Image Optimisation: Increase Ecommerce Conversions
The phrase “image optimisation” covers all of the changes you can make to an image so that it both loads faster and boosts a web page’s ranking in search engine results.
Optimising images for better load speed is all about reducing the image file size as much as possible without reducing its quality.
This process is called compressing an image, and don’t worry – you don’t need to be a tech whiz to do it!
We’ll talk more about compression later on, as it’s still an important strategy that digital content marketers use to optimise website speed.
Optimising an image for better search engine results is part of the more general search engine optimisation strategy or SEO.
Image SEO, which we’ll talk about in this guide, covers all of the ways you can make an image more “readable” to search engines.
Why Does Image Optimisation Increase Conversions?
So, we know that image optimisation makes for better load speeds, performance and SEO. But what does that have to do with your conversion rate?
For one thing, people won’t buy from your website if they have a poor user experience – and image load times are a big part of that user experience.
Even just a one-second delay in load time reduces customer satisfaction by 16%.
And for another, poor image SEO can stop customers from even finding your website content in the first place.
So you’ll want to make sure Google can understand your images perfectly!
Read on for the eight top tips and tricks you can use to start optimising your images now. That’s right – these are all changes you can make yourself!
1 – Avoid Stock Images
Stock images, while technically high quality, tend to look very generic. Customers prefer more honest and authentic visuals, and this has been true for a long time.
Take this case study from 2011, for example: when a research lab switched out a popular stock photo for a real-life photo of the test company’s founder, the conversion rate on that page jumped by over 34%.
In short, people want to see the “face” behind your company – whether that be your actual face, a group shot of your team, or even a look behind the curtain at your office setup.
Plus, cutting stock photos doesn’t mean you have to compromise on image quality.
While it’s true that larger businesses can invest in a professional photographer, smaller businesses (or anyone looking to budget!) should have no problems taking high-quality pictures with something as simple as a smartphone camera.
For example, if you’re shooting product photos on your phone camera, you’ll need to:
- Get a white background to accentuate your product. Note that white means white because even a slightly off-white colour technically counts as a shade of grey!
- Shoot close-up to show as many of the product’s details as possible
- Use a lot of light, and put your light as close-up to the product as possible, so that the light completely bathes the product and keeps shadows to a minimum.
Personalised images are a quick way to elevate your web design and increase your conversions.
78% of Americans answered “product images” when asked what they look for in an online store, so taking high-quality photos is a quick win that you can accomplish with little to no equipment!
2 – Optimise Images Filename
We’ve all done it – downloaded an image onto our computer, and left the file name as a random string of letters and numbers to be confused by later.
But random image file names aren’t just inconvenient to us. When search engines like Google crawl your pages for information, they read those file names to figure out what the image is about.
That’s why a file name like “women’s t-shirt blue” is a lot more helpful than “gMte5DJ34Qo”!
3 – Compress the Image Files
Image compression is a type of data compression that encodes an image with fewer bits than the original version.
That might sound technical, but it means making an image file smaller without sacrificing the image’s quality.
Compressed image sizes take up less storage space, and they load faster than uncompressed images – this is important for SEO, with performance and website load speed being a ranking factor on Google since 2018.
So, we know that image compression is essential. But the better news is that it’s also straightforward.
To use these tools, all you have to do is upload your original high-quality images, let the platform do its magic, and then download the compressed versions to use on your site.
If you’re using WordPress, you can also use plugins to compress your images right there on-site.
In other words, you won’t have to go through the extra steps of uploading images to a third-party tool, redownloading them onto your computer, and then uploading them back to your website.
For example, Imagify is a plugin (with a free plan!) that lets you upload and optimise images directly from your WordPress dashboard – in other words, you can skip the middleman by uploading and compressing your images at the same time.
4 – Choose the Right Image Formats
Image files come in different formats depending on their compression level, but this is very easy to change.
Those compression tools we talked about earlier can also convert images to different file formats – and again, this requires no technical knowledge on your part!
In reality, it’s just a matter of knowing which file formats are best for which images.
