The fastest car on the planet is just a piece of junk if it doesn’t have the fuel to go from Point A to Point B.

That’s exactly the premise behind your blog post promotion. Just because you write a blog post doesn’t mean you can pat yourself on the back and watch the audiences roll in. That blog post you crafted needs some high-octane fuel to get its engine revving.

That’s where the power of pictures comes into play.

The social role of your blogging

Promoting your blog content requires the use of social media in order to reach wider audiences.

images-social-media-blogSocial networks – even the newsfeed-based Twitter – are extremely image friendly. People scroll through their social feeds at the speed of light, stopping only for a moment if an image captures their attention.

In fact, Hubspot recently found that visual content is 40x more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content.

Studies also show that the human brain processes visual content more quickly than written content. Therefore, if a reader leaves your post page quickly, a useful image will increase the chances that they absorbed at least something from your post, which in turn helps your branding stand out in their minds.

This makes developing a comprehensive image strategy paramount to your marketing campaigns. It used to be you could just write a blog post and build an audience. Now, you need to determine what type of imagery to use to convey your post’s messaging while connecting with your audience.

That, of course, begins with understanding the needs/wants of your prospective readers. What kinds of people are you targeting? Are they more inclined to abstract images, or do they prefer conventional to-the-point shots?

Will black and white work better than color? Are shots of people more effective than landscapes?

All of these questions can be answered once you develop a comprehensive buyer persona for each of your audience segments. As part of your personas, be sure to outline the type of tone and imagery that’s most effective in reaching them. This information will serve as the foundation of your image strategy.

Where to go to for your images

If you produce content as quickly as most folks say you should, then purchasing stock photos can get really expensive. Not to mention that most stock photos come across as far too stale and rehearsed.

Your audience deserves better! Here are a few options to choose from for your blog post images:

  • take-your-own-imagesCreate your own images. If you’re promoting your own products or crafting a DIY tutorial, then this may be your best (and only) option. But others can use this strategy as well. All you need is a good camera, an understanding of proper lighting techniques, photo editing software, and an eye for composition.
  • Creative Commons/Free sites. Any material that falls within the Creative Commons license can be used for anything other than explicitly commercial purposes. In other words, you can’t use a CC image in your ad, but as the featured image of your post, you’re in the clear. Other sites, like Unsplash, Pixabay, and Kaboom Pics actually give away high-quality images for free, to use however you want (and there are dozens of more sites like that online). If you find a free site, make sure to check their terms of use for exactly how and where you can use their images.

A word to the wise: it’s always better to be safe, rather than sorry. Many folks conduct a Google search for royalty-free/Creative Commons images. However, the images that show up on this search may not actually be free to use.

For example, anyone can simply purchase a Getty image, use it on their own website, and then label it as a “royalty free image” within the image’s alt-tag. That doesn’t mean you can use that image. In fact, chances are Getty will eventually find you and send you cease-and-desist letter and/or a fine.

You’re better off taking your own images, or using a trusted source.

Where in your blog post should you place your images?

ipad-blog-post-imagesIn terms of promoting your posts on social media, the most important place to upload your photos is as a featured image. CMS platforms (like WordPress) often make it simple to select an image as the featured image.

These images will frequently appear in a social network like Facebook (unless you upload a separate image with your social post) and, when clicked on, will lead readers to your post. However, make sure you understand your CMS and each social network’s rules on minimum image sizes. If your CMS isn’t configured properly or your images don’t meet the minimums then they won’t display properly.

Typically, this featured image is also used as the header of the blog post. Many times, it’s effective to superimpose some type of text on the image to further entice readers to click.

But there are other places within your blog post where images can have a massive impact, including:

  • As a sub-header for a new section
  • To break up large sections of text
  • To complement information conveyed within the text

More times than not it’s safer to use full-width dimensions for your images (rather than, for example, wrapping the text around an image). That’s because a right-aligned, wrapped-text image that looks great on a desktop monitor might look disjointed and confusing on smaller screens.

When you use full-width images, your display should remain consistent, regardless of screen size.

Optimizing your images

There are two things to consider when optimizing your blog post images:

  1. Image size
  2. SEO/search factors

image-compressionIn terms of image size, photo editing software like Photoshop, Gimp, Pixlr.com, or Canva.com can make it easy for you to minimize the size of your images to help keep your pages from taking too long to load (which is bad for SEO).

Generally speaking, a web-based image does not have to be anywhere near the quality you’d need for a photo you plan to print. The dpi resolution doesn’t matter, because on the web, only pixel dimensions matter. Usually, anything greater than 900 px wide is overkill and just adds unnecessary file size to your page.

Generally speaking, you should save your photos as JPEGs with around 40-60% image quality and your line art (images with crisp lines) as PNGs.

If you use WordPress, a popular (and free) plugin people use to optimize image sizes as soon as the photos are uploaded is WP Smush. You can also use free online services like compressor.io to reduce the file size of your images.

But image size is just half of the optimization battle.

For every image that you use in your blog post, you want to make sure you rename the file to something representative of the content of your blog post. Take the similar approach to your alt-tags (which search engines use to understand the contents of an image).

By adding keywords to both your file names and alt-tags, you can greatly increase the chances of your blog post being found online.

Make your blog posts go VROOOOM

We all know that the text found within your blog post is where the true value is, but without a good image to draw readers in, that text will never be consumed.

Every single day, your audiences are inundated with tens of thousands of pieces of content. They have to make decisions in fractions of a second on whether one piece of content is worth their time. While headlines play a huge role in getting folks to click, the images you use will dictate whether your audiences will pause long enough to read a single word.

Just like a Ferrari can’t hit 100mph without gas, your blog post can’t go viral without the right images.