A picture is worth a thousand words – especially on the internet, where first impressions and grabbing people's attention makes all the difference to them choosing to stay on your site or clicking to the next.
The rapid growth of image sharing sites shows the appetite that's out there for visual content. Instagram passed one billion users in 2018 and Pinterest is the fastest growing of the major social platforms, adding more than 50 million new users in the past year.
80% of marketers use visual assets in their social media marketing, according to the latest Social Media Examiner industry report. People are exposed to high quality images every time they go online, and with so many options vying for their attention, your own content needs to compete.
Whether you're writing a web page, press release or quick social media update, everything you publish should include at least one image to make it stand out. Here are the most compelling reasons why.
Double your traffic
Adding an image to a blog post can increase traffic by 94%, according to Skyword research. However, this only applies to images that are chosen with care to be relevant and appealing.
When promoting your business in local search results, a survey by Searchengineland found that 60% of consumers are more likely to contact a company that includes an image. The chance is higher when you use a high quality, striking image that helps you stand out from the crowd.
Even when it comes to press releases and whitepapers, analysis by PR Newswire found that articles with images received 70% more views than those without.
Double social shares
As well as being more likely to get clicks, people are also more likely to share content with images in their social circles, helping to boost your profile and drive more traffic to your sites. Images can be even more important for getting your brand noticed in fast-scrolling social media feeds.
- Facebook posts receive 2.3 times more engagement with images compared to text-only posts, according to BuzzSumo. This means that the volume of interactions a post receives could be more than doubled simply by adding an image.
- Twitter posts with images receive 1.5 times more retweets than those without, according to Buffer.
The more images you add to your posts, the greater the benefits can be. Research by BuzzSumo found that articles with frequent images (one per 75–100 words) get twice as many shares on social media as those with fewer images.
Personalise your brand
As well as bringing more visitors to your site, the type of images you use can also influence how people feel about your company. The imagery you use should be authentic, distinctive and match your brand values.
While stock photos and generic imagery can be fine for blogs, the images on your website that represent your brand need to be chosen with care. Using real photos of your team will help people relate to your brand, while using an obvious stock photo of business people will make your company look phony.
With knowledge of color psychology and other associations, your images can communicate a huge amount of information in a quick glance and set the tone you want, whether that's:
- cheap and cheerful
- luxurious and sophisticated
It could be worth consulting with a professional photographer or design agency to make sure you're putting across the right messages and showing your brand in its best light.
If you want people to pay close attention to what you're saying, research into eye tracking and user behavior shows that internet users pay more attention to information when it's presented as an image.
Between 65% and 85% of people say they are 'visual learners,' according to Trend Reports. While the average person remembers 10% of information they hear after three days, that figure jumps to 65% if the information is combined with a relevant image.
One of the most effective ways to combine words and pictures is using infographics. These are especially popular among B2B companies that deal with a lot of statistics, but they can be applied to almost anything.
A good infographic takes time to put together, but it can be worth it for creating high-value content that's very likely to get shared. According to Demand Gen Report, infographics can increase traffic up to 12%.
How to use images on your websites
Now you know some of the key reasons why images are essential for your websites and content marketing, it's important to know how to use images effectively.
It's not as simple as searching Google Images and using the first picture that catches your eye. While the right image can boost traffic and conversions, the wrong image can turn visitors away and even lead to penalties if you use an image you don't have the rights to.
Here are 5 tips to keep in mind when adding images to your web pages, blog posts, social media updates and other content.
1. Make images relevant
Every image should have a purpose, whether it's to illustrate the topic you're writing about or just to set the right tone. Irrelevant images can confuse readers or make you look careless.
Images on your business website could be photos of your premises, members of your team, your products or other authentic images relevant to the content on each page. In some cases, more abstract designs may be appropriate.
When writing blogs or social media posts, you have more freedom to be general with stock photos or graphics that illustrate the point, as long as it's an image you have the rights to use (see tip 4).
2. Use high quality images
When browsing products online, 67% of customers say image quality is important, according to content26.
While large images can be shrunk to fit on the page, you shouldn't stretch a small image to fill the space. If an image looks blurry, pixelated or badly formatted, this makes you look unprofessional.
Images that are too large can cause problems too, if they take a long time to load and slow down the page. If you're worried about resizing a file and losing quality, tools like TinyJPG can optimize images without a noticeable drop in quality.
Ideally, the images you use should be:
- No smaller than 72 dpi (dots per inch)
- No larger than 2000 pixels
3. Take your own photos
Hiring a professional photographer or using your own camera and photography skills will make your website unique and authentic, as long as the results look good.
If you need to illustrate a point with a diagram, chart or other graphic, creating your own images or hiring an artist will make you look more authoritative than using an existing image. If the image is compelling, other websites might use it and credit your site as the source.
If you need to take screenshots, tools such as Snagit make it simple to capture and edit what you see on your screen.
4. Don't use copyrighted images
Not all images on the internet are free to use, especially when it's for commercial use. Most people intuitively know this, but it can get forgotten when you're finishing up a blog post or posting to social media and searching for a quick image to accompany it.
Using other people's images can make your business look cheap or disreputable. If the copyright holder finds out that you're using their image without permission (by using a reverse image search tool such as Google's Search by Image or TinEye), they may take legal action or report you to Google and other search engines. This could lead to your site being penalized and not appearing in search results.
The good news is, there are ways around this problem:
- If you have your heart set on a particular image, contact the owner and request permission to use it. You should mention their page or provide a link as a courtesy.
- Create your own images.
- Search for stock images that are free to use.
Google and other search engines can be customized to only show images that are free to use. You can also browse a huge selection of high quality stock images on websites such as Shutterstock or Alamy, for a price, or a smaller range of free stock photos and graphics on sites like Unsplash, Pexels and Pixabay.
5. Optimize images for SEO
As well as looking pretty and driving traffic to your websites, images also offer more opportunities for your pages to rank on search engines when you apply the principles of image SEO (search engine optimization).
It only takes a little time to optimize website and blog images by adding descriptive keywords. Here are the steps recommended by Google:
- Before uploading your image file, give it a relevant and descriptive filename (e.g. 'puppy.jpg' rather than 'IMG_2814.jpg'). Avoid using too many keywords, as this could be penalized.
- Add alt text in HTML. This is a brief description of the image contained within the image tag (e.g. <img src="puppy.jpg" alt="Dalmatian puppy playing fetch"/>).
- Add a caption below the image with a further description of what it contains. Search engines use this text and other surrounding text on the page to give context to images.
For more tips about how to create a website and rank on search engines, read more from the Limecube Blog.