Let’s start with the most popular file formats:
- JPG is the best format for headshots, product photos, and other generally non-animated photographic images. JPG images have small file sizes, which means you can store many of them on one server.
- PNG is the best format for graphic images with intricate designs because it’s a higher quality format than JPG. Just note that PNG images are also larger than JPGs, so using too many of them can begin to impact your page load times.
- SVG is the most “responsive” format, meaning SVG images can quickly scale up and down to better fit a website’s design. Because of this, they’re best for elements like logos or line graphics that need to display correctly across different pages.
Here’s a closer look at what to think about when deciding on a file format:
5 – Add Alt Text and Image Titles
Alt text stands for “alternative text” and is descriptive text that helps users with visual impairments understand what an image is depicting.
Alt text will also show up in place of images when they aren’t loading or display correctly.
Alt-text is a critical way to make your site more accessible and improve your site’s user experience, which Google is placing more emphasis on in 2021.
But good alt text also helps search engine crawlers understand what an image is about and its context within a page.
Good alt text is short and descriptive. For example, consider the following picture:
You might want your alt text to say something like “bakery counter with bread rolls”. And if you’re using software like WordPress, you can install SEO-specific plugins that make it easy to add alt text as soon as you upload an image, like this:
You’ll also see the option to add an image title at this stage, which is also an essential part of image optimisation.
Image titles have a similar purpose to imaging file names – they give each image more context and make the subject clearer to search engine crawlers.
6 – Include User-Generated Content
This point is similar to what we said about personalising your pictures.
Just as visitors want to see the real people behind your site, they also want to know that your customers are real people, too.
Including user-generated content on your website, such as customer reviews, is a great way to increase conversions: indeed, 92% of customers read online reviews before buying a product.
It’s also an excellent way to improve the user experience that Google values so much.
Including images with customer reviews can help you maximise their potential as trust signals.
The likelihood of a purchase increases by 15% when buyers read verified reviews over anonymous ones.
A verified review might include a headshot of each customer, which can remind readers that they’re hearing from real-life buyers.
7 – Make Use of Sitemaps
A sitemap is a list of all the pages on your website and provides Google with valuable information about each page – for example, when it was last updated.
Sitemaps also help search engines understand how your site is organised and how different pages relate to each other.
Some website builders, like Squarespace, will automatically generate a sitemap for you. And if you’re using WordPress version 5.5 or above, you can also automatically generate your sitemap.
But here’s the thing: you’ll still want to download an SEO plugin to help you customise your sitemap because this is how you’ll be able to include images on it.
By including a page’s images as part of the information available in your sitemap, you’re making it easier for search engines to understand what each page is about.
8 – Use a CDN
CDN stands for content delivery network and refers to a network of web servers that are spread out all over the world. Using a CDN can help your pages load faster.
Using multiple servers across different locations can reduce the distance between a website visitor and the server where your images are hosted.
There are plenty of CDNs out there to choose from. Cloudflare is one example of a CDN, with over 150 data centres housing servers around the world. It has a basic free service available that’s suitable for smaller websites.
Image optimisation is a crucial way to set up your eCommerce website for success because it leads to faster load times and better SEO performance.
In turn, that improved user experience and visibility can help boost your conversion rates.
The best thing about image optimisation is that you can do plenty of it by yourself, and in this guide, we’ve given you the best ways to get started right now.
Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve covered:
- Avoid stock images – show your personality instead.
- Name the image files – tell search engines what an image is all about.
- Compress the image files – reduce the file size without sacrificing the quality.
- Choose the correct file format – remember that different file types have different strengths.
- Add alt text and image titles – make your pages more accessible, and provide more context for each image.
- Include user-generated content – increase new customers’ trust in your business.
- Make use of sitemaps – use SEO plugins to add images to your sitemap.
- Use a CDN – reduce the distance between web visitors and web servers.
None of these tips require any technical know-how, and they can mean significant benefits for your eCommerce business. Try a few of them today to optimise images, and let us know how you get on!
Author Bio: Maura Monaghan is a writer at Website Builder Expert, a resource dedicated to helping users get started online no matter their experience level. Her favourite topics to cover include web hosting and content marketing, and she believes that everyone can create their own stunning website.