Compressing Images For WordPress

Search engine optimization is all the rage these days. Everyone is talking about keywords and subheadings, readability and link building. People put a lot of time and effort into learning how to write the perfect SEO blog posts and pages. But focusing on the writing has led many to forget that optimization is not just about text. In fact, WP experts agree that optimizing images can be very effective and important too. One of the ways to do so is by compressing images for WordPress. But what is image compression? How does it help your website? What are the best ways to do it? And perhaps most importantly, why should you even care? Today, we are answering all those questions for you!

What is image compression?

Very simply put, image compression is a process through which a high-quality image is shrunk to a smaller size without affecting the quality of it. It’s something that you and your website maintenance crew will be doing quite a lot of because images are an important part of search engine optimization. So you will be using them quite often, usually several times per page or post depending on its length. And if you want a high-quality WP website, you’ll be using high-quality images too. Unfortunately, those can be pretty big which means they will take up a lot of space on your servers and will be slower to load. To avoid those issues, you will need to compress your images.

HQ image that's gone through the process of compressing images for WordPress.
Compressing images allows you to have beautiful photos that load fast.

Prepare for compressing images for WordPress

Compression is just one way to make high-quality images smaller. There are other things you can do as well, either to replace compression or to combine with it for even better results.

One easy thing you can do to make an image smaller, for example, is to change its dimensions. Many high-quality photos use dimensions well over 1000px in width. If you don’t need a photo that wide, you can download a smaller version of it or resize it either in an image editing program like Photoshop or in WordPress itself. If you only like a part of the photo, you can also crop it in an image editing software, thus changing its dimensions. Another thing you can try is to remove Exif data. This is automatic metadata that you, in most cases, won’t need. You can view or remove it by opening the properties dialogue box for your chosen image in Windows. This will make the image smaller in size.

Choosing the right format: JPEG vs PNG

Your choice of image format can also affect the size of the image you’re using. The two most common image formats people use when creating posts and pages in WordPress are JPEG (file extension .jpg) and PNG (file extension .png). The JPEG format is great for photos and images with gradients or lots of colors. The PNG format, on the other hand, is good for images with few colors or transparent parts. If you do have a choice between the two, however, go with JPEG whenever you can. JPEG images tend to be smaller.

People in front of a stage.
Use the JPEG format for images with lots of colors.

Different methods of compressing images for WordPress

There is a number of ways to compress images for WordPress. We are going to look at two different types of methods for image compressions: doing it through WordPress itself (by using a WP plugin) and doing it separately from WordPress. Each method comes with its own pros and cons and there is no magical formula to tell you which one is best for you. So test them out for yourself and decide how you like to work best!

Compress images before uploading them to a WP website

You can resize and compress images before you add them to your WP website’s gallery. That way, the images you upload will already be the size you need and optimized to your liking. This will add an extra step to your writing and publishing process and may require that you use additional tools. However, some people prefer this method because it puts less strain on the server. If you want to try compressing images for WordPress before uploading them, you can choose between three distinct methods:

  • using pre-installed software: if you already have an image editing program like Photoshop or GIMP, you can use it to compress an image or make it smaller with the “Save for Web” option
  • with image compression software: you can install new software (like Caesium or ImageOptim) which is specifically made for the compression of images
  • using a browser-based tool: finally, if you don’t want to overload your computer, you can use online-based image compression tools like Optimizilla, Compressor, TinyPNG or Kraken
Desktop computer with software for compressing images for WordPress.
You can use the software you already have for compressing images.

Compress images with a WP plugin

Another option for compressing images for WordPress is to do so after you upload them. This will keep the original image on your server (and therefore put more strain on it than uploading an already resized image) while loading a compressed and smaller version for your users. The upside of this method is that you can do everything through WordPress with no need for extra tools. You will, however, need to install a WP plugin for image compression.

The best WP plugins to use for compressing images for WordPress

If you prefer to compress images through WordPress, these are the plugins you should consider:

  • WP Smush: automatically compresses all images you upload which makes it handy to use, but the free version leaves something to be desired when it comes to image quality after compression (premium version works better)
  • Compress JPEG & PNG images by TinyPNG: a simple tool that works well for both JPEG and PNG files, it requires some setting up but once you’ve done that you can go ahead and relax as images will be compressed automatically
  • ShortPixel: produces very high-quality images after compression and has additional settings you can tinker with for even better results

Why should you think about compressing images for WordPress?

Image compression is not difficult. But now that you’ve read more about it, it may seem overwhelming for a second. So why should you even bother compressing images for WordPress? The answer is simple: smaller images load faster and your users like that. You want your pages to load as fast as possible, keeping your users interested and on your website. But you also want high-quality images because nobody likes seeing a blurry photo that looks like it went through a blender. The answer to having both is image compression.

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