I love working on my website. It's an obsession I have. Or it's that feeling of being a coder in an action movie where I'm saving the world on the back of a website. Not that I could do that, but a girl can dream can't she?
I do enjoy learning about coding, trying new things and finding new ways to improve my website and add value to the lives of my readers (that's you, I hope you're enjoying things!). Some of the things I've come to learn in my time of editing websites is the importance of loading speed and SEO. While I stress the importance of impeccable design and even better photos (that's why we're all here), none of that will matter if your site doesn't load fast enough and your customers leave before seeing your beautiful website. At the same time, if the search engines aren't finding you, then the speed of your site won't make a difference.
One of the fastest ways to improve your website's speed is to optimize your images. Photos tend to weigh down your site speed because you have to download them every time you open a page. Depending on how large of photos you are uploading to your site will determine how much time a page takes to load. Downsizing your images doesn't mean that you should forfeit quality. On the contrary, quality is always your goal. However, there are a few tricks you can use to decrease the size of your images and keep them looking flawless for your website.
To optimize your photos, you'll need editing software. I'll show you two different examples, Photoshop and Canva, but the same principle is valid with any software.
Optimize Photos With Photoshop
If you're using WordPress optimizing your photos is easy. Open up the image in your media library or by editing it in a post (use the pencil button when the image is clicked on) and edit the original. An editing box will open up, and all you have to do is change the dimensions. I change the width to 1,000 pixels to keep things simple and make sure that everything looks good on different computers.
When you open a photo in photoshop, you'll need to get into the image size panel through the Image button on the main menu. From there you'll adjust your images to a size that fits your needs. Here's what you need to remember, your resolution should never be above 150. In all reality, you can take it down to 72dpi since all digital screens use 72dpi, but I often like it at 150. You'll want to adjust the resolution first since it will alter your height and width, but you'll change those right after. When you change your resolution and your pixel sizes you can only go down, don't go up. Increasing these numbers will degrade the quality of your images so just don't do it.
In the case of websites, I shrink my longest side down to 1,000 pixels usually. You can choose to make yours larger just in case, but I've found this to be a safe number for any screen size. Once you've changed your pixel sizes and resolution, it's time to save the image. PNG work well on social media, but they are larger file sizes. To ensure that your photos are taking up to much bandwidth save all images as a JPEG.
Optimize Photos With Canva
Not everyone has Photoshop (even though a subscription for that an Lightroom combined is only $10 a month!), so if you are working on a tight budget but still want smaller images for your website, then Canva is the place for you. Canva is the beginners Photoshop. With layouts for social media posts, posters and everything else you can think of that you might need for graphic design it's a great place to make quick graphics for your business. It's also an easy way to optimize photos when you don't have a real photography editor.
After you make an account with Canva, you'll have a chance to create a board. If you make a custom board, you can choose the specific size of images you want for your website. You'll have to do all horizontal photos at one time and then the vertical images, but beggars can't be choosers. Type in the size you want, remembering that your width should almost always be 1000 (for the use of blog posts or elsewhere on your website). Then you can upload the images you want, drop them onto the board and export them one by one. Canva gives you different file options for exporting and just like with photoshop I recommend exporting your images as jpgs. The goal with any exported image is to be no more than 1-2MB in size.
SEO and Images
Don't think I forgot about the SEO of your images. Customers can't see your products and your story if they can't get to your website. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is no simple concept. Its the repetitive words in a site that search engines read and realize that your content is relevant to a user's search. Search engines have increased their game in the last few years so that search results are more accurate than ever and it's the use of SEO that continues to make this happen. When a search engine looks at your site, it's looking for a word or phrase and relevant phrases throughout your code to see if you are what a user is looking for. While the text on your website should always include the keywords you hope customers use to find you, your pictures should have them too!
Whether you're using WordPress (like I do) or a drag and drop site like Wix, Weebly or Squarespace, they all have ways to name photos and create "Alt Tags." Every image you add to your site should use these two tags to their advantage. The title of the image will mostly help you when you are looking for pictures on your website. It's great to name pictures after its use, the product that's in it or the season for the product. The Renaming of photos are mostly for organizational use, but it can also serve as a bottom of the barrel form of SEO. You're Alt Tag is the real key to optimizing your photos for SEO. Search Engines use the Alt Tag to "see" photos. Since it's a machine doing the searching, it needs text to tell them what's in the photo. Your description is what helps you pop up in Google searches for images but can also serve as more keywords adding up to rank you on a Google page.
On WordPress, you can double-click on an image or go to your Media library to change the names and Alt Tags of all your pictures. Do some keyword research for your business and determine the words you want your company to focus on and then use them in these Alt Tags. Remember that the photos need to be relevant to what you are tagging them so saying "Sunglasses" in every image you post isn't helpful, search engines know when you are spamming them. Instead, describe the products in a picture or locations that are relevant to your audience.
Your website is your first impression to many of your customers; you don't want to disappoint them before they even get started. Optimizing your website, while time-consuming, can make all the difference in creating an excellent experience for your customers. If you're wondering how your website holds up, you can test your site speed with Pingdom. This site will let you know how long it takes to load your site and what's bogging it down. If it takes more than 1.5 seconds to load, you've got some optimizing to do!
If you've got questions on optimization or want to share the tips you've learned, feel free to leave a comment below!
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