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A Guide to Image Optimization for SEO

Pictures and other visual content are an important part of a website’s success. The right selection of images has the ability to drive more traffic to your website, and optimizing those images before uploading them can have a significant impact on your website’s performance and your user’s overall experience. Images are powerful tools and even a small change to the design of a website can have a big impact.

The good news is, you don’t need to be a professional photographer or have the skills of a web designer to optimize your pictures and ultimately draw more attention to your site. In the following, we won’t just discover what image optimization is and how you can make the best of it; we will also explain why it is so essential for your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

The images used on a website can directly impact that site’s performance. Pictures help a website to tell stories, unleash emotions, and increase conversions. Furthermore, although reducing your image’s sizes will improve your website’s performance, low-resolution images can make your web design look outdated or at worst, less trustworthy. A lack of trust can have a seriously destructive impact on your brand.

What is image optimization?

Optimizing images means saving and delivering high-quality images in the smallest possible file size without reducing the quality. That can be done in different ways, and it may sound complicated at first, but all that’s needed are a few tricks and the right tools. Done right, optimization can compress your images by up to 80%.

To guarantee quick load times for a website and thus satisfy your users, you want to reduce the file size of an image as much as possible without sacrificing too much of the quality at the same time. Beyond that, image optimization also has a positive influence on your SEO efforts. Before we dive into further the details of image optimization, let’s briefly talk about SEO itself and how it can help you increase the quality and quantity of website traffic.

Why image optimization is so important for SEO

As a complex set of rules for optimizing your website, SEO is one of the most critical factors to determine a business’s success. If you want to increase brand awareness online, you have to put some effort into your search engine ranking. There are many ways you can speed up your website, as mentioned in this article from w3lessons, but image optimization is a crucial place to start. Optimizing images with a search engine in mind can drastically improve your visibility, and catapult any website to the top of the rankings.

Before you start optimizing your images, you have to understand that Google is looking for high-quality content to provide adequate search results for each query. The best way to optimize images is to make sure that you make them relevant and compelling for your audience. What Google isn’t looking for are slow websites with pictures that don’t serve a purpose. Photographs and visual content are often overlooked as a very critical resource for raking, but well-optimized images can increase the chance to be found in the image search section of the search engine by up to 60%.

Without optimization, large images also slow down your website and can even cause loading issues. Reports of the HTTP archive say that pictures make up over 20% of the average webpage’s total weight. Search engines give preferential SEO treatment to faster loading websites. If your site takes too long to load, chances are your visitors will abandon it, which can increase your bounce rate and negatively affect your performance. Sites with optimized pictures don’t just rank better in the search results, which drives organic search traffic to your website; it also increases the user experience of your audience.

The list of benefits of image optimization is long, but as mentioned above, improved search engine rankings are what every website owner thrives for the most because it will lead to higher overall conversion.

The keys to successful image optimization

Start by taking inventory of all the images on the page, or the ones you are planning on uploading. Make sure to clear away images that aren’t adding value to your page. After eliminating what is unnecessary, your goal is to find the right balance between file size and acceptable quality.

  • File Format

The most popular file types are JPG, PNG, and GIF. Keep in mind that choosing the right file type plays a vital role in image optimization and that each file type serves a different purpose. In general, you should use PNGs for transparent or straightforward images and graphics, GIFs for animated images, and JPGs if you want to show lots of colors. PNGs have a larger file size but offer high-quality results, while JPEGs are significantly smaller in size, but due to it being a compressed file format, it also slightly reduces the quality of your image.

  • Image dimensions

High-quality photos are ideal for print or desktop publishing, but not so much for websites. Reducing file dimensions can significantly decrease the image file size. First, identify where you want to use the picture and don’t make them any more substantial than needed. The more detail an image has, like overlays or similar, the larger the file size will be. Try to avoid large images whenever possible, as they can take longer to load.

  • Compression

Once you decide on the file type and the dimensions, you should think about compressing your images. You can choose between several premium and free image optimization tools to optimize images for your website. Adobe Photoshop is a premium software that doesn’t just allow you to save images for the web, but is also one of the most widely used software tools for photo editing and image manipulation. That being said, it comes with a steep price. On the contrary, you can use free web applications like TinyPNG or GIMP to optimize your images.

  • Description

When you upload an image, remember to name it appropriately without using spaces or special characters and to fill out the alt tag description for each of them. If you’re performing an image audit of your website, take the time to rename files with descriptive words to ensure higher search engine rankings. When a browser can’t render your images, alt tags are used as text alternative. Filling out the alt tag will increase the likelihood that bots pick up the correct descriptive phrases.

Go one step further with advanced loading techniques

If your website is very image-heavy, the following methods can improve its performance even more:

  • Sites like Pinterest use a technique called lazy loading. As you scroll down the page, the images load only when needed, which helps to reduce loading times for users.
  • SVG files are an excellent choice when using vector images online. The file is typically smaller in size than PNG and JPG files. You can also use the Blur-Up technique with progressive JPGs. They load at a low resolution until fully loaded, which also helps your page to load faster.
  • Using the advantages of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) can improve your website performance significantly. If you have a lot of images, you should consider using the secure web accelerator from 101domain. The CDN helps your website load faster, delivering content from a Cloudflare center closest to the online user.

Image optimization with mobile users in mind

Today, there are a variety of screen sizes available. Many mobile sites are slow to load, which leads to a poor user experience. Mobile media consumption has a significant impact on brands, and most of us use our smartphones or tablets even more than desktop computers and laptops. This trend makes it crucial to optimize high-quality pictures with the “on-the-go” user in mind. You want to make sure that you reduce the number of mobile downloads and that your images render correctly on any viewport.

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