When your food blog uses lots of great photos to show off your recipes and work, your site speed can suffer. Don’t let that happen- check out these tips to make sure you have great photos, but not at the cost of your user’s experience. With search engines prioritizing sites with good site speed, you need to make sure you’re on top of optimizing your photos (check your site speed out at gtmetrix.com to learn more about how your site is doing).
Images and site speed
Photos are a large part of what makes food bloggers successful, and with a visual search engines like Pinterest, your photos need to be appealing. When someone gets to your site, there are likely multiple photos with each post: ingredients, steps, and final product, which means lots of high-resolution images that can slow down your site.
Because site speed (how quickly your site loads) is part of the user experience, even if the content is great once it all shows up, people won’t stick around if it takes too long to load. With search engines like Google prioritizing sites in the rankings that have better site speed, it’s important that you’re working to make your site load time as quick as possible, and photos have a large impact on this.
Optimizing your images
Don’t panic if you’re not tech-y: these tips are easy to use.
- Use a plug-in like WPSmush to help compress your photos. We share more about this plugin on the blog, but basically it helps to reduce the size of the photos you upload, meaning less load time.
- Check out tinypng.com: Directly on their site, you can take an image of 5MB or less and drastically reduce the size of your image without noticeably impacting the quality. You’re then able to upload a much smaller image to your site.
- When you add photos to your site, in the media section, also take a look at the dimensions of the image: you don’t need a photo that’s 5000 pixels wide when your theme allows images that are 800 pixels wide. You can easily adjust the size right in the backend of your WordPress website.
Use these 3 tips to optimize your images so that your site speed is improved. For food bloggers, who are creating posts that are photo-heavy, it’s critical that you’re taking the necessary steps to optimize your photos and maintain a healthy site speed.
Transcription of This Episode
Welcome to Feast Food Blog Talk, where we share how to take your food blogging to the next level and inspire you to do more with your blog and business.
On today’s episode of Feast Food Blog Talk we are talking all about photos and site speed. Now, as a food blogger, you probably have a lot of photos, right? You’re showing all of those tempting delicious recipes that you’re creating. You’ve got your ingredients. You’ve got your setup. You’ve maybe got some lifestyle shots. You are showing everything off and that’s great, but what all of those photos can mean is slow load time. That’s what we mean by site speed, and if you want visitors to become raving fans, you need them to get on to your site and see all this amazing content that you have to offer.
If they find you on a search engine or on Pinterest, and then your site is slow to load, they’re probably not going to stick around, so if you want to grow your blog, grow your interest in what you’re doing, you need to have not only great photos, but they need to be optimized well so that people get to your site and they want to stick around.
Welcome to Feast Food Blog Talk. I’m your host, Sarah. Today we’re talking about photos and site speed, so let’s talk about them separately, and you’ll kind of get a sense of how they actually work together by the end of our episode.
First about photos. As a food blogger, you probably already know how important your photos are. Crisp, clear, appetizing photos, all of that is really important, especially if you’re using a platform like Pinterest, which you should be, to drive traffic to your website. As you probably already know, Pinterest is a visual search engine, which means that when people put in their search terms like “vegan pasta” or “teriyaki shrimp bowl” or “meatless Monday recipes,” they are then brought to a lot of options with pictures, pictures of that food, of that final recipe, of the steps that came to be to get that final option.
And if your photos aren’t appealing looking, or if they’re not bright and crisp and clear, chances are someone is going to skip over that, so from a perspective of getting traffic to your website, you definitely want your pictures to look good, but also, if someone is using traditional search and they google it, and they find you and they hop on over to your website, if your photos don’t look great, they might not be as inclined to stay there, right? They might think, “Well, this blogger can’t take great photos, so maybe their food doesn’t taste good.”
Now, here’s the thing. That’s not necessarily logical, right? You might have a recipe that’s amazing, but if the photos don’t show that it looks amazing … we’re really visual, so you could lose not just one reader, but you lose a potential follower when your photos don’t look good, so let me repeat that. Your recipes can be delicious. You’ve tried them. You’ve tested them. You know they’re amazing, but if the photos don’t show it, it’s going to be really hard to gain traction, so you want to make sure, as a food blogger, you’re really taking your photography seriously.
