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How To Optimize Images for the Web

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How To Optimize Images for the Web

Not only do images make your content more accessible, attractive, and engaging to users, but they’re important for SEO.

Understanding the basics of image optimization gives your content the best opportunity to succeed with SEO.

What is image optimization?

Image optimization involves creating and delivering high-quality images in the ideal format, size, and resolution to increase user engagement. It also involves accurately labeling images with metadata so search engine crawlers can read them and understand page context.

According to HTTP Archive, in 2018, images made up 21% of an average web page’s total weight, and that share likely has grown as image use has grown in recent years – they consume more bytes than any other part of the website. Thus, image size and complexity heavily impact site performance.

When you can reduce the size of images without compromising quality, page load times and the overall user experience improves. That can have a positive impact on search engine rankings, which further improves customer engagement, conversions, and customer retention.

TIP: Optimized images take up less storage space on your server, so site backups are completed more quickly faster.

Now, I’ll detail 10 ways to optimize your images.

1. Resize your images

Image size and file size are not the same things. Image size refers to the dimensions of an image (e.g., 1024 pixels by 680 pixels). File size is the storage space (e.g., 350 kilobytes).

Images with higher resolution and larger dimensions slow your page load times considerably. While they work well for printed materials, they should be scaled down and sized for the web.

TIP: Check out this guide to identify the best image sizes for social media platforms.

Save appropriate format

PNG, JPEG, and GIF each have their benefits. I recommend JPEG for images with lots of color and PNG for simple images.

Top image formats for web: PNG, JPEG, SVG, GIF

Image source

Choose the right compression rate

How well an image is compressed affects both file size and quality – the smaller the file, the poorer the image quality.

Experiment with file types and compression rates to see what works best for each image. Many image-editing tools, like Adobe Photoshop, have a save-for-the-web option that automatically minimizes the file size while optimizing image quality.

If you don’t use Photoshop, these tools and plug-ins can help:

Image optimization tools

WordPress plug-ins for image optimization

Test speed

After you’ve optimized your images, how do you know whether your website page loading times are quick enough? Use one of these tools to test your site speed:

TIP: If your website content frequently changes, regularly check your load times.

2. Optimize image file names

Name the file with relevant, descriptive keywords to get the most SEO power. Include target keywords at the beginning and separate them with hyphens. Don’t use underscores because search engines don’t recognize them and won’t be able to “see” the words individually.

File names should make sense to both search engines and humans. For example, if the original name for an image of a woman in a hair salon is salon234.jpg, rename it with a clear and more descriptive title, such as woman-having-a-haircut-in-a-salon.jpg.

3. Use alt tags

Viewers may understand the image, but search engine spiders need clues. Without alternative text, search engines can’t index your image content accurately.

A good alt tag provides context and helps visually impaired users too. It’s also helpful when a glitch prevents an image from loading because search engines can read the alternative text to inform the page’s ranking. Write an alt tag in more detail than the file name. Aim for 10 to 15 to convey something about the image.

TIP: Brand-relevant terms can be in alt tags to boost visibility, but avoid keyword stuffing.

4. Make images mobile friendly

Google’s algorithm uses mobile-first indexing, so crawlers mainly look at a site’s mobile version. Thus, your images should be mobile friendly too.  How? The short answer is to ensure your images and website layout are responsive to the viewing device.

Some website templates and builders automatically resize images, but you can specify image size based on a device’s width. To do this, add a bit of custom CSS code to your website. Check out this simple guide to learn more about making your images responsive.

5. Optimize the image title

WordPress usually takes the image title from its file name. However, if you don’t use WordPress or the title doesn’t explain the image, update it with the appropriate keywords in the same way as file names.

Image titles are less important for SEO, but they can provide additional context to the alt text. Image titles are more helpful in terms of user engagement, so consider adding a brief call to action such as “buy now” or “download today.”

6. Include captions

Image captions – the words directly beneath images – may not directly impact SEO. But, unlike file names and alt text, captions are visible and can add to the website experience. Adding captions can have an indirect effect on SEO, improving the user experience and engagement metrics.

7. Use unique images

Using stock photos is fine, but they won’t necessarily help your search rankings because other websites likely use the same images. In the same way, unique written content is better for SEO, it’s a good idea to upload unique images.

8. Ensure text complements the images

The page copy can help search engines determine the relevancy of your images if your text doesn’t include enough information to explain an image, expand the description.

9. Add image structured data

Including structured data on your pages helps search engines display your images as rich results. Google Images supports structured data for product images, videos, and recipes. For example, it adds a badge to an image if it knows text, such as a recipe, accompanies it.

Use Google’s structured data general guidelines to learn how to add structured data to your pages within the search engine’s parameters.

10. Use site maps

Google explains a site map as “a file where you can list the web pages of your site to tell Google and other search engines about the organization of your site content.” In other words, it’s a file that contains a map of your site’s content.

Site maps are an important part of SEO because they tell search engines about your pages and website structure. To ensure that search engine crawlers notice every image – an infographic, meme, photo, video thumbnail, etc. – include them in your site map.

For each image entry, include the title, description, URL location, caption, and license information. For video entries, include the title, description, URL location, thumbnail URL, and raw video file URL.

If your website is hosted on WordPress, you can use Yoast SEO, which automatically adds visual content to a site map.

