SEO and image load time

How Your Images Affect Your Site Speed and SEO

Let’s review how fast-loading images affect your site speed — and in turn, your placement in search engine results.

Sites that use too many images, or have images that are too large, have longer loading times. This can slow down your entire page, irritating visitors and actually hurting your site’s ranking in online search results. We may say that images are worth a thousand words, but if you don’t plan for fast loading times, they actually won’t be worth very much at all.

In this post, we’ll discuss why search engines like Google care about image load times, and how you can use Jetpack’s features to enhance your site speed by making those images load faster.

Why search engines care about your site speed

Here’s something you may not have known: increased image loading times affect your site’s rankings in online searches.

Google uses a set of more than 200 factors called algorithms (like PageRank, Google Penguin, Google Panda, and Google Hummingbird) to decide the order in which to display search results. The exact factors and their importance in calculating search engine rankings are not known, as Google does not reveal them to the public.

However, through experience and research, search engine optimization (or SEO) specialists agree that the most important factors include unique content, site structure… and page and image loading times.

A prolonged image loading time hurts reader engagement and creates negative user experiences. Over the last decade, our attention spans have dropped from an average of twelve seconds to eight seconds, according to Microsoft. If readers can’t see your fully-loaded pages in eight seconds or less, they may become impatient and navigate away from your site. When it comes to keeping readers interested, every second counts!

How WordPress manages your images and speeds up your site

A common practice that adversely affects your image loading time is using images that are wider than the content area within your theme. If your page is 1200 pixels wide and you upload an image that is 2400 pixels wide, your readers will have to load more data than they need to, unnecessarily increasing the image and page loading times.

Luckily, WordPress takes care of this behind the scenes by creating various sizes of your original uploaded image without affecting the quality. When you choose an image from your Media Gallery, you can pick a size that best fits within the content area — and loads less data.

Your attachment settings in WordPress allow you to select a size for your image that will reduce the load time (and make visitors happier).

By managing your image sizes, WordPress helps to reduce the load time of all of your images across all of your site’s pages.

Although it’s extremely important, size is not the only factor that dictates a good page load time. It’s equally important that your images are served quickly.

Jetpack to the rescue: offsite image hosting with Photon

Since WordPress takes care of displaying appropriately sized images, you are now left with the challenge of loading images faster. After all, if you have a lot of images on a single page, or across your entire site, they could still take a very long time to load.

This is where Jetpack’s Photon feature comes in handy. Once Photon is enabled, your images will be stored on the global WordPress.com cloud and loaded from there, speeding up your site and the time it takes to load your images.

Activating Photon is as simple as toggling on the option in your Jetpack settings.

The data centers that serve your images are distributed around the globe, and are set up to achieve one specific goal: loading images as quickly as possible. By distributing the load across multiple data centers, Photon reduces the loading time of your entire page, improving your SEO… and making your readers happier.

The entire process happens behind the scenes, without any extra effort on your part. The database storing your images is maintained for you, and the images are automatically loaded from the server closest to each visitor.

Photon not only works with blog, page, and product images, but is also compatible with the following Jetpack features: Gallery Widget, Carousel, and Tiled Galleries. Check out an article demonstrating these features — and Photon — in action!

Photon works with Tiled Galleries, so multiple images in a small space will load super quickly.

Everyone benefits from Photon

All site owners should aim to reduce the loading time of their pages. There are plenty of businesses that rely heavily on images to promote their work or products, including:

  • Photography studios and bloggers
  • Ecommerce websites
  • DIY and craft blogs
  • Graphic design companies
  • Advertising companies

All of these businesses (and more) will benefit from using Photon on their sites, since they all images to improve communications with their readers. The faster their images load, the better chance they have of converting prospects into customers or followers.

Improve your search engine results with Jetpack

If you haven’t already, give Jetpack’s image content delivery network, Photon, a try today. This will help any and all of your images load faster, in turn improving your site’s SEO, and making your content more appealing to your site visitors and future customers.

Have any tips of your own for making your images load faster? Share them in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. @udegbunamchuks says:

    Is your lazy images feature Google SEO friendly? Will Google bot index all my images without issues? Thanks

    Like

  2. joecuviello says:

    I’m assuming photon renames the image file. Isn’t it true that Google will index images for Google Image Search based on both the ALT tag of an image, AND the file name of the same image? So aren’t we sacrificing possible Google Image rank or position in Google Image Search if our image files if we use an image caching service like Photon? It seems having a context relevant name for the JPG or image file is a very important factor, so is there anything that Photon does to make sure the original image file name is passed on to the Search Crawlers?

