blog posts, trend reports, sales materials, and other marketing collateral.
Still unconvinced? Consider that one out of every five Google searches returns image results. If your product or service has a visual aspect, any associated images can help you win sales.
Consider a device like a commercial coffee maker. Product specs are important, because buyers will want to know whether your model fits on their break room counters. You’ll want to make this information searchable, but you also should have an image handy, so consumers can decide whether your product is aesthetically pleasing.
Your process is entirely up to you, but I’d recommend starting with the following steps to ensure your visual content is optimized properly:
Choose Image Size Wisely
Large images often slow down page speeds, which can affect image ranking — as well as search results. A good rule of thumb: Aim for no load times of more than a second. As soon as a load time hits three seconds, chances are high that users will leave. To confirm image size and compression, visit Google PageSpeed Insights. This free tool can score your site speed and offer suggestions for how to improve it.
Design for Mobile
Desktop design is becoming a thing of the past. Smart design generally considers the mobile experience first. When it comes to images, actually look at them on a smartphone. Are they rendered properly on the device, or are they too large, small, or close together? You can verify whether a poor mobile experience is crippling your search rank by entering your URL into Google’s mobile-friendly test.
Name All Images
Images can do more than add visual interest — they offer another opportunity to increase your search rank. Instead of leaving the file named “image_10101.jpg,” add in keywords associated with the image, page, article, or report. Let’s say a page details how to DIY Dot Matrix and Barf costumes from “Spaceballs.” Naming the file “dot-matrix-and-barf-spaceballs-costume.jpg” will help you snag a top result. I should know; just Google “barf and dot costumes.”
Use Alt Tags
Image alt tags were designed to improve website experiences for visually impaired users by providing screen-reading tools with information regarding images. They would also provide descriptors, in case images should fail to load. Alt tags have evolved to deliver SEO value, allowing search engines to crawl and rank websites. Just be sure to use them for their original intent and not for keyword stuffing.
Optimize Image Descriptions
People rarely use image descriptions. They feel that captions explaining nearby pictures are redundant — especially when images have appropriate alt tags. But labeling images this way can improve the user experience and help your website from an image-search perspective. Again, try to keep your descriptions readable for users and search engines alike.
Prioritize Surrounding Text
Though technology is getting better, search engines can’t “read” images to the same level as text. The surrounding text can provide context for search engines on an image’s subject matter — as well as useful back-end metadata. Placing your images closest to the content that’s most relevant to them will boost the chances of those images being fully recognized and ranked, improving your SEO in the process.
Weigh the Shareability
Whether or not you have shareable images is a question often reserved for social media. Like a good social media post, the images embedded on your site should catch users’ eyes and drive action. Besides, 22% of all searches take place via Google Images. Inspire clicks in a sea of competition by using original images that are both compelling and stylistically consistent.
Why Image Optimization Matters
Consumers are visual creatures. Having an image appear — or not appear — in search results can make all the difference in a sale. There’s no getting around it if you want your business to stand out. Only one question remains: Are you doing everything possible to ensure your images are picture-perfect?
With 10+ years of experience in marketing, Patty specializes in search, lead generation, and a customer-first strategy across the holistic buyer journey.
Patty Parobek, Director of Integrated Marketing Strategy