It’s no secret that images are a significant cornerstone for e-commerce websites. Since customers can’t touch or feel the product before purchase, the images in your store must provide a detailed overview of the item. Online shoppers are more inclined to place an order if the product is showcased in high-quality and from multiple angles.
However, without proper image optimization, you risk slowing down your website, which can negatively affect your conversion rate. Today, we will take a look at the benefits and best practices of Shopify image optimization, so that your online store looks and performs the best it can!
Why Do You Need to Optimize Images for Shopify?
Optimizing images for your Shopify store has more value than it seems at first glance. The two main reasons to optimize Shopify images are:
- Increased website loading speed
- Better search engine visibility
Let’s talk about the correlation between these aspects.
Improved website loading speed
The speed at which your website loads has a major impact on your conversion rate. Most customers nowadays expect the website to load in three seconds or less. With every second of delay, your bounce rate increases exponentially.
This is where Shopify image optimization comes into play. The size of your images directly affects the page load speed. By reducing the size of your image files, you can boost your website loading speed and, consequently, reduce bounce rate and improve your conversion rate.
And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, consider that page load speed is one of the major Google’s ranking factors.
Page load speed is one of the major Google’s ranking factors
Meaning, if your website loads fast, it has more chances at ranking higher on the search engine results page (SERP). Which naturally leads us to the next benefit – improved search engine visibility.
Improved search engine visibility
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of techniques used to rank the website higher in SERPs. Just like optimizing your page load speed improves your search engine visibility, applying SEO techniques to images also positively impacts the search visibility of your website. Since image optimization for Shopify can help rank your pictures in Google Images, more users will be able to see your content, thus, bringing more traffic to your online store.
Image SEO comes down to: assigning alternative (alt) text and descriptive names to your images. That way the search engines can better understand the content of the picture. Appropriate naming of the files and assigning alt text to images also improves user experience on your website. In instances when a browser fails to render a certain image, these attributes will help users understand the context of the picture.
Knowing these undeniable benefits, let’s break them down one at a time!
Shopify Image Optimization Tips for Faster Loading Speed
For most e-commerce stores, images make up a huge portion of the overall page size. The more big, high-quality, and unoptimized image files you have on a certain page, the longer the webpage will load. For this reason, it’s important to optimize the size of your Shopify images as much as possible.
To give you an example, take a look at the graphic below. Here is how the content type distribution of the Whidegroup site looks like. Needless to say, images make up the largest portion of the files that exist on the website.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at three main aspects of Shopify image optimization that affect how fast your website loads: image format, image sizing, and image compression.
#1 Use the right image format
First and foremost, make sure you use the right image format. Wrong image format can add unnecessary weight to your pictures. To help you understand which format to choose in order to optimize images for Shopify, let’s break down three of the most common image formats:
There’s time and place to use each of these formats. In fact, you can use all of these image types for different purposes across your Shopify store.
So, how do you choose the right image format for your Shopify store?
When to use JPEG format?
JPEG is a standard image format used on the web. Most images you see in e-commerce stores are JPEG files. This is a great format option for product images since it’s capable of translating a variety of different colors and shades. In other words, JPEG is a format designed for highly detailed images.
Another major upside to JPEG is that images can be compressed considerably. This format can compress images for Shopify and cut up to 70% of the initial file size without losing quality! All of this makes JPEG a vastly popular image format. However, not the best.
What images should be in PNG format?
PNGs are a newer alternative to JPEGs. Although the PNG format also does a great job of displaying colorful and crisp imagery, there is one major downside: PNG files are typically much larger in size, compared to JPEG.
However, the PNG format is a clear winner when it comes to simple images. Icons, logos, decorative images — this is where PNGs do their job the best. As an added bonus, unlike JPEG, the PNG format supports transparent backgrounds, making it irreplaceable in graphic design.
Why is WebP the best format to use?
