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social media how toDo you create your own images for social media?

Are you happy with their performance?

With a few simple tweaks, you can optimize images for greater visibility on social media and in search engine results.

In this article you’ll find three tips to optimize your social media images for better online performance.

optimize social media images

Discover how to optimize social media images.

Listen to this article:

#1: Optimize Images for Social Networks

Every social network has a different way of displaying visual content. Some networks have restrictions, while others cater to specific dimensions or orientations.

Accordingly, the audiences on each platform have certain expectations for images. Understanding these expectations boosts the chances that your images will be well-received and grab the attention of your target audience.

Pinterest

On Pinterest, tall images perform best. The optimal size for images is 735 pixels wide by 1102 pixels tall.

With Pinterest’s layout, use taller images to grab significantly more screen real estate than square or landscape images. They also give you more room for eye-catching visuals and text.

pinterest stream

Tall images perform best on Pinterest.

Instagram

On Instagram, your only option is to use square images. If you’re creating your images outside of Instagram, make sure they’re at least 900 pixels wide by 900 pixels tall.

EDITORIAL NOTE: (As of August 2015, Instagram supports portrait and landscape images.)

I recommend using large image sizes because image quality won’t be affected when Instagram resizes the image for the device it’s being viewed on.

instagram image

Instagram uses square images only.

When creating any visual content, bigger is always better. The networks will resize your images as needed, and there is no quality loss when the image is scaled down. If your image is too small and needs to be scaled up, there will be a significant loss in image quality.

Facebook, Google+ and Other Networks

For all other social networks, the optimal choice is to use horizontal images. You’ll want your images to be 1280 pixels wide by 720 pixels tall. This is a perfect 16:9 aspect ratio, which is the same aspect ratio for HDTVs.

For Facebook, square images work fine, but wider images have a more sophisticated look. Our eyes are accustomed to seeing professional photographs, movies and television shows in a widescreen format.

On Google+, wider images are likely to go full stream, meaning they may spread across multiple columns, giving you lots of screen real estate. This is huge—both literally and figuratively.

google+ image stream

On Google+, wider images sometimes span two columns, giving them more exposure.

Think of this multi-column effect as placing a giant billboard right in the middle of your followers’ streams. This is the best possible exposure you can get on Google+.

Wide images are also perfect for YouTube video thumbnails, making them the most versatile social images.

With this one image dimension, you can effectively reuse one visual across multiple social networks.

#2: Optimize Images for SEO

Image-based search engines like Google Images can generate a significant amount of website traffic. Communicating important details about your images will improve a search engine’s understanding of your images and boost your image search performance.

google image search

Showing up in a Google Images search can increase website traffic.

Follow these simple guidelines to optimize your images for search engines.

File Name

It’s important to have a clear idea of what your keywords are and include them in the file names of your images. The file names provide information that helps search engines understand what the images are about.

When naming your image files, separate words with either a hyphen (-) or an underscore (_). If you simply use spaces, hyphens are likely to be added automatically.

So before you upload your image anywhere on the Internet, make sure your file name is appropriate and contains your keywords.

image file names

Separate words in a file name with a hyphen or an underscore.

File Size

Website speed is a recognized Google search ranking factor, so the speed and responsiveness of your web pages is important. The fewer bytes a browser has to download, the faster the browser can download and deliver your content.

Optimizing images often yields significant performance improvements for your website.

If you’re creating images in Photoshop, use the Save for Web and Devices option. If you’re saving a file as a .jpg (recommended), you can tweak the quality of the image to reduce the file size. Find a good balance between quality and file size.

If you don’t have access to Photoshop or graphic software that allows you to control file size and quality, use an image size shrinker. Here are a few suggestions:

Regardless of your software, always use lossless compression and avoid what’s known as lossy compression. Lossless compression maintains all of your image metadata, and lossy compression usually wipes it out.

Image Details

Google recommends that you supplement a picture’s alt tags (which I’ll get to in a moment) with additional information in other tags, such as the title tag. All of this information gives Google a better understanding of the image.

image meta data

Photoshop makes it easy to add meta data to your images.

If you’re using image editing software such as Photoshop, you can easily add meta data to every image you create, which is a good habit to get into.

Another way to detail a picture’s properties (on your website) is to use schema markup for images. This is an effective method of providing specific information about the content of an image.

The Alt Tag

Because search engines can’t see images, they rely heavily on the information in the alt tag to help them understand the image.

The alt tag is used as an accessibility tag. It defines what alternative text will be shown in place of an image when the image itself can’t be displayed. Sometimes an image is not shown by error, and sometimes by choice (when a person is using a screen reader, for example).

image alt text

Alt text appears onscreen when a device is unable to display the image.

