What makes a great blog post? You’ve probably waded knee-deep in the web’s huge collection of bad blog posts, so you know how tiring and uncomfortable it is, right? The “blog bog,” I like to call it. Blog posts can turn out terrible for any number of reasons, but lacking quality images is one of the big ones. Believe it or not, there’s a lot to consider when picking images for blog posts, so read on and you can be sure to save yourself from the boggy qualities of bad copy.
Yup, images and text are co-dependent
Looking at sites like Reddit is a good way to press this point. The most popular posts on these sites are almost always images. At first glance, you’d think the best images make it to the top, but you’d be a bit surprised. The top images have to be pretty sweet to begin with, sure, but what gets an image to the front page of Reddit is the savvy connection that the poster makes between the blue hypertext they choose and the image it links to.
The same process that our brains go through when we decide what to click on is happening to a lesser extent as we read blog posts. We greatly appreciate highly relevant and quality images to accompany what we’re reading. If that experience is broken, then off we go to some other website.
Figure out the target audience, then be bold
Who are you writing for? Ours eyes are drawn to images that are unexpected or clever, but clever doesn’t come easy, especially if you don’t understand what your audience wants. This is going to require you to be bold and trust your instincts, like an action hero. Plus, people want humor wherever they can find it, so if you can make a joke without sacrificing the serious nature of your website, go for it. Basically, you have to be Bruce Willis.
What makes a great image?
A great blog post image has high resolution so that it doesn’t pixelate on larger screens, which looks yucky. Finding or taking the best quality photo with high resolution is worth your time. We’re all photographers in the end, so go ahead and indulge! Use unconventional compositions and angles, play around with light sources, but don’t use grainy night shots. Also, don’t be afraid of photo editors like Photoshop. Add filters, increase the contrast and crop for a better composition. If you don’t have a camera capable enough, invest in one. Oh, and don’t forget to ask nicely to use photos that aren’t yours.
Variety is the spice of life
Pardon the cliché, but you have to use a variety of images for blog posts. Take advantage of infographics, cartoons and comics, embedded videos, etc. Find graphics that are easily digestible and don’t distract too much from the blog post itself. Remember: images should enhance your writing, not the other way around.
Careful where you park that thing
First, don’t use too many images—a blog post only has so many empty spots. Second, know that readers expect consistency, so positioning your images is important. Set guidelines and follow them for each post. How much buffer room is there between the image and text? Does the text wrap around smaller images? Is the image size effective in relation to the size and line-spacing of the text? Should the images have a border? Your topic might merit more images. Regardless, it’s never a bad idea to recruit help to get a fresh opinion about how your images enhance the blog post.
Now you have to optimize
So your post looks perfect. Apart from good writing, you have quality images that are relevant, attractive and that don’t disrupt readability. But don’t forget about optimization!
Smarty-pants Google loves finding images surrounded by relevant content. It can tell by reading the keywords in the writing which it relates to those found in the images. Image keywords should occur in the filename, alt tag, title tag and caption. To give you an idea, if your blog post keywords are “Rocky Mountain”, this is how these fields might appear:
- Filename: rocky-mountains.jpg (always separate keywords with hyphens)
- Alt tag: A beautiful view over the Rock Mountain National Park
- Title tag: Beautiful view in the Rocky Mountains
- Caption (optional—Google does not directly relate the caption with the image, but captions are useful if your post has few occurrences of your keywords): An awe-inspiring view over the Rocky Mountains
Finally, if you can control it, don’t allow the image to link to any internal page other than to the file itself.
Image content sites to the rescue!
If time really is money, then dealing with images for blog posts is worth a bundle. Not to worry! There are image libraries online where you can find free stock images galore. Usually, you can’t edit these photos in any way, but each license differs. Some of the best services include Veer, Fotalia and Fotosearch. Free services like Morguefile and Freeimages exist if you’re on a tight budget. Attribution requirements will vary, so keep your eyes peeled to avoid prickly legal headaches.
Content creation is what we do well, so take it from the professionals when we say that actionable and engaging writing paired with the right images makes a blog post absolutely timeless.