WebP is a newer image format, compared to JPG and PNG, that was introduced in 2010 by Google. It is considered to be a next generation image format. WebP gained major popularity among users, including e-commerce merchants, for its incredibly small file size. Using WebP, you get to display lightweight, high quality images without sacrificing your page load speed. When it comes to Shopify image optimization, we can confidently say that WebP is the best format to use in an online store.
With that being said, you do need to keep in mind one significant disadvantage of using WebP: some older browsers don’t support this format. Meaning, if a user visits your Shopify store from a browser that doesn’t support WebP, they will be unpleasantly surprised by broken images.
The good news is — around 90% of browsers nowadays do support WebP format. You can check which browsers currently support WebP using an online tool Can I Use?
So if you are committed to using WebP and worried about broken images, Google suggests website developers offer alternative images in JPEG and PNG formats for older browser support.
#2 Size your images appropriately
The height and width of the images you upload to your Shopify store also affect your page load speed. A common mistake a lot of e-commerce merchants make is uploading a large image and simply shrinking the dimensions through source code. This method can increase your page load time since the browser has to load the original image first and then adjust it to the desired dimensions.
It’s best to steer clear from this practice if you want to optimize images for Shopify as much as possible. Instead, upload the correct size image you need to keep the dimensions of the output image the same as the dimensions of the original image.
“But what about product images?” you may ask. Indeed, customers prefer to be able to zoom in on the product image and see the details up close. In this instance, you should provide users with the option to view a larger image in a pop-up or on a separate webpage. That way, you avoid adding unnecessary weight to your page while still giving customers a way to zoom in and scrutinize the image.
#3 Compress images for Shopify
Once you know which image format to use and how to properly size your images, the next important step to focus on is image compression. By compressing your pictures, you reduce the weight of the files that the browser has to load which, as you know by now, can significantly speed up your loading time.
In fact, compressing images can reduce the file size by as much as 70%! Such impressive results make it obvious why image compression is a highly efficient Shopify image optimization technique.
There are two ways to go about compressing your Shopify images: lossless and lossy. Here’s what each of these options entail:
- Lossless. This type of image compression allows significantly reduced file size, but keeps the quality of the image almost untouched in the process. Lossless compression type is recommended for images in which high quality is prioritized, such as product pictures.
- Lossy. This is a type of compression that allows for major file size reduction with some quality lost in the process. This is a perfect option for non-critical and decorative images.
Although compressing images is one of the most effective techniques of image optimization for Shopify, this practice alone won’t yield much result. To gain the most out of your image optimization efforts, it’s crucial to apply all three of the methods we’ve discussed above. Luckily, when it comes to image compression, Shopify makes this step a walk in the park.
Best Apps for Image Compression
If you have a big Shopify store and upload hundreds of images to your website, manually compressing images is unnecessary. Shopify App Store provides numerous apps that help compress images for Shopify without a hassle! You will also find many other useful optimization features within these tools. Let’s review some of the most popular Shopify image optimization apps below.
- AVADA SEO Suite. This is the most recommended image optimization app for Shopify. AVADA SEO Suite offers lossless and lossy image compression within a few clicks, and allows to automatically assign alt text to all images across the website. This app is surely a packaged deal where you will find everything you need when it comes to Shopify image optimization.
- TinyIMG SEO & Image Optimizer. What makes this image optimization app stand out is the ability to set automatic lossless image compression. That way, as soon as you upload new images to your store, the app will automatically compress and optimize them. You also have an option to generate coherent alt text for your images with their advanced AI system. All of this makes TinyIMG SEO & Image Optimizer one of the best Shopify image optimizer tools available.
- Hyperspeed. This is one of the more advanced apps to compress pictures since it also offers a variety of other image optimization features. With a combination of different optimization techniques, such as lazy loading and CSS minification, Hyperspeed aims to make your online store as optimized as possible. If you have some development experience, this app will be all you need to optimize images for Shopify!
