Optimizing your images is an important next step once you have found the ones you want to use on your page or post.
But why does it matter?
- Naming your images is important to the search engines.
- Large images, especially if you have a lot of them, can slow your site down. A site that loads slowly turns visitors away. Not only that, search engines will rank fast-loading pages higher than slower-loading competitors.
Choose the Right File Name
The default file name for images taken with a camera or phone are ugly. They are typically a combination of numbers and letters, such as DSCF0008.JPG or IMG_7976.jpg. Those names don’t tell the search engines ANYTHING about what the image is about, and they certainly don’t give them a clue about what your site is about. And let’s be honest. Who’s going to search for IMG_7976? Not me!
Instead, name them something meaningful BEFORE uploading them to your page or post. If it’s a sunset at the beach, name it beach-sunset.jpg. This will tell Google immediately that the image is the sunset at the beach. You could add the location as well, ie beach-sunset-seaside.jpg and then if someone searches for a sunset of the beach at Seaside, they will find your image, and ultimately your website.
Scale the Image for SEO
Camera or cell phone images are 1-4 MB and they are sometimes 6000px by 2000px in size. That takes up a lot of room and it can have a huge impact on the loading time of your website. Slow sites are often abandoned.We don’t want that, at all!
Our job is to do everything we can to help our potential clients and customers access our sites. Right?
The solution is to use the biggest image you can for the purpose, but no larger. Will you be using the image on your Home page, ie a hero image that goes the full width of your site. Or will you be embedding it into a blog post, in which case 300px by 200px might suffice?
Something else to consider is the density of the image. It matters for print, but not for a monitor. Denser images use more bandwidth and load more slowly, so adjust the density before you upload the image to WordPress. In plain English, 300 dpi is needed for print, but 72 dpi works great on the web.
Notice the difference in size in the image below that simply changing the resolution from 240px to 72px makes. Pixel Dimensions went from 54.7MB to 4.92MB and the overall size went from 5353 x 3569 to 1606 x 1071.
Reduce the File Size
When you shrink the dimensions of an image, you reduce its file size. I use Photoshop to do this, but there are other less expensive options: Gimp, Pixlr (I love this one!), PicMonkey (I have used this one plenty, but it is no longer free), Canva and more.
Compress the Images
Image compression reduces the size of a graphics file without degrading the quality of the image to an unacceptable level. This allows more images to be stored in a given amount of disk or memory space. It also reduces the time required for images to load on a website. I use Photoshop for this as well, but here are some alternatives: WP Smushit is a plugin that allows you to compress images after they are loaded; TinyPNG or TinyJPG are online programs if you only have a couple to do.
How to Know What Size Image Works Best
WordPress typically resizes images into three different dimensions automatically when you upload them to the media library (adding an image to a page or post puts it into the media library). These are thumbnail, medium and large. You can find this information in your WordPress site by navigating to Settings > Media.
When you insert an image into a post or page, you can select one of these options. You can always go back and edit it, but why create more work for yourself?
How to Choose the Correct Image Format
The simple answer to what format to use is this:
- Jpg or jpeg for images
- Gif for graphics
- Png if you need the background to be transparent
If you want more details, check out this article on GIF, PNG, JPG or SVG. Which One To Use?
When you properly prepare images by sizing and optimizing them, your readers will thank you for the faster load times, and Google and the other search engines will rank your page higher than slower-loading competitors. That’s what I call a win-win.
Next week, I will go into detail about how to insert an image into a WordPress site.