The ultimate guide: How to use images, videos and screenshots in blog posts

how to use images in blog posts

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:

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.

Once you get a reader to your blog you need to keep them there. Click To Tweet

That’s where images help. Anything from a simple picture to a custom created gif will make the reading experience more interesting and keep your reader scrolling down.

In fact, articles containing relevant images have 94% more total views than articles without images.

“Our brain is mainly an image processor (much of our sensory cortex is devoted to vision), not a word processor.” Psychology Today

Our brain processes images much faster than text
Our brain can process images 60,000 times faster than text

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.

Orientation

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.

quality is important when using images on your blog
Low compression/High quality (left) VS High compression/Low Quality (right)

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.

using featured images in blog posts

 

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.

stock photography can be boring
Stock photography can be cookie cutter, unoriginal, and sort of boring (left) or more interesting and original (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.

make your own blog images

 

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.

Get creative!

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.

Learn more simple techniques for making your images pop in this post.

FINDING SAFE IMAGES

It’s important you protect yourself from getting slammed for using a licensed image. Start by reading our post about creative commons

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.

finding images to use on your blog with Google

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!).

screenshots are a great option for images in blog posts

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!

draw your ideas and take a picture

ADDING VIDEO AND GIF’S

Sometimes text alone isn’t quite enough. That’s where video and animations can come in.

Giphy and Tenor are good resources for animated GIFs. Sitepoint has a great resource list of places to find creative commons images, videos and other media.

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.

how to add videos to your blog

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:

  1. This process had gotten super simple. Start by locating the video you want on YouTube.
  2. Next, copy the URL for that video (it will look something like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKrPz6JHwYw)
  3. 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:

  1. To get your video’s embed code, go to its page on Vimeo and click the ‘Share’ button.
  2. Click the ‘+Show options’ link and copy the embed code.
  3. Log into your WordPress website, open the blog post to edit and click on the ‘Text’ tab in your text editor.
  4. Locate your cursor where you want the video and paste the embed code.

how to insert your Vimeo videos into WordPress blog posts

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 text with videos helps with SEO

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.

use a consistent theme when using blog post images

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!

ALT Text

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

 

how to use captions with images

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.

How the experts create world-class PowerPoint Slides (and you can too)

powerpoint

 This post was originally published on www.hughculver.com

We’ve all been there.

We were looking forward to the presentation – it could have been a webinar, keynote speech or office meeting. And then there were the slides…

…tiny fonts, long lists of indecipherable bullets, fuzzy clipart from the 1990’s and blocks of text repeating word-for-word the presenter’s speech. The content could be pure gold, but you’ll never know.

Bad visuals and sloppy design drag your attention away even more than the guy next to you tapping away on his phone.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

With a bit of forethought, a touch more effort and by using these uncommon approaches your slides can make you look like a pro and drive home all the right points without stealing the show.

Just like in the movies – good visuals make the story stronger and bring out the best in the actors.

Whether it’s a sales pitch, team update, webinar, main stage keynote, all-day workshop, screen-capture video or upload to SlideShare, your slides can be your best friend and make you look like a hero.

Here’s why this is important.

Visuals work (more than ever)

All day, we’re confronted with more content than we could ever hope to consume.

Emails, websites, magazines, reports, newsletters, and video compete for our attention. That’s where visuals come in. Not only do we process images faster than words, and 65% of us are visual learners, but presentations using visual aids were found to be 43% more persuasive.

A well-placed picture, infographic, video or animation can drive a lesson home (more on that below), segue to a new lesson or add a perfectly-timed humorous distraction.

It’s the reason why over 80% of TED presenters use PowerPoint slides (or Keynote for a MAC) – they need to make the maximum impact in only about 18 minutes.

Powerpoint
Over 80% of TED presenters use slides.

The trouble happens when slides are slapped together and tacked onto a presentation last minute, rather than being designed as a part of the message.

