Decades ago, the way to get your business name out there was to pay for a box of text advertising in the press or in the telephone books (remember those?). Fast forward to today and the communication behemoth that is the internet means you have to be creative to be competitive. Images are more important than ever to convey your message. Pictures and photographs capture attention, provide far more description than words alone and most importantly – they sell.
Yet in the quest to produce the perfect performing website, how your pictures and images might affect performance can be easily forgotten about as you concentrate on all the other details; like search engine rankings and results pages, making sure it is attractive and navigable to visitors and that all your product details are constantly up-to-date.
Just like optimising other aspects of your website to make it more effective, your images also need to be checked and ‘tidied up’ where necessary too. Image optimisation is simply making sure that your website images are of the smallest size but highest acceptable quality, by ensuring that the appropriate size, resolution, dimension and format is used. Adding clear but descriptive alternative text (the text that explains the picture to a viewer if it doesn’t appear on their screen) and checking that headings, captions and tags are all correct are also part of the optimisation process to get the best out of your images – and can have a huge impact on SEO. If image optimisation is something that you have not been in the habit of doing, then spending a little time on optimising your images could make a big difference. Here’s why:
1. Page Speed
As internet users, we’re an impatient bunch. Statistics suggest that if a website doesn’t load within 3 seconds, then around half of us will abandon it and move on to the next one. Images are often much bigger files than plain text or other basic design elements, can take up more space and some of the file data may be unnecessary. This means that potential visitors to your site may have to wait for their browser to try and download a lot of large files of images before the page loads completely and they get to see and access your website in full, as you originally intended. If yours is taking more than 3 seconds, then you are already losing their attention. Want to know how fast your website really is? There is a fantastic free tool available at https://gtmetrix.com/.
If you are running a WordPress website and would like to simplify this process, then WP Smush is a great starting point. Consider also using one of the many websites that offer lossless compression.
2. Search Engine Ranking
You should be aware of search engine optimisation (SEO) by now and implementing it to drive your organic website traffic. Search engines respond to what internet users want and develop their search algorithms accordingly. Like internet users, the search engines significantly favour pages with fast loading speeds. Faster pages are better ranking, whilst slower pages will not appear to the majority of searchers. Improve your page speed through a good tidy-up of your images and you can really boost your SEO rankings. This should mean more visibility, more traffic and ultimately more conversions for you – all at no extra cost.
Don’t forget that your images themselves also are a valuable asset in driving your organic traffic. Search engine image searches are becoming increasingly advanced, although they can’t yet ‘see’ an image, they still rely on text descriptions to understand and place the image and its associated webpage, which is why an understanding of image searches helps to drive your search engine rankings and organic traffic.
3. Image Searches
The internet is becoming more and more image oriented, as shown by the rise in visual centred social media platforms, driven by the development in smartphones which allows nearly everyone to possess a high-resolution camera in their pocket at all times. Put simply, people like pictures – so much so that some research has suggested that an article including images will get significantly more views than an equivalent article presented wholly in text.
Services like Google Image Search work by crawling through your image file names and linked descriptions. If you have a site full of uncompressed, unformatted photos all with the random number assigned by the camera as its file name, none of them are going to rank well. Optimise the images, update file names to describe the picture and include relevant keywords so each picture has a far better chance at appearing when someone searches for a related image. More of your images appearing in image search services should generate more traffic back to your website.
4. Visitor Engagement
You want people to love your website and to tell others about how great it is. All your creative imagery and design might look fabulous, but if it is too slow to load because of image files being too large, the pictures come up blank when the page loads or your headings, captions, tags and alternative text is either missing or wrong, then it is not providing the best end-user experience to your potential customers. As previously mentioned, internet users are impatient and fickle. If they can’t see what they are looking for on your site quick enough or there is something about your images or website that annoys them, then they will leave you for someone else very quickly.
5. Improve Performance
Image optimisation is pretty straightforward but is likely to be the single biggest thing that you can do to make a difference to your server and website performance. Image heavy content can take up a huge amount of your data storage due to both large file sizes and the sheer amount of them. This doesn’t just affect you, it affects your website visitors. Their browsers will be downloading these files – slowly – and using up their bandwidth while doing so. With so many people now browsing on their mobile data allowance, this is more important than ever to consider.
Compressing image files and removing unnecessary data will also result in less storage space being required, less overhead on your processors and completing back-ups will be faster. Overall, the general performance of your server will be significantly improved – all of which are key to keeping your operation running smoothly.
How to Optimise Images for Web
1. Don’t make your image bigger than it needs to be
With most websites being responsive (or at least they all should be!) one image is served for multiple devices. The optimal size an image should be is my maximum size it is served on your website, this will most likely be at desktop screen size.
This can easily be done in software like Adobe Photoshop or a quick Google Search for image resizer gives a few good free online options.
2. Make your images responsive
Displaying unnecessarily large images is never a good thing, especially in a mobile-first world. You can create responsive images by adding an .img-responsive class to the <img> tag. The image will then scale to the parent element. The .img-responsive class applies max-width: 100%, height: auto, and display:block to the image.
3. Use JPEG images where possible
JPEG images are most commonly used as they offer the most versatility when it comes to resizing, compression and maintaining quality. In some case where a transparent background is required, an optimised for web PNG is fine.
4. Using optimal file size without losing quality
Adobe Photoshop, a tool used by many, has this feature built in. You can use “Save for Web” and we like the “JPEG High” that saves your image at 60% quality. “Save for Web” also allows you to resize your image at the same time (Step 1).
Again, another search for “online image compression” or “free lossless compression” can provide many great tools to do the job.
5. Optimise for Search Engines
Whilst you are optimising the images for a quicker website (that will help your SEO efforts) why not go the extra step and add descriptive files names, accurate ALT text and appropriate captions where needed.
Generic file names like “image1.jpg” don’t help anyone, especially not search engines. Changing the file name and adding accurate ATL text will help search engine identify your image and improve overall SEO value.
ALT text is an image description when the image cannot be loaded or rendered. So just like the filename, this is used by search engines to help identify what the image is.
The above points will guide you in the right direction with your websites optimisation, Adobe Photoshop is a great tool for people who have it but there are also great free online alternatives for those who don’t.
Here at Influx, we are committed to helping both new and existing customers with their SEO efforts. To find out more about how our experts can help you, click here to contact us online or call us today on Manchester 0161 468 2612 or Shrewsbury 01743 626162.