Engagement is the golden ticket for business owners and marketers, and images are a key element in the quest to attract customers’ attention. Adding an image to a post can skyrocket engagement as much as 650 percent, but it also increases the amount of time the page takes to load, putting you at risk for losing site traffic.

How can you get the benefits of using images on your WordPress site without slowing it to a crawl? The trick to getting a fast website is to optimize what’s already in your media library and automate the optimization of future uploads.

Why Optimize Your WordPress Images?

The idea of time being money isn’t a tired cliché. People hate waiting, and statistics show webpage abandonment rates shoot up from almost zero to 25 percent as page load times climb from less than one second to four seconds or more. Mobile users are particularly impatient, with 73 percent complaining mobile sites are far too slow.

If you’re trying to retain customers long enough to make purchases, you need to speed up your site load times. Over half of online shoppers say fast loading is an important factor in their loyalty to a particular site, yet the images business owners use to market products and services account for an average of 63 percent of website bandwidth.

This is an even bigger dilemma when you consider Google’s tendency to prioritize sites with faster load times. The search engine wants to provide the best possible user experience, including delivering answers to users as quickly as possible whether they’re on a desktop or mobile device. Fortunately, you can address all these issues by applying a few smart image optimization techniques.

Optimizing Images without Plugins

Making images smaller is one of the simplest ways to reduce the time they take to load, and you can do this without any fancy plugins. Ideally, you should resize your images before uploading, but WordPress provides tools to edit the images already in your library. Click on the image you want to resize, and:

  • Click the “Edit Image” button
  • Enter the new dimensions in the “Scale Image” section
  • Click “Scale”
  • Click the “Save” button under the image to save the changes

For very large images, use the crop tool on the image editing screen to eliminate unnecessary white space or hone in on the most important part of the visual.

Cleaning up the library can also improve site performance. Delete images you don’t need, and get rid of duplicates created by accidental double uploads. To ensure WordPress doesn’t contribute to the problem of duplicate images, go to the Media settings in your dashboard. Change all the image sizes to zero to prevent the creation of multiple image sizes for each future upload.

Unless you need transparency in an image, it is best to go with JPG file format, rather than PNG file format. I’ve seen 80+% reductions in file size using this technique alone.

Optimizing Images with Plugins

WordPress plugins can speed up media optimization with bulk processing options and automated tools to handle the compression and resizing of new images as they’re uploaded.

Imsanity is one such plugin with the capability to resize multiple images at once. Set the maximum width and height for the images in your media library, and let the plugin perform a bulk resize job instead of making tedious manual adjustments. Resize Image After Upload performs a similar function, reducing image sizes as much as 96 percent!!

WP Smush behaves as the name suggests, “smushing” existing images for faster delivery. The free version allows you to compress 50 images at a time, and you can set parameters for automatic resizing of everything you upload. WP Smush will also find images slowing your site down so that you can pinpoint and address problematic media before it causes you to lose traffic.

As you try these optimization techniques, keep an eye on visitor retention statistics. Lower bounce rates, longer periods of time spent on the site and an increase in engagement are all signs of success. Image optimization in SEO should also boost your site’s placement in search results, including mobile search, making it more visible and accessible to your target audience.

Once you find the right combination of tools to optimize your WordPress media library, all your pages should load quickly across devices, improving both site speed and user experience.

Want your website to load faster? Talk to the web optimizers at SunAnt Interactive at 262-641-2613 to get your speedy website.