In a typical 60 minute keynote you can present 30-60 slides. And each one has a job. Just like the screenplay for a movie, you’re unfolding a story that leads your audience on an emotional journey.

Your job is to choose images that follow that journey.

Here are 5 uncommon ways to put more juice in your visuals and add more punch to your message.

We’ll start with planning.

1. Plan before you Paste

It’s easy enough to add images to your PowerPoint presentation, copy, paste and move on.

But wait!

Before you head off to search for a picture of a cute baby or office workers “team building”, ask yourself what emotional message are you communicating?

Your hard content is made up of your words, text, bullet points, facts, and statistics. But emotional content is all about stories, visuals, and tone – even the speed you deliver your content.

Powerpoint
Al Gore used lots and lots of data and graphs to provide overwhelming proof that the threat of global warming is real.

In the Academy Award-winning presentation, turned documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore used lots and lots of data and graphs to provide overwhelming proof that the threat of global warming is real. The point was not to have you remember the graphs or statistics—the point was to convince you to listen to science and facts and not opinion-based naysayers.

When Apple CEO, Tim Cook unveils the latest Apple watch or iPhone model he uses photographs that show off the sleek designs and ease of operation – not the complex, high-tech wiring that makes it all work. Apple wants you to fall in love with the product – details can come later.

“I love using verbal stories but sometimes, an image can tell a more powerful, surprising, or efficient story.” Ron Tite

Tesla promotes the driving experience.

Similarly, when uber-entrepreneur Elon Musk unveiled the “every man’s” Testa Model 3, it was all about driving experience (driving range, safety, carrying capacity and speed) and nothing to do with the complexity, research or science that makes the car work.

Before you search for visuals, ask yourself what do you want your audience to feel. Is your message about hope and optimism, teaching, and information, or is your goal to provide clarity and direction? Getting clear about one or two emotional goals should provide a filter for every visual selection decision.

“Each change on the screen should relate to one simple new thought,” wrote Garr Reynolds in his popular book Presentation Zen Design, “that should be expanded and explained by the presenter.” (hat tip to Dave Delaney)

One more example:

Powerpoint
Amy Cuddy’s goal was not to impress us with research data but motivate us to use power poses.

In her popular TED talk about “power poses,” Harvard Social Psychologist, Amy Cuddy showed images of the actual poses she was describing. Similar to Apple and Tesla, Cuddy’s goal was not to impress us with research data, but to motivate us to use power poses to feel better and to be more successful in meetings, relationships and negotiations.

Now that you’ve thought through the emotional reaction you want, let’s look at making your visuals memorable.

2. Make it memorable

Nothing puts a wet towel on your presentation faster than cheesy pictures that scream ‘stock photo!’ Sure, your picture shows office workers happily smiling to the camera, but if it looks staged or fake your audience can’t relate to it. In fact, bad stock photography can be more of a distraction than an aid.

The good news is, with a little effort you can find brilliant, free images to support your message and draw your audience in.

Nothing puts a wet towel on your presentation faster than cheesy pictures that scream ‘stock photo!

Sites like unsplash, pixabay and pexels are great for finding unique, original images that are rated as creative commons zero (you’re allowed to use without permission or giving attribution to the artist). If you don’t mind a few extra clicks, you can save time by using librestock.com which sources free images from some 47 plus sites.

You can also use your own photographs.

For example, I have pictures (like picking up garbage on my runs) that support the story I’m telling. I also have an inventory of images that set the mood for my message, like a wandering footpath (goals and next steps), sunrise (hope and new beginnings) and walking my dog (habits and routines).

“Opt for clear before clever. Your audience should never be distracted from what you’re saying because they’re trying to figure out what your slide means.” Rob Cottingham

Read more about your choice of colors, shapes, and fonts in this Venngage post.

Now that you’ve selected your images it’s time to bring out the best in them.

3. Bring out the Best

With a little creativity, you can transform a ho-hum image into a show stopper that grabs your audience. Let’s start with the rule of thirds.

