How important are images in content marketing?

Whether we admit it or not, humans are more drawn to images than to text. But the way images and text work together to make content marketing effective is often understated.
According to Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and author of “Brain Rules,” people who read information paired with relevant images are 6.5 times more likely to recall the information 3 days later than if there were no images.

Images are an important part of quality content

Pairing the right images with your blog content will not only help readers better understand and recall your content, but it will also encourage them to continue reading (hopefully all the way to your CTA!). When users actually stay to read your content, this will reduce your bounce rate and help your content get rated higher in search engines.
Adding images will also help your content get shared on social media channels such as Facebook, bringing more new visitors to your website! According to BuzzSumo, Facebook posts with images had 2.3 times more engagement than those without.
You could have the most amazing content writers in the world, but if you don’t add the right images to your content in the correct way, then your content will fall on deaf ears and blind eyes.

Best practices for adding images to your blog

So, how do you correctly implement images into your content? Follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Make sure all of the images you choose are royalty-free. You don’t want to get your company into trouble! Here are some websites you can get free images from:
  • Step 2: Use a software such as Canva to edit the images if you want them to be more relevant and blend in more with your content. An image that is cropped to focus on something important in the image can have a lot more impact.
  • Step 3: Name the image file with a relevant name such as “New-York-Skyline.jpg” (NOT a generic name such as “IMG1.jpg”). This will make your content more SEO-friendly and help your images show up in image searches.
  • Step 4: Always make sure your images are properly compressed, so your website loads as fast as possible. You can use a website such as jpeg.io to help get this done for you.
  • Step 5: Add an Alt tag and to each of your images. This should be a short description of the image, and it could include one or more of your SEO keywords. The Alt attribute is very important for search engines. It’s also what replaces the image if the image does not load or the reader is using a screen reader.
  • Step 6: Always add descriptive captions next to your images. According to KissMetrics, image captions are read 300% more often than the body of the content you post.
  • Step 7: Put relevant images between text blocks so that it is easy for your reader to follow your content.

Another way to reduce your blog’s bounce rate

Utilizing images properly throughout your blog posts is just one way to reduce your bounce rate. If you want to reduce your bounce rate even further, there are plenty of other things you can do!

How to get people to read your content

Content marketing continues to grow as a key online marketing strategy. Content marketing, however, is so much more than the ability to produce good content on a consistent basis.
You can produce some of the best content to ever grace the internet – but without a sound strategy to optimize, distribute and amplify that content, your hard work won’t amount to much.
People continue to clutter the world wide web with a cacophony of information and opinions. To rise above and truly be heard, you need great content paired with a solid distribution strategy.
In this e-guide, we will walk you through the basics of optimizing text, effectively distributing content using different platforms and ensuring people actually read what you write!
Specifically, we will cover:

  • Optimizing content for mobile and emerging technologies such as voice search.
  • Ensuring that your content is readable and adheres to search engine optimization (SEO) best practices.
  • Content distribution basics, including how to use different online content distribution channels.
  • How to measure the success of your content optimization and distribution efforts.

Optimizing content: Four basic elements

The term “optimize” can be quite subjective. Optimizing online content can mean a lot of different things, especially when you throw in the variables of what your business is trying to achieve with its online content.
At its core, online content is produced to be viewed – which means we can very easily boil down the optimization term to a few key elements that every piece of your content needs to possess. Overall:

  • Your content must be informative. The content must explain something that readers didn’t otherwise know or consider. It must either fulfill a need or provoke a need that the reader did not know they had.
  • Your content must be trustworthy. Your content should be somewhat objective by utilizing trustworthy sources within your industry, presenting information or opinions from your readers themselves or relying on data from established sources.
  • Your content must be authoritative. Balance objectivity with thoughts and opinions from your company and its people, whom you are trying to establish as the ones who best know how to help your readers.
  • Your content must be helpful. Give away knowledge and information for free. Show that you are willing to share your goods and empower your readers – and when they’re really stuck, they will turn to you for help.

