Image optimisation: Product pictures that convert

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As a copywriter, I know that words are the most powerful conversion tool on your webpage. But there’s no denying that imagery plays a huge role too — especially when it comes to e-retail.

Optimising product pictures can help you climb the SERPs, improve conversion rates, and build a loyal and happy customer base. Use the tips below to make your images work harder.

Say no to stock photos

If you use manufacturers’ product descriptions, you’re not offering your visitors anything different. Google wants to present its users with the best results, so favours websites that go the extra mile to help their customers. That means duplicate copy is bad news.

There could be a similar story with duplicate images.

The head of Google’s Webspam team, Matt Cutts, said that the search engine does not currently penalise sites with stock photos. However, he said that image originality is “a great suggestion for a future signal that we could look at in terms of search quality”.

Reverse image search proves that Google has the technology to determine whether pictures are unique to a site, so this could well be an algorithmic update in the pipeline. To future-proof your rankings and set yourself apart from competitors, try to take your own photographs.

Just ensure that you get the go-ahead from the product manufacturers where necessary, and add a copyright notice to prevent others using your images.

How to photograph products

An inherent disadvantage of online shopping is that products can’t be physically inspected. This can lead to a disconnect between expectation and reality, a common cause of customer dissatisfaction. The problem is particularly pronounced in the fashion market, where the inability to try on for size and feel fabric drives a 25 per cent return rate (Retail Week).

Only representative photos and videos, alongside an accurate description, can begin to compensate for the absence of a physical product. Visitors sure that they know what they’re getting are more likely to make a purchase, and less likely to send the product back or leave a negative review.

So how do you instil your potential customers with confidence? 360° product photos are one of the best options, as they allow shoppers to mimic a real product interaction. By letting them take control of the angle and zoom, you eliminate any suspicion that you’re deceiving with carefully selected shots.

Photographs with models are also helpful, as they give products context. This means shoppers can get a better idea of the size, shape and colour. These images also encourage customers to envisage owning the product, which can be an effective sales tactic.

Even better are videos, which can further refine shoppers’ conception of a product. They allow you to demonstrate how items move and feel, and to showcase active features, such as the audio playback on a smartphone.

Remember, you want your images to be authentic, but as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Think McDonald’s menu images versus the actual burger you receive. Put your products in a good light, but don’t leave your customers as disappointed as @SamGotThatTan.

Choosing default product photos

When browsing product galleries, your site visitors should be able to identify items easily. This ensures you quickly meet the needs of people scanning for a particular product, preventing them from going elsewhere, and helps catch the eye of less focussed shoppers.

Clear, high-quality photos that present products in their most recognisable form make the best default images. These will also enhance shareability, helping you gain exposure on social networks like Pinterest and Instagram.

SEO for images

Image file size has an impact on SEO. That’s because more data takes longer to load, and website speed is a Google ranking factor. Considering the file type, compression, hosting, caching and delivery will help you cut valuable milliseconds off page load times.

To get images to rank for themselves — something with huge potential now Google Image results often appear on the main SERPs — you need relevant, keyword-rich file names and alt text.

To recap, the best product pictures:

  • Are unique to your site
  • Put products in their best light, without being misleading
  • Help mimic an in-store shopping experience
  • Sell by conveying the benefits of ownership
  • Boast a professional look
  • Load quickly
  • Have a title and alt text optimised for search

The best default pictures (for social media and galleries) also:

  • Have aesthetic appeal
  • Make the product easily identifiable

Have you bought anything online that didn’t meet expectations? How do you ensure your business’s product pictures are flattering yet accurate? Leave a comment below, or join the conversation on Facebook!


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