Rule of thirds
Use the Rule of Thirds to make your image more interesting.

This classic photography technique can be used with any visual. The basic idea is to make your image more interesting by putting what you want us to focus on off-centre. Start by dividing your image into two evenly spaced vertical lines and two evenly spaced horizontal lines. If you’re working with an existing image, try to crop so your focal point is on a horizontal line or at a point where the lines cross.

Cropping

A simple improvement to most images is to crop out any unnecessary background to emphasize a central area of focus. Cropping can sometimes make it easier to have a clear area to add text to, for example as a featured image on your blog post.

Original art

If you’re feeling brave, you can always use original art to get your message across.

Wait but why
If you’re feeling extra brave, use your own photos or stick man, like Tim Urban, in your slides.

Tim Urban, in his popular blog, waitbutwhy.com uses his comical stickman drawings to dress up his often sardonic points of view (see how he turns his blog post images into a slide deck in his 2016 Vancouver TED talk about procrastination).

Other examples are Jessica Hagy’s index card messages, James Clear’s graphs and Hugh MacLeod’s art on the back of business cards.

A quick way to get started to bring out the best in your images is to use canva.com, picmonkey or if you’re more of a fan of starting with a template, adobe spark. All are free tools that allow you to very quickly crop, add text and graphics, overlay screens and export a sharp image ready to go into your PowerPoint presentation.

And with a little research, you can turn a small collection of facts and statistics into an eye-catching infographic using Venngage.

After hunting down and improving your images, it’s time to shoot some holes in your bullets.

4. Build Better Bullets

If you have to use bullets to get your message across, proceed with caution.

Any time your audience sees text (like this blog post) they’ll start to read. But they’ll quit just as quickly if bullets seem redundant, too long, or too hard to read.

This is such a common problem it’s worth looking at why it happens in the first place.

When we create a presentation (webinar, slide deck, SlideShare, screen capture video or infographic), we’re sharing information. And a common assumption is more is better.

In fact, less is almost always best (see below).

The purpose of your visuals is to pull your audience in to pay attention and because we remember visuals more than text, your visual is there to anchor your message and make it memorable.

Anything more than that is too much.

Powerpoint
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield used 35 slides and only 5 words in his 2014 TED Talk.

In his 2014 TED talk, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield used only 35 slides with a total of five words (and he received a rare standing ovation.)

If you are flipping through your latest slide deck, here’s a quick rule:

  • limit bullets to four on a slide,
  • each bullet no longer than eight words and
  • use at least 32 point font.
Powerpoint
Start by limiting your bullets to 4 on a slide.

“Please use a font WAY larger than you think you’ll need, for the people in the back of the room and for those looking at your webinar or course on their phone.” Phil Gerbyshak

Two more tips: if you are presenting slides, always:

  • animate your bullets (so the audience can process each bullet as you present it) and,
  • use a remote clicker (so you don’t distract the audience by leaning over and searching for the right key every time you want to advance a slide.)

5. Less is Best

The most common mistake with any presentation is to have too much content. In almost all cases, less is best.

“The best advice I got was don’t use slides.” Brian Massey

Your visuals are there to add to your message, reinforce key points and create memory anchors that make you and your message more memorable. Cramming in more content won’t get you there.

Powerpoint
Del Harvey, VP of Trust and Safety at Twitter.

When Del Harvey, VP of Trust and Safety at Twitter, spoke at TED 2014, she dramatically emphasized the exponential growth of traffic on Twitter with one slide. “Back in January 2009,” she said, “we saw more than two million new tweets each day on the platform. January 2014, more than 500 million. We were seeing two million tweets in less than six minutes. That’s a 24,900-percent increase.”

Her slide simply read: “That’s a 24,900% increase.”

“People are only capable of absorbing a very small amount of material at a time.” writes Garr Reynolds, “Therefore, it is counterproductive to throw up a slide with lots of text or complicated diagrams.”

