“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.” Barry Schwartz
It was morning at the local grocery store in Southern California. Just like every other Saturday morning.
With one exception.
Before the store opened, researchers had set up a table with an attractive display of local jams for sale. On this Saturday, 24 jams were on display. Consumers would stop, taste one more more of the local products and then either pick up a jar to take to the check out counter or continue on their way.
Then, on following Saturday the same table was prepared, but this time with only 6 varieties of jam. Same store, just fewer options.
Guess which display table led to more sales?
You guessed it – when there are more options, people tend to get overwhelmed and do nothing.
Fewer options is better.
This is also true in business: for example, when faced with too many marketing options you might, in fact, do nothing. Psychologist Barry Schwartz called this the ‘paradox of choice’. And that brings me to marketing. Just like jars of jam, when faced with too many marketing options most people either dabble in a few ideas or do nothing at all.
And it’s getting worse. For the last decade we’ve been inundated with a truck-load of online marketing choices.
Should you build your Facebook followers, post videos on YouTube, learn all about Instagram or plan an affiliate launch?
Or, maybe you should simply reduce your choices and focus on what works?
We love blogging because, unlike most other online marketing strategies, it keeps on working for us. And, despite all the hype of “latest, greatest” social marketing, every year more companies are investing in their blogs.
Your blog will attract new followers, keep you in touch with clients and help convert followers to buyers. Even your old posts keep attracting readers.
And, as much as we like promoting on our social channels, good luck getting people to read an old tweet or watch a two-year old video on YouTube.
So, why not make this your year of the blog?
How to make this the Year of the Blog
Alrighty, you’ve committed to blogging. But you’re feeling a little unsure how to get started. The last time you published a blog post was 5 months ago and that one took you two days to write. Ouch!
At BlogWorks we speak with bloggers every week who have this challenge—they know their blog should be central to their marketing, but they struggle to publish. Just like the Jackson’s 1970’s hit song, “A-B-C it’s as easy as 1-2-3,” blogging can be as easy as following 3 steps.
By the way, “A-B-C” stands for Always Blog Consistently (I’m kind of proud of that one).
1. Set your goals
2. Block the time
3. Follow an SOP
Let’s dig into the details:
1. Set your goals
“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” Zig Ziglar
Creating a few meaningful goals for your blog doesn’t have to be complicated or scary.
Start with a few metrics which are important for you, like: site traffic, list size, publishing frequency and
then create the goal based on last year.
For example, if your site traffic last year averaged 1,000 users (unique visitors) to your site your new goal could be to increase site traffic to 1,500/month.
Similarly, if your list size is 800, make a goal to double it this year.
And if you published 10 times last year, commit to 2 posts per month, or 24 posts in the year.
But, don’t stop there. Goals only work if you check on them. At least once a month, fill in a simple spreadsheet with your progress.
2. Block the time
“You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.” James Clear, Atomic Habits
I have written about time management and productivity for over 10 years. And I’ll let you in on a little secret…
When I’m coaching chronic procrastinators or clients who are tackling huge projects I always recommend one strategy. Are you ready?
Block your time.
Admit it, if you had a 2:00 appointment with your dentist, you’d prepare, leave home and be there on time. Right?
It’s no different with a scheduled conference call, webinar, sales meeting, or meeting a friend to show them this blog (hint, hint). When we block time for a meeting, we treat that time differently. You can always move that time block, but your writing time should be protected.
Most authors, bloggers, speech writers and other creative people do their best work in the morning, shortly after waking up. That could be a good place to start blocking your blog writing time.
3. Follow your SOP
“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” Mike Murdock
One of the best changes I made to my blogging was to create a Standard Operating Procedure.
That’s right, one of the changes that accelerated the growth of this blog and my blog was to document all the steps it took to get my rough draft published and promoted.
Two things happened: 1) I wasted less time trying to muddle my way through all the minutia of WordPress tags, categories, headers, etc. 2) I was closer to outsourcing the $12/hour jobs.
Once I’d written up all the steps (and there were over 30 steps!), it was obvious that a disproportionate amount of time was spent doing non-creative, routine tasks. In fact, I created BlogWorks because of that exercise!
To get started, use Google Docs (it’s easy to share when you are ready to outsource this) and simply list all the steps your blogging process needs. Next, identify repetitive tasks you can outsource. For example, you might want to outsource creating the Featured Image for each post.
Contact us to learn how we can transform your rough draft into a published and promoted post.
