“Cheers to the New Year and another chance for us to get it right.” Oprah
The new year is a perfect time for a fresh start. How about your blog?
Whatever your results were last year, the new year brings new ideas, energy, inspiration and, with a bit of focus, even better results. Your blog could be one of your most powerful marketing tools if you put it to work.
In this article, we are sharing our 7 favourite new year blog improvements. You can do each one independently. And most of them can be done in less than one hour.
Ready? Let’s get started…
Clear the clutter
Your readers don’t need more distractions. Now is the time to remove low-value parts from your blog pages that pull your readers away from your content. Here are some examples:
Blogrolls. Your blog is not a library where people park themselves for hours and your readers don’t need a list of past blogs (we all know how to scroll down the page and click the “previous” button).
Tag clouds/lists. Unless you are getting thousands of readers a day you will want to direct readers to your latest blog post. Lists of tags (or blog categories) are for high-traffic sites that need to direct readers who are returning multiple times.
Social media widgets. An invitation to go to social media is an invitation to lose readers. If you want to invite readers to connect with you on social, add social share buttons to your blog with tools like sumome or social warfare, plus add the widgets at the bottom of your site.
Watch the numbers
You can’t make good decisions about your money until you know your current financial status, and you can’t get better results from your blog until you know what the current performance is. And the only way to see what’s happening with your web site is with Google Analytics.
In this article, we show you how to know if Google Analytics is installed. While in this article we explain what numbers to watch and what they mean.
To go one step further, log in to Google Analytics, Go to Audience>Overview then click the “Share” button in the top-right corner of your screen and set up an automatic monthly report to be emailed to you. This is a great way to get a nudge in your inbox every month to pay attention to your numbers!
Create a calendar
A great way to kick off the new year and to get your creative juices flowing is with a content calendar for the year. Think of this as a map of all the topics you want to share with your readers.
You can organize future posts around seasons, holidays, annual events, or product launches. This is also a great time to look at past blog posts and think about updating old posts that have done well (#4 idea) but are outdated.
You can build your calendar using the Calendar WordPress plugin (see my video on this), in Microsoft Excel, planning tools like Trello, or in social media scheduling tools like coschedule.
The old is new again
One of our favourite traffic-building strategies is to update old blog posts that have done well in the past but are in need of a quick update. Not only can this be a big-time saver (compared to writing a completely new post), but you are building on the traffic the post is already getting.
The strategy is to give each article a quick make-over to update the content, refresh the look and then to republish with a new date. The goal is more traffic, plus you save a lot of time and effort, compared to starting from scratch with a new article.
This post explains in detail how to use this strategy.
Linking is the new Liking
Imagine you park your car, walk into a store, ready to buy an accessory for your computer, but there’s nobody there to help you. You’d probably leave. Right?
With most blog posts we look at, that’s what happens – over 90% of readers leave the site.
One of the quickest ways to get better performance from your blog is to add a call-to-action. The call-to-action (CTA) might be a simple link to your book or programs, or an invitation to learn more about your products, like “learn more about our custom leadership workshops.”
Keywords are the key
Confused about SEO, keywords, meta tags, and jargon concerning attracting more organic traffic? Well, it can be confusing – especially if you try to follow the advice of guru’s who spend their whole day thinking about this stuff. Or it can be really easy.
The basic concept of SEO for your blog post to include what the readers you want are already looking for. If your target market is searching for “leadership training’”, “roll-up garage doors”, or “Denver real estate lawyer” you need to include that phrase a number of times in your article (ideally in your headline as well).
A super-quick way to discover what people are searching for is to start typing a query into your search bar and then see what Google suggests people are searching for. You can also see a list of suggestions in blue at the bottom of your screen.
You can also use Google Trends to discover keyword phrases used in the past 7 days, month or longer.
Practice writing faster, better
When it comes to blogging, it’s more important to stay connected with your followers with regularly posted articles than it is to keep reworking an article until perfect. Learning how to turn a blog idea into a finished post faster and better will make it easier to keep up with your publishing schedule.
This article is an example: I wrote this over 3 mornings and for about 30 minutes each time.
Here are some tips on how to write faster and better.
Start with your content calendar (#3, above). Having topics ready to go allows you to start thinking about the post – even taking notes – long before the article is due.
Use a writing template. Every blog should flow from: attention, personal, promise, content, to call-to-action. Get your free copy of the template here. At Blogworks, our team all use The Ultimate Writing Template for most of our client’s articles.