Every time I delete slides from my keynote presentation the talk improves. I’m less concerned about clicking the right slide at the right time and I can focus more on connecting with the audience.

And there’s always a bit of hesitation before I hit the ‘delete’ button. I catch myself thinking: ‘But this is great information’ or ‘What if someone wants to write this stuff down.’

I never regret the decision to delete.

“Leave most stats on the cutting room floor, and focus on masterfully detailing the implications of a few statistics.” Tom Webster,

Pro tip:

If you’re in a habit of designing your slides to also be handouts, you could be making a mistake. Your visual presentation is there to augment your message, not be the complete message.

If you do need handouts, don’t cheat and use the print handouts option in PowerPoint (or Keynote)—lots of your slides are there as visual anchors and won’t make any sense in handouts. Instead, handouts should be created separately as a stand-alone document.

When in doubt, delete—no one will miss what isn’t there.

“Slides should reinforce your words, not repeat them.” Seth Godin

Get started

When I’m designing a new deck (or doing triage on a deck that’s gone stale) I have three objectives:

  1. choose images that support the emotional content (cautionary, upbeat, motivational, trustworthy, etc.)
  2. create visuals that anchor the lesson (if you use the image again will it remind them of the lesson?)
  3. use the minimum amount of text to support the message (don’t duplicate what you are going to say)

Your message and delivery are what your audience came for. With a little effort, your visuals will help bring your message to life and keep people talking about you long after the standing ovation.

How to Ensure Your Posts Look AMAZING On Social Media

How to control the social share image of your blog posts

You just spent five hours writing an epic blog post and you’re feeling pretty proud of yourself.

It’s time to share your masterpiece with the world.

You share it on social media and await your praise. In anticipation of your glowing feedback, you check your recent social posts and find that the wrong social share image was used for your epic blog post.

Or worse… no photo at all.

This is particularly bad because Facebook posts with images see 2.3X more engagement than those without images. Meaning, your posts will miss out on 130% of the engagements you would have gotten.

To put it mildly: That’s a bummer.

We understand how painfully frustrating it is to spend hours on something and get nothing in return. That’s why we wrote this guide – to teach you how to control the social share images of your blog post so they look great every time (and you get maximum engagement).

Let’s get started

(Don’t worry if this all sounds complicated – I’ll show you a super easy, non-technical way to do this below. But hear me out.)

Changing Your Social Share Image With Open Graph

When posts are shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin a process called Open Graph is used to extract information from your blog post to create a special social share link. This link includes the title of your article, an image, the URL, and a description.

It’s sort of like how Google pulls your metadata to show your blog posts in search results.

How does the protocol know how to find this info?

The information is sent to the Open Graph via meta tags that are found in the <head> of your website’s code. If not redirected, The Open Graph Protocol will use the information found in the meta tags on your site’s web page, just like Google does.

So, to ensure that the right titles, photos, URL, and description are used for your blog post, you’re going to want to optimize your posts for social media.

Here are three methods to change the share image of your content:

#1 Add the Open Graph Tags

When the Open Graph Protocol tags are located in the right place, social networks can pull the information needed for your social posts.

If your website doesn’t have plugins (such as Yoast SEO) to automate this process, you’re going to have to add OG tags to your site manually.

The metadata needs to be added to the head section of your blog post. Here’s how:

Step 1: Add this code to the head section of your web page:

<meta property=“og:image” content=“http://example.com/picture.jpg” />
<meta property=”og:image:width” content=”180″ />
<meta property=”og:image:height” content=”110″ />

Be sure to replace “http://example.com/picture.jpg” with your images URL, and change the width and heighth to the correct numbers as shown below.

Step 2: Add your Image’s URL.

It’s important to follow Facebook’s guidelines when adding photos.

As for sizing, photos should be at least 600 x 315 pixels. However, for the best resolution, photos should be 1200 x 630 pixels.

