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In this article, I’ll answer the question if Photon, the free image content delivery network (CDN) of the popular WordPress plugin Jetpack is bad for SEO.
If you are reading this article, the chances are that you already know what Jetpack and Photon are. If so, you can skip the next two sections.
What is Jetpack?
Jetpack is a straightforward and robust plugin that enables all of the power and flexibility you need from your WordPress. You can learn more about Jetpack here.
What is Photon?
Photon is an image acceleration and editing service for sites hosted on WordPress.com or Jetpack-connected WordPress sites. That means less load on your host and faster images for your readers.
Photon accelerates image delivery through two key features:
- Caches images on its CDN resulting in more rapid delivery to your web Page’s visitors
- Automatically scales down images to the most appropriate size for visitors
If you are interested, this support article describes how Photon does it.
How could Photon be bad for SEO?
Accelerated image delivery and optimized photos sound like features that would improve SEO, but many bloggers think otherwise. I have read on various blogs on the subject that Photon is bad for SEO because it delivers all images from a foreign domain (*.wp.com) instead of from your domain (michaelkummer.com in my case). It’s true that if you look at the page source of my blog, you can see that most images are delivered from a source ending in wp.com. Some people assume that this is why Google doesn’t index your images and associate them with your domain and consequently SEO gets negatively impacted.
However, what many people don’t know is that Jetpack’s Photon, much like other good (image) CDN’s include a link to the canonical image with each response. You can verify that easily by fetching one of the Photon-hosted images via curl from the command line:
Michaels-iMac:~ mk$ curl -I https://i2.wp.com/michaelkummer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/FullSizeRender.jpg
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 2016 11:08:36 GMT
Last-Modified: Fri, 25 Nov 2016 11:08:26 GMT
Expires: Sun, 25 Nov 2018 23:08:26 GMT
Cache-Control: public, max-age=63115200
Link: http://michaelkummer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/FullSizeRender.jpg; rel=”canonical”
X-nc: HIT ord 24
Jetpack confirmed that when I reached out to them via email.
I read that Photon may have an adverse impact on SEO because it serves images
from a ‘foreign’ domain (wp.com) instead of from the root domain. In turn,
images may not be associated by Google with the root domain. Can you please
elaborate if that is indeed correct and if there are options to mitigate that?
Great question! Photon actually includes a link to the canonical image in its response and for that reason, Google will always know where the original image lives and will index that one. And also, Photon will improve your SEO because it improves the overall loading time of your site.
There is also a support thread about this very topic with some more information.
Jetpack’s Photon is good for SEO
The bottom line is that Jetpack’s Photon is good for SEO as it improves load speed of your page through its CDN and image scaling capabilities. Additionally, each image served from Photon’s CDN includes a canonical link to the original image, so Google can properly index it. If you want to learn more about how to improve the performance of your web page, read my previous article on the subject.