What are Next Gen Images?
Today’s internet culture is focused on visual content like photos, videos, and gifs. There have been countless case studies, and research conducted that prove websites with images or videos embedded into the page have a higher average time on page and rank higher in search results.
This article will focus on next-gen image formats and how they can improve your website’s loading times, get your images to appear higher in Google image searches, and rank your pages for specific keywords.
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What Are Next-Gen Image Formats?
Next-gen image formats differ from traditional jpeg and png image formats in the way that they are compressed and preserve image quality. The standard file type for next-gen image formats is WEBP. This file format generally takes less data to maintain high image quality allowing these images to load faster.
Next-gen image file formats like WEBP let you display large images on your website without sacrificing image quality when reducing file size. This file format is especially useful when serving images to mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.
Before converting every image on your website to a next-gen image format is the main browser your visitors use when visiting your website. WEBP is a newer file format, and some older browsers do not support it. You can check your Google Analytics property to see which browser versions most of your visitors are using and use the Can I Use tool to find out if that browser version supports WEBP image file formats.
Thankfully over 90% of modern web browsers on mobile and desktop devices already support the WEBP image format.
Benefits of Switching To Next-Gen Image Formats
There are dozens of variables that can affect the loading speed of your website. While there are many you can’t control, for example, the download speed of your website’s visitors, your image file size is something you can control.
Reducing your image file size decreases image loading times, improving user experience and page speed scores. In addition to loading faster, some search engines, including Google, prefer when websites use next-gen image formats and will even reward you with a higher search engine ranking.
Having images on your website load faster will improve your website’s user experience and allow other background tasks to start sooner. If your page has a lot of scripts running in the background, serving smaller image files through the WEBP format can allow these scripts to begin sooner and perform more efficiently.
Another benefit of switching images on your website to next-gen formats saves you server file space. Most hosting companies will charge you a monthly fee for a limited amount of storage space on their servers. Next-gen image formats cut down on the amount of data in each image which can save you dozens of gigabytes worth of data across your entire website. Depending on your website requirements, you may be able to downgrade to a cheaper hosting plan and save more money by switching to the WEBP image format.
Websites with thousands of images can easily expect to save over 20GB of server space by switching from a traditional image format like PNG to WEBP.
Due to search engines like Google rewarding website owners for using next-gen image formats, making the switch can be considered low-hanging fruit in SEO.
Related: Image Alt Text: Get your photos on Google Images
How To Switch To Next-Gen Image Formats
Switching from traditional image formats like jpeg and PNG to next-gen image formats like WEBP can be easy or time-consuming, depending on the method you use to do it. There are many ways to change images to the WEBP format. A common method of doing this is using the jpeg to WEBP converter tool and reuploading the new WEBP version of your images to your website.
This method is straightforward but can be quite time-consuming when working on a large website with many images to convert to next-gen formats.
Another method of converting images to next-gen image formats is through photoshop. Natively photoshop does not support WEBP images, but Adobe has released a Photoshop plugin that allows the program to recognize, save and work with WEBP images.
If you built your website from scratch, reuploading your newly converted images and updating your HTML image sources may be the only option for you.
How To Switch To Next-Gen Image Formats On WordPress
If you built your website using WordPress, you’re in luck! There are dozens of free and premium WordPress plugins that allow you to quickly convert all the images on your website to the next-gen WEBP image format.
You can use a free WEBP conversion plugin, the WebP Converter for Media plugin. Once installed and activated, you can use this plugin to convert your images to the WEBP format automatically. A key advantage of using this plugin is that it checks the user’s browser to make sure the WEBP format is supported. If their browser does not support WEBP, it will serve your original images instead of the next-gen image formats.
Other WordPress plugins allow you to convert your images to next-gen formats. You can find them by going into your WordPress dashboard, going to the Plugins tab, and clicking “add new.” Just type “WEBP” and sort through the dozens of options available to you.
What Are Other Next-Gen Image Formats?
While WEBP is the most supported next-gen image format, there is another next-gen image format that you should consider when building your website or optimizing a web page, AVIF.
The AVIF image format can be considered the future successor to the WEBP format. The key advantage of using AVIF is that it is compressed better than WEBP, meaning AVIF images have a smaller file size than WEBP images.
You might now be wondering why we spent most of this article talking about the advantages of the WEBP format when AVIF is newer and seemingly better. While the further decreased file size of AVIF can save you more server storage space and load faster, as of writing this article, not many browsers support it. Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera Mini, Baidu, and even older versions of Google Chrome do not support the AVIF next-gen image format.
While the web may be years away from the normalization of the AVIF next-gen image format, you can still optimize your website’s images by changing to the WEBP format right now.
If you’re looking to learn more about next-gen image formats or looking for more articles about SEO tools and best practices, check out our digital marketing blog.