For the other social image sizes, check out this post.

Step 3: Add the generated code snippet into the HTML head section of your page.

Adding the meta tags manually may take some getting used to but, once you’ve set a few blog posts, you’ll be able to easily add meta tags to all your future posts.

#2 Use Twitter Cards

If you’re not using WordPress for your website, then Twitter cards might be a great option for your social shares.

Twitter Cards

Although you can set up Twitter Cards with Yoast for WordPress (option #3 below), you can also set up your cards with meta tags.

This meta tag will describe your content, including images, videos or summaries:

<meta name=”twitter:card” content=”YOUR SUMMARY HERE”>

This meta tag is the page you are sharing with Twitter:

<meta name=”twitter:url” content=”YOUR URL HERE”>

You will also need to select a compelling title that is share-worthy for your Twitter card using this tag:

<meta name=”twitter:title” content=”YOUR TITLE HERE”>

You then want to create a description that is under 200 characters:

<meta name=”twitter:description” content=”YOUR DESCRIPTION HERE”>

Lastly, and most importantly, you will add your image.

<meta name=”twitter:image” content=”YOUR IMAGE URL HERE”>

After you follow the guidelines and apply the tags to your website, you have to apply to Twitter’s card program. Once approved by Twitter Card’s program, Twitter cards will be added to all of your Twitter posts.

Check out Twitter’s card developer overview for more info.

#3 Install Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress

As promised, this is the non-technical way to change your social sharing images.

Yoast SEO takes care of the guesswork and allows you to have complete control over the images seen on your social shares. If a social image has not been selected, Yoast will give Facebook an image to use based on the photo’s metadata.

However, Yoast makes it incredibly easy for you to choose your own photos when you select “social’ in the Yoast menu bar.

How to use Yoast SEO to change the social share image on your blog posts

You want to follow Yoast’s steps to make sure that the right photo is used for your social posts. Even if you don’t take the time to select a photo, Yoast does a pretty good job of selecting a photo for you.

Yoast also lets you add a description and helps you to make it SEO-friendly, so it works well on social media sites and search engines.

Conclusion

Now that you understand how to optimize your photos for social media and how the Open Graph Protocol works, you’ll be able to churn out excellent content that your social media readers look forward to viewing.

You’ll see your engagement increase and get more traffic back to your site! Your social share image never looked so good.

But sharing your post isn’t enough to call it a day. Once you’ve created killer content and made sure it looks great on social media, you have to spend more time promoting it to get the best results.

If you enjoyed this post, please take a second to share it so we can help make social media a prettier place!

4 Ways to Make Your Blog Images Pop

4 Easy Ways to Make Your Blog Images POP

Let’s face it: Blog images matter.

In fact, visually compelling posts generate up to 94% more views than posts without pictures.

Not sure how to create great blog images? I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be a professional designer to find or create amazing blog images!

Let me explain…

Finding Great Blog Images

You don’t have to design anything if you don’t want to. While it’s true that the best blogs have their own designers, it’s not necessary – just nice to have.

Instead, you can use other people’s images.

Of course, you have to be very careful not to break any copyright laws! Don’t just grab an image from Google and throw it on your site. That’s a big no-no.

Instead, try this:

1. Use a free stock photography site

I’ll be frank – stock photography usually sucks. It’s cheesy and doesn’t add value to a post.

BUT (and that’s a big but), there are sites with high-quality photos that aren’t cheesy. Some of these sites include:

If you can’t find the right image fit on one of those sites, it might not be out there!

2. Search Google using “labeled for reuse”

Remember when I said to not take blog images from Google? Well, you can, but you need to limit your search.

Search Google for something, hit the images tab, then click Tools -> Usage rights -> Labeled for reuse.

Google Advanced Image Search to find blog images

Voila! You can use every image on this page. Just be sure to properly credit them, to be on the safe side.

3. Creating Your Own Images

If you just can’t find what you’re looking for, you might have to create something.

