“No page without a picture” – a classic unwritten rule of print journalism which holds just as true in online content marketing. Images speak directly to the user and tap into emotions. Our brains are generally very adept at processing visual information and, in an age of rapidly increasing masses of content, we have less and less time to digest individual snippets of information. When scrolling through a news feed on social media, our brains decide in a matter of milliseconds whether to click or continue scrolling. An enticing image can make all the difference.
Good images stand out from the crowd. Blogs which feature images have more visitors. Social media posts with clever graphics or photos are shared more readily. It’s as simple as that.
The use of smartphones has only boosted the trend. It has never been so easy to take a photograph, apply a filter and upload it to the internet. Indeed, some figures suggest that 2% of all the photographs ever taken by human beings were taken in the year 2013 alone. Platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram don’t rely on the power of the image for nothing.
Visual content is shared more frequently
Good visual content condenses ideas, expands on information or engages users through storytelling. One current trend has seen graphics and images replace entire instruction texts – tips and tricks on how to do something are often best expressed in a visual format rather than text.
The important thing is to convey the crux of the issue clearly. When this is clearly demonstrated, the user experiences a sort of “aha!” effect which remains lodged in their mind. Such memorable and useful content is then likely to be linked and shared.
The use of images and video in online content is only going to increase as the years go by. So remember: no content marketing without a picture!
Tips for quality image editing
Every blog post and online article needs a suitable image. This seems straight forward enough – masses of photo material are available in online databases nowadays, and the prices have fallen to such an extent that top quality photography is available for little more than a few dollars. Still, the importance of good image editing is not to be underestimated. Sometimes, you might have an immediate idea for a picture which makes finding a suitable image easy. Other times, it can be a more time-consuming process.
Tip: Close-ups give the viewer a sense of being close to the action. Bear this in mind when trying to really engage your audience in a personal way.
Be creative when depicting more abstract topics!
More abstract subjects are more difficult to depict. “Success in customer relations” or “How to generate innovation” are good examples which could pose a challenge. The classic method is of course a pretty female colleague with a headset and a lightbulb over her head. But such images are increasingly out-dated, cheesy – not to mention discriminatory.
A good way of generating ideas to depict more abstract topics is mind-mapping. Write down the core subject in the center of a piece of paper and let your thoughts run free! Note down every little thought that pops into your head in connection with the given subject – no matter how bizarre or irrelevant it might be! It’s exactly these sort of motifs that often make the best images. The apparent discrepancy between image and headline generates curiosity and encourages the user to click.
Tip: Search for your subject in Google Images and see how others have chosen to depict the topic. This might give you some inspiration. For a more international angle, try searching in different languages!
Image research – look through an alternative lens!
As a general rule, you should try to make sure that your photos feature people – but try to be creative! The internet is full of staged photographs of happy joggers and business people shaking hands and it doesn’t need any more! By default, image databases suggest the most popular images for you to use – but these are exactly what you should avoid. Check out a photographer’s other work or search for related terms. Don’t settle for the first image you find!
Particularly with abstract, specialist topics, it can be useful to commission a professional photographer or illustrator. In return for your investment, you are guaranteed unique visual material tailored specially to your topic and field. And if you’re struggling for ideas, the experts are bound to have some creative ideas of their own about how best to depict your subject.
Overcoming technical hurdles
A few technical details for you to watch out for. Landscape images are often much better suited for online use than portrait. These fit much better in image previews and thumbnails, although square-shaped images are also common, especially on social media.
Facebook link previews
When posting a link on Facebook, the preview image is automatically trimmed, which can lead to awkward fits. Facebook therefore allows you to upload an alternative image, trimmed to match the specifications of the preview whilst still retaining the same theme and motif of the original blog image. The optimal image size for Facebook previews is 1200 x 627 pixels.
Low-res images consisting of a few hundred pixels and a file size of no more than one megabyte are more than sufficient for online use. Any bigger and the user will face longer load times, particularly when using mobile internet. And Google won’t be happy either. Image databases offer such images in low resolution for specific use in online blogs and articles – and they’re cheaper too. If you have to use high-res material, make sure you compress the file size prior to publication.
While we’re on the subject of Google, images need SEO too! Images should have a file name which matches the topic, if possible featuring important keywords. Keeping_Warm_In_Winter.jpg is much more descriptive and informative than 74638KWW_small.jpg.
Don’t forget to add alt tags to your images when working in your content management system. Alt tags contain descriptions which can be read out by the program to people with poor eyesight – but they are also read by Google’s crawlers who use the tags to categorize images effectively.