Install the sumo or social warfare floating social share bars to encourage more readers to share your articles.
Share your best stuff. You readers will be attracted (and will share) your best ideas, solutions, strategies, and resources.
Finally, keep the faith—all successful bloggers started small and slow, persistence and consistency are more important than perfection. Keep writing, publishing and promoting!
Whoa! I know this was a long list.
And so we have two more thoughts for you…
First, you don’t need to do all of this. In fact, you don’t need to do half of it! Instead, choose one change you will make this month. Believe it or not, in our research we have found the most blogs never change! Year after year there is virtually zero attention given to plug ins, format, easy ways to share the post…nothing. So, go easy on yourself and choose one thing for this month (my favourite would be to add the cool, free Editorial Calendar).
Lastly, you might have noticed that there are only 51 tips in our list, and not 52. That’s because you deserve a break! For at least one week, slack off. A great way to do that is to schedule your posts in advance (see #14 and #15 to save time.)
There you have it – great tips you can use one at a time. Have fun with it—your blog is a license to be creative and experiment. Do that and your readers will reward you with more readers.
Users tells you how much traffic your blog is getting. Raw traffic is a good measurement of effectiveness because it tells you whether or not your blog is growing.
This measures how many users left after visiting just one page on your website. The lower this number, the better, because it means people are engaging with your website content and clicking through pages.
Average session duration
This is how long the average reader stays on your site. Over one minute is a good starting goal. You can learn even more by looking at the time spent on each of your top blog posts (see finding theGolden Goose, below.)
It’s easy to have your basic dashboard sent to you on a regular basic. This is not only convenient (I get mine once a month), it’s a good reminder to check your performance (watch the video in this post to learn how to setthis up).
FINDING YOUR GOLDEN GOOSE
Imagine you have a retail store.
In your store, there are a few items that fly off the shelf. For whatever reason people love those scarves, or toys or books or whatever it is you sell. They are your golden goose (geese?)
That’s fantastic news! Now you can highlight that section of the store, add more items shoppers might want – even advertise those products to get more people into your store.
What about your blog?
Every blog has winners and losers—for whatever reason some posts simply out perform others. On my blog, I have one blog post that every month pulls in almost one half of my site traffic. And it was written 3 years ago!
How to discover your golden goose.
Start with your Google Analytics. Scroll down on the left menu to “Behaviour”, click “Overview” and look at your top three blog posts.
Now that you have some basic numbers and know what your Golden Goose blog posts are, it’s time to get to work with your annual blog tune up!
TIME TO TUNE UP YOUR POSTS
Before you start writing more blogs, tune up the ones you have. The best posts to invest in are the ones that are closely aligned to what you sell (the topic is valuable to your core market), but are underperforming. You can simply start with posts that are ranked lower than 5 on your list of top blog posts (explained above).
1. Chop up paragraphs – short paragraphs (and sentences) keep your reader moving. The goal is to get readers to move through enough of the post so they will take some action. This is a 5-minute fix – start with a quick edit.
2. Cliffhangers – now I’ll show you one sure-fire way to keep readers on your blog…
…that’s a cliffhanger – it could be a question, 3 dots, an em-dash (—) or a colon. The idea is to make the reader want to get to the punch line.
3. Ask questions – similar to the cliff hanger, you can turn many of your sentences into questions. Don’t you agree? Readers naturally want to know the answer to their questions.
4. Curious subheadings – subheadings break up the reading and can create curiosity. Play around with headings until you find ones that spark some curiosity with your readers.
5. Insert media – this is a fun way to dress up any post: add media. You can insert YouTube videos, a Gif (like the one I created for this post), images, or illustrations. I call this “eye candy” – it attracts the reader and breaks up the reading experience.
TURN READERS INTO PROSPECTS
The ultimate goal of any blog is to turn readers into prospects. They can join your mailing list, buy your book, visit your store, or contact you—but they need to take action.
Are you turning readers into prospects?
Here’s 5 easy ways to make your posts more profitable:
1. Internal links – the fastest and simplest way to get more reaction from readers is to point them to other blog posts or to your products and services. Just like in this blog posts, my links take you to more valuable content on our site (not pointing you away to other sites). This is a 5-minute fix – start with your top blog post.
2. Insert Post Ads – we love this free plug-in! Scroll up in this blog post and you can probably see an example of our banner inserted into every blog post on our site. You can invite readers to join your list, buy your ebook, visit your store, register for your event, download a guide … the are unlimited options and it’s easy to quickly change the banner that shows on every blog post.