Optimizing content for readability

One misspelled word. An improperly placed comma. A REALLY long run-on sentence. Nothing breaks down the quality of your content quite like a lack of readability. Here’s how to keep a small mistake from turning into a BIG content problem:

  • Proofread for grammar and spelling. Sloppy grammar and misspelled words adds up to zero credibility. Go over your copy with a fine-toothed proofreading comb. Then go over it again. Have others proofread it, too. Multiple sets of eyes on your content are better than just one.
  • Keep your content focused. Don’t go off on tangents in your copy. Consider how every sentence brings your reader closer to your call to action. Use active, powerful verbs, and keep sentences short. If a word or sentence doesn’t move them forward, scrap it.
  • Remember your target audience. What’s their average reading level? What do they appreciate? Keep the text as simple as possible to meet their needs.
  • Format for the web. Bold headings and bulleted lists help search engines to better scan your content for terms that help you to rank higher in relevant searches. These can also help prospects to find you.

Optimizing content for mobile

A site that renders properly across multiple mobile devices is absolutely crucial to business success. More than half of internet traffic comes from mobile devices, and that amount is only expected to rise. If you’re not paying attention to how the readers whom you want like to access online information, start now: it will help you to increase readership.
Optimizing content for mobile goes even deeper than that:
Mix up your content length. Longer articles are important for SEO because it indicates that you have a lot of great authoritative information to share on your preferred subject matter. However, mobile users won’t necessarily want to read your 2,000-word opus while they’re waiting at the doctor’s office. Instead, give readers quick-hit pieces as well as long-form information to give them what they need right away, and entice them to return later for the longer reads. No matter the content length, use brief paragraphs, subheaders and bullets to make the content scannable.
Let users scroll. When optimizing for mobile, people want to swipe up – not click and click through multiple pages to get what they need.
Let them browse ancillary materials in one spot. Try not to link to long articles and PDFs within your content. Compile this type of information into a link list at the end.
Create awesome headlines. Your headlines themselves should tell a story, reveal the benefit of reading upfront and tug at a person’s heartstrings.

Search engine optimization

SEO goes beyond the words in your blog posts. It also goes beyond the scenes, into your HTML code and your content management system to help your content to get found more quickly by people more likely to convert into leads.

SEO for text

  • Check your title tags. Make sure that your page and post titles are properly configured.
  • Include meta descriptions and keywords. Ensure that your content’s meta descriptions first exist and properly describe what a user would find on that page should they visit.
  • Clean up URLs. Get rid of unnecessary characters and ensure that your URLs follow a logical path of organization. The way that you name the pages in your website hierarchy is crucial to helping readers to get what they need as quickly as possible.
  • Use keywords, but not too many! Search engines can tell when you’re overstuffing content with key search terms to get clicks. Write with keywords the same way you’d use the words in natural conversation.
  • Strategically write headings and subheadings. Your headings and subheadings are assigned special code in your HTML (h1, h2, et cetera). It’s typically what a search engine will scan first, so make sure they’re concise yet descriptive enough to get your point across.

SEO for images

When used with care, images will help readers better understand your content. Whenever possible:

  • Use original images. Use stock photos as a last resort.
  • Name images properly. Put your keyword in the file name so that search engines will know what your image is about without looking at it.
  • Reduce file size. Faster load times are important for image SEO. Don’t make images too small, but ensure that the file size will load quickly while keeping the image clear and properly sized on the page.
  • Use alt text and title tags. Use alt test to create a long-form description of your image to further help search engines to judge your content relevance.

SEO for videos

Whether they are embedded on your website or listed on YouTube, make sure that you are properly optimizing video content for maximum visibility:

  • Include relevant keywords in your video title. This helps your video to rank higher.
  • Write a clear video description. Your viewers should immediately understand what they’re going to get out of watching your video.
  • Include links to your website. Let viewers know in the description where they can go for more information or for a transcript of the video.

