When you hear the term high-quality image, the first thing that probably comes to mind is an image that is professionally photographed and processed, or, in the case of images from a stock service, looks authentic and accurately represents a company’s brand model or voice.
While these things are certainly important, the definition of a high-quality image in today’s digital marketing landscape is a little bit different, particularly when it comes to website performance and search engine optimization (SEO).
For example, did you know simply downloading an image from a stock website and uploading it to your website CMS can actually be detrimental to how your website performs, and that this suboptimal performance can actually be costing you conversions?
It’s true, but the good news is there are a couple of relatively simple, actionable steps business owners and marketers can take to ensure the images they use on their website, blog, or online store are optimized for organic search performance.
Let’s look at a couple of ways that high-quality images can help optimize your content strategy, and what you can do to ensure your images are a help and not a hindrance in creating a positive UX for your ideal customer.
How do high-quality images help increase the performance of your website?
When we talk about how images impact the performance of your website, we’re talking about your website’s load time, which is the amount of time it takes for your website pages to fully appear on a screen — this includes all content on your site, including text, photos, videos, or graphics.
The file type and file size of your images play a major role in how quickly your content loads. And slower load times have been shown to reduce the likelihood that users will submit a form, convert on an offer, or make a purchase. In fact, a recent report found that almost 70% of customers said website page speed negatively impacted their willingness to buy from an online retailer.
This begs two important questions about the image and load time relationship: What is the ideal load time for B2B websites, and what steps can you take to optimize your images for faster load times?
First, a recent report found that websites with a load time of five seconds or more experience a bounce rate of almost 90%, while websites with a load time of three seconds show bounce rates of about 30%. And this is critically important because if you care about driving conversions based on your website content, you need to at least keep users on the page. One study found that pages with load times of one second had an average conversion rate of 40%, whereas pages with load times of just three seconds averaged a 29% conversion rate.
What's the best way to optimize images for web performance?
You can better ensure your images are optimized for website performance and conversion in a couple of ways.
First, make sure you’re compressing the file size of all the images on your website using a compressor service like TinyPNG — you want to use image files that are less than 1 MB because images of this size requires less bandwidth to display, which helps increase the speed and responsiveness of your website.
Using the right kind of image file can also help improve your website’s load time. JPG files are usually much smaller in file size compared to PNG or GIF, especially for larger images. In addition, image resolution can also decrease your website’s load time.
It’s important to note here that using compressed images in other forms of digital content like email marketing campaigns is a best practice as well because large file sizes can prevent your email communication from loading properly. Just like with your website, emails that don’t load quickly are easier for customers to ignore or delete, and they are more likely to perform poorly in terms of key metrics like click-through rates.
There are a number of free, easy-to-use resources to help you better understand your website’s load time, and whether a sluggish site is the result of poor quality images. Google PageSpeed Insights is a good place to start, and so is our website audit tool, which also helps identify other issues with your site that may impact load time, SEO value, and more.
How do high-quality images help increase the SEO value of your website?
Yes, the images on your website, blog, or online store site can also impact your SEO value and the ability of search engines like Google to return your web content based on user inquiries. And while you may think the SEO value of your website and its performance live in two completely different worlds, the truth is they are actually connected.
It’s estimated that there were 5.6 billion Google searches per day in 2021, and this figure accounts for inquiries via Google Images. Part of how search engines like Google index their search results is based on how useful or relevant website content is for users, and that evaluation is based in part on your site speed and is referred to as technical SEO.
But ensuring that you’re using high-quality images on your website also depends on the information you create about your images when you upload them to your website CMS — this is also known as metadata, and it contributes to on-page SEO.
For example, website images that contain alt tags, search keywords, or optimized file names will make it easier for search engines such as Google to index and rank your images and content. And just like with optimizing your web copy for search using SEO principles, some of the same rules apply to your images.
To ensure the image files you’re uploading to your CMS are optimized for SEO, which in turn helps increase the effectiveness of your digital content strategy, make sure to:
- Add alt tags. Alt image tags provide information about the image and what’s depicted in it, which then makes it easier for search engines to index and return that image based on searches. Alt tags should be clear, concise, and to the point. Plus, alt tags also help the visually impaired understand what’s contained in an image, and while accessibility doesn’t directly impact your search rankings, it does make it easier for search engines to crawl and understand your content. Plus, it’s best practice to make your site accessible by everyone.
- Use relevant search keywords in image names and titles. Just like how using relevant search terms in your website copy can help increase your SEO value, the same is true for how you name image files and image titles. File names and titles should make sense to both humans and search engine bots, so you don’t want to stuff keywords into file names or image titles, and you want to avoid using underscores between words as that can make it difficult for search engines to understand.
- Think strategically about context and placement. As with most things in life, context is important, and the same principle applies to where you place your images on your website. For example, Google advises placing images in relevant blocks of text, and it’s also best practice to place the relevant image near the top of the page.
Considering how the images you use will impact your website’s performance and your organic search value will help you execute a more effective digital strategy by ensuring customers can engage in a more meaningful way with your content.