3. Ask for comments – how simple is this? Ask your readers for comments (like in this post).
4. Ask for social shares –hopefully you have installed a floating social share bar on your blog. But now you need to remind readers to use it occasionally. Hey reader!! Can you take a second and click onour share bar on the left (at the bottom of your phone). Thanks!
5. Better Click to Tweet – got a great quote you want to be shared? Install the free plug-in BetterClick to Tweet. It lets your readers do the work for you. Here’s how it looks in action:
There you have it – your annual blog tune up…but wait there’s more!!
The truth is that you should be doing a tune up like this at least once a month. Ideally, you have outsourced some of this work so that you are doing the strategy work and someone else is implementing your idea. Either way, a small investment to mean you attract more readers and readers take the right action on your site!
Tell me in the comments – what tune-up are you doing to your blog??
Looking for more great articles to read on this topic?
I waste time, you waste time…everyone wastes time. We could all use time management tips.
Distractions like email, searching for documents (or PDF’s, images, emails, files), making lists, wasteful meetings, deciding what to work on next, or getting lost in YouTube videos can burn through hours faster than you can say “Where did the day go?”
That’s what this post is about—one simple technique to help you overcome procrastination and put you firmly back in charge of your time.
And, if you do what I am going to suggest, you will make money with this time management technique.
But, before I get to that…
Why we need time management tips:
Admit it, you sometimes leave important work to the last minute while low-value distractions mysteriously gobble up precious minutes.
One problem is lists—lists are a horrible way to prioritize.
By their very nature, a To-Do list of random tasks gives similar priorities to everything on your list:
confirming your flight booking looks to have the same priority as following up with a prospect.
picking up supplies at the stationery store competes with updating your website, and
ordering a book a friend recommended is competing with meeting with your marketing consultant.
To-Do lists have a habit of growing and growing. And it’s all too tempting to tick off the easy tasks … which may not be the important tasks that will grow your business! Or it’s all too easy to put off your list or be distracted by emails, phone calls and interruptions.
Maybe you’ve taken a course on time management tips or read some books by the gurus. You might have even had some success.
For a while…
But, like any training, it only works if you first admit you have a problem.
And the problem is you’re an idiot.
Why we’re all idiots
I’m including myself in this statement. And I’m speaking from experience. For example, I’m an idiot when I:
think I need 8 hours to get my work done.
tell myself I’ll finish a project over the weekend (and then leave it until Sunday night when I’d really rather be relaxing).
think making lists makes me more organized.
And I’m really an idiot when I keep wasting time – repeating the same patterns over and over and thinking things will get better. That’s the definition of insanity right?
For far too long I was convinced more time would get me better results. Sound familiar?
Longer hours, working faster – even multi-tasking – were signs of success.
Call it dumb-male thinking or a sign of our go-go, high achievement work ethos – either way, it’s a recipe for burnout and failure.
The good news is there’s one simple time management tip that changes all of that:
more focus on high priority work.
better results every week.
And (this might be the best part) you feel in control of your time.
It’s called Blocking.
How to manage your time by blocking
Reader warning: even though this technique might sound ridiculously simple, done correctly, the results can be profound. I know, because it changed everything for me and my work. Trust me: this works.
STEP 1: Flight Plan
Step one is to start your week having identified high-value, make-you-money, no-debating work you need to complete by Friday. That’s your Flight Plan.
Your Flight Plan is a short list of high-priority, high ROI work (and definitely not a long list of miscellaneous tasks competing for your time.)
That one phone call that landed you the new contract was time well spent.
Training your staff to ask for the up-sell was time well spent.
Doing a quick ROI assessment of your marketing spends and dropping the dead wood was a great use of time.
I could go on with more examples (all from my business) but you get the point.
STEP 2: Block Time
Next, turn that work into appointments on your calendar. Just like booking a meeting – book time for yourself to get those high-ROI tasks from your flight plan done.
That’s blocked time.
The concept is simple: when you have an appointment on your calendar you prepare for it and you’re very unlikely to miss that appointment. Therefore, the task gets done.
That’s why blocking works.
It’s booked. You’ve set the time aside. You might move the appointment, but you can’t delete it and as a result, the work gets done.
Blocking time makes you more productive
I’m more productive when I block time. I work fewer hours, experience less stress and yet I don’t feel rushed.
