Real estate is an industry heavily loaded with photography. And not just 300 ✕ 300 images no one cares to take a closer look at, but large-sized, hi-res photos which are meant to showcase your properties in the best light possible. In order to impress your visitors and add meaningful context to your website, your images must be properly optimized. In a nutshell, it takes a little bit more than just cropping and resizing the images. We broke down exactly what you can do to get image optimization on fast track.
For real estate agents, image optimization is not an uncommon task to struggle with. Oftentimes, it’s getting complicated: editing images, resizing them, preparing for MLS and optimizing for SEO.
However, image optimization is still one of the simplest techniques to instantly make your real estate website nicer and faster. Fail to bring it to your working table though, and you’ll run the risk of:
- significantly slowing down your site speed;
- hurting your SEO rankings;
- boring visitors to the point of clicking away from your site.
A risk not worth taking, right?
This guide helps you take your image optimization skills from random to professional so that you can serve up your images in just the right way and promote your properties better.
Let’s start by taking a look at a few terms so it’s easy to tell the difference between various image types you can (and must) use.
A crash course in image formats to use on your site
Google indexes the following image formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP, SVG and WebP. As a real estate agent, you’re most likely use JPEG, PNG and to a lesser extent GIF. Here’s what you should know about them:
- GIF (Graphic Interchange Format). This is the oldest image format on the web and chances are good you best know them as that format with simple animations that everyone’s using for fun. GIFs have small file size, limited color palette (256 colors) and work best for images that have large text and flat color areas. Normally, you don’t need this image format on your real estate website because it doesn’t look great for photos with lots of detail;
- PNG (Portable Network Graphics). This format was designed to replace the GIF and performs much better in terms of image quality. While having a much broader color palette, it also produces smaller-sized files (especially for screenshots);
- JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group). This image format is the most popular one being used by around 73% of site owners. On the whole, you can safely use JPEG for any of your site images, but they are particularly good for photography. You can also losslessly compress JPEG image without losing rich details and unique color palette.
By now you may wonder which image format to use in any particular case. You can follow these simple guidelines:
- if your image is a photograph, rich in color and retail, use JPEG;
- if your image is a screenshot, or is text-rich, use PNG;
- if you want to use simple animations, use GIF (but do avoid it elsewhere).
That’s it – this is all you need to know about the right image formats to use on your real estate website. Now, let’s take a look at the nitty-gritty of various real estate image optimization techniques.
Real estate image optimization: doing it right
#1. Crop your images
First things first – before making any tweaks with your photography, make sure to work with the copies of your images. You wouldn’t like to destroy your beautiful photography while testing the best image optimization options. Having a backup is always a good strategy and once you create copies, you can safely move on with optimization.
So the first thing to start with image optimization is cropping. Your original image doesn’t usually have the perfect framing. Cropping unimportant flat color and cutting all hefty corners significantly reduces the file size.
Cropping also helps you emphasize the most beautiful and striking details in your image by shifting a clear focus on them. In other words, you’re making your message much stronger and meaningful and eliminate all distractions.
Take a look at the following example to see how this works:
If you’re on a tight budget, you can safely use most of the free tools as they offer good functionality. For example, the following tools work pretty well: Photoshop, Gimp, or Snagit for desktop edits, or PicMonkey, Fotor or Canva for online editing. The whole process narrows down simply to uploading your image and cropping it to the desired size.
[Related post: 8 Warning Signs Your Real Estate Website Needs Renovation].
#2. Resize before upload
Large-sized images are one of the main reasons your site speed can be slow. This happens because large images take extra space on your server, causing an additional strain when visitors browse through pages. In other words, it just takes longer for the browser to display the page.
The best solution is to upload already resized images. If you’re running your site on WordPress, you can often be tempted to upload the original image, and then use this handy feature WordPress provides: choose thumbnail, medium or full-size option that WordPress automatically creates for every image.
However, a much smarter way of dealing with resized images is uploading already properly resized images. This reduces server strain and doesn’t create that extra space that in reality serves no purpose whatsoever and just slows down your real estate website.
To resize your images, use any of the tools we’ve mentioned in the previous paragraphs as they all provide this functionality.