There are two ways to have images made…

Create it yourself with tools.

Don’t worry – this isn’t rocket science and you don’t need to hire an expensive designer. There are tools you can use to make this process easier than cooking your first meal. These tools include:

  • Canva (Graphic design for non-designers)
  • Adobe Spark (Easily place text over images)
  • Venngage (Create beautiful infographics)

All you need to do is create a free account and get to work. Each of them has a pretty good tutorial to get your up and running really quick, as well as a resource area to help you learn.

4. Hire a designer

This can sound daunting for a small business owner. However, it’s really not that bad!

You can find very affordable (and talented) designers using marketplaces like:

  • Fiverr (Hire someone for almost anything starting at just five dollars)
  • Upwork (A marketplace for freelancers and people hiring freelancers)

When using this method, the best way to guarantee a great experience is to only hire people with excellent reviews.

If they have bad reviews, they’re probably not worth bothering with.

Parting Tips

Creating great images for your blog is a must. Visual content means more shares, more engagement, and, ultimately, more readers.

Oh, I’d like to mention one last tool: Greenshot.

Greenshot makes it super easy to capture screenshots and edit them, share them, or add them to your blog posts. As you can see above, I added a screenshot to this post to help you understand how to use an advanced Google search tool. They’re excellent for showing complex tasks and creating how-to type guides.

Good luck – let us know in the comments if you have any of your own image suggestions!

How to Get 80% More People to Actually Read Your Blog Posts

How to get 80% more people to actually read your posts.

Yes, you heard that right – you can increase the number of your visitors who actually read your content by 80%!

Xerox found that colored visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%.

Here’s the secret to taking advantage of that fact:

Insert highly enticing media in your blog posts. 

Media is the key to getting people to read.

In this post, I’m going to show you what qualifies as highly enticing media and where to find it so you can get people to stay on your website longer and actually read your posts.

Let’s get right to it.

What is “highly enticing media”?

Highly enticing media is:

  • Colorful and relevant images (no cheesy stock photos!)
  • Graphs, charts, and other ways to visually show statistics.
  • Embedded content such as videos, tweets, or infographics.

The most important of these points is relevancy.

Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.

Content with relevant images and media gets 94% more views than content without.
via QuickSprout
Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images. Click To Tweet

Pro Tip: Awesome images get people to ready your content, but headlines get them to click on it in the first place. Make sure you’re also writing great headlines.

Where to find enticing media

There are a few places I go to find good media:

  • YouTube for video content.
  • Twitter (every Tweet is embed-able).
  • Similar blogs in your niche (just be sure to give credit for the image).
  • Google (again, give credit!)
  • Free stock image sites (like Unsplash or Stocksnap.io)

Of course, the best way to get enticing media is to create your own. You can use a free tool like Canva to create infographics and images of all kinds (it’s kind of amazing).

How to create your own media

Canva created an easy-to-follow video to learn their platform in just three minutes.

Once you understand the basics, the hard part is figuring out what to create.

Here’s one way:

Take a statistic related to your post, then turn that into a quick little graph or image.

It took me less than five minutes to create this:

75% of people who read this will click the link at the end of this article for a quick laugh.

If you need more ideas on what to create for your post, you can also:

  • Repurpose old how-to posts into infographics.
  • Create a Tweet for the purpose of embedding it.
  • Create a Slideshare.
  • Record a video of yourself explaining your points more in-depth.
  • Turn your blog into an audio-blog by reading it and embedding the audio file at the top of the post.
  • Add a “Click to Tweet” as a break in your content. (You can do this with the ClicktoTweet plugin if you use WordPress.)
  • Add images with quotes over-top them.

Einstein quote, "In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity."

Don’t wait – go find or make some media to add to your content right now.

What’s your favorite kind of media to add to your blog? Let us know in the comments below.

Oh, and one more thing:

Once you get people to read, the next step is getting them to take action.