Only edit at the end. Each time you go to work on your draft post, avoid the temptation to edit what you’ve already written. The goal should be to first write what author Anne Lamott calls your “shitty first draft” and only then to go back and clean up your post.
Write like you speak. A blog is a conversation where you solve problems or share topics of interest with your audience. The best blogs use a conversational style of writing (without a lot of jargon or “$10 words”) that makes the reading experience easy and enjoyable. Try recording your thoughts as you speak and then using a service like rev.com to transcribe your voice into a draft article.
Ship it. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how clever your ideas are or how amazing your solutions if you don’t, as serial blogger Seth Godin would say “Ship it.” Even if it means cranking out a 300-word muse about an article you just read, it’s better to stick to a regular publishing schedule and keep your followers coming back for more.
Liked this post? Got another 5 minutes? Here are 3 more of our most popular posts all about writing blogs:
This might be the most important article you read this year.
Okay, a bit of hyperbole, but if you’re trying to get bigger results from your blog, this will be damn good.
In this article we are looking at the 3 WordPress blog plugins we use the most often on this site.
Think of a plugin like an app on your phone. They can be a waste of time and actually slow down your site…or they can be amazing and make life oh-so-much-better. Add to that, most plugins are free, or at the very least have a free version.
Here they are:
1. Better Click to Tweet 2. Insert Post Ads 3. Editorial Calendar
I’m going to spell out the steps for each of these WordPress blog plugins below. You can also grab some popcorn and watch this 12 minute video.
01:00 Better Click to Tweet 4:38 Insert Post Ads 10:26 Editorial Calendar
1. Better Click to Tweet
This might be the simplest improvement you make to your blogs results—make it easy for readers to Tweet about your blog. In our goldfish-like attention world, nothing is better than saving your customers’ time.
Better Click to Tweet is a simple, free plugin that makes it super easy to let your readers, with just 2 clicks, share your post to all of their followers on Twitter. And that one tweet can put you in front of thousands of followers loyal to that reader.
Once you have the plugin installed adding a click to tweet is easy:
Copy a quote from your blog you want readers to share. Click on the location in your post you want to insert the click to tweet. Click on the blue bird in your menu bar, paste the quote and you’re done!
2. Insert Post Ads
This WordPress blog plugin is amazing! I first came across it on Mike Stelzner’s Social Media Examiner’s blog (which has become like a Wiki for how-to social media). I noticed there were ads for his conference on every blog post. And I knew he had thousands of posts – clearly it wasn’t possible to have inserted the ad manually. That’s when I had a peak at his source code and viola!..Insert Post Ads (Thank You Mike.)
On any WordPress site, you can insert a banner for a webinar, live event (like Stelzner did for his conference), book sales, optin, content upgrade, a sale event or your daughter’s lemonade stand.
Within a few minutes your advertisement/offer/announcement is on every blog post on your site. And just as quickly you can remove it.
Here’s how this clever little plugin works…
Once you have the plugin installed (did I mention it’s free?).
1. Drop the banner image you want displayed into a draft page on your WordPress site. You won’t be publishing this page – it’s just there so you can quickly get the html code from the image.
2. Click on the image, go to edit, and select “Link to Custom URL” and paste the link to the event or sales page you want to promote. Click “Update” to save the banner. Now that you have a linked banner, you need to load that into the Insert Post Ads plugin.
3. Click on “Text” to display the HTML code for that page (if you’re getting confused, watch the video on this page.) Copy the code for that banner into your clipboard. Click “Save Draft” to save your page in WordPress.
4. Go to your Insert Post Ads plugin “Post Adverts > Add New Posts.” Enter the name of the new insert where it says “Advert Title.” Paste the HTML code into “Advert code:” Choose “Display the advert After Paragraph Number” and choose a number. Click “Publish”
That’s it. It’s going to seem like Greek (no offense to all the Greeks who read my blog), but once you’ve done it, oh let’s say 114 times, it gets easier!
I encourage you to write out the steps so next month when you go to replace the banner it’s much quicker.
3. Editorial Calendar Plugin
I think I saved my favourite of the WordPress blog plugins for last.
Imagine having all your blog posts – past and future – nicely organized and displayed on a calendar. Automatically! That’s what the Editorial Calendar plugin (yup, free as well) will do.
All you have to do is install the plugin and presto! it populates with all your posted blogs and – this is my favourite part – it lists all your draft posts in a tidy list in a right-hand side bar.