The recommended length for text in the alt tag is no more than 125 characters. So keep the text short, be descriptive and remember to include the same keywords you added to your file name.

WordPress

If you’re uploading an image to a WordPress website, the Media page offers a number of fields for adding descriptive information. Use this opportunity to communicate additional information that will help search engines better understand your image.

image upload in wordpress

Add descriptive data when uploading images to a WordPress website.

This information includes:

  • Title (maximum of 60 characters)
  • Description (maximum of 155 characters)
  • Caption (optional)
  • Alt tag (maximum of 125 characters)

Depending on your content management system, you may not have these same options. In that case you can look at the raw text version of the page you’re creating and add the alt and title tags yourself.

#3: Streamline Image Creation

The best way to streamline image creation is to use predefined image templates. This way you don’t have to fuss with sizing and setting up guidelines every time you create visual content.

image dimensions

Use image templates to save time when creating social images.

Using the three predefined dimensions above is also helpful when a team of people is creating visual content. If they’re all working from the same templates, the image sizes will be consistent.

With templates, you don’t have to waste precious time trying to find the exact pixel dimensions of every display scenario.

Conclusion

The more you practice these image optimization methods, the easier they’ll become and the more momentum you’ll build with your visual content.

Have you used any of these image optimization techniques? Which tactics work best for you? I’d love to hear and respond to your feedback in the comments below!

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  • Agree with all of these except the Pinterest dimensions. Hogging real estate may seem like a good idea, but it doesn’t translate well on all devices and it can frustrate the end user to deal with several of these in a row. Love the ‘streamline through templates’ and ‘optimize for Google’ tips. More conscientious of these, now.

  • Great post Dustin! I was looking forward to reading this after you mentioned it to me last week. I especially love the advice at the end – practice.

    Right now, this might seem like a lot of work for people but the more you do something, the faster you get at it and the more it becomes second-nature over time to where you don’t have to think about it.

  • Thanks for the feedback @cmaries08:disqus! Actually this pinterest image size should be optimal for most smart phones. And when I studied this particular dimension usage, click-throughs are what I was after as testament of whether or not the idea was good. Based on the data I was able to gather (and seeing it’s affect on my own site, which I recently wrote about) click-throughs and overall Pinterest traffic was astounding! Hope you find the workflow that works best for you!

  • Absolutely right @ckarasiewicz:disqus! If you want to win in the online world it’s going to take consistent effort. No free lunch! 😀

  • Cool. Thanks for sharing, Dustin.

  • Guest

    Great tips… especially streamlining the process with predefined image templates.

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  • It’s important to distinguish between “most efficient” and “most effective” when discussing optimizing images. It is certainly more time efficient to create your images in the fewest sizes as necessary, but that doesn’t mean the resulting median sizes are the most effective.

    If you take a look at Post Planner’s Viral Post feed you’ll see that very few of the most popular photos on Facebook are sized to the horizontal 16:9 ratio that is mentioned above.

    This is because using an optimal image size isn’t a prerequisite for success, great content is.

    However using an efficient image size does give you the ability to create and publish more visual content across multiple platforms in less time and if the quality of that content is moderate then the sheer quantity could drive decent results. But if the quality of the content is exceptional, using an optimal image size like those listed above could be a massive accelerant to your success.

    Disclaimer: Dustin and I are peers in the visual social media space.

  • Liz

    Thank you for the updated image size information! I’m glad I can make one image for many platforms….its helping to streamline my efforts for sure. Love all that you contribute!

  • Dustin,

    Great Post. Especially for those who are starting up and never look seriously towards image-optimization. Even, I haven’t added captions to my WordPress Post images since I started off, I’ve been using this CMS for last 6 years, but I’ll next time. I know caption is an optional thing, but some optional things shouldn’t ignored.

    Right?

  • Awesome! Glad you liked it! Templates have helped cut my creation time tremendously.

  • Yosh

    Great post! I’m going to implement these techniques starting today. Thanks!

  • If I’m hearing you right, you’re saying that quality is likely the most important factor. For most of us, that’s a no-brainer. In fact, I think few would disagree with that. (Though I do know a few highly successful entrepreneurs who put quantity first, and it’s worked out great for them.)

    What this post aims to solve for people is how to set up a framework that makes the creation process both efficient and effective on more levels than just “it looks good”. For me and the clients I’ve served, whether the image is 16:9 or 2:1 hasn’t made a difference in Facebook metrics, but having 3 go-to templates has saved them countless hours, which directly affects the bottom line of any business. That’s a measurable ROI.