It’s like an invisible assistance is quietly directing me to the next most important work. And keeping me away from low-value work and distractions.
At the end of the day I feel like I’ve been firmly parked in Quadrant II work (important, but not urgent) and rarely distracted.
It might feel strange at first to make an appointment with yourself. But ask yourself: what would you rather have: the stress that comes from leaving something to the last minute or the feeling that comes from marching ahead through tough work with a day-before-vacation attitude?
How to get started with this time management tip
Like any new technique, you need to build habits from simple routines.
Firstly, my routine is to build my Flight Plan on Sunday night or Monday morning. This is a 10-minute exercise that solidifies all the random tasks and deadlines into a short list of high-priority objectives for the week.
Next, I block time to get the work done: simple tasks might take 30 minutes, completing a proposal might take 90 minutes.
I try to put my hardest work in the morning or right after a lunch break. Based on research into circadian rhythms, those are the most productive times of day.
Finally, I work through my blocked time.
I treat each block like an appointment: I start on time, then I focus on only that work and do my best to stay focused on that task until the work is complete or the time is complete. It’s an appointment to get work done, and it’s an effective time management tip.
What about you? Tell me in the comments if you can use blocking to be more productive?
For more time management tips and ideas, read these short posts:
Like how to use questions to turn a hesitant prospect into a new client.
Or how to start with benefits instead of features when writing sales copy.
The same is true with blogging … often the simplest lessons will out-perform the most complicated.
That’s what this post is all about. I wanted to ask the experts what really worked when it came to building a successful blog.
Specifically, I asked them:
“What should busy business owners do to get better results from their blog?”
I wanted simple strategies that could be implemented to build a better blog even with the busiest schedule. And I wanted long-game strategies. After all, blogging is not about quick-fix, sudden windfall marketing tricks. Right?
You have a blog because you understand the power of attracting followers and building loyalty. And we all know that getting good things in life often takes time.
If you are 20-something and spend most of your time watching YouTube videos about SEO tricks and long-tail keyword research this post is not for you.
Here’s a list of the solutions the experts provided:
“Start doing what you want to do.” wrote author and blogger, Harsh Agrawal, “You will only get better with time.”
At BlogWorks, every month we are faced with advertising/promotion decisions. While the “older” strategies, like Facebook advertising, Google retargeting and email blasts are still there, newer ones, like Instagram stories and video posts on LinkedIn are waiting there to be discovered and explored.
It all takes time – often time and money.
The good news is you have one of the most powerful strategies working for you already. It’s called a blog.
Now, maybe you’re only getting 100 people reading your blog per day. But, that’s not how to think about it! Anyone who has promoted public seminars knows the power of having an audience. With your blog, you have that every day!
It might be that your average reader only stays for 2 or 3 minutes. That’s great! Now get them to read a related post. Or direct them to your contact page, or send them to a survey.
Instead of quitting on your blog and chasing the next advertising BSO (bright shiny object), keep the faith.
Imagine you want to buy a new phone. You’ve got lots of questions. You want to buy the perfect phone. But, instead of getting someone interested in listening, answering your questions and helping to narrow down your choices, you got a commission-driven, fast-talking sales person who wastes your time telling you all the ways he uses his phone.
“Whatever anyone’s objections, concerns, unknowns, etc. might be,” wrote blogger, podcaster and author, Pat Flynn “your posts should be published to address them.”
In our nano-second, attention deprived lifestyle, the more targeted your blog topics, the more you will attract your ideal customer.
Consider the headlines of blog posts that ended up on page 1 of Google:
Leadership Qualities that will make you a better Entrepreneur – Neil Patel
and one written on a similar topic that fell to page 10.
10 Essential Business Leadership Skills
Notice how the first title is more descriptive and targeted? When you read the first headline, your initial impression is that this post is going to help make you a better entrepreneur and leader.
“This will help with SEO, yes,” says Flynn, “but more than that it’ll help your audience know that you know exactly what they’re going through, and they’re likely to know you have the solutions.”
Whatever time of year you are reading this is a good time to do basic retargeting. Start with questions your clients have been asking you.
When I started BlogWorks I used to think my customers wanted what I wanted: SEO ranking, higher site traffic numbers, and sales conversions.
And while all of that is true (and this is an important point) – those were not the core benefits I needed to pay attention to.
When I really listened to what my customers were telling me on every phone call and email, an overwhelming number of inquiries were saying they just wanted to get social media off their list.