Optimizing for voice search

Remember how we said mobile accounts for at least half of all online traffic? More and more, people are using voice search technology to ask Siri, Alexa or Cortana how to do something, find something and get something.
Remember: Voice search is conversational. So, too, should your keywords. Use long-tail keywords to optimize voice search. Think about what one of your users would ask about, in plain terms, to stumble upon your website or blog online.
As more people continue to incorporate this technology into daily life, our keywords will need to evolve to suit people, not search engines.

Content distribution

Your content is distributed in three key ways:
Owned media describes the distribution channels that your company owns or rents – its website, social media accounts, e-newsletters, et cetera.
Paid media describes any paid means of distribution: search engine marketing, boosted social media posts and ads, ads, media placements, et cetera.
Earned media is achieved when people view your content – either by owned or paid means – and decide to endorse it by sharing it with their own followers. Earned media includes links to your content in blog posts, social shares and republishing of your content by other channels without your paying them to do so. Earned media means that your content is useful and relevant to others. To get more earned media, you need to optimize and promote your content via owned and paid means.

Optimizing for social media

Your social media posts should be optimized accordingly based on the social platform you are using. Overall, however, you can employ these key tactics:

  • A/B test your headlines. Distribute articles with different social media headlines day to day – even over the course of one day – to see how they perform.
  • Use images. Optimize images with proper tags and size them to effectively adhere to the social ad platforms that you are using.
  • Use hashtags. Including relevant hashtags in your social media posts help to increase post visibility.
  • Optimize post length. Remember your platforms. For example, keep it short and sweet for Twitter, but if it makes sense, your Facebook posts can be a little longer.

Content distribution 101

To effectively distribute your content, you must know:

  • How often to post
  • The best time to post
  • The content types that do best on each platform
  • How to effectively repurpose content
  • How to establish an effective mix of free and paid distribution channels

How often you post will depend on how much content you can create. Whether you post once per week or once every hour, the key here is consistency. Establish a precedent for your audience, and then stick to it.
The best time to post will depend on how active your audience is on different social platforms. For example, Facebook users tend to be active in the evening.
Different social platforms prioritize content differently. For example, live video on Facebook tends to get great exposure, and links with images on Twitter are clicked more often.
Repurposing content needs to begin at the source. Your source piece of content can be a blog post with an image, the contents of which become an infographic, a Facebook poll, an Instagram story or a YouTube video.

Content distribution tools

There are a number of content distribution tools that can help to do the work of placing content in front of the right audiences for maximum exposure and traffic. These distribution tools may be a wise investment for your business if you need to outsource this task.
Examples of content distribution tools include SimpleReach, Xink, Outbrain and Wisestamp.
These tools will place your content on relevant websites based in parameters you set, in exchange for a fee. You can pay per click or pay based on how the content performs where it is placed.

Measuring success

How do you know if your content marketing efforts are successful? Here are ways to measure content performance:

  • Site traffic increase/decrease
  • Bounce rate
  • Time spent on page
  • Social shares
  • Increase in site traffic from inbound links
  • Organic search rank
  • Leads generated (by filling out a form, subscribing to a newsletter, etc.)

What if I don’t see results?

Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not uncommon to not see significant returns for at least a year. The key is to make sure that your key performance indicators are remaining steady and not going down. Over time, you will begin to see changes in site traffic and lead generation that will justify the investment in content.

