How to Optimize Images and Speed up Your Site

How to Optimize Images for a Better User Experience

Today we live in a visual, fast-paced world. People are busy and skim what they read. Using images, we are selling, illustrating, and training. But Google can’t see it. Today we’ll demonstrate how to optimize images in order to make Google see, understand and be happy (if that’s even possible).

If you want your website to be successful, show Google — speak its language — SEO.

One way to speak the language of SEO is to optimize images in order to make them search-engine friendly. Consumers are more likely to consider or contact a business when an image is used.

So . . . learn how to speak to Google (please give me better rankings!) through your website’s images.

Choose the Right Image

The image should be relevant.

The image must reflect the topic of the page or post. Don’t just insert an image for the sake of inserting an image. Make sure your image matches your content.

The image should be original.

Your own photos are best. If you need a photo of a person, opt to use people from your company instead of stock photos of random people. If you need a picture of a flower or car, go take one and use it! Pixlr is an excellent free, easy to use photo editor for cropping, resizing, or adding text to your images. Pixlr is quite powerful for a free online tool. Open up a picture and you’ll have access to masks, clone stamps, selection tools, layers . . . plus a lot more.

If originals aren’t an option, try using creative images from free photo sites (like Pixabay). I recommend staying away from staged stock photos; rather, pick those that are more realistic.

If you have an E-Commerce site and have to use manufacturers’ images used by your competitors, try re-sizing them; it may make them unique.

Choose the Proper File Format

Choose the right format.

Most any file format will work for the web but understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each format will help you decide which to use in different situations.  JPG, PNG, and GIF are the most common formats.

JPG Images

JPG images work well for photos. Images can be compressed into quite small files with little discernible quality degradation. As JPG files are created and compressed, artifacts (small, blocky-looking elements) are produced. Higher compression equals more artifacts. And, with each save, more artifacts are created. Be aware.

The following three photos are JPG images with varying levels of compression.

PNG files are “lossless,” meaning you can compress them without losing any quality. They’re great for screenshots but not so great for creating small file sizes. PNG files also support transparency (e.g., you can place a graphic on a page with a transparent background). The following image is a beer mug (sorry, got beer on the mind) and it has a transparent background.

beer mug with foam and condensation on the glass

GIF Images

GIF images can be heavily compressed with little quality loss. The caveat is that they work best on images with few colors. Hence, they aren’t the best option for photographs. They can also be animated. They are great for icons and other images with few colors.

gif image of little girl pushing little boy

Give Your File a Creative Name

Renaming the file using relevant keywords could help it rank higher in search engine results. The following suggestions will please Google (and other search engines, if it matters).

  • Be descriptive and choose a name that fits the image,
  • do not use keywords just for the sake of using keywords (describe the image but still try to use your keywords if possible),
  • insert hyphens or underscores in place of spaces,
  • use lower-case letters.

Do:  world-map-eye.jpg
Don’t:   0895e74.jpg
Don’t:   world-map-eye-optimize-images.jpg
Don’t:    World-Map-Eye.jpg

Add Alternative Text to All Your Images

When looking at a picture of a cat sitting on a chair, you immediately know what is happening. However, the search engines do not. It is the task of the alternative text to translate the intent of your image to the search engine.

More importantly, alternative text is read by screen readers in place of images allowing those with visual or other cognitive disabilities to be able to access the function and content of the image.

There seems to be a misconception that you have to use keywords. You do not. Simply state what is going on in the picture (just like the file name).

  • Be succinct.
  • Be accurate.
  • Don’t use “image of” or “picture of” to describe an image.

Add Captions

Currently, captions do not have a direct impact on your ranking in search engines. But well-placed, eye-catching images with relevant captions can significantly improve your bounce rate. And a low bounce rate will make Google happy.

What is a bounce rate? “Bounce rate” refers to the percentage of visitors to a website who leave after viewing only one page. Google considers your site’s bounce rate in determining your site’s rank! A poor bounce rate tells Google that your site isn’t particularly relevant (even though it may be).

Image captions are one of the most-read pieces of content on your site and a great opportunity to capture the attention of your visitors. Use them, reduce your bounce rate and keep your visitors on your site.

Reduce Image File Size

Your site’s loading time is not only important for visitor retention but also for SEO. A fast-loading site is more user-friendly, easier for Google to crawl, and typically has a lower bounce rate.

Don’t rely on your website to reduce the size of your images. Reduce them beforehand. Before you upload the image to your site, resize the image in an image editor. Try PicMonkey or Canva.

WordPress provides options for resizing images after they’re uploaded. However, the images are not optimized, just resized. Avoid this by (I’ll say it again) reducing your image to the desired size before uploading.

To further optimize your images, try installing some free WordPress plugins. EWWWW Optimizer and Smush.It can optimize photos automatically as you add them (as well as optimize existing photos).

Images Attract Readers & Grab Their Attention

If articles with images are getting more views than articles without, taking a minute to optimize your images as you add them is critical.

There are more advanced optimization techniques that can be done to strengthen your ranking further but this is a step in the right direction.

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Author: Angela from Sweet Papaya Creative

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