What is the optimal and proper format for naming e-commerce product images for the purposes of SEO?
August 22, 2009 6:16 AM   Subscribe

What is the optimal and proper format for naming e-commerce product images for the purposes of SEO?

We are redesigning our retail e-commerce website from scratch and trying to implement as many SEO measures as possible. We were told that naming our product images properly can prove valuable and is just one more thing which can help potential customers pull up our site better in Google for instance if we name our products the way they would search for them.

However, my question is specifically…what is the ideal format? Please let me know which version below is most beneficial. Thanks!

Custom Blue Widget.jpg

Note: our admin panel will allow us to upload any version above...we just want to know which is best? If there is yet an alternate version please let me know. Thanks so much.
posted by orehek to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I imagine changing the names of the images will only be beneficial to Google Image Searches.
The naming convention really does depend on the products the website stocks and how you present the images to the customer.

Do you have multiple images for 1 product (large / thumbnail)?
Do you stock products that come in different dimensions / sizes (100ml / 50 ml)?

Google Image search seems to primarily used to grab images from websites for blogs/personal projects or as part of product research.
Again depending on your product range I imagine this will only have long tail affects in regards to revenue.

If it was my site I would perform a test by changing a small selection of images to the above naming convention and track the inbound links for a few months and see how this affects the conversion rate.

Are you able to change the image names in batch or would it be a manual process? This would have to be considered when building a ROI model for the proposed change.
posted by errspy at 6:29 AM on August 22, 2009

Any form with dashes or underscores instead of spaces is okay, as long as it matches your main product code or main product name. In reailty, though, it's more of a "keep things straight" issue than SEO. As far as SEO is concerned, your ALT attribute is way more important. Put a descriptive blurb in there that includes the main product name (which should be also in the TITLE meta tag), and a short descriptive phrase. Keep it under 100 characters.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 6:56 AM on August 22, 2009

Thanks. I think going with dashes or underscores make the most sense as you said. Can I capitalize the first letter of each word in the .jpg name or is it better to have everything lowercase...or does it not matter at all? Thanks again.
posted by orehek at 7:18 AM on August 22, 2009

From http://www.ragepank.com/articles/38/optimise-for-google-image-search/

"I made some recommendations to a friend this morning on how he should name his images. I think the examples I gave sum it up nicely.

Osiris009.JPG should be osiris-coffee-table-9.jpg
shelvesdetail2.jpg should be bamboo-rimu-bookshelf-2.jpg
0763_sam.jpg should be bamboo-flagpole-763.jpg
0764_sam.jpg should be bamboo-lengths-on-trailer.jpg

The filename should describe the content of the image. The best way to describe an image is to use relevant keywords, and this is also the best way to describe the image to Google, Yahoo and MSN. By naming your images to logical user friendly names, you are also performing SEO on your images."

More at the link.
posted by elle.jeezy at 7:26 AM on August 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think Google considers underscores to be word separators nowadays, and case doesn't matter, so it's really down to personal preference. I'd go for custom-blue-widget.jpg just because I'm used to using dashes and lowercase seems less error-prone, but that's as strong as my reasoning gets.

As errspy touches upon, it's worth considering whether Google Images is a positive or negative thing for your site. I've noticed that image search traffic is worse than worthless for many sites, resulting in very few proper visits and more bandwidth-/time-wasting copyright infringements. For an ecommerce site I'd let them get indexed (as some people may search for some products visually) but check the stats at a later date and adjust robots.txt if necessary.
posted by malevolent at 7:45 AM on August 22, 2009

In Google's Webmasters/Site owners Help - Images, the example file name they provide is "my-new-black-kitten.jpg".

Matt Cutts recommends hyphens rather than underscores.

Also, I researched this for a client once, and I KNOW I saw a page on Google's support site where they explicitly said hyphens (dashes) are better than underscores in file names. Of course, I can't find it at the moment.

It doesn't seem to make a great deal of difference, but if you're looking for that 1% improvement, I'd recommend dashes instead of underscores.

I haven't seen anything that addresses upper and lower case in file names (from an SEO perspective).
posted by kristi at 11:38 AM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thank you everyone for the help. Thank you Kristi for finding confirmation from Google about the dashes being better than underscores. While we know that file name format is pretty low on the totem pole as it relates to SEO, that 1% edge is very welcome. Thanks again!
posted by orehek at 10:46 AM on August 24, 2009

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