But, wait, there’s more! (thank you Steve Jobs for that one.)
You can do a quick edit of a draft right from the calendar. You can also move your draft posts on the calendar and it will automagically update the posting date on the draft.
If you aren’t using a more robust tool, like coschedule or post planner, Editorial Calendar is a slick, nibble alternative. And if you collaborate with an editor or assistant, this tool will save you tons of emails back and forth about dates.
Ready to learn more? Here are 3 of our most popular articles on this topic:
having a Facebook presence is a must. To get the most out of this important social channel you need to first understand the difference between a Facebook Page vs Profile.
Most business owners understand the potential of having a Facebook Page, but understanding the specifics can still be hard figure out. Confused about how your blog can bring you more business? Book a free, confidential call today to learn how BlogWorks can help.
Specifically, many business owners aren’t sure whether to create a Facebook Page or a Facebook Profile.
If you’ve been confused between the two, don’t worry. This post will break down the differences and help you pick the best choice for your business.
A Facebook Profile is a personal account assigned to you when you sign up with Facebook.
You’re only able to create one profile, which includes only your personal information – no business information.
Your Facebook Profile is where you connect with family, friends, and colleagues. You’re able to see personal posts and updates from your friends in your newsfeed as well as share your own photos and posts.
Your Facebook Profile is for personal use only and shouldn’t be used for business in any manner.
Note: It’s technically against Facebook Terms to use a Facebook Profile for business.
A Facebook Page is a page created on Facebook that’s separate from your Personal Profile.
A Facebook Page is set up simply by selecting the “Create a Page” link from the drop-down menu on the right-hand side of your Facebook Profile. Once your Facebook Page is set up, you can begin to promote your page to gain more likes.
In order for Facebook users to see your business’s updates in their feed, they must like your page.
If you can help it, start with a business account from the beginning.
Social media Examiner states, “When you go to www.Facebook.com without logging in, there’s a link to “Create a Page” underneath the signup form. This will create a “business-only” account.” This makes your personal profile and your business account easy to keep separate.
Differences between “Like” and “Follow”
You guessed it- Facebook has made things more confusing (again). When you “like” a page, you automatically sign up to “follow” that page, too. This means any updates posted by a Facebook Page will be seen in a person’s newsfeed.
The good news is that individuals can opt to “unfollow” a page, while still “liking” it. While this is still good news for a business, as the more “likes” the better, it’s still important that you have as many people “following” your page as possible.
If people don’t follow your page, they don’t get your updates. And without news updates and blog links, it is far too easy for people to forget about your company.
The reason for someone to “unfollow” your Facebook Page is pretty simple: they don’t like the content of what’s being posted. Either it’s too much and seems like spam, or it’s simply uninteresting.
Bottom line, it’s important that posts from your Facebook Page are interesting and meaningful – you want to keep your customers interested in both your product and your company.
Benefits of a Facebook Page vs Profile
A Facebook Page should be included in every business owner’s marketing plan.
One of the key benefits of Facebook is having access to the social site’s 2.27 billion active users. A well-focused Facebook Page can yield your business more results than a website while costing you less.
Let’s get into more of the Facebook Page vs Profile benefits.
Defining and targeting your ideal audience members is easy to do with Facebook. Facebook makes setting up advertising campaigns an easy process and you’re able to measure and track your results with Facebook analytics.
As a business owner, it’s important to build trust and loyalty among your customers. Facebook makes this easy by allowing you to constantly post updates and photos about your business.
The beauty of using a Facebook Page is that you’re able to automate your posts so that you can share great content anytime.
Want to grow your fan base quickly? Facebook lets you throw contests, conduct surveys, and promote coupons as a way to motivate new and current users to connect with your business.
Facebook also allows you to promote posts. If your business is launching a new product or doing a flash sale, a promoted post is a great way to get your fan’s attention.
Creating contests and surveys are also a great way to learn what your audience wants so that you can give them more of what they are craving.
By running surveys and contests, you can see which campaigns spike the most engagement. The information you receive back will be invaluable. You can turn it into engaging shareable posts, blog posts, and even products.
Search Engine Optimization
By having a Facebook Page vs Profile, Google will index it for you. That means your business page will show up in Google’s search results.
This makes it easier for customers to easily view your information while also giving it a layer of authority.
Growing Your Facebook Fans
You’re going to want to grow your fan base if you plan to be successful on Facebook.