    So… I guess you need to first define what success is for your business/brand and align your content creation processes and products to meet those goals.

  • My pleasure @disqus_XgVH5WmnXI:disqus! Glad you found it helpful! 😀

  • Absolutely! Always try and give the user (and Google) as much information as you can, as long as it’s relevant and aids in communicating the message. 😀

  • Awesome @disqus_3rHSsLqKKK:disqus! Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!

  • Great article on optimizing images for social media Dustin. I really like your suggestions on using good keywords for all the aspects of image creation that help the search engines (and people) understand the images better.

  • Sara

    What if you are creating images in Canva? How can you optimize them other than the file name? I’m new to this!

  • Thanks for the reply D. That’s pretty much what I’m saying. 🙂

  • Another thing I’d recommend our mutual audience keep in mind is how their images will appear on mobile devices.

    The 16:9 size is very versatile if you’re posting across multiple social platforms but it is nearly half the pixel area of a square of equal width.

    On desktops (Facebook & Google+) this doesn’t make much of a difference because of how each social network resizes images in an attempt to display images equally. However it is especially noticeable on small screens like smartphones where those same social networks do not handle images the same way on mobile as they do on desktop.

    For example, a 1280(w) x 720(h) image posted to Facebook or Google+ and viewed on an iPhone (5s) is almost 1/3 the size of a 400(w) x 600(h) image.

    So if there is a correlation between maximum screen real estate and engagement rate perhaps the optimal image sizes for desktop and mobile aren’t the same.

    And with around 30% of ALL active Facebook users ONLY using Facebook on their phones, this is pretty important for everyone to consider when creating any visual content.

  • Nice post!

    I optimize file image names. I’ll use Canva and don’t have to worry about the image sizes because they’ve taken care of this. The one tip I missed was optimizing photos while in Photoshop. Doh! Lesson learned.

  • Thanks @videoleadsonline:disqus! Hope it helps all your future visual creations! 😉

  • If you’re using Canva, there aren’t as many options. However, you can still optimize the file name and once you download the image you can put it through an image optimizer such as the ones I listed in the article.

  • Good point. But Facebook is ONE medium. And the majority of the brands I work with realize that it’s not the most important medium. You seem to be highly interested in Facebook– and that’s fine– but the conversation is much larger than that one medium.

  • I referenced Google+ as well which has ~25 Million unique mobile users every month. But you’re absolutely right that the conversation is so much bigger than one network or one screen size.

  • Right, you did! My bad. And where’d you get that number from? lol – it’s WAY off!

  • It’s from Nielsen and admittedly it’s from 2013, approximately a millennium in internet years. Which means the number of monthly Google+ mobile users is probably higher and thus creating images for mobile more important, right? ;)~

  • Jamie

    This article refers to situations in which you are uploading an image to a social platform, and it does a good job of that case. But the issue that most troubles me at the moment concerns the creation of a blog post image in such a way that it will look good when other people pin it to a Pinterest board, share it on Facebook, etc. Since I can only use one image on my blog, how can I optimize the dimensions so that it will look good on the shared platform?

    My current thinking is to focus on Pinterest, since that is where the image itself matters most, but I’ve noticed that most bloggers make their main image horizontal rather than vertical, suggesting Facebook is a bigger concern.

    Or perhaps I’m totally confused about the whole subject!?

  • Haha! Yea, I’d be willing to bet that number is just a tad outdated. And… it depends on your audience and goals. After numerous tests and loads of data, I found that wider images get higher views, more shares, and more click-throughs than the other sizes.

    So go ahead and test yourself and see what results you get!

  • Dan, what a fantastic article. I had just started learning the value in optimized images for my website during a recent web redesign, you just confirmed how important this is, so thank you!

  • Hey Jamie. Dustin’s WordPress social sharing plugin called “Social Warfare” is what you need. You can specify different images to be used for each social network. Horizontal for Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and then a Vertical image for Pinterest. Works like a charm.

    I’d link directly to the plugin but comments with links go into pending and sometimes take awhile to publish. :/

  • Jamie

    Hey Ben, thanks very much. I’ll check it out right away. One question about this plugin though. Are the images selected from the blog page or can I upload arbitrary images to the plugin so that they are not displayed on the blog page itself?
    Thanks again for your advice!

  • The later. You upload the images to your media library and select which applies to which social network. You don’t have to place the images within your blog post. Easy-peasy.

  • Jamie

    Wow! Why haven’t I heard of this plugin before? Is this what most internet marketers are doing?

