It’s no secret that images matter in blog posts, but the right images matter even more.
How much, exactly?
Using images can be crucial in catching your reader’s attention and adding visual pop to your content, but not just any image will do. If you want your images to pack as much power as possible, you’ll first need to figure out what they’re worth.
What It Means to Add Value with Images
When’s the last time you read a worthwhile blog post that didn’t include at least one image? Ever? Blogs without visuals are becoming less frequent, and for good reason: studies show that blog posts with images get almost twice as many views and conversions as their image-less counterparts. If you’re posting on social media, expect to get 2.3 times more engagement than posts without visuals.
Why is that?
Social Media Examiner says it best: images are easier to digest than text alone.
If you’ve ever stumbled upon a clunky, boxy piece of text devoid of any life-giving images, you know what a saving grace a sprinkling of visuals can provide.
Photos tell a story in far less time than words can. Using an image not only grabs attention, but also makes a promise to the reader that the story within the text matches that of the visual.
Unfortunately, not every content marketer understands that images should add value to content, not just more content. Granted, it can be tricky to understand which images will best enrich your content, and how to find them. If that’s the case, then it’s best to let research speak for itself.
The Data Behind Images in Blog Posts
Nielsen Norman Group published a study that illustrated people spent 10% more time on a website looking at images of people than their textual biographies. However, within the same study Nielsen noted that other images went largely unnoticed.
This proves that not every image is worth its salt, depending on the type of image and how it’s used. Remember, your visuals need to both mean something significant and appeal to your reader.
Photos of real people have been touted more effective than illustrations. People connect with other people, and using photos of real people adds a human touch that helps forge those connections. For instance, one case study shows that Medalia Art swapped their avatar photos of famous paintings for one of their real faces, which led to a 95% boost in conversion rate.
Aside from real people, images that help explain a concept or provide insight are also helpful. In Nielsen’s study, he analyzed a web page of Yale University to see where people’s eyes traveled. The result? Hardly anyone noticed the useless filler image to the right of the text, but many of them directed their attention to the chart within the text.
The bottom line is this: anyone can stick a few stock photos in a blog post and claim they’re following good blogging practices. But given the potential impact images can have on your readers, not choosing ones that engage and excite is a mistake, plain and simple.
Types of Images Known for Injecting Value
Finding images online is risky business that could cost you dearly if you don’t play by the rules. Before you add any type of image, you need to make sure you have permission to use it.
You can pay for stock photos on Shutterstock or similar sites for a fee, or use sites like Unsplash or Gratisography for free images. If you take advantage of images under the Creative Commons terms, make sure you pay attention to attribution requirements.
Stock photos are the easiest to come by, as stock photo libraries contain just about any type of high-quality photo you could possibly want. However, keep in mind that they’re just that: stock photos. Stock is akin to standard. And standard is boring.
These photos are often misused in blog posts, as they usually don’t commit any value to your posts. If you want images that inspire, engage, and speak to your readers, try using some of the following image types:
- Charts & Graphs – using data to support content is always a plus
- Infographics – simple explanations of complex ideas provides value to the reader
- memes – familiar references and humor create universality
- Diagrams & Flowcharts
- Quote Images
- Photos of Step-by-step Instructions
- GIFs – animations can capture the reader’s attention
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to using images in blog posts. Every blog and its audience are different, and it can take some practice before you discover how to best add value to yours.
Conducting the Value-Added Image Test
Before you start plunking images wherever it feels logical, put each one to the value-added image test:
First, ask yourself what the reader should get out of the image and why you’re placing it in a particular spot: Are you trying to break up long text runs with a stock photo? That’s an automatic fail.
Does this image support the content surrounding it? If not, can you manipulate it to better serve the content (think text overlay, colors, color changes, etc.)?
Would this image serve a stronger purpose somewhere else in the text? If so, move it there.
Does the image appeal to your audience? This is a tough one that may take a little digging on your end. Look at past blog posts to see which ones performed the best, then compare the images you used to find any potential common denominators. In addition, you can conduct A/B testing to see which header image gets the most engagement.
In the end, it’s not just about what you think looks good – it’s about what makes sense to your content. Let your readers’ actions speak for itself.
Shariq Toor is a Content Strategist working with NoStop Blogging Services, a boutique writing agency focusing on helping small business clients take their websites to the next level. From social media topics to articles on niche industry issues, NoStop’s articles are written with style, attention to detail, and with the client’s audience in mind.