Speed, SEO, Conversions: The Impact of Image Optimization

By Maura Monagha

Optimizing an image means reducing its file size as much as possible, without reducing its quality.

Simple DIY tricks and free online tools actually make image optimization a really simple process that you can start right now – which is great news for businesses, because the rewards of image optimization are substantial: 

Image optimization drives positive change for businesses by improving site speed, SEO, and conversion rates. Read on to find out how!

How Image Optimization Impacts Speed

The size of an image, and the amount of “weight” it takes up on a page, directly affects the speed with which that page will load. Basically, the larger an image’s file size is, the longer it will take to load. 

A smaller file size means an image can be downloaded by a customer’s browser and rendered on their screen more quickly.

Fast loading time is important for any business, because it has a big impact on the customer experience: 39% of visitors will stop engaging with a site when its images won’t load, or the loading time is too long. 

The catch is that you don’t want to reduce an image’s size so much that you ruin its quality. Compressing an image means encoding that image’s data using fewer bits than the original image. It’s basically a sliding scale, where the right amount of compression will minimize the file size without sacrificing the quality. 

Image compression might sound like a complicated solution, but don’t worry – there are actually a lot of free online tools that make it simple. 

Tools like ImageResizer and TinyPNG let you upload an original photo, and then compress it by hitting a few buttons. You can then download the end result, and upload that optimized version to your site. 

How to Optimize Images for SEO

At this point, you know how to optimize images for better speed (by compressing them before uploading!). But optimizing images for search engine optimization, or SEO, is a whole different ball game. 

Basically, optimizing images for SEO means making a few changes to an image’s details after you’ve uploaded it. These are all small tweaks that you can do yourself, so it’s a strategy involving minimal effort and high rewards!

By “rewards,” We mean higher rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs), like Google’s. SEO-optimized images are more understandable to Google, and therefore more likely to boost your page’s rankings for relevant search terms.

And trust us, you want to be ranking for relevant search terms – over 90% of worldwide traffic comes from the trifecta of Google Search, Google Images, and Google Maps. 

For businesses, better SEO means more revenue, since an estimated 39% of global ecommerce traffic comes from search. 

With that in mind, here are a few things you can do to optimize your images for higher rankings in search results: 

  • Optimize file names and image titles: A file name is the actual name of an image on your computer, while an image title is the title given to an image after you’ve uploaded it to your CMS or website builder. Search engines use both of these attributes to better understand the images on a webpage, so it’s important to keep file names and titles relevant to what’s depicted in the image. In other words, no more random strings of letters and numbers!
  • Include alt text: Alt text is another attribute you’ll be able to add after uploading an image, similar to adding a title. Alt text is a short description of what’s going on in an image, and it’s used by screen reading technology to help visually impaired users understand the pictures on a site. Alt text is also used by search engines for the same purpose!
  • Use responsive images: Responsive images are images that will display correctly – AKA, not get distorted – across devices with different screen sizes (like desktop computers and smartphones). A lot of platforms actually take care of this for you – for example, if you’re using WordPress, then different width dimensions will automatically be created for each image, so you won’t even have to take care of this yourself!

How to Drive Conversions With Image Optimization

Of course, you can’t boost conversion rates without boosting your site’s customer experience and visibility in search results. That’s where site speed and SEO come in, respectively. 

But image optimization doesn’t end once customers land on a page. 92.6% of people say that visual input is the leading factor in their purchase decision – so in other words, good-looking, optimized product photos can make all the difference. 

The free compression tools we talked about earlier can help you optimize your product photos.

Product photos aren’t the only photos that need to be top-quality – any photos that add to your company’s authenticity and credibility are important, too. This is particularly important in 2021, when 70% of marketers believe that content with visuals will reap better business results.

Authenticity as a successful marketing technique is nothing new, either: In one example from 2011, the research lab MarketingExperiments replaced a generic stock photo with a photo of the company’s actual founder, and saw the conversion rate for that page increase by over 34%. 

Why is this? Because people want to feel like they can trust the companies they’re purchasing from. Qualities like transparency, consistency, and authenticity have been named as important factors for people deciding which brands to support. 

So, to sum up: you can boost your conversion rates with detailed product photos, and authentic shots of you and your team. 

Maura Monaghan is a writer for Website Builder Expert, a comprehensive resource for anyone trying to start or expand their business online. Her favorite topics include content marketing and web hosting, but anything digital is probably also of interest!

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