As online business owners it is super important to have a site that not only looks great but is working for you, whether you are a service or product based business.
Photos are one of the most important things on our site that can make or break customer experience because they communicate the value of your brand and help to tell your brand story. Making sure those photos are properly optimized is an important, but often ignored, part of your website's accessibility, SEO, and overall customer experience.
So what exactly is image optimization? Let’s break it down and discover how to implement it successfully on your site.
What Is Image Optimization?
To put it simply, image optimization is making sure your images are working for you to inform search engines what your photos are about (and therefore help your business come up in relevant search results) and to create a great customer experience on your site. Proper image optimization is done by using a combination of file names, alt tags, and proper image sizing practices.
Why Is It Important?
Images are one of the most important elements of your website or online store. They can help tell the story of your brand and straight up just tell people what the thing you are selling looks like. But, they are also one of the biggest (literally) elements of your website and when not properly optimized can slow down your website and can do nothing to improve your website's SEO foundation.
Search engines are smart and can tell a lot about your website and what is relevant for any given search. Adding alt tags and making sure your photos are named properly add to your website’s SEO by providing search engines with more information about your site, and specifically the photos.
Alt tags also help to make your site more accessible for the visually impaired. If someone is using a screen reader to explore your website it will use the alt tag to describe what all of your images are about. So including a unique alt tag on every. single. photo. is important for delivering a great and accessible experience on your website. (Plus, if your images don’t load for some reason, the alt tag is usually displayed in its place which allows everyone to know what it is about.)
If your images are too large, they will tank the loading speed of your website and cause potential customers to click away from your site, costing you lost sales and potentially lost customers. Poor image quality can hurt the overall customer experience because they don’t communicate the value and quality of your brand and certainly won’t stand up against the competition.
So what does proper image optimization look like? We’ve put together a little checklist to make sure you don’t miss a thing (and so you know what the heck all these terms mean)
Your Image Optimization Checklist
✔️Does my Image Have A Unique, Descriptive File Name?
Did you know that search engines use file names to learn more about your photos and your site?
IMG_749.jpg is what your phone or camera is going to call a photo when taking it but that isn’t going to cut it when it comes to naming your photo. A filename like that simply doesn’t provide any useful information. A good file name will be unique while including information about the image and your brand.
For example, if you are a clothing brand you might name your photos something like this:
Super Cute Shirt Name-Sarahs Awesome Clothing Store-Tops.jpg
In the file name we have the name of the shirt, the name of your business, and a category that the image falls into to provide a little more context to what it is and who might want to see it.
Each name needs to be unique and provide as much information as possible. So, if there is more than one image of that Super Cute Shirt use unique descriptors instead of just tagging on a number to make them different.
Here’s what we mean:
Super Cute Shirt Name-Sarahs Awesome Clothing Store-Tops-Front.jpg
Super Cute Shirt Name-Sarahs Awesome Clothing Store-Tops-Button Details.jpg
Super Cute Shirt Name-Sarahs Awesome Clothing Store-Tops-Sleeve Closeup.jpg
Now you have the shirt name, your business name, the category the shirt belongs too, and even more useful, descriptive information that search engines can use to learn about your image.
We highly suggest taking some time and coming up with a strategy that works for your brand so you have a guideline for how you will name each photo. This helps to ensure that filename actually gets changed before being uploaded (we get it...it can be a tedious task, especially when you are limited on time) and that the new file names are working for your brand and building your SEO.
✔️Are The ALT Tags Properly Filled Out For Every Image?
Alt tags, like we mentioned, tell search engines what your photo is about and help with accessibility. But how do you write a good one?Here are the guidelines we like to follow:
- Describe the information not the picture.
- Use generic but descriptive terms. (Don’t just use brand specific words that people won’t actually be using when they are searching online.)
- Use long-tail keywords and keywords if possible.
- Include both the product name and the brand name if applicable.
Example: The Super Cute Shirt from Sarah’s Awesome Clothing Store is made from eco-friendly fabrics, has short sleeves, front button details and is available in blue and white.
Each photo needs to have a unique alt text. That means you can’t just copy / paste the same text onto all of them on the product and call it a day. Get creative with how you describe the product and use phrases (ahem long-tail keywords) that people use to search for the product online or ask you about to find a product in store.
✔️Properly sized so that they load quickly
Photo quality and size is something that can make an otherwise great customer experience bad in a hurry.
First of all, a large image can cause a page or whole site to load slowly which is frustrating to customers and can cost you sales. But on the other hand, low quality photos don’t accurately convey how awesome your product or service is and won’t stand a chance against the many other websites that do basically the same thing as yours. (Sorry to be so harsh, we say this out of love ❤️️)
It is important to find the balance between a small file size and beautiful, crisp photos. This may take some trial and error as you figure out what image dimensions work well to properly showcase your photos while remaining a relatively small file size. Use the standard screen resolution of 72 dpi and aim for your files to be under 1 MB. Lastly, using compression software like tinypng.com will compress the size of your photos without them losing quality.
Wrapping it Up
Image optimization is a very important part of your overall website experience and should not be ignored. Using alt tags, proper naming strategies, and properly sizing your photos will go a long way to help search engines understand your website and improve accessibility.
Our biggest suggestion is that you take some time to implement a strategy for your brand on how you will name files and what the proper sizes for all your images should be. Putting structure in place will set you up for a win and ensure that these image optimization practices are being properly implemented in your business.