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A Hidden Opportunity to Optimize: Google Image Search

Virtually everyone involved in online marketing understands the importance of on-page image optimization. However, did you ever consider image optimization in Google Image Search as a potential source of traffic to your e-commerce store?

On July 27, 2012, Google removed Product Search results from the One Box and isolated them in the new Google Shopping module in the upper right hand side of the results page. ChannelAdvisor estimates that after the shuffle, traffic to Google Product Search dropped by 80%. My theory is that the drop-off occurred because shopping results were moved from their traditional position between organic and paid ads and sent off to the periphery. So now, not only have shopping results lost center position, they’ve moved to a new area unfamiliar to users.

Image search results, however, can still appear front-and-center on SERPs.  Below, I’ve highlighted the image results that show with a search query for “three diamond engagement rings.”  The ones that are circled lead directly to e-commerce websites.

Google Image Results For Engagement Rings

Similarly, try running a search on “camping tents,” in Google Images.  Again, the highlighted images link to e-commerce sites.  The majority of the others above the fold landed me on unworthy affiliate websites simply consisting of outbound links and little to no content.  Well, one of those fifteen spots could be you!  And all it would take is a little bit of image optimization.

Google Image Search Results For Camping Tents

How Google Serves Up Images

When Google’s spiders crawl your website, they look for references to images (e.g. hrefs and inline images) and categorize the ones that they find. Duplicate images are treated as one and when selecting which ones to show, Google weighs in image size, quality, “rel=canonical” tags, the referring and landing pages, and other ranking signals inputted into its algorithm.

When a search query is entered, Google uses the information that its spiders supply to return the most relevant images to its users. Yes, the engines can gather information and classify images on their own, but it’s you who supplies that data. Open the path to your store by making your images, titles, and descriptions as clear as possible.

Read over our list of best practices below to see what you can do to get your products in Google Image Search.

Best Practices: Google Image Search Optimization for E-Commerce

Image Storage
Consolidate your image files in a single, specialized directory. This simplifies the path to your images- allowing search engine spiders to more easily index your content.

Image Optimization
Keep quality in mind when naming and selecting your images. Be sure that your pictures are high quality and representative of your product. Size-wise, the acceptable minimum is 250×250 pixels with Google’s recommended being 400×400.

File Names and Titles
Per the rules of classic SEO, make sure that your file names and titles are “people-friendly.” Although SKUs and product numbers can provide product data, you’d be hard pressed to find customers using them in their search queries. In addition, avoid using generic image names if you can. “orange-family-camping-tent.jpg,” for example, is a lot more helpful to searchers and spiders than “601329201” and “dsc1234.jpg.”

As a rule of thumb, try to keep your file names and titles between 3-5 words and use delimiters to separate them.

Alt Attributes
Alt text is used to help spiders and users detect the contents of an image if they can’t view it. Alt tags make your content more accessible and is a great place to optimize for another keyword or two, but don’t go overboard. Keyword stuffing and excessively long text can be perceived as spammy. When writing alt text, use highly relevant and descriptive language, and be sure to keep it short and sweet.

Wrap Up

Image optimization for e-commerce is a relatively untouched avenue and offers a great opportunity to diversify and increase your marketing reach. Take advantage of the real estate while it’s there! With the advent of paid Google Shopping ahead, why not take advantage of another potential source of free traffic?

This has been the abridged version of Google Image Search Optimization. If you’d like to read more, check out Google’s Image Publishing Guidelines or page 18 of its Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.

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