    Like

    • @udegbunamchuks says:

      Images aren’t renamed

      Liked by 1 person

    • Adam says:

      I’m assuming photon renames the image file.

      It does not. Here is an example image from a site using Photon:

      http://ma.tt/files/2017/08/metalmovabletypeedit1.jpg

      Here’s that same file on Photon (with an example query string applied to resize it):

      https://i1.wp.com/ma.tt/files/2017/08/metalmovabletypeedit1.jpg?w=600

      You’ll also notice that, if you look at the headers for a Photon image URL, we include a canonical link back to the local image. Screenshot:

      https://d.pr/i/xtxeTw

      Isn’t it true that Google will index images for Google Image Search based on both the ALT tag of an image, AND the file name of the same image?

      I’m pretty sure they use alt tags, yes, but I don’t know if they look at the file name. Since we don’t change the name anyway, Photon shouldn’t have any affect there one way or the other.

      Looking at the big picture though, Photon should actually help your SEO, since it makes your site load faster and therefore a better experience for your readers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • joecuviello says:

        Thanks. Maybe it used to rename the images? Or maybe I was thinking of another CDN. Anyhow I feel slightly stupid now for not checking before I commented. Despite that I am pleased with the outcome which is more important than anything else.

        Like

  3. taroslord says:

    I would like to know how often you update the image database of a site. I have re-uploaded some files, but the old versions still appear. As soon as I switch off jetpacks “speed up images and photos” option all works well and my new images appear.

    How often do you check the users photon database for new updates?

    Additionally my images appear very very lossy. Me as an artist and photographer need quality. Your option is a good idea, but unfortunately useless as soon as I can not decide the end quality and your default quality looks very bad. It would be completely ok for me to choose between three options like “low”, “medium” and “high quality” for photon managed images. I know this would mean in slower loading times, but let the user decide.

    I basically like the idea to add speed to a website when loading image data, but it would be nice to decide how lossy the images will appear at the end. At the moment the images looks bad when using your option. Additionally it confuses the user when reuploaded images will not appear directly while editing a website.

    Best wishes from germany

    Like

    • taroslord says:

      I have anwered my question by myself by reading the official Photon limitations.

      Here is one of the current official limitations:
      “No cache invalidations – currently the images are cached “forever”. If you want to “refresh” an image you will need to change the name of the image. Adding random query arguments, commonly known as cachebusters, will not work.”

      Sorry guys, but this is a “no go” for me. I understand the reason why you do this. The traffic would explode. But to rename an image or send you an e-mail with the image id to refresh it manually is not a solution for the most users.

      I hope you will find a better way to speed up image loading in the future.

      Best wishes

      Like

    • Adam says:

      Additionally my images appear very very lossy. Me as an artist and photographer need quality. Your option is a good idea, but unfortunately useless as soon as I can not decide the end quality and your default quality looks very bad.

      As we mention here:

      https://developer.wordpress.com/docs/photon/api/#quality

      “The default quality setting for JPEGs is 89%, PNGs 80%, and WebP images is 80%.”

      If you want, you can adjust this using a custom code snippet. An example is provided here:

      https://developer.jetpack.com/hooks/jetpack_photon_pre_args/

      Simply choose a quality level between 1 and 100. 🙂

      Note, however, that 89% quality for JPEGs means there should be little if any visible difference in image quality. If you’ve noticed a difference between having Photon turned on vs. turned off, there may be something misconfigured on your site that’s causing Photon to operate incorrectly. Try getting in touch with us and we may be able to figure out if anything is malfunctioning.

      https://jetpack.com/contact-support/

      Liked by 1 person

  4. sawebromania says:

    We’ve tested out a lot of plugins, and in our oppinion right now the best way to optimize youre site speed is with LitespeedCache and Jetpack Photon

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jvmarkets says:

    Sometimes, image file incompatible with browser. so it make slower web speed loading

    Like

  6. Carl Kruse says:

    Using Jetpack Photon but not noticing a dramatic change in site loading. Is this normal?

    Like

  7. . says:

    After I originally commented I seem to have clicked the
    -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a
    comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same
    comment. Perhaps there is a means you are able to
    remove me from that service? Cheers!

    Like

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