CDN Performance
14 Oct 2019

Image Optimization for Performance and SEO

Image optimization is a vital component of any effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategy. As any commercial need typically starts with an Internet search, you need to ensure potential customers looking for your products and services can locate your website rapidly and efficiently. Obtaining a high search ranking that places your site on the first page of a Google search should, therefore, be the primary goal of your digital marketing strategy.

There are a variety of factors that determine how search engines such as Google rank a website concerning a chosen target demographic. If you want your site to appear on the first page of a search result, it must, at the very least, be mobile-friendly, offer fresh content regularly, and load rapidly. As images play a vital part in delivering your marketing message as well as providing the aesthetic appeal of your online brand, ensuring these web assets are optimized for swift delivery needs to be a crucial component of your SEO strategy.

Image Optimization Strategies

Image optimization can impact your SEO strategy in several ways. First and foremost, optimized images help you rank higher on search engines as they increase the performance of your website by ensuring your pages load faster. However, you can also deploy several SEO optimization strategies that ensure your images help increase your ranking and aid search engines in indexing your website. In addition to SEO and performance optimization, leveraging your images for improved social media engagement and calls to action are additional tactics you can deploy to increase your site’s visibility.

Performance Optimization

Scaling, compression, responsive solutions, and selecting the right file format are some of the actions you can take to optimize your images for performance. In addition to these server-side solutions, you can also host your images on a Content Delivery Network (CDN). Although each action can have a positive effect on the performance of your website, combining these solutions in a comprehensive image optimization strategy delivers the optimum result.

Image Scaling and Compression

On average, over 50% of a webpage’s data consists of images. Managing these vital web page components is consequently a vital development and maintenance task. Scaling images so that they render flawlessly in the user’s browser ensures not only an enhanced online visitor experience but also reduces their data footprint.

Although modern styling solutions like CSS and JavaScript can automatically scale images when a web page renders, cropping before uploading them is far more effective. It reduces the data footprint, improves the page load time, and also ensures the image renders correctly. Some modern content management frameworks also have limited capability when it comes to automated image scaling. By cropping and scaling images before adding them to a website, developers can achieve both the desired speed and aesthetics.

In addition to cropping and scaling images to reduce their data footprint, website developers can also leverage compression technologies. Online tools, as well as professional design applications like Adobe Photoshop, all reduce image sizes by compressing them. However, as with other design considerations, compressing images does reduce their resolution quality. Developers should, therefore, seek to find the perfect balance between data size and image quality when compressing images for their sites.

 Responsive Images

Modern web development techniques give site creators the ability to deliver different image sizes to various end user platforms. For example, if a site visitor loads a page using their desktop, a web server delivers an image suited to a larger display. Similarly, if a mobile device is the end user’s browsing platform, the site then delivers a smaller image considering the smaller screen size. Leveraging this development technique allows you to optimize the delivery of your images. In addition to ensuring the user gets the perfect resolution for their device, you also gain the additional advantage of smaller downloads for mobile devices that may be using expensive mobile bandwidth.

Selecting the Correct File Format

Since the dawn of the World Wide Web with the birth of HTML, there have been several iterations of image file formats available to website developers. Traditionally, developers have used formats like JPG and PNG. However, newer image formats such as WebP from Google create images that are 26% smaller than PNGs and 25-34% smaller than JPEGs. In addition to WebP, the Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) format defines vector-based graphics in XML format. This characteristic allows developers to upload images that have a small data footprint and the ability to scale without losing picture quality.

Images and SEO

When it comes to Search Engine Optimization, page load speeds are only one of several factors that determine a site’s page rank. Most leading search engines give users the ability to search for images related to a particular topic. Providing your image files with searchable file names ensures that they are appropriately indexed, helping elevate your site’s search engine ranking. In addition to naming your image files, it is also vital to leverage the HTML Image Alt Text tag. As with the image file names, search engines leverage these image identifiers to index and catalog your site.

Image Optimization for Social Media

Another crucial component of any modern SEO strategy is leveraging the various social media platforms to promote your site, service, or product and interact directly with current and potential customers. Search engines continuously crawl and index data from services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. A comprehensive SEO campaign should, therefore, include a social media component.

Social media is image-driven. Even users on Twitter, a platform that started as a text-based platform, interact more with tweets that contain striking images. Most leading social media services provide users with tools that aid them in uploading images to their platforms. For example, Facebook has Open Graph Markup, and Twitter provides Cards. Leveraging these online tools ensures your images have the correct title, description, and other searchable data when they are uploaded.

Leveraging a CDN for Image Optimization

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) helps improve the performance of your website by caching the static content of your pages on nodes located across the globe. When users navigate to your website, the data stored on the CDN’s network loads from the closest location, decreasing page load times significantly. Since images are static content, you can leverage the services of a CDN as part of your image optimization strategy. You can further optimize the performance of your site by fine-tuning the CDN service using features such as cache-control headers.

Image Optimization for SEO Requires a Blended Approach

Competing in an online economy where most commercial inquiries begin with a web search necessitates the need for every business to implement a comprehensive SEO strategy. Since images are a vital part of every web page, optimizing these web assets needs to form part of an overall online marketing plan.

There are effectively two parts to this process. The first part is optimizing images for speed and performance by leveraging techniques such as scaling, compression, responsiveness, using the correct file format, and storing your images on a CDN. The second part of the process involves utilizing HTML tags and social media to improve the index and searchability of your site and brand. An effective SEO strategy must use a blended approach utilizing several techniques to ensure you achieve the desired result.