20 websites to download free stock photos and images

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Images also drive tremendous traffic. For example, Buffer, a social media management tool, showed Tweets with images received 18 percent more clicks, 89 percent more favorites and 150 percent more retweets. This article provides you with guidance on where to obtain free images and stock photos.
But first, some basic information:
Copyright
If you did not shoot the photo, you do not have permission to use it. Whenever someone creates an image, it is automatically copyrighted; there is nothing the photographer has to do to hold the right. Consider reaching out to the photographer directly or accessing a resource where you can use an image by following the licensing agreement or paying a fee. Using a copyrighted image without permission can result in a lawsuit.
Photos with the Public Domain Mark 1.0 indicate copyrights have expired or have been forfeited. You can use these without asking permission or paying a fee. Other free images can be used when providing proper attribution.
You can find such photos at:
1 Million Free Pictures
All images are created by the owner of the site. They can be used for personal or commercial use and credit does not have to be given. The gallery is a little difficult to search, but there are a number of useful categories.
Astronaut Photography of Earth
As the name indicates, you can search specific collections to find images shot by NASA astronauts. It is a service provided by the International Space Station program along with the JSC Earth Science & Remote Sensing Unit, ARES Division, Exploration Integration Science Directorate. There is no fee for use, but attribution must be given. Be sure to read the site’s FAQ regarding other conditions for use.
British Library
Here, you will find more than a million images. Most are illustrations in 17th, 18th and 19th Century books released into the public domain.
Creative Commons (CC)
These photos are public licenses that do not have a fee, but typically have restrictions for use. Read the licenses carefully before downloading and using photos.
Dreamstime
Offers more than 38 million images. Many of them are available for purchase. However, they do have a free section that is easy to search and frequently updated. Before browsing the site, you are required you to create a free account.
Free Digital Photos
The smaller sizes are free and you must credit the photographer. To get larger photos, you must purchase the image. Thousands of photos and illustrations can be searched easily by category.
FreeMediaGoo.com
Offers royalty-free, cost-free images for commercial and personal use. There are a number of background and texture images.
Freerange Stock
Find a number of high-quality, high-resolution landscape, industry, people and food stock photos. Credit does not have to be given, but they ask that you do so as a courtesy. Registration is required to access the site.
Gaderinge
These are free to use without restriction and the site does not require membership. Organized into categories that can be easily searched, some images are resized to fit a Facebook timeline or cover photo.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs
While there are many photos in the public domain, not all of the images on LOC site are public domain. Be sure to check the Rights and Restrictions page. Because the LOC does not hold the rights to images, they cannot grant rights. Individuals who find a photo that is restricted must research on their own to find those who can grant permission for use.
LibreShot.com
As they indicate on their site: “Beautiful Photos. Totally Free.” If you’re seeking travel photos, this is a great site. Find images from Europe, Thailand and Mongolia. It is also a good source of nature photos.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) photo gallery
More than 32,000 images on topics ranging from weather to oceans to marine species. Credit must be given to NOAA and the photographer. Note that there are some photos in the library that have copyright restrictions; they are specifically identified within the collection.
Morgue File
These images are not in the public domain, but are free high resolution digital stock photos for corporate or public use. You can copy, distribute and adapt the work. Attribution is not required. You are still responsible for the legal content of the images including model releases and property releases. If an image in a blog post, they recommend contacting the photographer and providing proper credit.
My Public Domain Pictures
This collection of amateur photos is available for commercial use without asking for permission. However, as they note in their FAQ, “Some of our pictures might include pictures of people, logos and brands and its always safe to assume that we have not obtained model release from these subjects.” Thus, use caution before deciding to use those specific photos.
Picdrome
This public domain collection isn’t particularly vast, but is growing. There are more than 100 photos that can be used specifically for background or texture. Another 100 are close ups of food and drink.
Pexels
Allows for commercial use without attribution. The library contains more than 2,000 photos and they add 10 high-quality photos a day.
Pixabay
Offers more than 500,000 high quality photos, illustrations and vector graphics. All are free for commercial use and may be modified. No is attribution required.
PublicDomainPictures.net
This is a repository for free public domain images. Do note that some photos require a model or property release.
The Famous Artists
Search is easily done to find works by artist, country or subject matter. As their FAQ notes, “Most of the countries of the world extend copyright protection to artists 70 years after their death, at which time the work falls into the public domain. All of the artwork showcased on The Famous Artists is in the public domain.” That said, copyright on the reproduction of two-dimensional art is still not clear. Read the sites FAQ carefully to understand the possible risks before using the images.
Viintage.com
Find thousands of vintage graphics, ephemera, and vintage advertisements. All can be used for private or commercial use. The free downloads are medium resolution (600px to 3000px). The site offers a premium membership allowing for unlimited high resolution (over 3000px) downloads. Bulk downloads are also available for a fee.
If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.