(Click here if you’re one of the 75%!)

Make your blog sticky with embedded media

Embedded media can make your blog sticky

I’m sure you’ve done this.

The blog headline grabbed you – you clicked through. And then – despite your best high-school effort – you clicked away after only 3 paragraphs.

Bummer, that blogger just lost you.

That’s where embedded media can help.

Sure, it’s eye candy and it’s not really the bright, insightful content we came for…but it works.

Grab any magazine off the shelf and look at how images are used to draw you in and keep you reading. We process images some 60,000 times (of course I measured that) faster than the written word so it makes sense we will be drawn to what we can process fastest.

via GIPHY

Adding media makes your blog sexy (well, sort of).

Adding media makes your blog sexy. Click To Tweet

To get you started, let’s look at the options you’ve got. This list is from (Darren Rowse’s excellent Problogger podcast).

  • Video – YouTube etc. easiest and best way to add audio and visual
  • Slides – Slideshare easy way to turn list post into slide deck (I explain how here)
  • Tweets – Every tweet can be embedded in a blog post
  • Facebook – posts, status updates, videos and images
  • Audio Files – Anchor – file to quickly put thoughts out and reply
  • Cartoons – Andertoons
  • Live-Streaming or Replays – Periscope, Blab
  • Instagram – Pictures and videos
  • Slideshows – Flickr and from other photo sharing sites
  • Infographics – am
  • Bookmarks – Pinterest and pins
  • Google – Maps or Google Earth
  • Polls and Quizzes – Qzzr
  • Mindmaps – MindMeister
  • Google – Docs, forms and PDFs
  • Podcast – Podcast players
  • Animated Gifs – GIPHY

Some of these are simple to insert into your blog, like a link to a document, or an image. Others you have to do a bit of monkeying around to find the html code to insert (like with Slideshare or GIPHY).

WordPress has made inserting YouTube videos a snap – here are the instructions.

Like everything, the best way to get started is to experiment!

Free Images for your Blog: 7 Awesome Sources

Find free images for your blog

It’s no secret – images make the world brighter and get you more attention. In fact, 65% of senior marketing executives (after all, who would you trust?) believe photos, video, illustrations and infographics are core to how their brand story is communicated. [This post was originally posted at http://hughculver.com/find-awesome-free-images-blog/]

Not only that, content with images gets 94% more views (like your blog) than content without.

The question is where are the best sources for free images for your blog, ebook, SlideShare, promotion, or whatever?

In this post I’ve listed the best sites for finding free images you can use without license. Some require attribution to the artist, but none of them cost anything to use.  Content with images gets 94% more views - there’s no excuse to publish naked. Click To Tweet

First let’s look at the rules.

HOW CREATIVE COMMONS WORKS

For the curious, here’s a quick run-through of the three main copyright categories:

Public Domain – either the copyrights have expired or the creator has relinquished all rights to the works. You are free to use these for private and commercial use. The exception to this “free for all use” policy can be images of recognizable people (if you want to use pics of the Kardashians that another issue.)

Royalty Free – when you find sites offering “royalty free” images – these are “free” to use once you pay a licensing fee. You don’t have to give credit to the artist, but you will be paying a small fee (often the higher resolution means higher fee.) Before you toss this option with a “Pfft!”, consider the time and grief you could avoid by only searching one location and all the images are high quality. I’ve been paying for two years and it’s been a huge time saver. Popular sites for royalty free images are istock, shutterstock, and gettyimages.

Creative Commons – is a universal system for categorizing shared photography and other images by six types of allowed usage. Creative Commons Zero (CC0) being completely open to use, sharing, changing and without any attribution necessary to the artist, whereas the most restrictive Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND) allows sharing works, but without any changes and with attribution to the artist.

Creative commons images

All of sites recommended in this post offer Public Domain or Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licensed images. This means no attribution (neither the name or link to the artist) is required. Regardless, you should do your due diligence and ensure any image you download and plan to use or manipulate is free of restrictions.

