Images can be the difference between a click-through or a scroll-past. We know they’re critical to any successful content strategy, but how exactly should we be using them?
How do we master thumb-stopping imagery with consistency and speed?
We’ll get to that, but first for some food for thought:
- Research conducted by printing juggernauts, Xerox, found coloured visuals increased engagement rates by 80%.
- Another study revealed content with relevant images gains 94% more views than content without.
- Visual content is more than 40x more likely to be shared on social media than other content types.
1. Including Unrelated Images
Click bait has become the scourge of the internet in recent years:
“This man thought he was buying a house, but what happened next will shock you.”
Sound familiar? There’s no faster way to annoy your audience than with an ambiguous headline followed by something entirely unrelated, unexpected or just plain crap. Today’s internet users are savvy, and will bounce off your site faster than a tennis ball thwacked by Federer.
The same goes for images.
Attention-grabbing images (like our lovely feline friend above) may get you a click or two, but strategic imagery should always be related, and complimentary, to your content. Otherwise, you’ll gather only dissatisfied readers, high bounce rates and poor brand equity. Yuck.
2. Burdening Your Site With HUGE Images
Not only does Google prioritise websites with fast page load-speeds, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load within 2 seconds or less.
Sean Work at Kissmetrics calculated that an ecommerce site making $100,000 per day could lose $2.5 million in lost sales each year, all due to a 1 second page delay.
Interesting, but what does this have to do with images?
The bigger the image, the longer it takes to load. Be nice to your site, and you’ll be nice to your audience.
So before an image touches your site, ensure you check its file size. Marginally reducing the quality of your images will drastically improve your load-speed, while maintaining a good user experience for your readers.
Try this: Use Photoshop’s “Save for Web & Devices” option to decrease the image size. If you don’t have photoshop, try Compressor.io.
3. Not Renaming Your Images
Images are visual by nature. On the web, they’re described by text. Who reads these descriptions? You guessed it, Headmaster Google.
According to Google, “Make your filename a good description of the subject matter of the image. For example, my-new-black-kitten.jpg is a lot more informative than IMG00023.JPG.”
Try this: Rename your files with descriptive, keyword-rich file names.
In doing so, you optimise your image for search engines who don’t only crawl the text on your site, but also the text within your image file.
4. Not Including an Alt-tag
But optimising your images for search engines doesn’t stop there, you need to visit the “alt text” of each of your images.
Alt text is used to describe the contents of an image file to search engines. Again, we’ll let Google explain:
“Alt text It's important for several reasons. It provides Google with useful information about the subject matter of the image. We use this information to help determine the best image to return for a user's query.”
Optimised alt text with relevant keywords will allow curious readers to land on your content from an image search. But woah there, don’t “stuff” your alt text with scores and scores of superfluous keywords - Headmaster Google doesn’t appreciate that, and will penalise your rank accordingly.
Try this: ALT Tag your image with relevant keywords describing what the image portrays. Be descriptive!
5. Selecting the Wrong File Type
How you save your images also determines how they displays on your site. Each format serves a purpose, and each has it’s strengths and weaknesses.
JPG (or JPEG) extensions are the standard image formats for the web. These can be vibrant colour photographs and gradient images. JPGs retain all colour information, but when saved they are compressed, causing quality loss.
GIF images are lower quality than JPGs, and are best suited for simple illustrations or colour blocks. Animations use GIFs frequently as they are the only file extension that enables interlacing and transparency.
PNGs support a greater colour range than GIFs and don’t degenerate with re-saves like JPGs do. Use this file extension for logos, charts and tables.
SVG (Scalable Vector Graphic) is a vector format that maintains its clarity, regardless of the device on which you view it. This format is ideal for crisp, sharp graphics and retina screens like Apple’s 5K iMacs.
Try this: Familiarise yourself with these file types, and strive to select the right one for the job.
6. Distorting Images
An elongated bust, a squashed-in face and an eerily long right arm - image distortion is not flattering.
Distortion occurs when sites adjust the dimensions of your image in order to show it in its entirety. Images saved at poor quality can also be the culprit.
Try this: Scale your image proportionally in Photoshop.
7. Choosing Overused Stock Images
Purchasing stock images is a no-brainer when you don’t have the time or money for a photoshoot. For most of us, this is most of the time.
However, cringe-worthy and plain ridiculous stock images are the norm on most stock photo libraries. Those that aren’t are often so overused you don’t even register they’re there.
Ask yourself, do you want your exceptional content to stand out from the crowd? A vaguely CSI Miami image of a businessman staring wistfully at an airport runway probably won’t do it.
Try this: If you’re short on time or aren’t able to create your own whiz-bang custom image, then by all means, find a good-quality stock photo. However, try to steer clear of those labelled ‘Popular’, and customise it with a filter or text where possible. But remember, if you’ve seen it before, others have too.