If you want to promote your image-heavy website online, it’s crucial to rank well on Google. It’s the dominant search engine and a major source of traffic for most businesses.
Can an image-heavy website rank high on Google? It depends. Just like humans, Google likes fast-loading pages. The search engine prefers websites that load quickly and penalizes those that don’t. Images have a substantial impact on a website’s speed: unoptimized graphics can drastically increase page loading time and, as a result, hurt site ranking.
The following 7 steps will help you improve the page loading speed of an image-heavy website. You can either follow all the steps or simply skip to the last one: a properly configured image CDN will do most of the optimization job for you.
1. Test Image Performance
Before solving image-related performance issues, let’s first take a look at what these issues are and whether your website actually has them. Here are a couple of tools to check web and image performance: Google PageSpeed Insights analyzes the content of a webpage and gives a lot of performance suggestions, including some for image-related assets. PageDetox demonstrates how images affect a website’s speed by showing the exact current image data footprint in comparison with an optimized version.
2. Size Images Properly
The larger an image is, the longer it will take to load. For optimal performance, every image should be sized as large as it’s displayed on a webpage. Any image resolution higher than that won’t look better, but will certainly slow down the page.
It’s important to actually resize an image before uploading it, rather than simply set the height and width attributes in the HTML code. In the latter case, the page will have to load the full image before adjusting its dimensions to the display, which will affect the image-heavy website speed, and not for the better.
3. Choose the Right File Format
The image format has a direct impact on the file size and, respectively, the loading time. PNG, JPEG, SVG—all these common formats have their own nuances and use cases. For most digital photos, JPEG is generally the most common option. JPEG can be easily compressed, which results in smaller file sizes.
PNG works well for graphical elements with solid areas of color and transparency (logos, banners, small icons, etc). It preserves better visual quality, which comes with a larger file size.
SVGs are basically text files that describe the lines, shapes, and curves of images. Being text-based, SVGs normally have smaller file sizes and can quickly adapt to any screen size and resolution. You can create scalable SVG graphics in various photo editors, including Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
4. Choose the Right Compression
Compressing an image is another way to speed up the loading time. You can apply one of two compression methods: lossy or lossless. The first significantly reduces the file size by permanently deleting some data from the original file. Many tools will let you choose the degree of lossy compression with an image quality scale from 0 to 100. Don’t be afraid to experiment with these settings to find the right balance between visual results and file size savings. Typically, the human eye won’t even notice the quality difference between 100 and 80.
Lossless compression, on the other hand, doesn’t damage the image quality: the resulting image is pixel-identical to the original one. This type of compression is preferred for technical drawings and vector graphics. As you may have guessed, lossless compression reduces the file size less dramatically than a lossy one.
5. Optimize Images for Mobile Devices
At the end of 2019, 52% of global internet traffic came from mobile devices. As the number of mobile searches continues to explode, Google is overhauling the entire algorithm to give priority to mobile-optimized pages. A mobile-optimized website should have responsive images that adapt to the user’s screen size and look good on any device.
Make sure your platform supports responsive images and doesn’t merely serve the same images across all devices, relying on browser-side resizing. Serving unoptimized content will not only hurt your site ranking, but also degrade the user experience and consume redundant bandwidth.
6. Defer Offscreen Images
When a page is loaded, users can instantly see only a few images on top of it. Therefore, it makes sense to make the top of a page (‘’above the fold’’) load first. This is called lazy loading, and it’s especially helpful for pages with lots of content under the top section, such as a blog article or an ecommerce product gallery.
Displaying images within view first, as opposed to loading all the content at once, significantly reduces load times and improves user experience. There are many image optimization tools that offer this feature, for example, the LazyLoad WordPress plugin.
7. Use an Image CDN for your Image-Heavy Website
All the above steps can be done at once by using an image CDN. A content delivery network, or CDN, is a group of servers distributed across the world. If your website works with a CDN, the user’s requests are always routed to the closest server, leading to faster load times.
An image CDN doesn’t only cache your images on various servers, but also adapts them to the user context. Intelligent CDN image hosting will automatically deliver properly sized images for any screen and adjust the quality level through smart compression. Additionally, image CDNs have a number of photo editing options, such as filters, color adjustments, and others. All the image processing is done on the fly in the blink of an eye.
Modern CDN providers allow you to get started easily, regardless of your technical background. For fast integration, choose a ready-made solution with an automated uploading process and efficient support.
To Sum Up
While nobody is aware of all the factors behind Google’s ranking, it’s well known that page speed is one of the major ones. We all find slow websites annoying, and Google gives a lot of weight to our experience. To make sure your image-heavy website hurts neither your SEO ranking nor your users’ feelings, you can optimize your graphics manually or go for a smart image CDN. Either way, image optimization will boost your website ranking and help you reach a broader audience.