Your focus should always be on attracting quality fans over quantity. Those who are clicking the like button and don’t feel the need to interact with your page, are not who you want as fans.
Be sure to pay attention to both the number of “likes” and the number of “followers.” If there is a large gap between the two, then you need to increase the quality of your posts.
Good fans will take the time to share your content and buy your products. Just listen to the experts:
Jon Loomer shares a simple, yet straightforward strategy in this article to obtain authentic fans.
He believes, “Even if you only reach a fan with paid ads, you know they are interested in you and are willing to hear from you — as opposed to blindly targeting people, selling your crap.”
Make it Personal
One of the best ways to build a highly-engaged audience is to add personal touches.
This can be done by sharing photos of your team or of your office space. This adds an element of relatability, which builds a bond with your fans. As blogger Neil Patel says, “Not every update you send out on your Facebook Page should sell.”
Share a Mixture of Content
Instead of sharing nothing but photos or blog posts, switch up your content by doing a mixture of both.
Your fans want variety and posting all of one type of content can get boring very fast.
If you’re looking for ways to double the amount of content you have, look for shareable tweets from your blog posts that you can add to some of your photos. This is an easy way to create more content without creating entirely new posts to share.
Apply Your Knowledge
Now that you know the difference between a Facebook Page vs Profile, you’re ready to get started with your Facebook business promotion. Our BlogWorks social plan makes it easy to stay top-of-mind with your fans and save the frustration and time updating your social media channels.
If you’ve been using a personal Facebook Profile to promote your business, it’s time to switch over to a Facebook Page. The value of a Facebook Page is definitely worth it.
“Time grabs you by the wrist. Directs you where to go.” -Green Day
We’re all busy.
And new projects and opportunities are always waiting to fill any spare moments.
And then, there’s your blog. You know sharing your best content will build followers that know, like and trust you – followers that will build your business. The trick is to find ways to keep the blog publishing efficiently. There are blogging tools for beginners (and seasoned blog writers) that can help.
In this article I want to share 4 simple blogging tools that will cut of few minutes off your work.
HubSpot Blog Topic Generator
You’ve decided to finally update your blog. The kids are asleep. Your partner is happy watching Game of Thrones. It’s time to start working.
What are you supposed to write about? Coming up with blogging ideas is tough – especially for beginners.
A really useful tool to start your blog topic search is the HubSpot topic generator. Simply type in a topic and then, 5 blog title ideas will be generated for you. Enter your email and it will unlock another 250 topics.
In this post we describe the process we use to generate ideas for this blog.
Evernote as a Blogging Tool
If you’re like me, you might just have a drawer full of random bits of paper. Or two drawers. Or maybe a room whose door is best left closed. That’s fine for collection—terrible for recall.
Instead, use a free system like Evernote. This is among the best blogging tools for beginners! You can keep all your ideas, articles, To-Do lists and reminder notes in one place. Evernote syncs quickly with your smartphone, laptop and desktop and with the paid version you can access your information off line.
There’s no need to rummage through the junk drawer, trying to find that great idea you had last week. Instead, simply open the app and everything will be there.
To learn more about the power of Evernote check out this article.
If you like visuals and seeing projects move from start to finish, you might like Trello. This free project organizer is popular with solopreneurs and small teams. In Trello, each project is a Board and each Board has a list of tasks for that project. Team members can log in and slide work from left to right as they progress through their responsibilities.
For those that write for multiple blogs, it can start to become quite confusing just what content needs to be posted. Luckily, there’s a handy tool for all this.
Trello allows you to create different boards for each blog. You can fill in important information, such as your WordPress password.
For each blog board, you can create a title card of a blog. Then, you can attach the document for it and even images.
Finally, all your creative output can be stored in one, easy to find place.
BlogWorks Blogging Tools
We’d like to add ourselves to our list of blogging tools for beginners!
You’ve found a topic to write about. You’ve started making notes. You even managed to write and publish a few blogs – now what?
It’s time to promote them. And one of the best ways to get leverage in your promotion is to put your blog in front of your followers. Think of it this way…
If you add up your social media followers and, let’s say that number comes to 6,000 on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, combined. And if you announce your new blog post to those followers and only a fraction see the post and an even smaller fraction share you post with their followers, your reach could be in the tens of thousands.
Of course, you still want to share you blog with your email followers, but don’t ignore the viral potential of social media.
That’s what BlogWorks was designed to do. You publish the blog, we turn your blog into daily updates on social media.
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.