What Are the SEO Implications of Switching Entirely to WebP Images on Your Website, Especially in Terms of Image Searchability and Indexing?


Switching to WebP images can significantly benefit your website’s SEO by enhancing page load speed, but it also poses challenges for image searchability and indexing. Ensuring fallback support and optimizing for other SEO factors like alt text, image sitemaps, and structured data are essential. Let's explore the implications and best practices in detail.

SEO Benefits of Using WebP Images

Improved Page Load Speed

WebP images are typically smaller in size compared to JPEG and PNG formats, which leads to faster page load times. Faster loading times contribute to a better user experience and can positively impact search engine rankings [Google Developers, WebP].

Enhanced Mobile Experience

With mobile-first indexing, optimizing images for mobile devices is critical. WebP images load faster on mobile networks and devices, improving Core Web Vitals metrics such as Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) [Core Web Vitals, 2023].

Challenges of Using WebP Images

Browser Compatibility

While WebP is supported by most modern browsers, some older versions of browsers do not support it. To ensure a seamless user experience, you should implement fallback images in formats like JPEG and PNG [Can I Use, 2023].

Search Engine Indexing and Image Searchability

WebP images may face issues with indexing and search visibility in Google Images. Search engines may not always display WebP images in image search results as effectively as JPEG or PNG images.

Best Practices for SEO with WebP Images

Implement Fallback Images

Use the <picture> element to serve WebP images with fallback options. Here’s an example:

  <source srcset="image.webp" type="image/webp">
  <img src="image.jpg" alt="Description of image">

This ensures compatibility with browsers that do not support WebP, thereby improving user experience and ensuring all images are indexed [MDN Web Docs, 2023].

Optimize Alt Text and File Names

Regardless of the image format, using descriptive and keyword-rich alt text and file names remains crucial. This helps search engines understand the content and context of images, enhancing image searchability [Google Search Central, Alt Text].

Create and Submit an Image Sitemap

Including a sitemap for your images can help search engines discover and index all your images more efficiently. Be sure to list all versions of an image (e.g., WebP and JPEG) to improve discoverability [Google Search Central, Image Sitemaps].

Use Structured Data

Adding structured data for your images can provide additional context and improve the chances of them appearing in rich results. This can enhance visibility in search results [Google Search Central, Structured Data].

Monitor and Test Regularly

Regularly test your website across browsers and devices. Use tools like Google's PageSpeed Insights and Search Console to monitor your images’ performance and indexing status [PageSpeed Insights]. Regular audits can help identify and resolve issues promptly.