You’ve written your best blog post ever.
Seriously, this is great stuff that’s going viral with hoards of hungry readers.
Woah there Silver! First, you need to get their attention.
Before anyone will read your brilliant piece they need to first stop and pay attention.
That’s where images come in..
Pictures, videos, screenshots, diagrams, and illustrations are a great way to keep your reader from clicking away. Adding images to your blog helps readers understand your information and ideas, and remember your post.
The trick is 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 add images to your blog without having to spend hours doing it.
WHY IMAGES WORK
“Our brain is mainly an image processor, not a word processor.” – Psychology Today
We are (literally) wired for images. Neuroanatomist R.S. Fixot estimated that two-thirds of our brain’s activity is dedicated to the visual activity. And it makes sense…
Historically we used our sight to warn us against nasty attacks from predators or to spot food that we could either hunt and kill or pick and harvest.
It’s no different online…
Your readers are unconsciously scanning for content relevant or entertaining, or both. In fact, articles containing relevant images have 94% more total views than articles without images.
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, 65% of senior marketing executives say that photos, video, illustrations, and infographics are core to how their brand story is communicated.
So, if images are so, great, how should you add images to your blog to get more traffic and better results?
Let’s start with image sizes.
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.
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 image sizes for the various social media channels in this post.
The image 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 stock photo website are higher in resolution (file size) and physical size than they need to be for the web. The problem with large image files is they slow your site down.
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 make up your photo. So an 800px by 600px photo simply means 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. But, for the web, a good range is 72-150dpi.
Best sizes for your website
The goal for your website is a good resolution (not fuzzy) and speed (not big).
Your images should only be as large as your blog content width. All modern sites are built with responsive design (automatically resize the page for smartphones, laptops, tablets, and desktop screens), set your image for the maximum width.
Find a balance between file size and quality
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 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. It’s perfect for the web.
The image on the right was resized to be 860px wide but saved as a low-quality, 30KB jpeg. Sure, it will load quickly but it’s fuzzy and will look amateurish.
Of course, when adding images to your blog 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 to 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 tools below).
Do I use JPG, GIF, PNG, SVG?
If you’ve ever been confused with all the image types (jpeg, gif…) this will help.
When adding images to your blog what’s the best format?
- JPG/JPEG – offers great quality images at 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.
In most cases, use jpeg for all images unless you want a transparent background.
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
Not sure how your image will show online? Most content management systems (like WordPress), allow you to preview your draft blog post before you make it live.
Every blog post needs a Featured Image.
Your Featured Image is the first thing your reader sees and is the image pulled by your social media channels. In this article, we explain what to do if your image is not being pulled correctly by your social channels.
Your featured image could be a photograph or, with a little extra work, overlay your headline on the image. Either way, it needs to create some curiosity and make the reader want to read on.
In WordPress, you’ll find the link to choose your Featured Image on the right side of your WordPress menu.
MAKING YOUR OWN IMAGE
Stock images are great, but original is 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 5 minutes.
Once you get comfortable with these 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.
[You don’t have to be a graphic designer to dress up your images so they stand out.]
AVOID THE LAW
You’ve searched the web, found the perfect image, and added it to your blog.
Fast forward two months and you receive a ‘cease and desist’ letter demanding money for damages.
Images have ownership, just like artwork. And you can’t use some images without the owner’s permission. In this post, we explain how creative commons works with images.
The good news is there are more sites than ever to supply you with brilliant images you can either buy user rights to or use by crediting the artist.
Credit the artist
If you are using an image under a Creative Commons license, it’s good practice to credit the photographer and source. Most stock photo websites will supply you with the link when you download the image.
Adobe provides a high-quality source for images, along with other creative software packages. If you are looking for an easy new way to find or create images, you can check out their products here.
You can even use Google to add images to your blog – just be sure to choose ‘Labeled for reuse’ under Tools.
Quick tip about searching for that “perfect” image: finding a picture slightly better than the one you found in the first 5 minutes won’t make your post go viral. Limit yourself to 5 minutes to find a good-enough image – 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 your image needs 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.
If I’m adding images to our blog, 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.
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 (all the screenshots used in this post were created with Snagit).
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. 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.
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.
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.
- Next, copy the URL for that video (it will look something like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKrPz6JHwYw)
- 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 videos 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 FILENAME
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 says dashes between words help 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 usually appear below your image. Many readers scan articles and your image captions can grab their attention and get them to get curious about your content.
At BlogWorks we try to write captions that add to the written content. The idea is if the reader only reads the captions they will get a good idea of what the article is about.
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 image you add to your blog should make your readers’ experience better. And entice them to read the article – which means they stay on your site longer.
As a final check, ask yourself these two questions:
- Will this image keep the reader on the page longer?
- Does this image help the reader to understand my message better?
The extra effort you put into finding and adding images to your blog 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?
Enjoyed this article? Here are 3 more all about images, video and making your blog go viral:
- In a paper published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology neuroanatomist R.S. Fixot estimated that 50% of our neural tissue is directly or indirectly related to vision and two-thirds of our brain’s electrical activity is used for visual processing.
- In one study by eMarketer photos accounted for 75% of content posted by Facebook pages worldwide and generated 87% interaction rate from fans (compared to less than 10% from any other post type.)
- A study at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Yahoo Labs looked at 1.1 million posts on Instagram and found that pictures with human faces are 38% more likely to receive likes than photos with no faces. They’re also 32 percent more likely to attract comments.