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How to Optimize Images for WordPress Using Smush It Image Compression

Webpage speed optimization is a complex and multi-facet topic, but many of the problems it poses have well-tested solutions. The methods and algorithms of compressing images for maximum performance are relatively well-known and agreed on, but out-of-the-box WordPress doesn’t make that a priority. So, when you want to optimize images for WordPress, you’ll often need to turn to an image optimization plugin. One of the most popular is “WP Smush It”, which is now called “Smush Image Compression and Optimization” on the WordPress plugin repository. The plugin allows you to “smush images” to help increase your site performance, load time, etc.

I recently felt a need to get some better marks from a webpage performance test called GTmetrix, and I used “Smush Image Compression” from WPMU DEV to do that. There are few limitations on the free-tier of this freemium plugin, but it worked well for what I was trying to do. (The paid version of the plugin goes by the name “WP Smush Pro”, and comes with WPMU DEV membership.)

Here’s a video showing how I got set up with the Smush It WordPress plugin:

For the people who prefer written-out steps:

Using WP Smush It, the Optimize Images WordPress Plugin

  1. You’ll first install the plugin. As usual, that means you’ll go to “Plugins > Add New” in your WordPress admin, and then search for the plugin name. In this case “Smush Image Compression” should be enough. (Because I was curious, the older name, “WP Smush It” also worked fine to search. 🤓)
  2. “Install” and “Activate” (those are button clicks) the “Smush Image Compression and Optimization” plugin from WPMU DEV.
  3. Out of the box, the plugin will automatically handle future uploaded files that you want to be compressed and optimized images for your WordPress site. So if that’s all you need (say, it’s a new site) you can stop here. You’ll automatically compress images moving forward!
  4. If you’ve got an existing media library, you’ll need to run it against existing images for the performance improvement. To do this, you’ll click the “Bulk Smush Now” button near the center of the screen. This is (in the free version of the plugin) limited to 50 images at a time.

You’ll note that the free version of the Smush It plugin from WPMU DEV also doesn’t compress your original images. Other plugins do this, but to encourage you to pay for the complete version of this, they’ve left it aside. I don’t consider it a huge issue (I almost use other image sizes for WordPress sites), but it is one to note.

Further Reading On Optimizing Page Speed

Page speed is something we’ve written a lot of content on here on WPShout. Here are three more articles about speeding up your WordPress site, besides Smush It image compression, that jumped to mind when I thought about it.

You Can Now Optimize Images for WordPress With Ease

Now you’re all set up with the Smush It WordPress plugin. For new website builders, this is a no-brainer. If you’ve got a huge media library on a big site, consider working backwards to smush images and improve site speed. Happy optimizing!

Yay! 🎉 You made it to the end of the article!
David Hayes

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September 12, 2018 7:56 pm

Hey David,

What a great review and thanks for the video tutorial – great too see Smush out in the wild doing it’s thang.

I couldn’t help but note a really cool flow on tutorial from this would be to try out a relatively new performance plugin Hummingbird (also free on which will cater for the GZIP compression, browser caching, deferring of javascript. After configuring each module those red items will go green and you’ll have a blazing fast site!

Dislcaimer: I am from WPMU DEV am the product designer behind Smush :). My comment isn’t intended to shamelessly plug our products – I genuinely think it’s fantastic plugin that goes hand in hand with Smush and improving website performance.


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