Best Practices for Animated GIFs

by Federica Rustico

11 min read
Last Updated: May 26, 2023

Consumers have had it. They're being marketed to on a 24/7 basis, whether it's through email campaigns, blog posts, social media, or messaging apps. It's constant. It's now wonder companies are always looking for fresh ways to stand out from the competition and really grab their reader's attentions. While GIFs have been around for quite some time, companies of all sizes are just now starting to use animated GIFs as a means of communicating with their target audiences. Think about it, more than 10 billion GIFs are exchanged everyday, making them the most popular picture format in recent years. As a result, they are an unrealized potential for you to extend your reach, boost consumer engagement, and boost your marketing's effectiveness. Using GIFs is a great approach to liven up your marketing material and attract more readers. They improve the visual appeal and engagement of your emails, adverts, social media feeds, blog articles, by adding movement to them. Plus, until there is greater support for animated PNGs, CSS animation, and video in email, animated GIFs will continue to be your best bet for adding motion to your messages in a secure and hassle-free way. If this is starting to sound exciting, you're in the right place! But just like in any marketing strategy, there are some best practices you should keep in mind when creating your GIFs. From making sure they're optimized to clearly expressing a concept, here are 7 best practices for animated GIFs.

GIFs: what are they?

Let's start from the basics, what are GIFs, exactly? Animated GIFs are looped videos that may be seen over and over again. Similar to a flip book, a GIF will show many pictures in rapid succession to create an animated effect. With a GIF, you may save a series of images and load them one after the other to provide the impression of motion. Different web browsers and operating systems can read and display images saved in the .gif format. So essentially, they are animated images that keep looping forever.

The Development of GIFs

It didn't take long for GIFs to become widely used on the web. Creators, developers, and designers looking for efficient data-saving picture compression methods flocked to it. About 35 years after its first appearance, GIFs have become an indispensable part of popular culture and advertising. GIFs have not only developed with the internet but have helped define it.

To begin with, GIFs have expanded their animation capabilities since its inception. In 1995, for instance, Netscape Navigator began supporting animated GIFs. In 2015, Facebook added support for GIFs, and in 2018, Instagram did likewise.

Best practices for animated GIFs

There is now a GIF button on Twitter, GIF compatibility on LinkedIn, and a GIF search option in Apple's iOS messaging app. TIkTok followed too, with a cool partnership with GIPHY that allows users to integrate GIPHY Clips to their TikToks!

Second, GIFs are being used more widely than ever before in all kinds of different contexts, including but not limited to email and the web, as well as business and advertising, visual arts, and entertainment. At this pace, GIFs have evolved from a simple visual format into a potent means of conveying thoughts, sentiments, and information. And that's not all. When utilised effectively, GIFs have proved to be a powerful marketing tool for organisations.

Why GIF marketing is a good idea

GIFs are the way to go if you want to spice up your content or get your point across. It's clear from the data that GIFs are quite popular. Users often use GIF search engines to get the most appropriate GIF to convey their intended meaning. In 2015, Twitter users uploaded and shared over 100 million GIFs. Everything from a person's current mood to a video of their favorite party move to a highlight from the World Cup may be expressed with a GIF.

GIPHY serves as the platform for the distribution of over 10 billion GIFs by its more than 700 million users. Daily. Not only do you satisfy the informational demands of your readers by using GIFs, but you also cater to their preferred method of communication. That means that if you're integrating GIF marketing, the right way, you'll make your customers feel much more positive about your company. The advantages of integrating GIFs in advertising don't stop there. There are many reasons why you should use GIFs in your marketing, especially if you're a consumer brand. But let's first go over some best practices, shall we?

Guidelines for effective marketing with animated GIFs

You should now have an idea of the many advantages of using GIFs. But if you really want to use your newfound knowledge of GIFs to your advantage in marketing, there are some guidelines you need to follow. The following is a list of recommended practices and approaches that may be used to boost the power of GIFs and get better results.

1. Keep your GIFs above the fold

GIFs are literally all over the internet and serve a variety of purposes. It takes work, however, to come up with one that really speaks for itself. Therefore, you need to ensure that you are making the most of the situation. One way to make the most of GIFs is to strategically place them. Place your GIFs above the fold in all of your marketing materials, whether you're using them in emails or blog articles.

If you do this, your subscribers won't need to scroll down the page to view your GIF; they'll see it immediately. This goes without saying but your GIFs should be interesting enough at first glance to pique the interest of the reader and motivate them to keep reading. Otherwise you're not going about it the right way.

When you are brainstorming your content block, make use of engaging bigger GIFs in the key parts to draw the attention of your readers. Smaller GIFs may be used farther down the campaign to keep up the element of surprise and joy. This will provide extra visual appeal and reason to keep scrolling. This, right here, is an outstanding method for piquing the attention of your audience in the press release or marketing material you have created and getting them enthusiastic about the new product you have. You’re welcome!

