How to spice up your product images and improve your search rank

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October 29, 2015 | by Stine Halmind

The article is based on our talk with product photographer Martin Kirstein of Think Photography, who shares his experience in product photography gained from working with some of the biggest Danish brands, counting Hummel, Puma, Texman, and Royal Unibrew and many others.

Read along if you want to know how to improve your product image SEO.


Just to get it straight: what should a good product image do?

The most important characteristic of a good product picture is basically that it’s true to the product. Simply put, the product picture’s finest job is to show the customer exactly what he or she is buying. It sounds trivial, but somehow people seem to forget this when they take photos. Imagine that you buy a dress and matching nail polish - or a suit and matching shoes - online and when the package arrive you realise they don’t match at all. This kind of scenario is very expensive for a company in terms of customer complaints, product returns and loss of loyalty!

Apart from attending to the basic qualities of the photo, you can gain a lot from paying attention to visual effects. For instance, make sure you use the best light source, and that white background really appears white and not light grey. You can also add extra effects, such as making it look as if the product is placed on a blank surface that mirrors it. Just don’t overdo it. As mentioned, the most important thing is that the image is true to the product.

What is the biggest challenge for brands and retailers when it comes to product images?

The greatest challenge for the webshops is definitely to get pictures of their products in the right quality and format. Smaller shops don’t always have room in the budget for hiring a photographer, so they have to get the images directly from the brand, which can be quite a hassle.

Manufacturers use a variety of different systems for image sharing, from Dropbox to FTP servers, and webshop owners spend a lot of time acquiring photos via all these different systems.

When your primary goal is to sell a product, it doesn’t make sense that you have to spend 40 hours just on getting the photos. Even worse, some webshops don’t know that they can get pictures from the brands , so they set up a makeshift photo studio in their spare bedroom where they shoot low quality images with a poor layout.

If webshops could get all their product images in one place, it would not only save huge amounts of time, it would also give a greater consistency in image layout and quality. For instance, big brands like the Danish sports clothing manufacturer Hummel can’t control whether their retailers use quality images that are true to the products. Bad pictures might hurt the brand’s online image, and not least their sales. Therefore they want to make sure retailers have easy access to good images and, specifically, to the images that perform the best in the specific type of shop and customer segment.

Some web shops illegally acquire product pictures from other web shops or websites. How big of a problem is this?

Well, firstly, it means that product photographers are deprived of their royalties. Secondly, it might actually damage the webshop itself if you use an image from another site, because it counts as duplicate content in Google’s eyes. If you use unique material, on the other hand, it can benefit you ranking in search results.

If brands and retailers all used the same images, then, wouldn’t that damage everyone’s rankings?

No, because it’s not the photo as such, but the ALT tags and meta description that matters. As long as each site creates their own tags and descriptions, Google won’t see it as duplicate content. In case you use an external server, the images should also have unique URL’s. Furthermore, in terms of customizing the appearance of the web shop, most big brands have a variety of pack shots for each product, so web shops will be able to customize the content on their site to some extend.

How can you improve your product image SEO?

There are several areas you can focus on to make your product images work for you in the online search results.

The most important ones are:

  1. Make sure you choose the right name for each photo. The product SKU might be handy for classification, but it won’t mean anything to neither Google nor your customers. You should rather combine the SKU with a few descriptive words, e.g. “SKU_colour_brand_product” (24299651_white_Nike_shoe)
  2. Update the meta description and ALT tags of each photo. Use descriptive keywords that a customer might search for. The description could be “This is a white Nike shoe”, and tags could be white, Nike, sneakers, shoe.
  3. Finally, make sure to upload your photos in the smallest possible size without compromising the quality of the photo, as the size severely affects the page’s load time.

How many photos of each product should a web shop have?

It depends on the type of product, of course. For simple products, such as nail polish or wine, one photo is enough. You rarely need more than 2-4 photos of each product, unless it’s a complex product with several functions, such as a drilling machine. However, make sure to display all the distinguishing aspects of the product. On a sweatshirt, for instance, it might be a special neckline, a small print on the back or a certain fabric that’s worth showing in detail. Just remember that the more pictures you publish for each product, the slower your page will load.

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With these insights you’re on the right track to improve your customers’ experience and boost your sales.

If you have any further questions or comments, please leave a comment or reach out to us here.

Stine Halmind

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