#3. Compress your images
Now that you’ve prepped up your image with cropping and resizing, next thing to do is to compress it. This is one of the core techniques of image optimization which is frequently overlooked by many site owners.
To the human eye, compressed vs. original image bears no difference whatsoever. Both images look just the same (so all the more reason to use it). Compression tools remove unnecessary metadata, like camera information, which significantly reduces image size. The huge advantage of compression is that the quality of the image usually remains intact, so that’s a double benefit.
Remember, though, that not every image format can be losslessly compressed. The best candidate is the JPEG format as no visual damage is done to your image in this format.
Probably the best free tool to compress your images is TinyPNG. It’s a free online tool and you can compress both PNG and JPEG images with it.
P.S. Remember to check the results of compression carefully, as the process can go wrong sometimes and you can end up with somewhat distorted images.
Now that the 3 most important optimizations are done, it’s time to move into the realm of technical image optimization. Don’t worry, though, – it’s not that complicated.
Minifying these files makes them smaller. It also removes unnecessary white spaces and compiles all CSS files you have on your website into one file which also decreases the number of requests.
To minify, use these WordPress plugins: WP Super Minify or Better WordPress Minify. Just install the one that’s right for you, and the plugin will do the minifying part of work for you.
#5. Leverage caching
If you’re running your site on WordPress, your hosting provider most likely already provides you with a caching option. That’s why before looking for any caching plugin, check out your site settings first. If you have one already, you don’t need to install a new plugin.
A caching option should be always enabled on your site as it’s a very effective way to increase the site speed.
In a nutshell, every time someone browses your site, a server builds a dynamic version of your page HTML via your theme and WordPress code. In 99 cases out of 100, there’s no need in this – you don’t edit your pages that often.
On the contrary, caching means creating static versions of page HTML. Your server then delivers this static version to users and does not create a dynamic one every now and then. As you can imagine, this works out tons faster.
If you already have a caching plugin on your site, make sure it’s enabled. If you don’t, take a look at the following WordPress plugins: WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache.
#6. Optimize for SEO
So far, we’ve been talking about more about the technical side of image optimization. However, SEO image optimization is equally important and you should be mindful of several SEO techniques too.
First of all, use proper titles: ‘maliresidencesdubai.jpg’ instead of ‘IMGvilla12345.jpg’. It’s true that this is more helpful for users than for search engines. However, Google also uses filenames in snippets if it can’t find any relevant text about the image in the content.
Second of all, write alt tags. Search engines use alt tags when indexing images. It’s their way of seeing if this image is relevant to the search query or not. For this reason, you’d like your focus keyword to be written in the alt tag.
Google favors if your alt tag is as descriptive as possible. For example, here are examples of poor and good image alt tag optimization:
- Bad: alt=””
- Better: alt=”puppy”
- Best: alt=”Dalmatian puppy playing fetch”
- Avoid: alt=”puppy dog baby dog pup pups puppies doggies pups litter puppies dog retriever labrador wolfhound setter pointer puppy jack russell terrier puppies dog food cheap dog food puppy food” – this is keyword stuffing.
#7. Watermark your images
Another super simple way to enhance your real estate photography is to watermark all images that you use for listings. Watermarks not only add an extra layer of copyright protection to your images, but they are also an easy way to strengthen brand recognition.
You probably share your listings on social media as well as feed them to some property portals. Now, imagine how handy it is to post images with watermarks: it lets people instantly identify properties and agents marketing them, and this often results in more online leads for you.
[Related post: How to Write Compelling Real Estate Listings That Evoke Trust].
Here’s a final checklist you can always use
Here’s a complete checklist you can use to make sure nothing valuable slips through the cracks:
Image optimization doesn’t have to be complicated. These techniques are very effective, easy to follow and do not require tons of additional technical skills or time. And the benefits they deliver to your website speed, SEO rankings, and user experience are huge.
Website owners often jump at any chance to boost their SEO and end up overlooking one of the most obvious ones. Meanwhile, image optimization techniques will help you in so many ways, from increasing your site speed and SEO rankings to making your real estate website more beautiful and eye-catching.
Make sure to optimize your next images properly!