The web is a highly visual medium. Web users love pictures. And content with pictures gets read more, gets considerably more engagement on social media, and gets shared more.
Images grab attention and, when chosen well, can convey useful information about the purpose of a blog post, article, list, or other piece of online content. They also show that you put a little extra time and thought into your work and just generally make for a more pleasant information-consuming experience.
Below are some guidelines and recommendations for selecting great images to accompany your content.
Only Use Images You’re Allowed to Use
Just because an image is on the internet, that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to use it. Images are the intellectual property of their creator or the owner who purchased rights to them. Many people happily share images for free, but many don’t—especially those who create them for a living.
It’s not OK to simply copy any image you find on the web. Doing so can put you at risk for a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice, request for fair compensation, legal action, punitive damages, and bad PR.
There are many sources for free-use images you can find with a quick Google search. Make sure to read the fine print, though. If an image isn’t explicitly labeled free-use, contact the site or owner of the image and ask about usage. Sometimes, all you need is permission and to give credit; sometimes, the owner wants payment.
Also, there are paid subscription sites where you pay a reasonable membership fee and get access to huge libraries of high-quality images. And speaking of…
Use High-Quality Images
High-resolution photos and graphics that look crisp, clear, and professional are a must. Crummy-looking, blurry, unfocused, low-res images don’t instill confidence in the quality and reliability of your website or your content.
Poor quality visual elements are often associated with spammy websites and low- or no-budget efforts (which isn’t a great marketing or branding message). On the other hand, an attractive image sends a subconscious signal that your site and content are trustworthy and worth taking the time to look at.
Convey the Value of the Content
As mentioned above, the image attached to an article, blog post, or other type of content should give the audience some idea of what they’ll get from the piece. This doesn’t have to be literal, though; for example, you don’t have to use a picture of a chunk of smoked gouda if you’re writing about the cheese.
Maybe your post gives ideas for delicious hors d’oeuvres and appetizers that incorporate smoked gouda. In that case, a picture of party-goers laughing together by a spread on a table is more engaging while communicating one of the benefits of reading your content.
Convey the Tone of the Content
This goes hand-in-hand with the above entry. It’s a key part of creating the right expectations in your readers. If the piece is an uplifting one, use an uplifting photo or graphic. Humor pieces should have images that are whimsical, goofy, or funny.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re sharing some grave concerns and getting somewhat doom-and-gloomy, a picture of rainbow unicorns dancing in a sunny field with peppermint trees and gumdrop flowers won’t work well.
Use the Right Size Images
Here at CREATE180 Design, we build blog pages that use images that are 1200 x 628 pixels. That’s because this is the ideal image size for sharing content on most of the major social media sites, including through paid post boosts. Also, we always recommend that images be under 100 KB so that they don’t slow down your page loading time. Pages that load too slowly can hurt your SEO.
If you’re not a graphic designer, you probably don’t have fancy tools for resizing images. Using the basic cropping and resizing tools available on your computer don’t really cut it for professional purposes. Fortunately, there’s a free online tool that lets you resize images (you don’t even have to sign up): Pixlr. It takes some playing around with, but you’ll get the hang of it.
Avoid Images with Text
Generally speaking, don’t use images that have text on them. Or, if they do, it should be very little. Photos or graphics with writing undermines the fundamental purpose of an image. Also, they can cause problems with paid boosts or ads on social media networks, and they’ve been shown to be less effective in those mediums. And if you’re using images that say “Content Marketing” on them because you’re writing about content marketing, it’s pretty cheesy and unimaginative.