Though this podcast isn’t about taking strong photos, you do want to make sure that that is something that you are prioritizing. Great photos can happen on a iPhone, they can happen on a better camera, but really it’s about knowing the tool that you have, using it well, and editing appropriately. So if you’re not comfortable with your iPhone or your camera, do some search and really find out how to take good photos, because that’s really where it starts.
But as a food blogger, chances are you’re going to have lots of photos on your blog post, right? Within just one blog post, you might have photos in your header, on your side bar, and then for the post itself you’ll have some images of maybe the ingredients on their own, photos of the steps as you go, and definitely the final result. If this is a sponsored post you might have some additional photos in there either because it’s required by the company that you’re working with or you really just want to show things off, so chances are you’re going to have a lot of photos.
Food blogs tend to be photo-heavy, and we’re going to talk in a minute about how that affects your site speed, but if you’re using just one or two photos, that could be fine, but food bloggers, you typically want to use quite a few. You also might want to show within your blog photos of your food in use. For example, like at a party, more like a lifestyle setup.
Now, why I’m mentioning this is I was actually a Pinterest conference, the very first Pinterest conference recently, and someone made the really good point that on Pinterest two photos for the exact same recipe drive different people to her blog. One was a strawberry margarita or a watermelon margarita, and it was just a photo of that actual drink, and so people who are looking for margarita recipes, they saw that photo, they loved it, they clicked through.
She also had a photo from the same blog post that was more of a lifestyle photo. It included her in this really pretty blue dress holding the margarita. It had some pretty scenery. It was photographed really well. It’s also from the exact same blog post, but she had it styled differently. She had different keywords, so she did talk about the margarita recipe in the pinned description, but she also talked about hosting a party and other keywords that might bring that up for someone. And side note, she actually sold a lot of blue dresses because of that post.
So when you’re thinking about the photos that actually go into your blog post, think about who is going to be interested in that and have photos that really capture not just the recipe as you’re creating it, but having it in use, because those lifestyle photos could be really appealing to get people over to your blog.
And when you are setting up your cooking, your creation of the recipe, you really want to think about lighting and composition just to make sure that you have those great photos, because again, the photos is what’s going to sell your recipe, and therefore your blog. I mean, think about it. If you picked up a cookbook and there were just recipes in it, which those exist, but there’s no photos, they’re not nearly as appealing, and I don’t know about you, but I’m always scared. I’m thinking, “Well, what’s it supposed to look like? Is it going to turn out right? Does this look appealing to the people that I want to make it for?” So those images are so, so important.
So as I’ve already said, when you are taking photos, don’t just think about your blog, but do think about Pinterest. I can’t repeat it enough. Obviously I’m a fan of Pinterest, and for food bloggers, it can drive a ton of traffic, so as you are setting up your scenarios and your photos really think about, “Is this going to look good on my blog, and is this going to look good on Pinterest?” And Pinterest’s images, they’re more of the vertical images. 600 by 900 pixels is typically what Pinterest recommends, so think about turning your camera to really get those photos that are going to work well for Pinterest. So photos, obviously important and one half of the puzzle, right?
As you may have already experienced, and if you haven’t, what you can probably understand now is that if you have a lot of images on not just one blog but many different blogs, this is going to affect your site speed, so let’s talk about site speed. Really at its simplest it’s when someone comes to your site, how quickly does the content load? And we have all been on sites, probably day in and day out, that we try to go to and they’re so slow to load, and chances are, what’s going to happen? We’re going to click off. We’re going to go find that information somewhere else, so you don’t want someone to have found you, be interested, and then leave because they can’t get to your site.
Site speed directly affects your user experience, so if you aren’t inclined to follow through with a site that’s got a slow load speed, your followers are not going to either. Actually, I say followers. They won’t even become your followers, right? They won’t become your fans if it takes too long to get your site, so you really want to make sure that you have a strong site speed and not just for your user experience, but site speed is going to affect your search engine rankings.
Search engines like Google really want to share posts that give users what they want, but Google is also thinking about having a positive user experience, so if your site is slow to load, then Google and the other search engines are not going to be as likely to show your posts. It’s upsetting, but it’s true. Now, page speed is one of those things that there’s a lot that goes into it. It’s not just photos, but photos, especially for food bloggers, is probably going to be a big, big part of that.