Sure, they might like updating friends on Facebook, but what they didn’t want was the time-consuming, often repetitive, updating of their social media channels for their business.
They wanted social media done for them.
What is the single most important benefit your customers asking for?
3. Reach out to others
The most successful businesses in history – and any successful startup owner knows this – started with a group of people working together.
Your blog is no different – the sooner you build relationships, the faster your audience will grow.
“Spend more time on building the right relationships.” wrote writer and part-time entrepreneur, Ryan Robinson “If you have hopes of growing your blog’s traffic, sure you need to keep it well-stocked with high-quality content—that’s a given in today’s world. However, the biggest way you can truly stand out from the crowd (and see your content rise to the top of organic search rankings) is by building meaningful relationships with other brands, bloggers, and business owners in your industry.”
Ryan is a great example of reaching out to other bloggers. In only a few years he built his blog and social presence (including his podcast The Side Hustle Project) to an audience of over 250,000.
And it all starts with giving back.
“Work hard to deliver value to others that already have an existing audience of established readers you’d like to reach.” wrote Robinson.
In addition to commenting on a blog you admire, reach out with a direct message (DM) on Twitter or comment in LinkedIn to the author.
You might be surprised how reaching out with a personal note of appreciation will get the notice of even the most popular online personality.
In fact, that’s how I got input from the authors you are reading about in this post!
“After building up some goodwill,” continues Robinson, “pitch them on writing a guest post that’ll give you the opportunity to get in front of their audience, bring some new readers back to your blog, and all the while continue growing the number of high authority links that point back to your site. This naturally takes time, but the payoff, in the long run, is unbeatable.”
4. Rework what’s already working
In 2013, entrepreneur and co-founder of Flickr, Stewart Butterfield was ready to abandon his failing online game platform and let all his staff go. The money he’d raised was running out and the game wasn’t going to be ready on time.
But there was a simple communication tool his team had invented for their own use that Butterfield could see had some market potential.
“And it was only once we had decided to shut down the game that we realized, like, hey, this system is actually pretty good. We would never work without a system like this again. Like, this – it’s so much better than anything else we had used before. Maybe other people would like it.” Stewart Butterfield, NPR, How I Built This
That simple tool, now known as Slack now boasts 8 million daily users and a market value in the billions. Not bad for a company that 5 years before was close to folding.
Every blogger has a hidden gem in their archives that should be reworked and brought to light.
“Before you write another new blog post,” wrote Rich Brooks, CEO of Flyte New Media, “’rehab’ some previous posts that may need some updating.”
Another way to build a better blog is to start by identifying blog posts that are still driving lots of traffic, but are not ranking on the top search engine pages.
“Add new images, more data, additional expert quotes, and so on” continues Brooks “to really make an old post shine, and then republish that post at the same URL. You’ll save time and get better search results.”
5. WRITE TO BE SHARED
I’ll let you in on a little secret.
In fact, this secret changed the way I think about blogging. Completely.
Here it is: people share what makes them look smart.
Think about it: after you listen to a podcast you enjoyed, notice what part of it you shared with a friend? Or why did you retweet that update about your industry, or share a blog post?
Sure, you want to be helpful, but a part of you is also saying “Hey, look at what I discovered!”
After all, we don’t share stuff that’s boring, commonplace or that we think a friend, or our followers on social media, already know about. We share to be helpful, but also because it makes us look smart.
There you have it, 5 strategies from 5 experts that don’t involve crazy advertising schemes, big budgets or even hours of work. Simple, long-game ways to attract more followers, build loyalty and grow your business.
And I’ll add one more: don’t get distracted.
The Internet is a busy place and everyone has the next great idea. We have no idea how great their idea is in reality, or what they went through to make it happen, or how much time they had on their hands. It’s just one more Bright Shiny Object about to pull us away from the fundamentals.
Blogging is a long game and it requires patience – just like building any relationship. And don’t forget to look at what BlogWorks can do for you. It’s like having a dedicated assistant doing your social media but without the recruitment, hiring, training, management or high cost. BlogWorks is the smart way to get your social media done.
The Internet is a busy place. And one way to cut through the noise and get some attention is to use images in blog posts.
Pictures, video, screenshots, diagrams, and illustrations are a great way to keep your reader from clicking away. Images will also help readers understand your information and ideas, and remember your post.
The trick is to know how to create and add those blog images quickly and effectively.
In this post, we’ll walk you through all the steps, tools and tricks to dress up your blog without having to lose your afternoon doing it.