2. Decrease the size of your GIFs

Essentially, a GIF is just a collection of individual pictures that have been combined into one larger one. Your email, landing page, or website's loading speed will suffer if the GIF isn't optimized. Which means that Google will also penalize the ranking of your article! We don’t want that, obviously. 

The downside is that your GIFs will demand a lot of bandwidth for users to see. And if your GIF isn’t optimized, not only will it have a bad influence on users going through your content, it will also increase the likelihood that your audience will instantly stop paying attention to your content or even worse, leave your website.

But where exactly should you draw the line when it comes to the size of GIFs? The optimal strategy is to minimize file size without compromising quality. That means you shouldn’t upload any GIFs that are bigger than 800KB. Check the performance of your GIFs before you send your email campaign or publish a blog post to make sure there hasn't been any loss in quality.

Best practices for animated GIFs

Here are some tips on how to decrease GIF size:

3. Less is more, get your point across!

Yes, including GIFs in your marketing message might help it pop out more. But, even if you may not believe it, careless use of them might make your page seem sloppy and negatively impact the effectiveness of your campaign. So please, don’t use a GIF only for the sake of animation. If animation is used without a particular objective in mind, you run the risk of falling into this trap.

Avoid using two or more animations that are too close from one to another. If two GIFs are displayed in the same viewing pane, they are increasing the risk of distraction. Why? Because the reader will be completely confused about where to look, leading them to potentially miss out on anything shown in the middle of the two animations.

Sure, they are super fun but it’s important to always get the right one in there. How? By purposefully designing your GIF to fulfill these requirements:

4. The Importance of SEO-Friendly GIFs

Sending a GIF to a friend may help you express yourself more vividly and humorously. They not only improve the readability and accessibility of your material, but they also provide a fantastic chance for search engine optimization.

Here’s how to optimize your GIFs so that they perform better in search engine results:

Please oh please, remember what I'm about to tell you. Choose carefully the GIFs you will use in your marketing campaign; don't settle for the first ones that pop up in the search results. You need to pick GIFs that are interesting to the people you're trying to reach.

7. Determine who you're writing for and why they're reading your stuff

No one wants their audience to stop paying attention. But unfortunately, it's very possible that your target audience won't understand your message or even worse, make the necessary associations to fully appreciate it. So before you start placing random GIFs in your email and blog, start asking yourself these questions:

Determine which GIFs will best reach your intended audience by answering the following questions. For instance, elderly people may not share the same enthusiasm for memes as younger people do. A GIF related to Wednesday, Netflix’s latest TV series, might work well with younger generations but not with Boomers. Animated GIFs are a fantastic way to boost the effectiveness of your campaign. On the other hand, make sure your GIFs fit in with your overall identity and that of your company.

6. GIFs aren’t supported by all email clients

You’re not going to believe this but GIFs are still not universally supported by all email clients. That means that if one of your email subscribers is using older versions of Outlook, they won’t be seeing your GIF in its eternity. Or better yet, it won’t be animated. In browsers that do not allow animated GIFs, the first frame of the animation will be shown instead. What does that tell you? That the first frame needs to tell me the whole marketing message!

7. Keep it short and interesting

If you read my article on why you should use an always-on marketing strategy, you’re probably well aware on how timing is crucial when making GIFs. Successfully crafted GIFs may transport your audience to new worlds of wonder and keep them transfixed.

Best practices for animated GIFs

But a word of caution. There is a certain amount of time that your audience can pay attention to what you're saying. In order to capture your audience's attention, your GIFs should be between 2 and 6 seconds in duration. Avoid boring your audience to death, since their attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter.

Wrapping up

Aside from being a fun part of clever internet banter, GIFs have other uses as well. GIFs are a great way for businesses of any size to connect with their customers and convey a more personal message. You'll be well on your way to making GIFs that evoke emotions, increase interactions, and provide great business outcomes if you follow the advice we've provided. The best part is that making GIFs is now simpler than ever. You can even find free GIF makers to start crafting your custom GIFs! 

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a successful GIF?

The best GIFs capture the spirit of whatever they're meant to represent, whether that's a lighthearted message or a reaction to an event.

What are the best type of GIFs?

Reactions are the most obvious and powerful answer. Imagine you’re saying something funny, or outrageous or really anything in your TikTok and you want to highlight how the user watching your TikTok should feel. Including a reaction Clip (with sound) will do the trick.

How many frames is good for a GIF?

The frame rate of a standard GIF is between 15 and 24 frames per second. To generalise, GIF quality suffers as file size decreases. Finding the optimal balance between file size and quality is essential when making GIFs for the web.