So, you have created a website and set up a few social media accounts, but you have little experience in marketing or advertising your business. This is normal for most small business owners who are not used to promoting themselves online. Luckily, Write On can help. This is the first part in our series explaining how to develop a successful content marketing strategy and how to take advantage of the content writing boom to promote your business.

Visual aids may seem like an afterthought – a visual reminder of important text that you may want to remember – but they are so much more significant than that and they are an essential component of any content marketing strategy. Over the course of this article, we will explain how images fit into your content creation efforts and how images and infographics are the cornerstone of viral marketing, as well as some case studies of visual aids at work, and how your business can benefit from them.

Why Images Matter in Content Marketing

Images are an essential ingredient for good blog posts, they provide a positive result on your SEO ranking and they make your articles more visually appealing for human consumption. A recent case study by Backlinko found that Google rankings did take image use into account, but found no significant gain in rankings for articles that had more than one image.

According to Infographicb2b.com, content with compelling images capture approximately 94% more views than content without images. Size also matters when it comes to inserting images in your posts, but this depends on the platform you are posting on. Content marketing industry expert Jeff Bullas reports that Google+’s optimal image size is 2048 x 2048 pixels, whereas the optimal image size changes to 640 x 640 pixels if you are posting an image on Instagram. Every platform is different and the perfect image size for your blog will be dependent on the width of your websites pages.

The appropriate image size will therefore depend on your content marketing and advertising strategy, and the social media platforms you are using. After all, you do not want to post an image that looks pixelated or is uncomfortably small for viewers.

The Legality Behind Image Use

When using photos, always check to make sure that you are legally entitled to use them. If you are using a copyrighted image with attribution rights, provide credit to the image’s owner. As a rule of thumb, always stay away from using images licensed by big media companies like the Associated Press and Getty Images, as they will charge you insane fees for misuse of their photos.

If you are looking for valuable free alternatives, you can use any image that is classified as copyright free or listed in the public domain. For certain images, you can also use screen captures of popular programs, news broadcasts, or other multimedia footage. Other suitable free stock photo archives include websites like Pexels, StockSnap.io. You can also use Dollar Photo Club, which charges an affordable $1 per photo.

Remember, when in doubt, always provide credit to the image’s original source to avoid legal troubles.

What Makes a ‘Compelling Image’?

image_wall_content_marketing

A “compelling image” is an appropriate image that not only compliments your article, but also enhances it. Readers like to be stimulated by images and they must be relatable to the article in some form. When constructing blog posts, do not image stuff. It is always better to use a few on-point images than it is to try and cram images in every section of the article. Overusing images will distract from the core message of your post and deter your content marketing strategy.

The Alt Tag

The alternate (alt) tag you use for each image matters. When your images cannot load, or take too much time to load, your alt tag will be displayed in place of them. In short, an alt tag is a written description of the picture and they do hold some value in SEO. If you are writing a blog post about the perfect tomato sauce recipe for your Italian restaurant and you include a photo of freshly-cut tomatoes on a cutting board, include an alt talk that describes this content. Do not include an alt tag like “image 1” or “tomatopic” or “random photo 1.” Instead, use a relevant keyword and represent any spaces with dashes (-) or underscores (_).

While most people will not see the alt tag, it is important to make sure that they are accurate should your images not load, for the visually impaired who rely on audio descriptions, or for users who disable automatic image loading.

The Byline

A lot of great content marketers become so focused on their images that they often forget about the importance of a solid byline. Image bylines are not only useful when crediting the photographer or image creator. Bylines can also provide information regarding the importance of the image and any specific details about it. You have seen examples of this with statistical output. Bylines for graphs and tables often include important information like population size, sample size, the rate of significance, etc. While this information could be included in the text below the image, it is much easier and informative to insert it directly below the image instead and it will lend additional credibility to the image.

Image Compression

Simply put, compressing an image makes it smaller in size. This does not change its appearance. To compress an image and make it smaller, you will have to use an editing program like Photoshop. You can tell whether your photo re-scaling was successful by comparing the image’s file size before and after compressing it. HTMLGoodies.com recommends the GZIP compression software program, which can “reduce file sizes by 70%.” There are also online alternatives like Pic Resize, which happens to be free.

