The Fastest Way to Improve Social and SEO Images

A new add-on for WPSSO Core called WPSSO Tune WP Image Editors is the fastest and easiest way to improve your social and SEO images — simply activate and regenerate your thumbnail images (aka resized images), and you’re done! :-)

How does it work?

Have you noticed that after carefully adjusting an image in Photoshop, you upload it to your site and WordPress creates small images that seems a bit “fuzzy” — nothing like the nice sharp original?

The reason is that after resizing any image, that image must be sharpened – always, but WordPress doesn’t do any sharpening, so the resized image remains a bit “fuzzy” — probably not what you want for a featured image or share on social sites! ;-)

The WPSSO Tune WP Image Editors add-on takes care of this — it automatically applies a reasonable amount of sharpening to all JPEG images resized using the default WordPress ImageMagick editor.

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Choosing your PHP Image Extension for WordPress

WordPress supports two different PHP image processing extensions — ImageMagick and GD — with a preference for ImageMagick over GD (even when ImageMagick is not installed). The GD extension can still be used in cases where the preferred WordPress ‘WP_Image_Editor_Imagick’ class does not provide support for the requested mime-type or class method.

In some cases, the ImageMagick extension might not be installed, or might be unreliable (old versions of ImageMagick can be buggy). You can hook the WordPress ‘wp_image_editors’ filter to manage the preferred order of WordPress image classes.

For example, here’s a filter and function to remove the ImageMagick class altogether:

add_filter( 'wp_image_editors', 'select_wp_image_editors' );

 * The default $editors value:
 *      array( 'WP_Image_Editor_Imagick', 'WP_Image_Editor_GD' )
function select_wp_image_editors( $editors ) {

        return array( 'WP_Image_Editor_GD' ); // only return WP_Image_Editor_GD

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WordPress Lies About Image Sizes / Dimensions

There are a few functions available to retrieve the URL and size of an image in the WordPress Media Library, but few people know that these functions will often lie about an image’s dimensions.

As an example, let’s define a custom image size of 1000 x 1000 cropped, and use image_downsize() to retrieve the URL and size of an image ID (this example can be used with wp_get_attachment_image_src() as well). I’ll use list() in the example, instead of an array variable for the return values, to keep the code more readable. ;-)

add_image_size( 'my-custom-size', 1000, 1000, true );

list( $img_url, $img_width, $img_height, $img_is_intermediate ) = image_downsize( $id, 'my-custom-size' );

WordPress will return a URL for the image and the values of $width / $height may be 1000 / 1000 – it all depends on several factors.

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Encode Small Images in Stylesheets

Continuing the earlier theme of Optimizing Images to Save Bandwidth and Speed Page Load, you can also encode small (background) images directly in your stylesheets. For each image / page element encoded within a stylesheet, it means one less HTTP connection for content, which in turn means pages finish loading faster. These images should generally be small and downloadable quickly — what you want to save is the HTTP connection overhead, not the download time (both images and stylesheets are generally cached after downloading). The images should also be encoded within sourced stylesheet files, so the stylesheet files can be cached by the browser. If you encode images within your content (using `<style></style>` tags for example), the encoded image will have to be downloaded for every page view, so although you’re saving HTTP connections, your page size has increased. By encoding images in sourced stylesheet files instead, the browser (and content delivery services) can cache the whole stylesheet, including the encoded image(s).

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Optimize Images to Save Bandwidth and Speed Page Load

A few weeks ago I mentioned the script from GitHub to optimize images, and how I had modified it to keep (or discard) the EXIF / XMP information. Making sure images are as small as possible is important to save bandwidth and improve page load times (and google rank), so I think it’s worth discussing my image optimization process in more detail.

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To improve page load times (and Google ranking), you should make sure all jpeg, png, and gif files are properly optimized. Instead of writing my own script for jpegtran, pngcrush, and gifsicle, I used Mike Brittain’s script on GitHub. It works great, though I did have to modify it to change the “jpegtran -copy” parameter it uses — I need to keep the EXIF on larger files, and strip it from thumbnails. I posted the diff on the GitHub Issues page.

Update 2012-12-31 : In case Mike doesn’t merge my diff, with the addition of the --copy=[all|comments|none] command-line argument (see my comment below for more info), you can download the patched script here instead.

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