Now, if you’re not sure about your page speed, you can go to gtmetrix.com. G-TM-E-T-R-I-X dot com. We’ll drop the link below. That will give you a really good report of what is going on with your site overall and your site speed. Photos are typically a big part of that. Now, if you’re already getting a little nervous, like, “Oh, no. Site speed, the tech side, that’s not my strength,” don’t panic if you’re not techy. You have obviously picked up skills from being a blogger, and there are a lot of really simple ways to improve your image optimization and site speed, which is what we’re going to talk about next, so don’t think, “Oh, no, I have to outsource.” Or, “This is impossible. I can’t do it.”
Your page speed report, yes, will give you a lot of information. You probably have no idea what it means and no idea how to fix it. You can outsource that if you want to, but chances are you’re going to get a lot of information back that your photos are slowing things down, so let’s talk now about how to optimize your photos.
Like we said, as a food blogger, chances are you have multiple photos per blog post and chances are you’re using high-res photos. Now, that’s great, right? Like we said, that’s a big part of what’s going to tempt people to your site and keep them there. You really do need to make sure that they are optimized for that positive user experience. Now, ideally you do this proactively. What I mean by proactively is that you are taking your photos in a way and preparing them ahead of time and uploading them onto your site in a way that’s already optimized, but let’s face, as bloggers, we start, we learn, and we realize, “Oh, man, I probably should have done that differently from the beginning.”
So use these tips and ideas now, moving forward, but also we’ve got some ways that you can optimize what’s already on your site. Now, if your GTmetrix report really is telling you your photos are a big problem, you might want to go back and look at making some change or adjustments to the photos that are already on your blog. But if you’ve been blogging for a long time and you have a lot of photos, that could be a lot, a lot of work. So you really have to decide, is that the priority to go backwards or to make some of these changes moving forwards? And if you’re just getting started with your food blog, think of these as some best practices that you really can start out with now to make sure that your photos are optimized properly.
One of the things that you want to think about … obviously we want our site to run really well, and so while there a lot of plug-ins that you could use, you’ve probably read that you don’t want to put too many plug-ins on your site, right? You don’t want it to be plug-in-heavy, because that overall can slow you down, but you do want to know about the plug-in WP Smush, okay? We’ve got a quick video on our blog post about images and SEO, which we’ll link to, but this plug-in basically it’s going to do what it says. It’s going to smush. It’s going to smush your photos. It’s going to compress the size of the images on your site.
Helping reduce their size will help improve your page speed, so by installing this plug-in, any time you add a photo to your site, it automatically smushes it. Now, I think there is a limit, like a photo that’s too big that it doesn’t smush, but in general this is going to basically help compress all of your photos, and I believe it does actually sort of work retroactively, that once you put it on your website, it’s going to help optimize everything. Then once you are adding in new photos into the media section of your site you’re going to see where it gives you kind of a little report of how much space you’ve saved because WordPress Smush plug-in smushed your image for you. That’s great. That’s a really good step.
But also you want to know about one of my favorite sites for photos? Tinypng.com. PNG is another format for your photos, versus JPEG. The bigger picture distinctions don’t really matter, but basically what this site is going to do, it’s going to take an image of five megabytes or less in about 30 seconds or less. The size of your photo is drastically reduced without a noticeable change in quality. It’s actually really amazing. Again, it’s a URL. You go to it online, tinypng.com, and you basically drag and drop the image. Then it’s kind of like WordPress Smush in a way. It compresses it, and dramatically so, and then you download the image directly from that web page, and then you’re uploading that much smaller image to your site. Then WordPress Smush still does its thing and compresses it even more. Again, use TinyPNG. You’ve got your plug-in installed to help compress that image even more.
But also when you’re uploading photos to your site, in the media section take a look not only at the file size, but the dimensions of your image. Now, if you have done your TinyPNG, your WordPress Smush, it’s still looking like, wow, that’s a pretty big file, the dimensions might be the problem. You don’t need your images to be 5,000 pixels wide when your theme allows images that are 800 pixels wide, okay? So you can easily adjust the size of your photo right there in the backend of your WordPress website. Now, obviously we’re partial to WordPress. If you are using a different platform, there should still be options for these things, but you might just have to search a little bit more, and definitely anyone can use TinyPNG because that’s not tied to any sort of blogging platform.
Those are a couple of different ways that you can ultimately make sure that your photos are an appropriate size, that they’re not too big, which basically means that your site speed is going to improve, because you don’t have these super large files slowing down the speed of your page and of your site overall. Again, remember that this is creating a better user experience, this is getting people from the search engines to your site. Once someone has found your site, they’re enjoying the photos that you have and the recipes. They’re clicking through to find other things. So your photos are really important, your site speed is really important, and obviously those two things go hand in hand.
