Did you know that optimizing your images in WordPress can lead to Google ranking you higher?
If you haven’t optimized your images, you really should.
In this post, we will discuss:
- Why you should optimize images in WordPress
- How to fill out the WordPress image form, including the description and alt tag
- How to make your images responsive and mobile friendly
- How to make your images load faster
Why should you optimize images?
There are really five reasons to optimize images.
- Increase page loading speeds
- Make images responsive
- Save on memory
- User experience
Some of those five kind of go together. All of them are related to SEO, some are related to user experience, and page load speed and memory are somewhat related.
Let’s go through the five reasons:
First, search engines are considering every facet of how you label your images. They struggle to see images (it is debatable whether search engines “see” your images at all), and so they rely on the info you have written about your image. That includes the title, description, permalink, and alt tag. Basically, you should make sure you fill that out. WordPress makes this really easy, and we’ll cover that below.
Second, optimizing your images can be done to increase the speed at which your pages load. Images are typically the largest files on web pages (unless you have video or something special) and they take longer to load. If you condense those files, use a loading plugin that loads images as you need them, or host them somewhere else, it can drastically cut down on the time it takes for a web page to load. This also is a factor in how Google ranks pages as slow pages are punished.
Third, you want your images to show correctly for your users. As users are viewing your site on a myriad of devices, that means your site needs to be responsive, mobile friendly, and your images need to change based on the screen size they are being viewed on. A lot of WordPress themes now have this feature built in, but if yours does not, then you should use a plugin to make your images responsive. I tell you how to do that in the next section. Having your site be mobile friendly is also a ranking factor in Google.
Fourth, condensing your images saves on memory. Most hosts limit how much space you can take up on their servers, so it makes sense to optimize your images to not take up more space then is necessary.
Fifth, you should optimize images for the sake of user experience. If a user comes to your site and the image is broken or the wrong size, they might just leave. You obviously want them to stay. Google also is considering how long users stay on your site, bounce rates, number of pages viewed, etc., so it really is beneficial to you to get users to stick around and return.
How to optimize images in WordPress
Now, let’s cover how you can go about optimizing your images in WordPress.
Include info with the image for SEO purposes
When naming your image prior to upload, try to use something descriptive as this will show in your image permalink. It is better to name the image something like “How to use the WordPress image form” than “wp img 12894389” or something random like that.
You also need to add relevant information for search engines with your image when inserting it into your content. This is really easy to do in WordPress, as all you need to do is fill out the WordPress image form that shows on the image insert screen. You should include a title, alt tag, and description. You can include a caption too if you want.
Make your images responsive and mobile friendly
The latest versions of WordPress and a lot of WordPress themes are already designed to make images be responsive. If that is the case for you, and it probably is, then you have nothing to worry about here.
If you site doesn’t have automatic responsive images, then you need to consider using a plugin to make your image responsive.
One plugin I like for this is called Hammy.
Hammy speeds up your website by generating and serving resized images for your content area depending on content width.
Make your site load faster
To make your site load faster, you can use the following plugins:
Smush It: Reduce image file sizes, improve performance and boost your SEO using the free WPMU DEV WordPress Smush API.
Lazy Load: Lazy load images to improve page load times and server bandwidth. Images are loaded only when visible to the user.
Considering Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)
I should mention CDNs. A content delivery network basically stores copies of your content off site on several servers and delivers it when requested. Because your content is coming from multiple sources instead of just one, it can be delivered much faster than if you were serving it from one location. If you have a slow site or lots of traffic, this can of course be a great solution. Tons of big sites use CDNs.
When using a CDN, it is important for SEO to set up a custom URL with a CNAME, which allows you to point your assets to a subdomain on your own domain such as “cdn.domain.com.” That way, the images appear to be hosted on your domain. If you do not set that up, the images will be served using domains from the CDN such as “lorem-1.kxcdn.com” or “wpengine.netdna-cdn.com.”
Setting up those custom URLs has some SEO advantages. Your domain name is included in the links, which could include keywords. Your domain itself should be considered a keyword as you want to appear high in SERPs for your brand name. Having the images from your CDN point to your subdomains means you will be able to include them in sitemaps, which helps them to get indexed. It also will be possible to switch CDNs in the future and retain the same image domain names.
When using a CDN, it also is very important to include the rel=”canonical” tag in your HTTP header. This tells the crawler bots that your images are copies and not duplicate content (which is bad for SEO). Some CDNs do this for you such as the Jetpack Photon module.
I know that optimizing images can be a pain. I myself definitely am guilty of not always filling out the image details completely or doing a good job on those details for my own site. I think if you just start always doing it, you can get into the habit and it then becomes routine.
Optimizing images really is important to both Google and for user experience. If you want to be successful, you just can’t overlook optimizing your images!