Okay, let’s jump in with why images work:
Your blog competes with a lot of distractions. And once you get a reader to your blog you need to keep them there.
“Our brain is mainly an image processor (much of our sensory cortex is devoted to vision), not a word processor.” Psychology Today
65% of senior marketing executives say that photos, video, illustrations, and infographics are core to how their brand story is communicated.
Visual search tools are becoming increasingly important too, so when you use images in blog posts the right way, it can help your SEO.
You should aim to add images to every article you write online. A good rule of thumb is to add one image every 300 words.
PIXELS, FORMAT, SIZE AND ALL THAT STUFF
Trying to understand the different image size options can get pretty complicated. The two basic things to know are orientation and size/compression.
For most blogs, a horizontal orientation (longer width than height) works better. Horizontal/landscape images take up less real estate on the screen, allowing your content to catch the eye of your readers. Horizontal images are also perfect for sharing your blog on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
But vertical or square images perform better on Instagram and are more likely to be pinned on Pinterest. Again the reason is simple – Instagram and Pinterest are all about images. A vertical/portrait image takes up more screen real estate, which makes them more eye-catching.
So in the end, what orientation you choose comes down to your users and what social platforms they use!
Sprout Social maintains an up-to-date list of the best images sizes for the various social media channels in this post.
Image Size and Compression
When talking about images, size can mean two things – the physical size of the image (length x width) and the file size (bytes).
Most images straight from your camera or from a high-quality stock photo website are higher in resolution and physical size than they need to be for the web.
A digital photo is made up of pixels (px) – tiny square tiles of colour. We generally talk about pixels in two ways – pixel count and pixel density. The pixel count is the number of pixels that form your photo. So an 800px by 600px photo simply means that your photo is 800 pixels wide and 600 pixels tall.
Pixel density, or dpi, is the number of pixels per square inch. The more pixels per square inch, the higher the resolution of the image and the clearer it is. For print photos, 300dpi or higher is ideal. For the web, 72-150dpi is more than sufficient.
Start by working out the best physical size for images on your website.
There’s no point filling your blog post with images that are 3000px wide if your blog template automatically resizes them to 800px! Even though the image looks like it’s 800px on your blog, the 3000px image is still being downloaded, which slows down the load speed of your page!
Your images should only be as large as your blog content width (or close to it! Let’s face it, sometimes you just can’t remember if your blog template is 800px or 1000px wide … or is that only me?). If your blog is responsive (that is, it automatically resizes the page depending on the size of a viewers screen), size your image for the maximum width.
Find a balance between file size and quality when you use images in blog posts
The smaller the file size of your image, the faster it will load for your reader. But, reducing size too much can create a fuzzy image. Your goal is to find the balance between the lowest file size and an acceptable quality.
Try to keep your image size between 150KB and 300kb. Take a look at the example below. The original image was 7.6MB and 5000px wide. The image on the left was resized to 860px wide and saved as a high-quality jpeg, which produced a 250KB file. You can barely tell the difference between this image and the original when viewed online. The image on the right was resized to be 860px wide but saved as a low-quality jpeg. It’s only 30KB so it will load quickly but it’s fuzzy and of poor quality.
Of course, it isn’t always possible to keep your images to under 300KB. On retina displays, a complex photograph may likely look fuzzy at 300KB.
The key take-home idea is keep file sizes as small as you can, especially if you are using a lot of images in your post! Page loading times affect your google rankings and readers are likely to be turned off a page that takes ages to load.
There’s a number of free services for reducing image size, like Pic Resize, and Tiny PNG. Or you can use free design sites like Canva or PicMonkey to get the right size and resolution for any social media site or for your website (more on using those tool below).
Do I use JPG, GIF, PNG, SVG?
What is the best image format for your blog images?
JPG/JPEG – offers great quality images at a small file size. It’s the best option for photos unless they need to be transparent, animated or have a lot of text in them
GIF – perfect for small graphics and animations, and they can have transparent backgrounds.
PNG – ideal for detailed graphics, images with a lot of text or transparent images. PNG files tend to be larger than JPG files.
SVG – this is a scalable vector format, which means it stays crisp and clear at any resolution. They tend to be large in terms of file size, but if you have a complicated graphic that needs to automatically resize, and/or has rollover effects or animations, SVG is a perfect choice.
NOTE: Not all websites are set up to automatically handle SVG files. WordPress has plugins that will help. For non-WordPress sites, give it a go and if your SVG file doesn’t display check with your web developer.
