How images can drag down search and content performance

March 16, 2022

We’ve been drilling down into content optimization lately. A few weeks back, we looked at a checklist for aligning content.

Now let’s focus our optimization efforts on user experience (UX). We adapted another checklist for those finer points of SEO (including link health, alt text, and more).

For this newsletter, we’ll focus on one element from the list: images.

Photos, infographics, and art can really enhance the reading experience – when done right. But sloppy images, carelessly implemented, can be a drag on UX and your search performance.

📸 How images affect content performance

What’s the difference between an image that’s useful to readers (and your page performance) and one that’s dragging everyone down? There are a few:

  • Accessibility
  • Relevance
  • File size
  • Text

Accessibility is the real reason why alt tags exist. Alt tags explain visual content in text format for non-sighted users.

A more accessible website is a more effective website – and Google is looking for the most effective possible websites. So accurately worded alt tag fields strengthen search performance (in addition to providing a basic, neighborly kindness).

Relevance pertains to copy and images alike. Informative, compelling graphics can be tremendous assets for UX (plus they look nice, which is fun).

Generic stock photography, however, does none of those things. This image, for example:

Abstract green image of a circuit board. This image was probably designed to look futuristic, but really it just looks generic.

It is trippy. Which is kind of cool. Kind of.

File size is a silent killer for page performance – oversized files slow down your page’s load speed.

Oversized images sneak onto your blog in any number of ways:

  • Thumbnail images (like author profile photos) that are 2000 x 2000 pixels
  • Uncompressed images (which could be compressed without losing quality)
  • Art with excessive amounts of detail

Text in an image is not an inherently bad thing – but in excess it becomes a problem for accessibility and page performance.

Non-sighted readers can’t access it without alt text. Search crawlers can’t either. In both scenarios, the image will come across as null data. And that’s bad for business.

🏄🏼 What you can do

Download the UX Action Items checklist. Go through each task for every image on a given blog page.

  • Review and update alt text for each image. Here are some best practices.
  • For every image, ask yourself: does this convey any educational or branding data? If the answer is no, then delete the image.
  • Look in your CMS for images larger than ~500kb. Do they really need to be that big? Explore options for compressing, such as Image Optim.
  • Whenever possible, adapt text-heavy images and diagrams to inline text. For example: if it’s a screenshot of someone else’s text, simply add that excerpted copy to the page itself as a quote.

Moving forward, do yourself a favor and try to build good habits around all these things. It will save you time and hassle in the long run.

🤳 One more thing

These optimization tips are even more useful when you’ve got an optimization strategy in place for your content library.

That’s why we’re excited to share our brand new optimization strategy guide: Building a content optimization strategy for traffic, leads, and revenue.

Follow the guide step by step, and at the end you’ll have a fully operational, data-driven strategy to start updating your entire content library.

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