Image Optimization 101: How to Properly Use Images in WordPress

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There was a study done awhile back that basically says that text-only content doesn’t fare too well in the memories of its readers; only 10% of it can be recalled three days later. When a picture is added to that content, however, readers are able to remember 65% of it in that same timeframe. That’s pretty impressive.

This is why so much of our communications these days are visually driven. Send a funny GIF to a friend and you’ll have a good talking point when you meet up a few days later. Email an employee with screenshots that clearly demonstrate how to complete a task, and you likely won’t have to repeat yourself the next time you talk to them. And on your WordPress website? Well, there are many benefits to using images in WordPress.

The Many Benefits of Using Images in WordPress

  1. They establish a unique look for your brand, which makes your site a more memorable experience.

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  1. They break up large chunks of text, improving readability.

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  1. They also support what the text is saying, which helps with comprehension.

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  1. They can be used to entertain or educate your readers when it comes to your services or products.

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  1. They might elicit different emotions from your visitors, which aids in the sales process.

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  1. They can even serve as trust marks (for instance, if you use a set of partner logos or security seals on your site).

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If you think about your site the same way you do your physical storefront, images are like the people that work there. If they haven’t combed their hair, if they’re too slow in delivering service, if they just put off generally bad vibes, your would-be customers aren’t going to be too impressed with the experience. So, you need to take care in using images in WordPress.

6 Ways to Properly Use Images in WordPress

Here are 6 things you need to do to properly use and, further, optimize images in WordPress to maximize the impact they have on your visitors.

1. Don’t Steal Images

Google search is not the place to find images for your site. Nor is another person’s website. Copyright is a big deal in the digital age, and you need to abide by those rules.

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If you don’t have professional-quality photos of your own to use, try a stock photography website. iStock and Adobe are both great options, but cost money. If you want free alternatives, look at Pexels or Pixabay.

2. Add at Least One Image to Each Page

Every page and every blog post on your website should have at least one image on it. It’s up to you to get creative with how you use it.

To upload a new image to WordPress, it’s pretty simple:

Go to the post or page in WordPress where you want the image to appear.

Insert your cursor into the editor box where you want the image to appear.

Then click the “Add Media” button.

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You can upload an image or select one that was previously stored in your media library.

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Add the relevant metadata (hint: Title and Alt Text help in SEO), fix the size if you want to make it smaller, adjust the alignment, and then insert into your post.

3. Use the Right File Type

WordPress will accept the following file types: .jpg, .png, .gif, and .ico (for your favicon).

4. Use the Right File Size

WordPress recommends that large images (like those used for hero images, large banners, background images, and so on) should be no larger than 100K. Smaller images (like thumbnails and other smaller images used for blog posts) should be no larger than 30K.

5. Pay Attention to Resolution

The resolution of an image has less to do with the size of it and more to do with how many pixels exist within a square inch. Designers refer to this as “DPI” (dots per inch) and it’s what they use to determine how sharp an image’s resolution will be when it’s on your screen. Obviously, the higher the resolution, the better.

In order to create a high-resolution photo, use a DSLR camera when taking your own. Do not—I repeat: DO NOT—try and resize images to a larger size or higher resolution. If the image is blurry to begin with, find something else to work with.

6. Compress Your Images

Keep in mind that images are files. For every new file you add to your site, the heavier it becomes. And the heavier the site becomes, the longer it takes to open in your visitors’ browsers. So, even though WordPress says it’s okay to upload 100K-sized files (which it is), you can’t leave them in that state.

That’s where an image optimization plugin comes in. It will compress your image files, retaining the high resolution, so that it doesn’t weigh so heavily on your server’s resources.

WordPress has some awesome options available for free in their repository.

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Of the plugins available, Smush is probably the best, followed by EWWW.


Obviously, you want your WordPress site to look great and to be well-received by your visitors, which means using the highest quality photos alongside your content. Start with the 6 tips above to ensure that you don’t compromise the visitors’ experience with your photos.

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