The best advantage of image compression is that your webpage will be smaller which will result in faster load times, something that Google considers when ranking pages. A one second difference can make all the difference and a good content marketing strategy will consider image compression. Fast Company reports a one second difference in load time translates into a $1.6 billion loss in sales for Amazon over the course of one year. For a small business, every sale is important and it isn’t worth losing them over something as simple as image sizing.

Visual Aids in Action

By now, you might be wondering what good examples of visual aids on commercial websites look like. The Internet is full of proper image use – especially among big companies – but as a small business, you need to make sure you use your visual aids effectively. Some easy examples of large corporations using images well include websites like H&M or Apple. Look how fast the webpages load and how polished their images look. If you are curious about byline usage, check out popular news websites to get a feel for how to use them properly.

Contrast this user experience by visiting websites that have not been updated in a while and you will quickly learn that images are important, but also that they can hurt your website when used improperly. Check out this Buzzfeed list for a few examples of outdated websites and improper image usage.

What This Means for Your Business?

Companies that need to continuously update their websites require faster load times, better visual aids, and a constant stream of new content to remain relevant. Their business models depend on it. If your small business requires a positive web presence to remain relevant to customers, you should use visual aids wisely. An easy way to stay up to date with current trends is to look at large companies and how they present themselves on the Internet and to stay up to date with influencers in your industry through Twitter and other social media platforms.

Infographics

infographic_content_marketing

Infographics, simply defined, are visual displays of data (numerical and non-numerical), which are great for audiences that do not have the time to read countless academic papers and case studies. When you post an infographic, either alone or as part of an article, you are helping your readers understand the information they are reading and increase their comprehension of the material. Paired with what we know, an infographic is a solid addition to your content marketing strategy. It is no secret then, that infographics build customer loyalty and trust, and they increase your credibility as an authority in your industry.

When compared to photographs or images you have included as complementary material to an article or blog post, infographics are more useful because they are self-contained sponges of knowledge. Normal images require explaining, while an infographic doesn’t.

For instance, a picture of a dog running on the beach is meaningless unless accompanied by an article detailing different ways your dog can have fun while exercising. However, if you include an infographic in that article outlining and detailing information like the different benefits of exercise for your dog and a breakdown of the various places people take their dogs to exercise (i.e. the dog park, their apartment building’s courtyard, etc.), this simple infographic can be shared around the web, without the need for any additional information.

If you have the time and ability to create infographics for your website or social media profiles, it is something that is worth the time.

How Do Infographics Help My SEO Ranking?

It is well established that backlinks help build SEO. By creating shareable content, like infographics, you are disseminating your visuals to potentially tens of millions of users across the web. When other bloggers properly credit your work and link back to your website, your online reputation increases. Backlinks from websites with a strong page or domain authority are worth a lot of value in SEO and infographics are an easy way to earn a backlink.

In addition, sharing content with others, especially when the content is easily readable and self-contained, like infographics, means you are passively attracting new visitors and customers to your website and social media profiles every second of every day. The higher your readership, the higher your website is likely to rank on search engines and the more you will appear like an authority in your industry. Infographics are great because they package entire articles into shareable formats and help advertise your site globally.

Infographics Look Complicated. How Do I Start?

For the small business owner that does not have experience with Photoshop or other image editing software, there are plenty of websites that can help you create infographics. Two free infographic creation websites that we recommend are Canva and Piktochart. Both are user friendly and require minimal knowledge of graphic design. The great thing about infographics is that no two look alike. They are a unique representation of their creator, and of your business and they provide a great opportunity for you to make use of your branding. However, if you do not have the time to make them yourself, you can hire talented individuals from Fiverr, UpWork (formerly oDesk), or Elance, but make sure that you find a graphic designer that understands your business and its needs, and take the time to vet any potential candidates as those websites are a lot like the Wild West.

About Write On

write_on_logo

Write On is an online content marketing, content writing, and advertising company based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We help small and medium businesses achieve their online potential and build a loyal customer base through the development and implementation of a solid marketing and content strategy.