BEST SITES FOR FREE IMAGES

There’s lots of advice on finding the best sites for free images, but I find often the results are mixed.

I’ve tested all of the sites listed below and most I use frequently for my blog and SlideShare decks. At the time of writing they all have big libraries, are free of licenses, and have good search tools to help you find that perfect image. In some cases you will have to give attribution to the artist.

  1. Pixabay — reliable, simple to use, and quality images with a very good search tool that lets you narrow your free image search by image orientation (vertical or horizontal). I often check Pixabay first, before trying other sites. You’ll see for-fee Shutterstock images at the top of every search.
    Pixabay
  2. Unsplash — brilliant landscape, people and nature pics, with 10 new high-quality photos released every 10 days. If you need a quick meditative moment, just head over and scroll through Unsplash (it’s cheaper than red wine).
    Unsplash
  3. red — pretty simple site, maintained in Switzerland, basic search tool, multiple sizes to choose from. Not a huge library, but I’ve found some funky free images in a pinch. Free images - Red
  4. Refe — created in Lithuania (go figure), Refe has stunning images with a twist towards “imagery of people interacting with technology.”
    Refe free images
  5. Compfight — a search tool for Flickr that allows you to quickly navigate through world’s largest photo site (Flickr). I certainly wouldn’t call Compfight user friendly – you’ll have to sort through amateur contributions and you might get pics that require attribution – but you definitely won’t get tacky stock photos.
    Compfight
  6. Magdeleine — similar to Unsplash, Madeleine offers stunning free images in limited volumes. You can sort by either public domain (CC0) or requiring attribution. Magdeleine
  7. io — loads of gorgeous pics sorted by popularity. Very easy, but limited, search tool – great for landscapes and “mood” images.

Anytime you list sites like these someone will have two more (go for it, list them in the comments), but these will give you a good start.

Now, let’s look at how to best use them.

MAKING AN OKAY IMAGE GREAT

Searching for the perfect image can burn up hours of time – at some point, who cares?

Instead, look for an okay image that you can make great. Here’s a couple of tricks that will save you time and might even get you better results.

Resize and crop

Sometimes an image has the right element but there’re distractions you don’t want. Rather that spending more time hunting for a better image, resize what you have and crop the unwanted parts.

In this example I liked the image, but I wanted to remove the man in the hoodie (far left) to allow more blurred space to layer text over.

before after resizing and cropping

Fade into background

An easy solution to fix a so-so image is to simply fade it into the background. The image can give texture and feel to the message, but the text you layer on top will become the main focal point.

fade background

Screen under text

A third option is to layer a screen over your image to highlight your text. I use this effect often when building a SlideShare deck when I want to viewer to focus on what I’m saying but also have the image pull their attention.

screen under text

MISTAKES TO AVOID

As a final thought (or two), some mistakes to avoid are:

  • using stock photography. I’m sure you can picture a group of perfectly groomed, multi-cultural, smiling folks, all with their hands in centre of a circle to represent team work. Using stock photos in your blog is more than passé – it’s boring.

True confession: I’m guilty of using cheesy, stock photography (sorry). Now, I’d much rather manipulate (see list above) a so-so image and put the focus on my text, or even use something I shot on vacation or walking my dog. If I want people to be interested in what I’m sharing I have to use images that are interesting.

  • using large files. I’m no expert on resolution, but I know large images (like over 140kb) will slow your site load time. In our instant gratification world you can’t afford people clicking off your site because of slow load time.

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 web site.

  • not giving attribution. If you’ve ever received a “cease and desist” letter for copyright infringement you’ll know to never grab an image off Google, or not follow Creative Commons requirements (I’m just saying.)

Your blog, slide show, or promotional piece will always get more attention and shares if you use an image. Full Stop.

Learning how to find great ones or do some simple manipulation shouldn’t be a barrier. Heck, if I can do it…