When it comes to search engine optimization, using an image optimizer is an important tool to getting the best results. Most people tend to focus on keywords and content for search engine optimization, but it’s important to remember that speed matters. Google places a high priority on website speed so the faster your website loads the better you’ll rank.
Why You Need to Optimize Images
High quality images are important to a website. Pictures help tell a story and add value to an article. A picture really can speak a thousand words and in many cases helps illustrate important steps, or points that you’re trying to make. The problem with images though is that high-definition pictures are very large files and if you have a lot of pictures on a page it can really slow it down. A slow page is bad news from a couple of angles. First, visitors won’t have the patience to wait until your page loads and will exit out. This will give your website a high bounce rate, which means that people leave (or bounce) from your website as soon as they get to it. Slow pages and high bounce rates are very bad news for Google rankings. The Google algorithm (how they rank websites) is a mystery, but we do know that the speed of your website is a big factor in search engine optimization. This means that using an image optimizer is a must.
How to Optimize Images
There are several different ways to optimize images. The first is to use a plugin. A plugin compresses the picture when you upload. The compressed file is much smaller than the original and therefore will load much faster. It also will take up less space on your server so if you have storage limits the compressed pictures will take up less space.
Image Optimization Plugins
Here are a few of the more popular plugins that can help.
Not all of these options are free. Many of the plugins have basic, or free levels, but charge a fee for some features. I use different plugins and combinations on different sites. If you have a site that only uses one image per article, then you can probably get away with just using a free plugin. However, if you have a photography website or one that has tons of images, then you’ll want to invest a little bit of money to get the best image optimization.
Image Size Impacts Optimization
In addition to using a plugin to help compress the file size of your image, you also need to make sure that the image is the right size for your website. For instance, if you take a picture on a nice camera like a Nikon or Canon DSLR, the default image size can be as large as 6000 by 4000 pixels. This is way too big for a website. So be sure to resize the image before you import it into your website. This way you have an image size that is optimized to fit properly on your website, and the file size will be a lot smaller.
When I use pictures on my website I first resize the image. You can do this with Canva, Pixlr or even the paint app on your computer. The largest image size you would need is 2560 pixels wide, but realistically most posts are going to display the image smaller than that. The problem is that if you make the image too small, when it gets displayed on a big desktop monitor it’s going to get stretched and be blurry. When I download pictures from Pixabay I use the 1920 x 1217 size as my default. I find that this is a good size to work across all platforms. Shortpixel and Imsanity are two plugins that will resize the images for you, so if you prefer to use a plugin to re-size the images you can check these out. But if you want to minimize the number of plugins you use, it’s easy enough to resize them yourself.
Optimize Image File Size
Now that you have your picture and it is sized properly, you need to optimize the file size of the image. Using Pixabay as an example, a 1920 x 1217 pixel image size may be around 550 kb is size. Drop the image size down to 1280 x 811 and the file size drops to 259kb. I use Tinypng.com (also called Tinyjpg.com) to first compress the image and minimize the file size. Then when I upload the image to my website, Smush optimizes the image even more. A lot of people won’t take this extra step, but I think it’s important to maximize results. For free plugins I like Smush. I have used the plugin for years and never had any problems, but any of the plugins outlined above are great choices for optimizing your images. For a paid version I like Imagify.
There’s no doubt that images are an important part of any website, but how you use them will determine if they have a positive or negative impact on your site. Using proper image optimizer steps and techniques will lighten the load on your site and deliver good SEO results.