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Business 549 views Aug 06, 2019
Using WordPress to Serve Images in Next-Gen Formats

According to a technical SEO specialist I know, adding images to a website used to be so simple, now you’ve got to worry about conforming to the recommendations of your search engine as well as ensuring your browser allows Google’s recommendation.

Once you could just serve your image as a JPG, GIF or PNG and Google wouldn’t bat an eyelid. However, in 2019 things have changed as search engines seem to want images in a “next-gen” format which, according to Google are:

“Image formats like JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, and WebP [which] often provide better compression than PNG or JPEG, which means faster downloads and less data consumption”

In English this means that traditional image formats such as JPGs, GIFs, and PNGs will now slow down your website. In contrast, “next-gen” formats will speed up your site which is crucial if the SEO services you are employing are to have the fullest effect.

So, all you need to di is change the format of your served images to either JPEG 2000s, JPEG XRs, or WebPs. Easy right. Well it’s actually not that simple - some browsers don’t actually support these new formats.

Don’t worry though, there is a relatively simple trick to serve images as WebPs (the most supported and popular of the next-gen images) and it requires you to follow two simple steps:

  • Add plugins (if your site is Wordpress)
  • Serve new WebP images

Adding Plugins Required to Serve Images in Next-Gen Formats:

There are two plugins you’ll need for your Wordpress site:

The first of these, WebP Express plugin, is essentially a tool that adds some code to your WordPress site that ensures WebP images are properly and fully served in browsers that support WebP images. Additionally, in other browsers where WebP images aren’t supported, this plugin will serve the default image (e.g. JPEG, GIF, or PNG).

The other required plugin is ShortPixel which compresses and optimises images using various different tools. You’ll be using the ShortPixel Image Optimisation Plugin.

To install both of the plugins simply go to your WordPress website and:

  • Select plugins from the Dashboard menu
  • Select add new
  • Search for the plugin
  • Click Install
  • Click Activate

Serving Images in the Next-Gen Format WebP:

Unlike WebP Express, the ShortPixel plugin needs some configuration to work. Before we do this, however, you should make sure you have a ShortPixel account. There is a free option as well as a paid option either of which will be acceptable. However, if you can afford to spend a bit more, the paid option will provide a better experience than the free version as you’ll get more support. But don’t feel like you have to spend money. Once logged-in, find your API key from the menu and take a note of it.

  • Now we’ll configure ShortPixel:
  • Under Settings go to ShortPixel
  • Go to General
  • Paste your API key into the correct field
  • Save changes
  • Go to the Advanced tab
  • Check that “Also create WebP versions of the images, for free” is selected
  • Check that “Deliver WebP versions of the images in the front-end” is selected
  • Select the “Only via WordPress hooks” option
  • Save and Go to Bulk Process

Your website will now begin bulk processing all of your images. This will usually take three to four hours to finish.

Congratulations, you’ve successfully set up the plugins and now your website will run smoothly, efficiently and in accordance with your search engines preferences.