  • It’s relatively new but I noticed quite a few SM bloggers picked it up right away.

  • Thanks Dustin for this amazing guide about optimizing images, but there is a thing that I would like to share with you. Descriptive Alt text seems to have worked quite good for me as compared to two/three words alt text people typically use

  • Clarence Alvares

    Thank you for sharing your insights @DustinWStout:disqus….will try and see how this works out for me…cheers!

  • Jamie

    Looks like I got excited too soon. First I didn’t realize it was a paid plugin, so it took me a while to find it. I bit the bullet and paid for it ($24/yr) only to install it and find I couldn’t get it to work. Some registration glitch or something. I tried contacting support but I don’t even get an acknowledgment of my support request. Not impressed so far I’m afraid!

  • Hey Jamie! I’ll go in and find your support ticket myself. We’re a small team (3 of us) and we don’t automate our support system.

  • You’re quite welcome JoAnne! 😀

  • Yep, being descriptive is always best rather than just keyword stuffing.

  • Awesome Clarence! To your success!

  • Jamie

    Thanks for the offer Dustin but I still haven’t heard anything from anybody. Looks like a cool plugin but at that price I expect it to be supported.

  • That’s interesting Jamie, I went in to find your order and couldn’t find your name. I also looked through our emails and couldn’t find anything from you. Feel free to contact me privately so I can take care of your needs.

  • Jamie

    OK, I have used your About Me link at the bottom of this article to contact you with the full name and email I used to purchase the plugin, so I very much look forward to a response.

    I realize this is the wrong place to deal with support issues, but if you don’t respond to support emails and don’t offer a public FB support page, there’s not much else I can do except complain to PayPal about an unfulfilled order, which I’d prefer not to do.

  • Ashley Faulkes

    Nice one Dustin. You have managed to jam all that useful info in one post. I shall be borrowing your template goodness for future reference too!

  • Guest

    Thanks dustin

  • Algiemar Lumayno

    Thanks for this Dustin.

  • Good read, Dustin. I agree with this. You raised some great points. #3 is very helpful to A LOT of people. I think it’s one of the things casual social media users have to remember. I also read somewhere that aside from having the appropriate image size, it’s the color that helps a picture attract engagement. According to a study, blue, for some reason, always has the most likes, comments, and/or shares. That’s for a different topic, though.

  • Excellent article Dustin. Thank you very much for sharing your valuable insights, and links to tools.

  • Nicely done Dustin. This is not one of my strengths, so I appreciate the thorough treatment. Pleased we had a chance to meet at #SMMW15. 🙂

  • Guest

    my neighbor’s ;

  • Thank you Dustin! People tend to forget the File name part, I agree 100% that file name provide info that helps Search engines like google and youtube understand what the images are about. and for them to easily dig up the said image. It’s all about keywords

  • Laura Winn Smith

    Very helpful information! Love the reminders about tags for Google Images! Maybe a stupid question: I get the file dimensions, but what is the ideal file size on these media? Like how many kb? I’m always disappointed by how “fuzzy” the words are on, say, a Canva post. It happens in PhotoShop as well. Is there a tip for optimizing the whole image for clarity, and keeping it the right kb? Thanks so much for your help!

  • Carradona

    @DustinWStout:disqus quick question: all images in the FB news feed appear in a square format (pictures posted directly to FB, not thumbnails, page like ads, etc.). Why do you recommend using horizontal images? Thanks!

  • That’s a great question Carradona. A lot of people are choosing to use the Square ratio on Facebook because it can easily be used on Instagram as well– or it may have even been shared FROM Instagram.

    The reason I opt for the horizontal images is because when people click on them, opening it up in a lightbox, there is far more real estate covered and it just plain looks better. Our eyes were built to see wide (that’s why they’re side-by-side) so aesthetically it’s better for us.

    There is a slight benefit to using the square though in that without clicking, there is a bit more vertical real estate that it takes up.

  • I would love to know this too. Sadly, I think once you upload the photo, (FB for example). it’s will inevitably get all fuzzy. Hope I’m wrong though.

  • Dave Dee

    I just read this and did not get what you were saying I just click the photo -Properties – Details then fill in the spaces as you see below ? is this not the right? if you could email me at info@davedeediscos.co.uk that would be cool thank for any laymans advise

  • I’m not sure what you’re trying to modify here Dave.

  • Great article, Dustin! I especially appreciate the Google SEO tips for blog posts. I’m doing more of those now and even with SEO Yoast, I missed two optimizing opportunities. Thanks!