We have all heard the statistics: the images are more memorable, more attractive and more persuasive than the text alone. So we add visual elements to our content marketing strategies. Simple enough, right?
Not so fast. A 2018 survey of marketing and creative professionals conducted by Libris revealed that, although most of the time the visual elements improve the performance of digital marketing assets, they occasionally lead to worse results.
So, how, exactly, can we make sure that our images work for us, not against us?
Sprinkle relevant visuals on all long-term content to keep readers engaged
According to a study by the Nielsen Norman group, the average online user only reads 20 percent of the words on a given page. An eye-tracking study of the same group revealed that users pay close attention to the relevant images.
What we, as content marketers can take from this, is simple: to include relevant images in long blog posts to capture the attention of our readers. This will potentially increase the time on the page and reduce bounce rates.
Graphics, screenshots, GIFs and infographics should be used to reinforce key concepts in the text. They must be added to make our content more digestible, while acting as visual landmarks: places for the eye to rest in a sea of text. These useful and meaningful images should always be used in favor of purely decorative stock photos.
How many images should you include in each blog post?
BuzzSumo analyzed more than 1 million articles and found that articles containing images every 75-100 words receive twice as many social actions as those with fewer images. This may seem like a lot, but just take a look at Brian Dean’s recent publication on SEO techniques. This 7,000 word publication presents a useful and relevant image every 10-150 words. This publication has almost 13,000 shares.
Coincidence? Maybe. But I’m sure Brian Dean would not spend much time doing more than 100 images for a single publication if it were not something like that. So, the next time you write a long post on the blog, try adding images to reach that optimal word-to-word ratio.
Save time by reallocating blog posts, presentations and webinars like infographics
We all know the struggle to create great new ideas for content. Before starting your next content planning brainstorm session, take a look at your existing content. Is there something sitting in your content library that collects dust? An earlier presentation, a webinar or a blog post, maybe? Consider extending the duration of this existing content by reusing it as an infographic.
Infographics are the perfect way to recycle and revitalize tired content. In fact, a study conducted in 2017 by ClearVoice revealed that infographics are the most shared form of content in 14 industries. They can be shared as separate pieces or used to reinforce existing items. And they are excellent for building links.
To make an infographic, simply summarize its content (take out the main statistics, quotes or facts) and put it in a pre-designed infographic template.
Use visuals consistently to build a recognizable brand identity
Visuals are immensely powerful when it comes to building a recognizable brand identity. Publishing images regularly, with a consistent visual style, on multiple platforms, can help your brand stand out from the rest.
Endy, a Canadian mattress brand, has used this tactic to build an unmistakable brand presence in just three years. Each image found on your website, Instagram and Twitter fits a different visual style, characterized by crisp, neutral background colors, bright pink colors and many smiling customers.
As Instagram marketing expert Alex Tooby says: “Find out what your aesthetic” style “is and adhere to it like glue.”
If you’re just starting out in the visual content marketing game, it’s a good idea to create a comprehensive brand style guide to keep your visual brand under control. A brand style guide should include everything your designers, marketers and photographers should know to create collateral cohesion. Everything from guidelines on color, sources and use of the logo, to the rules of photo design and voice advice of the brand.
Make the most of free resources and visual content creation tools
When it comes to creating effective visual effects, it is about using your resources. There are plenty of free and low cost tools and libraries available on the web that will allow you to create beautiful and effective images.
For photos, go to sites like Unsplash, Pixabay and Pexels. Unlike the archive photos that used to impregnate the web, these sites present unique photos, sent by the user, that would not look out of place on the Instagram page of a professional photographer.
Alternatively, inject some authenticity into your brand with user-generated images. Reusing and sharing photos of your product that your customers share is a simple and cost-effective way to take advantage of social proof in your social media strategy.
And works! Buffer managed to increase his Instagram tracking by almost 400 percent in 6 months with a user-generated content campaign. They simply created brand hashtags (#BufferCommunity and #BufferStories) and let their community do the work for them.
In addition to the photos, you will need a flexible graphic design tool to take your visual content to the next level. Professional software such as Photoshop and Illustration is not really adapted to the needs of the content marketer and can be expensive and difficult to use. Instead, consider using an online graphic design tool that allows you to create images from predesigned templates.
Optimize your blog images for upload speed and SEO
For loading speed
As of July 2018, the speed of the mobile page is an important ranking factor for the Google mobile search. So, although images can have a significant positive impact on blog performance, forgetting to optimize your blog’s images could ruin your ranking.
To optimize your blog images, start by selecting the most appropriate file type: JPEG or PNG. JPEG files will be the best option in most cases, because they can be compressed substantially and offer acceptable quality in small files. They work well for most large images and photographs. However, images that contain transparency or text should be saved as PNG-24 files. You will have to deal with slightly larger file sizes, but the superior image quality will be worth the compensation.
Once you have the image prepared with the correct file type, compress the file until you begin to notice reductions in the quality of the image. Ideally, aim for less than 100 kb per image. Adorable MediaFox Marketing friends provide free compression tools for JPEG and PNG file formats: CompressJPEG and CompressPNG.
Oh, and once you’ve posted a publication with many images, you can re-verify the speed performance of your page with the Google PageSpeed Insights tool. If it is not accumulating, check if you can compress your larger images even more.
The other crucial piece of image optimization is the SEO image. In the same way that all blog posts must be optimized for keywords to help rank the page in search engines, each image in each blog post must be optimized for similar keywords. The names of the image files and alternative text should be compiled to reflect both the content of the image and the keyword for which you want to classify.
Improving the images in your content marketing strategy is a no-brainer. Some ways to get started are to add graphics, screenshots and GIFs to your long articles and reuse blog posts, webinars and old presentations like infographics. Do not forget to optimize your images to get loading speed and SEO!
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