There are many factors to consider when building a website strategy but image optimization best practices are one of the most important. Oftentimes, images are the first thing a user will notice when they land on a webpage and it can either entice them to stay and read your content or discourage them from going any further. We work with creators in the SHE Media Partner Network to optimize their images in two ways. The first is speed-related. When partners are struggling to reduce their page load times, the first assumption tends to be that the ads are the culprit. And while ads do slow down pages, many times, compressing the images will make a larger dent in the overall page load time.
The second way we work with partners on image optimization is from a quality perspective. It’s not always the case that poor image quality is indicative of low-quality content, but it certainly can be perceived that way. Images are the first thing the reader’s eye navigates towards and when photos are blurry, generic, or boring, the user is much more likely to abandon the page.
Images have their own section in Google search results and can be a significant source of traffic for your site. Google also just announced a Core Algorithm Update that could impact the performance of your content, too. By following image best practices, you’ll increase your chances of appearing in Google image results, regardless of what the update has in store. Here is a list of the most important factors for image optimization.
Image quality can make a big impact on how a user feels about your website. Images that are sharp, unique, and interesting will have a positive impact on your pages. If your site is filled with stock imagery, your page is less likely to interest the reader. Don’t have so many images on the page that it feels cluttered and unorganized. Having 2-3 high-resolution images in the body of your post (depending on your content length) can make the page more interesting and engaging for your users.
Images are typically the largest contributor to overall page size. And since blog post topics can be very visual (think recipes, crafts, home decor), it’s not uncommon to see multiple images on a single post. This can cause the page to be slow to load.
There are several ways you can speed up load times caused by heavy images:
1. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP): This is Google’s solution to speed up your web pages.
3. Use next-gen image formats, like WebP or JPEG 2000. These image formats have better compression characteristics compared to standard formats.
Test your pages with PageSpeed Insights.
Images should always be related to the content on the page. Ideally, whatever visual you choose for your landing page should help the user better understand the content. Large blocks of copy can be boring and intimidating to a user, particularly on a mobile device. By adding relevant images throughout the body of the page, it can break up the content and engage the user to keep scrolling. It’s also important to have different assets on the page other than just text. User experience is better when there are images, videos, and infographics to keep the reader’s attention.
There are two main areas that you need to optimize for SEO purposes: the file name and the alt text. If you’re using WordPress, both of these fields can be found in your media library. Having these areas optimized helps Google figure out what the image is.
Alt (alternative) text is used in the HTML code to describe the appearance of an image on the page. The primary reason for adding alt text is to assist visually impaired users who are using screen readers. The screen reader will read the alt description to give a better understanding of the image. When it comes to Google image rankings, alt text is added to help search engine crawlers understand and index an image properly.
Alt text should:
describe the image as specifically and accurately as possible
include the key-phrase a user would search for to return that image
be concise, no more than 125 characters
The other place where you’ll want to optimize the image for Google is the file name. The image file name should include the key-phrase and be relevant to what the image is of.
Many SHE Media Partner Network members we work with use their own images, particularly food bloggers. This is a great choice since your images will be completely custom to your content. But if you’re not taking your own images, you’ll need to find photography resources free from copyright restrictions. Image databases without copyright restrictions mean you can use them on your website without asking permission. Some will still require attribution, but many times that’s optional as well.
Stock photos are common on blog posts, but try to find the least generic images you can. The last thing you want your users to see are cheesy photos that feel inauthentic in every way. Here are a few of our favorite image resources:
In some cases, like AMP, you are required to select image dimensions in the source code. But if you’re not, it’s still recommended to define the width and height of your images. This helps the browser size the image before the CSS is loaded, decreasing the load time.
Make sure your images are responsive. This means that regardless of the device (desktop, mobile, tablet), the image adjusts to fit the screen size.
Google is increasing the importance placed on image quality and you should too. Take the extra time to follow these best practices because your users will appreciate it.
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