How-to-optimise-for-image-search

How to optimise for Image Search at Christmas

By Abi Crosbie, SEO Manager at Reckless.

9 minute read

Typically, search engine optimisation (SEO) isn’t considered a priority around Christmas, whereas paid ad budgets tend to rocket. If this sounds familiar, you could be missing a trick because SEO and paid ads can work great together. 

But how? Enter, Image Search.

Optimising your products for Image Search can give your website’s organic traffic a boost and might even save you money on paid ads. 

In this blog, we’ll explain how and why you should use Image Search, Google Shopping and Merchant Listings together. We’ll define what these platforms are and explore their relationship so you can improve your e-commerce performance ahead of Christmas and beyond. 

What is Image Search?

Image Search essentially involves typing a query into a search bar and seeing images show up in the search results. This can be in the main body of the search results, or specifically in the image results tab. Just like this screenshot of ‘coffee beans’ displayed in the Google Image Search results:

How to optimise for image search

Google Lens however works differently because you manually upload an image or image URL to find similar photos. This is often used to find a specific product, hence why shopping features so heavily in the results.

TL;DR – Image Search is when pictures show in search results.

What is the difference between Google Shopping and Merchant Center listings?

Google Shopping is a type of paid advertising that lets you promote products on search engines with images and prices. Online shoppers can find your products, compare them with other retailers, and decide whether to buy them from you or someone else.

Google Merchant Center however is where you manage your Google Shopping product feed. By enabling free listings within your account, you could appear in a number of places across Google without paying! That’s free ‘organic’ traffic from the likes of YouTube, Google Shopping, and (you guessed it) Image Search.

To appear in search results, Google scrapes the following product attributes from your feed. So even without paid ads, it’s good to keep them updated and meet Google’s product specifications:

  • Product IDs
  • GTINs or MPNs
  • Meta descriptions
  • Price
  • Stock availability
  • URL
  • Images and image links
  • Shipping and tax information
  • Brand
  • Condition

Make sure your product feed information matches your website too. If there are too many products with wrong information, your account may be suspended.

Why you should optimise for Image Search at Christmas

E-commerce is competitive around Christmas, so optimising for Image Search could give you the edge you need to stand out.

Image Search is an area of quick wins too because, despite how important it is for e-commerce, it still gets overlooked. The reason tends to be because it can be a slog to get into good working order. Clothing brands are the most “on it” with this type of optimisation, but whatever products your brand sells, you should definitely lean into it. 

For example, looking for an image of [coffee equipment] brings up a load of results from people who sell it.

How to optimise for image search

With a bit of time and minimal changes to your images, this could be you!

How to optimise for Image Search with SEO

SEO optimisation sounds complicated, but a lot of the elements you’re dealing with are pretty straightforward. Especially if you’ve dealt with product feeds or are an SEO whizz already.

There are two main ways to optimise for Image Search; 

1) Structured data 
2) Image metadata and quality 

Structured data

The two main sets of structured data you should care about are [product] and [image].

Product structured data contains data that is similar to what’s required in product feeds for Google Shopping. There are specific fields that are always necessary for product structured data like the name, price, stock and URL. You need good quality product images in your feed, but having multiple images is how you can optimise to succeed.

The simplest image data is the image URL, but you can also use other structured data from ImageObject schema. We’d recommend including:

  • Name
  • Description
  • DatePublished
  • Author
  • AggregateRating
  • CopyrightHolder and other associated schema (if the image is unique to you and copyrighted)

There are other types of structured data available, should you wish to really annoy your developers into inputting multiple lots across pages! It’ll be easier if you use one component, so it might be worth having that conversation now, to save time in the future.

Image metadata and quality

Metadata and quality are the more technical aspects of image optimisation SEO (which does feel like a big statement when we’ve already covered structured data). You will probably need to work with your developers to plan these changes. Otherwise, it could get out of hand or lost in a ticket backlog. 

The easiest place to start is image quality, so find the sweet spot between resolution, size, and performance. Usually, good practice is to compress images on your website to be as small as possible without sacrificing quality. But, it could be worth ditching the 100kb maximum size and expanding quality rules to benefit from other search engine results page (SERP) features.

Image quality also depends on the file type. Overwhelmingly, images on websites are JPEGs. While this is completely normal, they’re larger and poorer quality than other formats that are now available. WebP is becoming more popular, but AVIF is considered a high-quality alternative.

However, practicality is the biggest issue with changing image formats. We’d recommend considering the following to figure out if you should change image formats, and how to approach it if you do:

  • How many images do you need to convert? Can you convert some, or do them in batches?
  • How are your images created? Can you request format changes directly from your designers? If not, do you have the available resources to convert the images?
  • Do you have responsive images and can your website build handle image format changes? How complex would an update be if it can’t?

Next, improve image file names. Make them under 50 characters and avoid non-ASCII characters. This can be done at the same time as quality optimisation or image format changes. 

Prioritisation is key here, so focus on images with the most potential to rank. These include product images, images unique to you (copyrighted, ideally) and relevant secondary images, like the coffee beans and equipment above.

Lastly, centralise your images if you haven’t already. This means bringing the storage location for all your images into one place, like a digital asset manager platform. This allows bulk changes, less duplication of images, and improves page speed. 

This sort of change can be development-heavy, so we’d put it last on your list of changes. But, if you decide to do some major file type changes, it’s an update that would fit alongside.

How to optimise for Image Search with paid ads

There are plenty of changes you can make to your product feed to boost your Google Shopping performance. Most notably, optimising your images and product titles. These are the first elements people see when searching and what is going to differentiate you from the competition. 

These are some of the easiest ways to optimise your images and product titles:

Use high-quality images and test different backgrounds and angles
Trialling multiple options is the best way to determine what works and what doesn’t.

Add multiple images for each product
These might appear in Google Images and when people click on a product to view more details. This helps users get a better look at your products and make a more informed shopping decision.

Put the keywords you want to match with first in your image titles
Google gives precedence to words at the start of titles when choosing what searches to match listings with. Plus, users will usually only see the first 70 or fewer characters.

Collect Google reviews
This will help your products stand out as well as building credibility and trust.

Use competitive pricing and include special offers or promotions
Google Shopping is price-driven, so unless you are priced competitively or provide extra value, shoppers will probably buy from competitors instead.

Use correct GTINs, MPNs and Brand Information
This will help Google match your listings with relevant search queries.

Assign relevant Google product categories to your products
Once again, this helps Google match your listings with relevant queries.

Optimise product descriptions with the keywords you want to show for
This will further help Google with query matching.

Ensure both the landing pages and the feed are mobile-friendly
This will help deliver a smooth, enjoyable user journey regardless of whether the user is on a laptop or mobile device.

How to optimise images for Google Lens

Google Lens was developed with the specific intention of allowing people to search for images and find products to buy. There are other features, such as translation and identifying plants, animals and skin conditions, but shopping is definitely the moneymaker.

This means that if someone searches for an item similar to yours, your products might show up in the results. The bonus here is that by optimising for SEO and Shopping, you’re ticking off the requirements for Google Lens as well.

Summary

Images are important to sell products, but taking additional time to consider quality, markup and optimisation could give you a massive edge. So, lean into the overlap of online channels like PPC and SEO. Get them working together and you’ll double your impact and have more opportunity to position your products in front of potential customers. 

We’ve helped plenty of businesses survive the festive season, so we know how crazy it gets! If you need any help with your PPC or SEO efforts, get in touch.

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