Content is king but visuals are important, too

Advances in technology put the control of the web experience into the hands of both the site manager and the site visitor. On the manager side, stunning photographs, moving music and exceptional video product displays deliver all the promise that the enterprise has to offer. On the visitor side, the flashing images, interminable load times and a trade-off of actual information for more ad space often leads to a click away from the site altogether.
Retain visitor attention

The average person stays on any given Web page for less than one minute. According to Microsoft Research, the first 10 seconds are critical to enticing the visitor to stay. After that, the majority will leave before 30 seconds pass. Only after 30 seconds do departures slow down. Regardless of the beauty, content or relevancy of the site, if the landing page doesn’t grab and hold a visitor’s attention, it is an unsuccessful website.
Balance visuals with text
Some content elements are best presented through graphics, others through text. Both aspects factor into algorithmic “pings” that direct search engines to the site. Using both as search engine optimization tools will raise the site up the search ranking pages for the subject. However, to achieve the goal of gaining and retaining viewer attention, a balance of the two promises the most success. After determining a proper balance, the quality of the content of each will contribute to the value of the site overall.
Carefully select visual content

Visuals of any kind (photos, graphics, videos) excite a different response in the viewer than does the written word. Emotional responses can be triggered by a simple still image, a photo of something loved, or a video that causes laughter. The purpose of the project should guide the use of visuals so that information that can only be transmitted through an image is captured, while critically important text isn’t lost or overwhelmed.
Anticipating the viewer’s expectation should also play a part in weighing the balance of visuals and text. Light hearted sites may find that visuals are important for immediately communicating fun. More somber content may suggest a reduction in the size of visuals in favor of added written matter. Commercial images of products give consumers information that only visuals can convey — do they like what they see enough to buy it? And an infographic chart or graph can present large quantities of data in a single image although the nuances and subtleties contained within the data may not be obvious.
Include value in the text

Text is important because it explains things. While an image conveys a specific visual perspective, text can convey complex ideas within the same amount of space. The amount of text used depends on the information being delivered, the expectations of the author and the viewer, and the purpose of the website. High-quality information contained within the text will address the viewer’s query, offer proprietary information, and encourage deeper, more meaningful engagement between the two.
According to Google, longer written posts are favored over shorter ones, although that may not hold true for mobile users. Pieces with more than 1,000 words are ranked higher on Google than shorter pieces.
Because of its infinite manipulative qualities, text can offer some of the aspects (color! font! size!) of visuals while also delivering more detailed information than that which is conveyed in a visual. Spelling, grammar and sentence structure all contribute to the viewer’s experience of the site. Quality information presented in a competent, compelling format secures the reader’s attention all the way through.
Text also conveys a more authoritative tone than does a visual image, and combining it with relevant links raises its credibility level even more. Links that connect to authoritative, reputable sites indicate to Google that this site is trustworthy and credible, too. Author expertise is also a critical factor in determining the authority and quality of any particular piece of content. This is especially important for academic and executive/corporate pieces.
Most significantly, the text of the site is usually where the value of the site lies, and “value” is the single most important reason anyone stays on a website for any length of time. Value can be many things and is defined by the user. Instructions and technical guides solve problems; dictionaries, encyclopedias and research articles deliver information and insights that educate the reader. Websites that provide value for their viewers will be revisited.
Search engines do not have the ability to comprehend content so they can’t determine which sites are of higher value than others based on data alone. However, search engines do track sites that are visited often and in response to a variety of queries. Those with valuable content that attracts many visits will rise on the search engine pages for that reason alone.
If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.

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