digital marketing optimizingimages

Top 9 Tips for Optimizing Images in 2021

By Nick Brown

When it comes to website optimization, there are many factors to consider. The commonality is that we want the search engines to like it and like us. Search Engine Optimization (SEO for short) is a whole industry that sprouted out in dealing with just that. The companies that deal with this professionally juggle various elements to increase their customer’s website rankings. One of the most important aspects is bandwidth. That is, the website needs to use as little of it as possible. Multimedia content such as video, pictures, and audio tend to take the most bandwidth when transferring data from the website to the end-user. This leaves a lot of room for optimization. Video tends to be overlooked, so pictures are still the most used form of a website’s multimedia content. The trick is to optimize their size without sacrificing quality. Here is how to do just that.

The “Why?”

Why exactly do we need to optimize the images on our website? More specifically, why do we need to make their bandwidth footprint as small as possible? Isn’t broadband internet ubiquitous? Surely, everyone can pull an image in a fraction of a second, no matter its size? Well, yes and no. When you have billions of people downloading the same thing, those overheads tend to stack up quite significantly. Large images do tend to slow down the viewing experience of a webpage. The servers in charge will get slowed down if enough users hit it at the same time. Decreasing the file size of all content has multiple benefits. Less power is used, the experience is faster and more pleasurable.  Search engines look at this aspect and will rank your website accordingly. The process is called compression. We use this process to optimize all multimedia files. 

What is Image optimization?

To optimize an image means to put it through a process that will deliver higher quality images. This means the correct format, size, and resolution. The format should be a highly compatible one that is not obscure. This way, everyone’s stationary and mobile device is able to process and display the image. The resolution needs to be high enough for the image to be detailed and sharp. Lastly, the size needs to be kept at a minimum without compromising the other factors. Image optimization improves the site’s performance if done right. But that is not all, many other metrics can also be improved. Page loading speeds constitute one of the elements of the performance metric. SEO ranking will improve, as mentioned previously. The rate of conversion will experience a great improvement. Users will become more engaged in the discussion and the  marketing process. User experience will greatly improve.

How to optimize images for a website?

The most important goal of image optimization is the ratio between the lowest file size and acceptable perceived quality. This ratio should always tip to the favourable side as much as possible. There are multiple ways to improve upon this ratio. One of the most common and well-known methods is compression. Many software tools can do this with little to no experience in multimedia manipulation. Plugins can also perform these operations. The two factors to have in mind when doing this are the file format and the type of compression you want to use. It is up to you to choose the right combination of the two. Often enough, you can cut down the size of an image by a factor of several times. Do your own experiments. Reduce the size as much as you can until you reach a point where quality is noticeably worse. Then dial back.

Choosing the right formats

We mentioned picture formats earlier. This is where it gets a little technical, but it is very important to understand this concept. Every format serves a specific requirement. The most common and used one is the JPEG which is the best one for still images and complex colouring. Then there is the PNG which is considered best for web images. Websites mostly use logos and flat images, so this is where PNG shines. There is also a format that deals with moving images, the GIF. This is best for low-resolution images that can be stacked on top of each other to create an animation. This is an old standard that is slowly being replaced with MP4. GIFs have a bad quality-to-size ratio and therefore do not comply with modern optimization demands. Some industries demand high quality, large size graphics. This is where the TIFF comes into place and many more.

Types of image compression

When we select the correct format, we need to choose the right image compression method for us. There are two basic methods to compress an image and reduce its size. There is the lossless and the lossy compression. We will shorty cover both of those. Lossless compression is the compression method where all the unnecessary metadata is removed. This retains all the quality of the image itself and removes that linked data from the content in favour of a reduced footprint. This metadata is unnecessary when presenting an image on a website or in an application. Lossy compression is where the quality of the image is sacrificed in order to attain a smaller file size. This method will always yield better results in terms of file size. The goal is to reduce the quality up to the point where the naked human eye can perceive a difference.

File nomenclature

Search engines have come a long way. But they are still not on point when it comes to interpreting image contents effectively. Search engines still rely heavily on other elements of an image to determine its contents. File names are the most basic of these elements. When we upload an image to our website, it needs to have a name. If it does not have one, it will be assigned a default one. Usually, it consists of a string of seemingly random numbers and characters. Leaving it like this results in some very poor SEO results. Change the filename for every picture. It will no add to the image’s footprint, but it will greatly improve its use. Furthermore, add a descriptive label to that image. Keep it as on point, concise, and accurate as possible. Make it as easy as possible for the search engines to do their job. 

Browser caching

Caching is a well-known term in the IT world. Its importance cannot be overstated. Especially when it comes to multimedia content. Users that visit a website have to download an image in order to see it. There is a split-second delay until this happens. If the image is cached the first time this happens, the viewer will not have to download it ever again. This speeds up the viewing process significantly. It also reduces the strain on the Internet infrastructure and the servers in charge of the hosting services. Basically, the user will keep a local copy of the said image. When they decide to visit the webpage again, instead of downloading everything from scratch, their device will call for that local copy. Do note that only recurring visits will see any benefit from caching. Do not neglect this powerful tool and use it to leverage much better metrics. 

Staggered loading

Some industries and companies use long pages for various reasons. It is not a preferred practice, but it can be done in an elegant manner. Not all images need to load at once when you call for a webpage. Rather, the ones that will immediately be present should be loaded as fast as possible. If the user starts scrolling further, additional images can be called for a download or a cached instance. Programming such a thing can get a little complicated, but SEO services in Sydney have you covered. If done right, a user will never notice the difference. If done poorly, it can result in a bad user experience and increased bounce rates. The results are less bandwidth strain, and users not being greeted with a large number of half-loaded images. Take this method and optimize the content delivery with the “on-demand” principle in demand. 

Thinking mobile

The mobile browsing market has exploded over the past few years in particular. It has become an unavoidable part of SEO. In fact, if you do not account for mobile devices when building a website, this results in very poor SEO rankings. In turn, this results in very low search engine rankings. The mobile browsing market has overtaken the desktop market a few years ago. You need to optimize your images and your content, in general, for the mobile device. Use responsive images to handle a various array of screen sizes. All the mentioned elements like the file size and metadata need to be overhauled. Do some research and figure out what that means for your industry and niche and adjust accordingly.

As we can see, there are many elements that go into image optimization. Consider these tips and implement them in your website today to experience a significant boost in your SEO and search engine ranking results.


by Nick Brown

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