As we all know, site speed impacts both the experience your readers have on your site and Google’s rankings. Because images add weight to your posts and pages, a lot of site performance advice focuses on optimizing your images by compressing the files, turning on lazy loading, and selecting the proper image dimensions.
While those are all good things, serving your images in the WebP format can take these improvements even further. Let’s look at what WebP is, how it impacts your WordPress blog, and how you can get started using it on your site:
What is WebP?
WebP is an image format developed by Google to offer both lossy and lossless compression for web images. The goal of this format is to minimize the file size (compared to PNGs, JPGs, or GIFs) without reducing the quality. WebP offers both transparency and animation as well, making it a versatile image format.
What are the benefits of using WebP images?
Because of the smaller size, serving the WebP format can improve your site’s speed and performance. With Google’s focus on site speed for SEO, this will impact your search engine rankings as well. We’ve also heard rumors that aside from the measurable speed impact, Google does consider whether a site serves WebP images in their algorithm.
What are the downsides of using WebP?
The one downside to WebP is it isn’t yet universally supported. That means you can’t simply upload a WebP image to your post and hit publish. WordPress doesn’t yet support WebP, and neither do all browsers. Instead, you need to provide a backup option (PNG, JPG, or GIF) for browsers that don’t support WebP to display in its place. The WebP images themselves need to be served outside of the Media folder. You can do this through fancy coding on the backend. Or, as with most things WordPress, you can do it with a plugin.
How do you create WebP images?
Which brings us to the most important question: how do you go about creating and serving WebP images on your site? If you’re already using an image optimization plugin, it may have this option built in. For example, we highly recommend either ShortPixel or Imagify. Either plugin can handle the creation and delivery of WebP images for you at no additional charge.
ShortPixel’s options look like this:
And Imagify’s look like this:
How do you download WebP files from the internet?
Just as WebP isn’t yet supported by all browsers, it’s also not yet widely supported by image editing programs, at least not without the use of a plugin. That means when you want to quickly grab an image from your blog (or from someone else’s … with their permission, of course!), you can’t just simply right click and save the image to your computer.
For now, the easiest way to grab the image in its original format is to open the website in Safari or Internet Explorer. Because neither of these browsers supports WebP, you can save the original image file(s) from there. Alternatively, GIMP, ImageMagick, and Microsoft Paint do support WebP images natively. Or you can also find plugins for Photoshop and other popular programs. If all else fails, ezgif.com offers an online conversion tool. However, with any online tool, you want to be sure to review the terms. You should not give these tools any rights to your images or allow them to save them on their server for any significant period of time.
As with all things SEO, the impact from this one change isn’t likely to be huge. However, it’s one of many best practices you can follow on your site to improve your performance and optimize your site for search engine bots.
Need help getting WebP images set up on your site? Email client support. We’d be happy to help!