As content continues to reign supreme, it can be easy to forget online marketing is actually more than just text. Images have just as much right to the content throne as copy (as do audio and video, but those are topics for another day). This is often overlooked as we spend our days expanding copy to optimize web pages, writing blogs to prolong site visits, and holding social media conversations to drive engagement. But images won’t be ignored any longer. In fact, images are the very elements demanding attention as the web continues to trend toward the visual.
However, you can’t simply slap a bunch of images across your online marketing and call it a day. As with any of your other web content, you need to be strategic about how you use images to enhance your online marketing efforts.
As visual elements play a larger role in the web experience, users are expecting more from the images that shape that experience. The stock images we’ve defaulted to in the past are no longer adequate. That smiling woman on the phone, businessman at his computer, and diverse group of students on a lawn have been retired in favor of images that tell a more complete story.
Images aren’t just about photos anymore. Infographics and charts are a great way to get complex data points across. Mascots can add another dimension to your brand and help you to become even more recognizable. Illustrations, cartoons and icons are all popular ways to further incorporate visual elements to make your message more interesting and easier to understand.
No matter what direction you go when selecting your images, whether it’s from Creative Commons sites, stock databases, or unique creative you’ve commissioned, you’ll want to make sure your legal ducks are in a row. Check the licenses, properly attribute when necessary, and if you’re ever in doubt, err on the side of caution and choose a different image.
Pinterest is growing daily. Instagram is taking over younger audiences. Twitter is now embracing pictures, improving follower interaction for users who choose to employ them. Research has also shown that 93 percent of the most engaging Facebook posts use photos. The social world is undoubtedly a visual one. Using images in your social updates, on your blog and throughout your website will make it easier and more enticing for other users to share your message.
You want to consider the quality, file size and format of an image before you upload. Huge files won’t load on slow networks and aren’t necessary on small screens. But too-small/poor-quality images look unprofessional. Balancing the quality and size and knowing when to use .gif, .jpg and .png files will keep you looking polished and your users from losing their patience.
Even though the image itself can’t be read by search engine crawlers (yet), it is advisable to optimize your images for search. This can be done by incorporating keywords into the file name, using descriptive alt text and linking from anchor text that provides meaningful information about the image.
Your images can be augmented by copy beyond search optimization tactics. Captions provide clarity and give users context to maximize the impact of your images. Using text and images together can help grab and maintain the attention of your audience to decrease bounce rates and get your message across.
When done well, images add another dimension to your online marketing. Choosing the right visual elements can engage your audience, hold their attention, improve understanding, increase brand recognition, and ultimately help you effectively tell your story and sell your product.