Make the most of your images

If you’re struggling to get your content noticed, keep these strategies in mind before you upload any image. These image optimization techniques will improve the likability of your content to both search engines and human users.

Please note: All tools mentioned are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please add it in the comments.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.

“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.

“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.

Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.

How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.

In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.

“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.

“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.

The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.

Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms

What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).

Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.

One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.

Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”

Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.

“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.

But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.

“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”

Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”

Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.

“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”

Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”

Dig deeper: Failure to get the most out of data clean rooms is costing marketers money


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Ascend | DigitalMarketer

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Ascend | DigitalMarketer

At this stage, your goal is to generate repeat buys and real profits. While your entry-point offer was designed for conversions, your ascension offers should be geared for profits—because if you’re serving your customers well, they’ll want to buy again and again.

Ascension offers may be simple upsells made after that initial purchase… bigger, better solutions… or “done for you” add-ons.

So now we must ask ourselves, what is our core flagship offer and how do we continue to deliver value after the first sale is made? What is the thing that we are selling? 

How we continue to deliver value after the first sale is really important, because having upsells and cross sales gives you the ability to sell to customers you already have. It will give you higher Average Customer values, which is going to give you higher margins. Which means you can spend more to acquire new customers. 

Why does this matter? It matters because of this universal law of marketing and customer acquisition, he or she who is able and willing to spend the most to acquire a customer wins.

Very often the business with the best product messaging very often is the business that can throw the most into customer acquisition. Now there are two ways to do that.

The first way is to just raise a lot of money. The problem is if you have a lot of money, that doesn’t last forever. At some point you need economics. 

The second way, and the most timeless and predictable approach, is to simply have the highest value customers of anyone in your market. If your customers are worth more to you than they are to your competitors, you can spend more to acquire them at the same margin. 

If a customer is worth twice as much to you than it is to your competitor, you can spend twice as much trying to acquire them to make the same margin. You can invest in your customer acquisition, because your customers are investing in your business. You can invest in your customer experiences, and when we invest more into the customer we build brands that have greater value. Meaning, people are more likely to choose you over someone else, which can actually lower acquisition costs. 

Happy customers refer others to us, which is called zero dollar customer acquisition, and generally just ensures you’re making a bigger impact. You can invest more in the customer experience and customer acquisition process if you don’t have high margins. 

If you deliver a preview experience, you can utilize revenue maximizers like up sells, cross sales, and bundles. These are things that would follow up the initial sale or are combined with the initial sale to increase the Average Customer Value.

The best example of an immediate upsell is the classic McDonalds, “would you like fries with that?” You got just a burger, do you also want fries with that? 

What distinguishes an upsell from other types of follow up offers is the upsell promise, the same end result for a bigger and better end result. 

What’s your desired result when you go to McDonalds? It’s not to eat healthy food, and it’s not even to eat a small amount of food. When you go to McDonalds your job is to have a tasty, greasy, predictable inexpensive meal. No one is going there because it’s healthy, you’re going there because you want to eat good. 

It’s predictable. It’s not going to break the bank for a hamburger, neither will adding fries or a Coke. It’s the same experience, but it’s BIGGER and BETTER. 

Amazon does this all of the time with their “Customers Who Bought This Also Bought …” But this one is algorithmic. The point of a cross sell is that it is relevant to the consumer, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be aligned with the original purchase. What you don’t want to do is start someone down one path and confuse them.

You can make this process easy with Bundles and Kits. With a bundle or a kit you’re essentially saying to someone, “you can buy just one piece, or you can get this bundle that does all of these other things for a little bit more. And it’s a higher value.”

The idea behind bundles and kits is that we are adding to the primary offer, not offering them something different. We’re simply promising to get them this desired result in higher definition. 

The Elements of High-Converting Revenue Maximizers (like our bundles and kits) are:

  1. Speed

If you’re an e-Commerce business, selling a physical product, this can look like: offering free shipping for orders $X or more. We’re looking to get your customers the same desired result, but with less work for them.

  1. Automation

If you’re a furniture business, and you want to add a Revenue Maximizer, this can look like: Right now for an extra $X our highly trained employees will come and put this together for you. 

  1. Access 

People will pay for speed, they’ll pay for less work, but they will also pay for a look behind the curtain. Think about the people who pay for Backstage Passes. Your customers will pay for a VIP experience just so they can kind of see how everything works. 

Remember, the ascension stage doesn’t have to stop. Once you have a customer, you should do your best to make them a customer for life. You should continue serving them. Continue asking them, “what needs are we still not meeting” and seek to meet those needs. 

It is your job as a marketer to seek out to discover these needs, to bring these back to the product team, because that’s what’s going to enable you to fully maximize the average customer value. Which is going to enable you to have a whole lot more to spend to acquire those customers and make your job a whole lot easier. 

Now that you understand the importance of the ascend stage, let’s apply it to our examples.

Hazel & Hem could have free priority shipping over $150, a “Boutique Points” reward program with exclusive “double point” days to encourage spending, and an exclusive “Stylist Package” that includes a full outfit custom selected for the customer. 

Cyrus & Clark can retain current clients by offering an annual strategic plan, “Done for You” Marketing services that execute on the strategic plan, and the top tier would allow customers to be the exclusive company that Cyrus & Clark services in specific geographical territories.



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