Guest Post: Why & How to Optimize Your Product Photos for Search

Hello all!  You may have noticed that things have been a bit quiet around here the past few weeks.  That's one of the reasons I have this awesome guest post on how to optimize your product photos for search here for ya.  Things have been quiet because our little one made his appearance in our lives two weeks ahead of schedule.  I've taken some time to settle into life with a newborn and am now ready to get back to work.  Oh, photos of the little one are plentiful over on my Instagram if you're interested.

Today's post comes from the brilliant mind of e-commerce marketing strategist, Katherine Raz, of Small Craft Advisory.  I've no doubt that you all will find her advice on how to optimize your product photos for search helpful and valuable.  Read on to learn more about how you can increase the visibility of your products in search engines through image optimization.

Let’s start with the basics.

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” Search engine optimization is the practice of including important keywords in your website copy and formatting the content on your website according to best practices.  Doing so will increase your website's chance of appearing higher in the search engine rankings than your competitors. If done right, search engine optimization (and the subsequent search traffic) can be a big source of free, evergreen traffic to your website.

When optimizing their content for search, people tend to forget that images are content too. If formatted and tagged correctly, images on your website can help boost your search traffic and get your website ranking higher in the search engine results pages.

(The search engine we’re usually referring to in SEO is Google, but other search engines include Etsy, Pinterest, YouTube — any place where you’re working to get your content to rise to the top!)

So, can optimized images really help you outrank competition? You bet!

But let’s take a step back. To understand how images can help with SEO, It’s important to understand a little bit about how SEO works in general.

First, while keywords are extremely important in the practice of SEO, it’s even more important to understand your goals for search.  It's also important to understand the likelihood of achieving those goals based on your competition. If, for example, all you sell on your website are red sweaters, the likelihood of you ranking in Google for the term “red sweater” is pretty nil. You’ll never beat out the heavy hitters like Target, Macy’s, Amazon, Pinterest and Etsy.

However if you sell red sweaters for hairless cats, you’re much more likely to rank for that term because not as many businesses are selling hairless cat sweaters or trying to rank for those keywords.

Once you realize this, your keywords become obvious. What are you trying to rank for? “Red sweater for hairless cat” of course!

The second important thing to remember: each page on your website can only rank for one keyword, so pick the most important keyword or string of keywords for each page. Got that? One page = one keyword or key phrase. This means a single page can’t rank for both “purple rain boots for french bulldog” and “red sweater for hairless cat.” Pick one term for each page.

Now that you know these two things, we can talk about where images come in in the search rankings.

There are 5 places you’re adding keywords to a web page to optimize it for search. These are the places Google looks for keywords that tell it what a page is about.

  1. Page title
  2. Meta description
  3. Headline (also known as H1)
  4. Body copy
  5. Image alt text

Image alt text is where SEO for images comes in. It appears in the back end code. It is not the image file name, but rather a description you give the image that explains it to a person is using a screen reader. This is where you include important keywords to describe your image.

Alt text is the most important element when optimizing your images for search.


Match the keywords or phrases in the alt text to the keywords or phrases you’re trying to get the page itself to rank for.

While there may be different places to edit the image alt text depending on your CMS, the tag looks like this in the code:

<img src=“sphynx_sweater_red.gif" alt=“hairless cat wearing a red sweater”>

This alt text is being used on a page trying to rank for “hairless cat red sweater.” Why not just use those keywords verbatim? Because of the screen reader element, you’re writing copy for people who are visually impaired. You don’t want to “keyword stuff” your alt text. It should appear as natural language that describes what is in the picture for those who cannot see the pictures themselves. Finding the balance between keywords and natural language in alt text is tricky, but you must do it!

While it’s up for debate whether Google looks at captions or file names for keywords, it’s a good idea to include your important keywords in both file names and captions if it makes sense to do so. It can’t hurt!

Images with alt text that includes important keywords will help you page rank for that important term. It will also help your image rank in the all-important Google Image Search results.

How Images Can Harm Your Search Rankings

Images can hurt your search performance, too. All the optimization in the world won’t help if your page load times are ridiculously slow. One of the main culprits in slow page load times? Image file sizes that are too big! Make sure that your images are saved and uploaded using the proper file sizes for the web. You can test the load time of your website in Google’s Page Speed Test tool:

Here you can find out if you’re using images that are too big and that are slowing down your page load times. Slow page load times result in penalties from Google that lower your results in the search rankings.  You'll want to fix those images right away if you can.

To summarize:

- Image alt tags are 1 of 5 places you can include keywords to help a page rank for a keyword in Google

- Optimizing image alt tags will help your images appear in the Google Image Search results and will help your page rank for a keyword

- Match the keywords in the alt tag to the keyword you’re trying to get the page to rank for overall

- Remember: one page, one keyword

- Go ahead and include your keywords in the file name and captions, too — can’t hurt!

- Make sure your image file sizes are appropriate for the web and that images aren’t slowing down your page load times

There you have it!  Now you're fully equipped to optimize your product photos for search. I can already hear your ranking higher in the search! 😉

Until next time,


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Hi, I'm Amy

Go-to product photography instructor for creatives since 2017

I'm a photographer and I teach makers, artists, and creatives how to take beautiful, compelling, and effective brand and product photos for their business.

With my signature straightforward teaching style and affinity for blending the technical with the creative, I'll teach you how to not just take a nice photo, but how to LOVE crafting stunning, stand-out images that significantly elevate your creative business.

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