Marketing

5 Ways Image Optimization Improves Digital Performance

Not optimizing your images? Here’s why you shouldn’t be overlooking this important digital asset.

Source: Rawpixel.com / shutterstock

Nobody likes waiting a long time for a page to load. Slow loading is one of the biggest frustrations for site visitors, and it negatively impacts the user experience. It can be tricky to gauge how much of a negative experience delays really are, though, unless you are monitoring responses across a wide user base.

Website performance company Pingdom found that the average bounce rate for a page taking fewer than 2 seconds to load was 9%. Surprisingly, by the time the loading time hit 5 seconds, the average bounce rate had hit 38%. Slow loading happens for various reasons, but a key issue is that images are too large. Optimization is also important for detailing the image content for search engines, providing context for a visitor, and various other factors. So, how can you start to optimize your images?

Reduce Image File Size

Large files will be sluggish on most devices but will suffer the most on mobile. The high numbers of mobile users means fixing this issue becomes a critical factor. If you are experienced in a tool like Photoshop, then you should understand how to reduce file size and maintain quality. For everyone else, though, you can use a free compressor tool to reduce size efficiently. Some popular examples include Compressor.io, Kraken.io, TinyPNG, and PicMonkey.

Consider the Image File Type

The type of file you use will influence the size and quality of the image. In most cases, the choice will be between JPG, PNG, and GIF. There are arguments to be made for each example, but you can simplify the selection if you are not overly technical. JPG is great for digital photographs, offering high-quality images after compression. PNG is more suited to lines, vectors, and other elements used in the design process. Only use a GIF file if you need to make a simple and short animation.

Remove Unnecessary Graphics

While you might be aware of the need to optimize images added to new posts, many sites have existing graphics that feature on every page. Often, these graphics are not optimized correctly, adding to the overall load time. Check the design of the site, and make note of common graphics like a logo, button, border, or background image. You can usually compress these graphics and maintain the quality of the images.

Name Your Files Effectively

Many sites use the generic file name assigned by a camera or stock image site. Following this approach is a missed opportunity, though—a little extra work can have a positive result. The file itself should be named appropriately, providing a brief description of the image contents. The description can be longer, potentially using related keywords if it makes sense. You can also add a caption and alt tag to further improve search engine optimization (SEO) and provide a better user experience.

Ensure Your Images Have a Purpose

While images can be optimized for search engines, it is also important to consider the overall user experience. Effective imagery will tell a story and help expand on the page’s content. A user should be able to skim over the page and get an idea of the topic by the way the images are used. Avoid simply using a vaguely related stock image; instead, use a unique image that improves the content. You can use tools like Canva to build high-quality images that go beyond the ordinary.

Image optimization might seem like an inconsequential factor when compared with other elements of SEO. However, taking the time to choose quality images, optimize them for SEO, and make sure they load effectively dramatically enhances your visitor experience.