For smaller Shopify stores that upload images only occasionally, buying and installing an app may not be the best choice. Instead, you can use an online tool for free and without an installation process. Some of the best online image compression tools are:
Shopify Image Optimization Techniques for SEO
Taking care of your website’s visibility is crucial in e-commerce. Your website competes with hundreds of other stores in SERPs to get themselves in front of the customers. In this race, optimizing your images for SEO is how you get ahead.
When it comes to image SEO, your goal is to help search engines identify the context of the picture. The best way to let search engines know what is shown on a certain image is through file names and alt text. Let’s uncover how to optimize images for Shopify using these methods to rank higher in SERPs!
#1 Name your image files accurately
It’s easy to brush off names of the image files as something insignificant and keep the default file names the camera assigns. However, the names of your image files matter to search engines. If the names of your image files are a combination of random numbers and characters, you give search engines no clue as to what is on the actual image.
You need to give your image files descriptive, keyword-rich names that actually represent what’s depicted on a certain image in a concise way. To help you better visualize the point, take a look at this example:
The file name on the left didn’t follow Shopify image optimization best practices, since ‘photo1644572952.jpg’ doesn’t really sound like a heart shaped cat bed. The file name on the right, however, told the search engines exactly what product is on the image. Small changes like renaming an image file to give more context to the picture is how you get big SEO results from your images.
#2 Assign descriptive alt text
Alt text is an alternative text description of images for instances when a browser can’t properly render them. When alt text is assigned to an image, the search engines can ”read” what is depicted on the picture when they crawl the webpage. Thus, your webpage gets properly indexed and has a better chance at showing up on the first pages in SERPs.
Note! Add alt text only to images that carry valuable information, like product pictures. If an image is purely decorative, there is no need for alt text.
Adding alt text to your Shopify images can be very helpful to not only rank higher on SERPs, but also to increase user experience on your website in case a certain image is broken. For example, a user visits your product page, but their browser fails to load images on the webpage. If you assign a descriptive alt text, the user will be able to read the information about the image and have a clear understanding of what was supposed to be depicted on it.
Alt text is also very important for people with disabilities who may be using a screen reader. Images without alt text cause problems for screen readers because there’s no way to communicate the context of the image to the user. If no alt text is present, the screen reader will skip the image entirely or read out the image file name.
This goes to show that Shopify image optimization is not just about improving your website’s performance, but also raising the quality of the shopping experience for your customers.
How to assign alt text correctly?
So, now that you know the importance of alt text, the question arises: how do you optimize images for Shopify to meet SEO standards? Here’s what best practices of assigning alt text teach us:
- Be concise. Your goal is to describe the image in as few words as possible. Most screen readers cut off alt text at around 125 characters. So keep your alt text from exceeding this word count.
- Be specific. Alt text, first and foremost, exists for the website users. Try to give a descriptive overview of what is on the image. Don’t use phrases like “image of…”, “picture of…”, etc. Given that you’re writing alt text, there’s no need to specify that it’s an image.
- Avoid keyword stuffing. While you definitely need to use keywords in your alt text, they must fit organically. Overusing keywords is not beneficial for SEO or for your customers.
Descriptive alt text, сombined with accurate file names, are extremely helpful Shopify image optimization methods to use if you want to improve your website’s visibility on search engines. As a bonus, your customers will appreciate the effort of making your website accessible for everyone and creating a shopping experience all of us can enjoy!
Optimizing your images has lots of great advantages that elevate your online store both in the eyes of search engines and your customers. As you can see, Shopify image optimization techniques are tightly intertwined with one another. That means, you get the best results when you strategically implement all of the methods we have discussed today. Fortunately, using the right tools, for Shopify merchants can almost completely automate image optimization process.
In this article, we have explained the main principles of Shopify image optimization and the correlation between them. Following this guide, you can optimize your Shopify images to significantly speed up your website, achieve greater visibility in SERPs, and improve user experience in your store. If you have any questions regarding your store, feel free to contact us anytime. With a decade of experience in e-commerce development, our team at Whidegroup will find the solution to any problem!