Before we finish up today, just kind of a couple of other tips about your photos. Just again, because photos are so important, we really want to give you just a few more ideas for how to make the most of the photos that you do have on your blog.
One thing to consider is watermarking your photos so that people know that they are yours, and so that hopefully others don’t try and steal your images, which unfortunately does happen. Hopefully you haven’t had that experience yet, but unfortunately it can happen in the blogging world, especially if you are creating some really pretty images. People might try and take them, so you want to have a watermark that’s not super obnoxious, not overly intrusive, but just make it be known, have it be part of your branding that, “Yes, this is my photo.”
Once the photos have on your website, again going back to Pinterest, which I love, you want to make sure that you’re helping people pin your images to Pinterest, so hopefully you are, within the Pinterest platform, using it. You’re uploading images. You’re putting them on appropriate boards. You’re helping them get out into kind of the Pinterest machine for people to find, but remember, when people are on your website, they also have the option to pin your image back, so a couple of things.
You want to have a really easy way to do this, so you can use a Pin Me plug-in. Pin Me is not the name of it. There’s a lot of different sort of Pinterest-related plug-ins that make it so that a Pin Me button will show up over an image when you hover it so that people can easily pin that image to Pinterest, but a couple of things about that.
Your photos, really any of them could be pinned to Pinterest, but remember what we said, is that Pinterest likes those vertical images, so you also want to help people understand this is the image that should go to Pinterest. So whether that’s making that your main image, that’s one that’s really Pinterest-friendly, or putting a really great collage within all of your recipes so that someone is really encouraged to pin that one to Pinterest, whether it’s a big caption that says, “Pin Me,” make it clear which photos you would like to end up on Pinterest. Now, really, someone could pin anything and something is probably better than nothing, but if you could direct them to the image that should go to Pinterest, that’s really great.
Not just your Pinterest image, but all of your images, name them. Not just IMG 5834, but name it. Chicken Marsala With Rice or whatever your recipe is. Think of those keywords. This is going to help with ranking in Google as well. Obviously the search engines are very smart. They can figure out what your posts are about, but if you’ve noticed, when you search on Google, you often get information from a site that is attached to whatever you searched for, and then you might also get an image, and that image and that site don’t always go together. So if you have really strong keywords for a certain image and people have clicked through that a lot, your photo could start to rank more so than the actual recipe itself. It’s very strange, but it happens, so make sure that all of your images are labeled really well and really clearly.
Now, last but not least, we’ve talked a lot about photos, but obviously video for food bloggers is really big now too and you might want to have video on your site. Obviously that can slow your site down a lot, so the way, basically, to get around that is to have another place that you are hosting that video. It could be on YouTube. It could be Facebook. Some ad manages will host your video. Then you’re essentially embedding that onto your site, but be aware that photos and video can really work well together, but that those can all slow down your site.
When you have goals, big or small, with your blog, it’s really important to be thinking about the user experience, because again, if users aren’t finding you, or they are but then they’re not actually getting to the page because it takes so long to load, or part of it loads and then the other part doesn’t and they’re waiting, they’re probably going to click off. Now, some of your readers might be a little more forgiving. If they’ve been with you for a while, they know your recipes are great, they love what you share, they may be patient.
But a brand new user probably won’t, so at the end of the day it’s really important that you take the time to optimize your photos well, to be really thoughtful about the user experience, and to do everything that you can to make sure that your site speed is exactly as good as it can be. It will never be perfect, right? It will never be probably that split second load time because you do have lots of photos, you’re a food blogger, but make it as good as you can. The parts that you can take care of, like adding a plug-in, using a site like TinyPNG, making sure that your images are sized appropriately, all of that will really help you when it comes down to having great photos, good site speed, and an overall really positive user experience.
Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Feast Food Blog Talk. I hope that you’re now able to go and optimize the photos on your site a bit better, whether that’s going back, revisiting some of what you’ve done, or now just having a new plan of action moving forward. As a food blogger, your photos are just about everything. I mean, not 100% everything, but they’re pretty darn important, so really make sure that you are taking the time to not only take great photos, but optimize them well so that your site speed is in good health, people can get to your site, and they want to stay there.
If you like what we shared today, definitely continue to check us out, and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter so you can get all of our blog posts and other information sent directly to you.