5 ways to create better content marketing images

Images make your content more engaging and rank higher in search—but only if you’re using them wisely. Here’s what you need to know.

You know you should be using images in your content marketing, right?

I see blog posts all the time that don’t have any images. This tragedy happens every day.

If you’re not using images in your content marketing, here’s why you should:

  • Images break up text, making it easier to scan. (People love long-form content, but they might not want to read every word.)

If you are including images in your content, you could still probably do it more effectively. Below are five quick tips for optimizing content marketing images for better engagement:

1. Include an image every 100 words or so.

Your content needs more images than you think. Buzzsumo found that posts with an image every 75-100 words get the most shares across multiple platforms:

(The X axis is word count between images, and the Y axis is number of shares.)

That means a 1,000-word article needs about 10 images. If you don’t want to count words, here are a few rules of thumb:

  • Use an image at the top of the post, either before the text or after the first sentence/paragraph. This is a great place for a feature image that people can use when they share the post on social media.
  • Include an image between every couple of paragraphs, unless your paragraphs are super short.
  • Include an image in every section if you’re using subheads (which you should). A section with no images looks boring, unimportant and skippable.

2. Choose colorful images.

Tweets with bright, colorful and saturated images get tons more engagement than those without. Here are a few examples of strong color use in my company’s content marketing images:

Incorporate your brand colors into your images when possible. Moz, for example, uses consistent color schemes (as well as a house font) in many of its images to strengthen branding.

3. Use a mixture of fun and informative images.

Readers love graphs, charts—all forms of data porn. Include data visualizations whenever you can.

Ideally, you’ll create your own data, then make them visual:

  • If you have a designer on staff or the budget to outsource, you can turn data into sexy infographics (like these).
  • If you don’t have a designer or a big budget, use Excel. It’s better than nothing.
  • Be sure to slap your logo onto the image so you get brand exposure when others share it.

Don’t have any data? Check out these seven great sources for marketing data you can quote to strengthen your content.

Don’t stop there. The best-performing content uses a mixture of images that are entertaining (funny, inspiring, etc.), informative and data-rich. Strive for a balanced mix.

4. Don’t use obvious stock images.

I’m tired of seeing images like this:

It’s a person holding a phone. How creative.

Oddly, this comes from a company called “Death to the Stock Photo.” You’d think a business with that name would provide less stock-photo-y stock photos, right?

Look, I don’t care if your post is about mobile marketing. You can find a better photo than one of a person looking at a mobile phone. Choose an image that conveys emotion.

For example, this is the first image in a post about easy PPC marketing wins:

Instead of having an obvious connection to PPC (like a picture of an ad), this photo plays off the emotions associated with the word “easy.” These wins are so easy, a monkey could pull them off. This photo is much more memorable.

Here’s another one from a post about client retention for agencies. The obvious choice would be a stock photo of people working in an office. Instead, this photo plays off the phrase “long haul” in the title, conveying the emotion you’d feel after reaching the end of a long journey. (We made it! Yay! Man, my arms are tired!)

5. Optimize with keywords.

You didn’t think I was going to get through an entire post without mentioning search engine optimization, did you?

Optimizing your images for search isn’t optional.

There are only so many on-page levers you can pull to help your content rank, and images are among them.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Use the keyword you’re targeting (and variations on the keyword) in your image file names. For example, if “mattress pads” is your key phrase, your images should have file names like “mattress-pads.jpg,” “best-mattress-pads.png” or “how-to-choose-a-mattress-pad.gif.”
  • Do the same thing with your images’ alt text fields. Both file names and alt text should describe the image, but if you’re including a goofy picture that’s just for fun, still try to use keyword terms in the file name. But don’t keyword stuff (e.g., “mattress-pads-mattress-pad-all-about-mattress-pads-i-freaking-love-mattress-pads-did-i-mention-mattress-pads.jpg”).

You get extra credit if your images load quickly and are mobile-responsive (i.e., they automatically resize based on the size of the screen or device).

This simple step helps your content rank for your keywords, not just in image search, but regular search, too.

Remember, strong use of imagery isn’t just about looking good. It improves content marketing performance across the board.

A version of this article originally appeared on the WordStream blog.

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