Test your images
Most content management systems (like WordPress), allow you to preview your draft blog post before you make it live. So if you aren’t sure about an image, upload it to your draft blog post and preview it!
FEATURED IMAGES IN BLOG POSTS
The simplest way to use images in blog posts is with a brilliant, eye-catching feature image.
Your featured image could be just a photograph or you can add your headline onto a photo. Either way, it needs to create some curiosity and make the reader want to read on. Remember – this is what appears at the top of your post and in social streams when your post get’s shared. It’s also the first thing that people see when they land on your main blog page. An eye-catching image will help get readers, clicks and reshares.
In WordPress, you’ll find the link to choose your Featured Image on the right side of your WordPress menu.
If I’m using a photograph, I try to avoid cheesy stock images, like the image on the left, and look for something more original like the image on the right.
MAKING YOUR OWN IMAGE
Be creative! Stock images are great, but original are better – even if you are just adding a twist to a stock image.
You don’t have to be a graphic artist or own expensive software to create your own images. Free tools like canva and picmonkey have a wide range of templates, images and ready-to-use graphics and fonts. With a little practice, you can add your unique spin on your images or create quote images, memes, diagrams, and infographics.
Here’s an image I made in Canva in only 3 minutes.
OK, so it’s not groundbreaking – the point is that I was able to find a free-to-use high-quality stock image, add some stylized font and download the image at the right size for my blog in just three minutes.
Once you get comfortable with the above tools, you can get creative with your results. Simple techniques like resizing images, adding screens, cropping – even choosing more interesting fonts will make your image stand out.
If you are using an image under a Creative Commons license, it’s good practice to credit the photographer and source. You can add credits in the final slide or provide a link in your YouTube video description. For images, it’s usually as simple as adding a link to your photo back to the original photo. Most stock photo websites will supply you with the link when you download the image.
Some great sites that have loads of images safe to use are pixabay, unsplash, Refe, Magdeleine and if you still can’t find what you want go to librestock where images from over 40 sites are aggregated for you to search. We listed 7 sites to find great pictures in this post. You can even use Google to do an image search – just be sure to choose ‘Labeled for reuse’ under Tools.
Quick tip about searching for that “perfect” image: it’s really easy to lose 20 or 30 minutes flipping madly through photos for the perfect picture of a woman holding a cappuccino staring thoughtfully at her laptop – finding a picture that is slightly better than one you found in the first 5 minutes won’t make your post go viral. Try to limit yourself to 5 minutes to find a good-enough image and get it uploaded into your post. You can always change it later if you find a better one.
USE IMAGES OF REAL PEOPLE
Pictures of people are one of the most engaging forms of content on the internet. Faces are unique and humans have a hardwired visual preference for staring at faces. Images of faces and people will hold a reader’s attention.
But they need to relate to the content or help explain a concept or point – studies have found that pictures of people are glossed over by readers when they are generic, decorative images.
When it comes to social media, faces engage us. Photos with faces attract more comments and likes.
ADDING SCREENSHOTS AND DIAGRAMS
Let’s say you are trying to explain how to use an online search engine or where to go on your site to find your latest book, or even how to make sure your opt-in email didn’t go into that person’s “promotion” folder in Gmail.
Kind of hard to explain in words – right?
That’s where screenshots are super helpful. Within a couple of minutes you’ve captured the image, added a couple of arrows and now your picture is worth a thousand words – plus you get more people going to the right place!
A tool like Snagit is an invaluable investment. For only $50 you have a ready-to-go workhorse for screenshots, videos, and even gifs.
Here’s a video I created in Snagit of using Snagit to edit a screenshot (now that’s meta!).
Custom graphics and diagrams are another great way to explain complex concepts or just add some fun to your post. Snagit is a great tool but there are plenty out there. OmniGraffle and Lucidchart offer flowcharting tools that you can use to make fun diagrams. Piktochart has a free version for creating infographics and data-driven graphics.
Need a chart to help illustrate some information? You can take them right from Excel, Google Sheets or Word. Just copy your chart and paste it into your text editor, or take a screenshot.
And don’t be afraid to pick up a pencil or pen! Sketch your idea and take a photo. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t an artist – your readers will enjoy seeing that you are just like them!
ADDING VIDEO AND GIF’S
Sometimes text alone isn’t quite enough. That’s where video and animations can come in.
