Winning Visual Media Optimization: Five Best Practices to Make it Happen

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Cloudinary

Google’s Core Web Vitals (CWV) are in effect, which means businesses must embrace optimization capabilities for visual media if they hope to benefit from search engine rankings. Besides SEO, CWVs paint a picture of how engaging and performant your website really is, so it’s in a company’s best interest to optimize toward the target metrics for the ideal user experience.

Google’s CWVs are being leveraged as a way to provide a holistic picture of the quality of a user's experience, measuring the existing reality of how a website performs and how a site visitor might be able to interact. These metrics are related to loading speed, responsiveness and visual stability. Simply put, sites are now rewarded by the leading search engine for improving the visual and interactive experience for online users.
CWV metrics are starting to influence search results, and for brands, now is the time to take action – especially when it comes to optimizing for website images and videos.

More visual media requires optimization to reduce Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

In terms of website images and videos, one of the key CWV metrics is LCP, which measures the time it takes for the largest content element in the viewport to load. For most websites, this is usually a large banner image or a product image.

Right now, brands find themselves in a game-changing visual economy. In fact, HTTP Archive has noted that the media webpage is approximately 4 times its weight since 2011. Visual media is a powerful storyteller, but not if it slows down the page load time and makes users bounce off.

"Very often, the LCP of a webpage is a photo, illustration or video,” said Jon Sneyers, senior image researcher, Cloudinary. “Reducing the time to load, while also ensuring high fidelity, is key to improving the web user experience. This explains the rapidly evolving technology: new media codecs, optimized encoding, and responsive and progressive rendering."

There is no denying that visual media optimization has a direct impact on load time, and therefore LCP. In order for brands to score well in the LCP department, it is extremely important for visual media to load as quickly as possible. This is why businesses must embrace optimization capabilities, but in a way that does not have a negative impact on the user experience. Brands need not panic. By following these simple best practices for visual media optimization, they can ensure meaningful and memorable online experiences, while making sure their LCP scores are in that sweet spot of where they need to be:

  • Foster page loads by optimizing your image assets. Brands should compress images so that they take up less bandwidth but still display in high quality. Converting images and videos to newer formats such as AVIF, JPEG XL, JPEG 2000, WebP and WebM will also help with performance. As well, automatically crop, resize and format assets in response to the user’s browser and device. This requires automation in order to accomplish at scale.

  • Automate image workflows. Ensure that the correct file size is applied, preserving visual fidelity. This frees up a team to focus on creative processes instead of manually creating asset variants; cropping, reformatting, and resizing files.

  • Track media delivery metrics. Brands that track these metrics can more quickly identify unoptimized media or optimization, and more importantly, see exactly how media is performing or where it might inadvertently be hurting web performance.

  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) and cache images. Deliver visual media through a CDN, or multi-CDN approach, to enhance site reliability and scalability. The key here is to cache page elements instead of loading them from the original source.

  • Cache assets. This allows brands to store a brand’s most used assets rather than sourcing them from the origin every time.

Creating an engaging website experience complete with optimized visual media that entice a user to linger is easy to achieve. By following these best practices, brands can ensure proper CWV metrics and happier customers. Google’s own research suggests that when ecommerce websites meet the three Core Web Vitals thresholds, users are 24% less likely to abandon the page.

Unsure of how your website ranks in terms of visual media performance? Request your free custom web performance report and learn how you can start optimizing for user experience.

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