5 Top Tips for Using Images in your Online Content

Written by Kirstine Storey  |  19, October, 2012  |  0 Comments  Subscribe

social-wirelessHere at Equinet Media, we’ve been doing a lot of deliberating over images in online content recently, both in designing a new website for a customer and considering images for our own website and blog posts. 

Of course, using images to enhance your online content is a clear opportunity to broaden your visual appeal to your audience and to promote your brand. 

In order to get the best results from this opportunity, however, it’s clear that you are asking your chosen image to do a number of key jobs for you:

  • Firstly, and obviously, it needs to illustrate and enhance the content it accompanies
  • Secondly, you want it to “tell its own story”, as a stand-alone image
  • Third, in doing both of the above, it must not distract the visitor away from your content
  • Fourth, the image can lend value to your webpage SEO
  • Lastly, you want the image to compel the visitor to engage with the content.

That’s a pretty tall order for one image to fulfill.  So, we’ve come up with the following 5 Top Tips to help you ensure that you get the right image (or series of images) for your online content, so that it can achieve all of the above.

Tip 1 – Be clear about where to use images

It goes without saying a primary function of images is to break up large tranches of text, for instance in blog posts, where readers may be overwhelmed by 800+ words of interesting but lengthy copy.  Similarly, images are invaluable for illustrating eBooks, to visually describe the issue, problem or process that your book is addressing. For web banners and adverts, the image is often the strongest “pull” for your audience, evoking beauty, humour, appeal and so on; you need to carefully consider what visual message you are trying to convey. 

The reverse may be true, however, for landing pages, where there are mixed schools of thought on the use of visuals; some experts suggest they serve only to distract the reader, whilst others contend the right images can enhance your page, and/or even compel your visitor to act. Any visuals you use on landing pages must therefore be relevant and appropriate to your offer and your audience; steer clear of the generic library images, which may simply sidetrack your visitor or else be completely incompatible with what you are promoting, instead include an image of what you are promoting to your customer. 

Tip 2 – Decide what type of image suits the content you’ve produced

content_creation_ebook_coverIt seems obvious but, think carefully about the most appropriate type of image to use to illustrate your content. Photographs can make stunning web banners, for example, and can work well for “opinion pieces” in blog posts, whilst graphs, diagrams or increasingly popular “infographics” are perfect for illustrating “how-to” guides and eBooks.  Manufacturers and producers will certainly wish to use product shots in their online content, whilst services sector firms might consider eBook cover-shots or stills from webinars, as additional options for depicting their offers.

Note: “Infographics” are – as the name suggests – graphical representations of information or data, also known as “data visualisations”.  They are used to portray what might otherwise be quite complex pieces of information, such as survey results, data snapshots, or knowledge, in a way that is simpler to understand and visually attractive.  Websites, such as “Visual.ly”, and blogs such as “coolinfographics.com”, offer an astounding array of examples of infographics past and present, which arguably constitute an art form in their own right. Why not get your creative people to think about how they can develop an infographic that visually represents your data, information or area of expertise.

Tip 3 – Know how to source and attribute your images.

creative_commonsNaturally, use your own library of quality images – e.g. of products, people, events, marketing offers, locations – as per the above two tips.  For many businesses without their own photo stock, sourcing “free” images from the Internet is often the first port of call.  The challenge here is to ensure that you remain cognisant of copyright and licensing terms attached to images sourced in this way.  Thankfully, to help business navigate what can be a legal minefield in this regard, the Creative Commons (CC) licence has been devised which permits the sharing and distribution of CC licensed material, providing that images are appropriately attributed and/or used in a specific way. 

On free image library sites, like Flickr.com and Stock.xchng, you can use search tools to source images under the CC licence for use in your content.  Best practice recommends you put a hypertext link behind every image you use, linking back to the photograph you’ve downloaded; you should also credit the photographer, by copying the link to their profile page.  Make sure that you are clear about any other licensing obligations attached to the photo.  

Alternatively, to avoid some of the vagaries of free images, there are also “paid for” image library sites.  These sites, such as iStock and dreamstime, sell “royalty free” and other licensed images, videos and audio content, for use in online and offline marketing materials.  The most important consideration here, of course, is cost – purchasing high-quality, remarkable images can get expensive!

Creative Commons Image By: A. Diez Herrero

Tip 4 – Ensure that Google can “see” your images

On free image library sites, like Flickr.com and Stock.xchng, you can use search tools to source images under the CC licence for use in your content.  Best practice recommends you put a hypertext link behind every image you use, linking back to the photograph you’ve downloaded; you should also credit the photographer, by copying the link to their profile page.  Make sure that you are clear about any other licensing obligations attached to the photo.  

Alternatively, to avoid some of the vagaries of free images, there are also “paid for” image library sites.  These sites, such as iStock and dreamstime, sell “royalty free” and other licensed images, videos and audio content, for use in online and offline marketing materials.  The most important consideration here, of course, is cost – purchasing high-quality, remarkable images can get expensive!

Creative Commons Image By: A. Diez Herrero

Tip 4 – Ensure that Google can “see” your images

inbound_bookRemember that search engines don’t really recognise images on webpages, without some assistance from you.  Additionally, on banners etc., Google won’t be able to interpret any text embedded in images.  To address this issue, you should include an “alt” attribute in the properties of important images on your site. “This is a special code that allows you to describe an image with text in a way that Google can see it”.* This alternative text description, then, gives value to the image in terms of SEO, as it becomes recognisable to search engines. Think carefully about the description that you use, consider including your keywords if they would be relevant here.  To the same end, the file name of your image is important too, for example, file name: photo2012_09_09.jpg will not be as useful to you as filename: marketing eBook cover.jpg.

*Inbound Marketing  – Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, p.73

Tip 5 – Make your images shareable

Savvy businesses with products and services to sell are increasingly ensuring high quality images of these are “shareable” via social media networks. 

One popular medium for this is Pinterest, a social media site whose users create pinboards of images or graphics that they like, or of products that they wish to buy, and then share them with their networks.  Pinterest is becoming more and more interesting to business, with recent research suggesting that its users engage more with retailers than those using Facebook and Twitter.

Many businesses use Facebook to share brand images and products, via photo albums and news feeds, to all the people that have “liked” their company Facebook page.  Now, in a move that might be set to rival the success of Pinterest, Facebook has recently begun testing a new “Collections” feature on its social media platform, enabling a pilot group of US retailers to develop online catalogues for sharing with Facebook visitors.  Facebook users in the US (initially) will soon be able to see “want” and “collect” buttons on screen, next to specific product images, to enable them to create Pinterest or Amazon-style “wishlists” to share with their friends. 

To ensure that your images benefit from the maximum amount of traffic and views, make sure that they are accompanied by social sharing icons – “Pin it”, Facebook “Like”, “Tweet”, etc. so that your audience can share any that they like with their social networks.

Have we missed any key points you could share to help us with our deliberations? Are there any great examples of the use of images in online content that you could share with us? Please let us know in the comments below.

Is content marketing right for you?

 

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Content Marketing, Design

Kirstine Storey

Written by Kirstine Storey

Kirstine manages a number of key accounts, assisting clients with blogging, copywriting for eBooks, and developing new websites as well as heading up our managed email marketing service.