A picture tells a thousand words, and a strong use of visuals on your website can make all the difference when converting website visitors to paying customers.
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Why you should optimise your images for WordPress and how to do it
There are a whole host of reasons why you will want to include images on your WordPress website. Images engage and inform visitors, they also help to break up long pieces of content and add visual context to the topics you are discussing. In addition, images add personality to your website, allowing your brand to shine and differentiating you from the competition.
Perhaps even more importantly for business success, well-named images can improve Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and therefore play a role in how many potential customers find your business.
In my role as The Website Mentor, I have helped thousands of people to build their own professional-quality websites. In this article, I will be answering the questions I most frequently receive on WordPress Image best practice including: how to name website images, how to resize images for WordPress and how to use images to improve your SEO. I will also explore how to compress your image files to improve your website speed and answer sizing best practice questions.
Do WordPress images contribute to SEO?
The short answer is yes, images on your WordPress website will contribute to your SEO. Whilst the importance of images is often overlooked in SEO guides that predominantly focus on text-based strategies, incorporating and optimising images can boost your SEO by highlighting the most important information and breaking up your text into manageable chunks. In fact, research found that articles with images get 94% more views than those without. Well-placed images make your content easier for humans to read and digest, and simpler for search engines to crawl.
Visual content improves a site’s rankings, but the images used must be relevant to the content for this to be the case. Decorative elements that are used purely for style don’t make much of an impact on a website’s SEO, but useful images that help to illustrate the content do. Correctly optimized, quality images will amplify the message of your website content and can help to boost the rankings of your site.
To ensure your images are optimised for SEO, you need to tick the following boxes:
- Optimise your image file names
- Reduce the image file size before uploading
- Write descriptive alt text containing your keyword
- Compress images once on your website
Keep reading to find out how to action these steps.
How should I name my WordPress images?
This is a great question and recognising you should rename your WordPress images is a great place to start. Often when you select an image for your website, whether it’s for an article or for a page, it will have a number-based name from the photographer or your own camera. To optimise your image, you want to rename it to give it a custom filename that describes the image’s subject.
Your WordPress image names should indicate precisely what each image is about – in relation to the article or page it is to be included on. This tells search engines what to rank your image(s) for. When choosing a file name, make sure you select a name that describes the image, includes your target keyword or post subject and is 1-5 words long.
What size should my WordPress images be?
Properly preparing your image sizes prior to uploading them to your site can make all the difference to site speed and output, so it’s important that your images are high quality and the proper resolution.
As standard, WordPress comes with three pre-packaged image sizes. They are:
- Thumbnail, 150px square;
- Medium size, maximum 300px width and height;
- Large size, maximum 1024px width and height
- Full size, full/original image size you uploaded
When uploading your images to your WordPress site, you can select one of these sizing options. As a general rule, it is recommended that you upload images at least 1600px x 1600px, but no larger than 3000px x 3000px. Once uploaded, you can select the pre-packaged image size that is correct for your page or post.
Just because you are uploading an image at a larger size such as 1600px, most viewers to your site will see it in smaller dimensions (if they are viewing on mobile for example) and not have to load that large of an image, but uploading a slightly larger image size means your website will still look good on larger and higher quality screens.
When choosing to upload images with larger dimensions, you will still need to ensure you resize and compress the image to prevent long load times and slow website speed.
How to resize images for WordPress?
Often when you import a photo from your phone, camera or select one from an online image sharing site, it will have a very high resolution and large file dimensions. These high-quality photos are ideal for print but are not suitable for websites and will slow your website down.
There are a number of tools you can select to resize images for WordPress. If you have access to a photo editor like Photoshop, you can use this tool. Don’t worry if you don’t though, you can use Windows Paint or Mac Preview to adjust pixel dimensions.
As before, images should be between the recommended 1600x1600px and no bigger than 3000x3000px. To resize images, select change pixel dimensions and type in the new dimensions you require (for example, 1600×1600 px). Click save and you will have your resized images.
There are also a number of online tools you can use to resize images. Image Resize enables you to upload images in bulk, you can then resize them all in one go. To do this, click on “bulk resize” in the top menu and upload your images. You can also use JPEG Mini to reduce file size without compromising quality.
When working with clients to create their websites, I recommend they resize images before uploading them to their website. I then advise them to use a WordPress plugin, such as Smush, to further compress any images.
Resizing your images on a Mac with free software
If you’re working on a Mac, here’s a video to show you how to resize your images in Preview which you already have on your Mac.
How do I compress the images I already have on my website?
When reading this, you may already have a lot of images and content already on your website. Whilst I would recommend renaming the images on your most important pages and posts, you likely do not want to resize and reupload every image on your website manually. Fortunately, there are many tools available to help you compress the images already on your website. Image compression is the process of encoding or converting an image file so that it consumes less space than the original file. You may already be familiar with this if you have taken steps to improve your website speed in the past.
There are a number of WordPress plugins you can utilise to compress your images, Smush is a great option to consider in order to reduce the file size of your images whilst not reducing their quality. I also ran all my images through ShortPixel a few months ago and it hugely reduced the size of my images, even after Smushing them!
What is the ALT tag and how do I use it?
The ALT tag, also referred to as the ALT description, ALT text and ALT attribute, is the name for the alternative text that appears in place of an image when an image does not load on the screen. The ALT tags primary use is to describe an image on the page to help blind people or people with limited eyesight.
It is also useful in SEO, as the robots used to crawl websites to analyse their usefulness and in turn decide on their search engine rankings can’t see. They therefore use file names and ALT tags to decide on the context and quality of your image content meaning properly used ALT text can improve your SEO.
Using your ALT tag to describe your image, in relation to your blog post or page content, will assist visually impaired website visitors and help your content appear on relevant search pages.
When deciding what text to include in your ALT tag ask yourself “If I could not view this image, what information would be useful to understand what is on the screen?” Then use this information as your ALT tag, making sure your resulting description is specific. To ensure the ALT is optimised for SEO also you want to make sure your target keyword or page focus is in your ALT text towards the beginning of the tag and that your text is under 125 characters. Some screen readers stop reading ALT tags after 125 characters, and so any additional description will not be of use to your website visitors.
Final thoughts on why you should optimise your images for WordPress
Your website deserves to be seen, and image optimisation can make a huge difference to your site speed (helping keep potential customers on your website longer) and SEO ranking (meaning more potential customers will discover your business).If you haven’t been optimising your WordPress images in the past, the best time to start is now. You can begin by installing a compression plugin, and then review your most important posts and pages and rename your images and add ALT tags. For new posts and pages moving forward, follow the guidance in this article for well optimised images and you will likely see your SEO rankings improve.