I’ve been asked many times how I add videos to my blog. I’m certainly no expert, but when it comes to anything that smells technical I remind myself ‘done is better than perfect’ and I keep it simple. Start to finish, a simple video should take me no longer than 15 minutes.
Here’s an illustration of the steps I go through.
You do need to host your video somewhere. We have used Vimeo for many years and love the price and how fast and simple it is to use. You can also use YouTube or Wistia.
The steps to adding video to your blog are pretty simple once you’ve practiced them a few times, but they do vary depending on your website and where you are hosting your video.
Here’s how to insert a video from YouTube into WordPress:
This process had gotten super simple. Start by locating the video you want on YouTube.
Log into your WordPress website, open the blog post to edit, locate your cursor where you want the video, paste the URL.
This free tool will allow you to customize the look of your YouTube video and do things like turn off the annoying “related” videos
Here’s how to insert a video from Vimeo into WordPress:
To get your video’s embed code, go to its page on Vimeo and click the ‘Share’ button.
Click the ‘+Show options’ link and copy the embed code.
Log into your WordPress website, open the blog post to edit and click on the ‘Text’ tab in your text editor.
Locate your cursor where you want the video and paste the embed code.
Note: You should include text in your post with your video if you want your post to get picked up by search engines like Google. You can see how it’s done on the Gone with the Wynn’s travel vlog. With every blog post they have lots of text, images and video to keep you, the reader interested and for SEO purposes.
Using a consistent theme
When you are choosing images or fonts it’s a good idea to be consistent with the theme of your site and your blog. It could be as simple as using a consistent font (I’m a fan of Helvetica Neue, Marker Felt, Yellowtail and Bebas Neue), a color scheme or icon style.
The customer service app, Help Scout does a great job of using consistent design elements in their blog that are light, modern and quirky.
Choosing the right file name
Image SEO starts with the file name. When you use images in blog posts, you want Google to know what your image is about without even looking at it!
Before you upload your new image, take a look at the name of the image. Your image should be named something that relates to the image and/or the content of your article. It should also include your keywords whenever possible. Choosing a keyword-rich name for your image will make it easier for search engines to rank your page.
For instance, if you are writing an article on how to choose the best chew toy for puppies, name your image “best-chew-toy-for-puppies.jpg”. If your image shows a sunset on a beach in Koh Samui, Thailand, name it ‘thailand-koh-samui-beach-sunset.jpg’.
Use dashes between words, rather than spaces, underscores or running all your words together.
This recommendation comes straight from Google. We’re not sure of the exact reason for this as Google guards how it’s search engine algorithm works closer than a magician guards their tricks. But the Google Webmaster say dashes between words helps google find your images!
When you upload your image, video or other media, you have the option to include ALT text. You should do this whenever you can.
The ALT text tells search engines about your image, which helps your rankings. Plus, screen readers read out the ALT text so you are helping your content be more accessible.
Your ALT text should help explain your image or the point you are trying to illustrate. Like choosing a file name, your ALT text should be related to the content of your article or your keywords.
Captions and Headlines
Image captions are the text that appears next to the image on your page. You don’t have to include them but they do help. Many readers tend to scan an article’s heading, images, titles, and captions quickly before deciding to read it in full. And they can help readers understand the point that you are trying to make with your image.
There’s no need to add a caption every time you use images in blog posts – sometimes an image is self-explanatory. Add them where they make sense or when you think they may help a reader understand your point of view.
BarkPost, the inventors of the monthly dog treat subscription Bark Box, tantalize dog lovers (like me) with goofy, fun images of pooches matched with Hollywood tabloid-style headlines, like these:
5 Signs Your Dog’s Eye Boogers Are Caused By Something Dangerous
18 Dogs Who Don’t Approve Of This Water Torture You Call “Bath Time”
I Signed My Dog Up For A Dental Care Box, And Here’s What Happened
Your final checklist
Any images you add to your blog should make your readers’ experience better. Ideally, they are a part of the message and make the reading experience better.
Too many images and you post becomes cluttered. The wrong images and your post is distracting to read.
As a final check when I use images in blog posts, I ask myself these two questions:
will this image keep the reader on the page?
does this image add to my argument or help the reader to understand better?
The extra effort you put into finding and adding images – of all types – to your post can pay big rewards. Instead of getting passed over, your post could be shared with thousands of readers and take on a life of its own.
After all, our goal is to get our blog read, shared and loved. Right?
Tell me in the comments what tricks you’ve found for working with images.