The quick and dirty guide to using photos in your content marketing

Visual storytelling is essential to rise above the online noise. Knowing what makes a strong photograph and where to find them, is a key element in doing it well.

An effective content marketing campaign takes time, energy and commitment. And in today’s visual world, your photos need to work double time. Both by telling the story of your written content and keeping the reader engaged on your site to ultimately share your work.  

Here are some fun facts about the power of the picture:

  • Tweets with visuals are retweeted 1.5x more.
  • Articles with images get roughly 94% more views.
  • In 2019 at least 5 BILLION people are using smartphones (with cameras).

Four essential ingredients to help you find the right imagery

As visuals play such an important role in content marketing, let’s look at four essential ingredients to help you choose and use the right imagery.

1) Look for the human connection 

An emotional connection will always stop someone scrolling to click through. It’s important to think about the feeling you want to convey with each piece of content you’re creating and choose appropriate photos. 

Most of the time, photos with people are more impactful in making that connection; rather than photos of things. Candid, action photos are more powerful than styled photos. 

Think about the written story you’re telling. Then, find a photo that evokes the feelings you want your customers and readers to relate to. Look for unique photos that capture the human essence of your brand. 

2) Keep it simple 

A clean, simple background allows the focus to be on the subject. Too much visual clutter will distract viewers.

It’s important to look for photos that conveythe story and the feelings with clarity. Often that can mean a lot of white space or elements of the background pointing directly towards the subject. 

Another important element of visual storytelling is making the subject the focus. So stay away from the photos with too much chaos. Veer towards simple settings and colors that emphasize the feeling you want to create. 

Clear, high resolution images give a professional look and feel that will build trust and credibility. 

3) Use quality stock images

Stock photography can be a lifesaver when you’re starting out. It can save you both time and money.

Have a mix of go-to paid and free stock sites so you can keep consistency in what you choose. Often paid, premium sites offer monthly membership rates for a substantial savings. 

Premium sites will heavily curate and screen images to create a marketplace of high quality stock photos and videos.

They make it easier to find what you need with intuitive search functionality. Some offer ways to check if the photos you’re interested in are being used on other e-commerce sites. 

With a little research you can find free stock photos sites that offer high quality and unique photos from talented photographers. Look for candid photos that will give a distinctive personality to your marketing.  

If you understand what the visual style of your brand is, then it’s easier to choose compelling photos that enhance your content marketing. 

4) Optimize for search

Once you’ve taken the time to carefully select images, you want them to bring organic traffic to your site. However, understanding how to optimize images for SEO is a critical step most people miss. 

Here are three essential things you should do for every photo you use:

  1. Change the file name from a number to a description.
  2. Add the Alt text description.
  3. Resize the photo for faster loading time.

The file name of the photo is a critical part of search engines cataloguing your content. When you leave the “009.jpg” filename, you’re missing out on an opportunity for it to be found. Simply changing it to something short and descriptive will dramatically improve your content’s SEO.

The “Alt Text” or “Alt attribute” describes the image as a text. It’s the written copy that appears in place of an image on a webpage if the visual doesn’t load properly.

It also helps screen-reading tools describe images to visually impaired readers and allows search engines to crawl and rank your website. So it’s critical to take the time to add specific descriptions of your images. 

File size is important is helping pages load quickly so people don’t get frustrated and click away. According to Kinsta, it’s best to keep the total size of a web pageunder 1-2MB.

Make sure YOUR photos enhance your marketing content

Your visuals play a major role in getting your content found with organic traffic. So taking the time to understand how to select compelling photos that convey the feeling of your content is important.

And knowing how to optimize them for search traffic will help your content be found. So remember to:

  • Choose photos that show a human connection.
  • Keep the background simple and focused on the subject.
  • Find a few reliable stock photo sites.
  • Always optimize all your photos for search.

Follow these guidelines and your visuals will enhance your content marketing campaigns. 

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Dan is the founder and head photographer at Headshots Inc, a San Francisco based professional business headshot photography studio.

Photo by Marco Xu