Businesses operating an e-commerce site who haven’t taken advantage of last year’s changes to Google Images may miss out on the opportunities they present.
Although it’s been over a year since Google removed the “View Image” button that appeared next to search results that users clicked, the opportunities that this particular change presents might have gone over the heads of many entrepreneurs who are always looking for more traffic.
Google’s intention with this change was to discourage people from stealing copyrighted images from sites, instead giving them the option to visit the site directly.
This means that when people search for a product’s picture, they will be encouraged to visit the vendor when clicking on it. It presents opportunities for e-commerce operators that shouldn’t be ignored.
Of course, to benefit from this, a vendor needs to be able to get the image high enough in search results to gain adequate visibility.
In the past, the incentives to improve image SEO were weak because most people interested in the image itself wouldn’t be compelled to visit its host. This effectively “stole” bandwidth from the site without actually producing a visit to the page holding the picture.
Since February 2018, one simple button removal flipped these incentives on their head and actually created an environment where competing for the top spot in Google Image SERPs is worth its weight in gold.
Taking advantage of the system
If a site is indexed in Google, all of its images also go into the database. However, its position in the results that someone gets when searching for a particular photo is dictated by a litany of other factors, most important of which is probably the image’s alt text.
Most e-commerce sites use a content management system (CMS) with several options that appear when adding images to a page. Filling the field that applies for alt text with a description of what is shown in the photo will make Google’s crawler bot recognize its relevance to certain search terms more easily.
Site operators should also ensure that the CMS is set up to scale resolutions to fit the display format of the page, reducing the overall size (in kilobytes) that the image occupies on the page. Faster-loading sites and images are favored by Google’s indexing system.
Image captions can also provide a valid addition to alt text, as the text around an image can also be a factor in determining how relevant it is to a search result.
The idea is that e-commerce sites can use Google Images as a vehicle for bringing in visitors searching for product photos. At this point, it’s all about providing as much context to those images as possible to ensure that they get bumped up in the search results, acting in synergy with the rest of the site’s SEO.