Marketers say: use images in your articles. It boosts engagement, increases conversion rates, enhances retention, and all that.
Then the advice goes: insert image every [insert random 100-500 number here] words. As if images are by themselves are some kind of a magic spell that instantly makes your article better.
And then the advising is done. You’re on your own. No one knows exactly why and what to do. This is how myths are born.
What kind of images to add, where, why? No idea. Have you ever wondered why thousands of articles on the Internet are filled with random stock photos loosely connected to the topic at hand?
Let’s talk about the three most popular myths about images in content marketing and why believing them may be disastrous for all of your content marketing efforts.
Myth #1: Everything’s Better With Images
If you were to read several marketing blog posts about images, you’d quickly realize their power in your content.
Images boost engagement. Images enhance conversion. Images this, images that. Read a bit more, and it may seem that images cure constipation and arachnophobia as well.
But there’s a problem, and it’s called simplification.
There are several studies that show the power of imagery in your content, that’s true. But the details are often omitted, thus simplifications are born.
Take a look at these often-cited studies and learn the details behind them.
1. Images increase engagement
They do, yes. But if you look closely, the context for most of the studies is social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and so on.
Due to the omnipresent nature of Internet content (read: people use the same content for their social media and blog content), the myth about images and engagement boosters is born.
Social networks are filled with images but what images are they actually? Memes, quotes, cats, more memes. Naturally, those images are very engaging. However, it’s a tight combo between the medium and the image format.
Try making a blog post filled with memes and see how well it performs.
In truth, medium matters. Images are crucial for social media. Imagine Instagram without photos. Twitter without memes. Facebook without Chinese proverbs.
Images form social media posts. They occupy 90% of the real estate that social media offers.
In blog articles, however, it’s a different story. If you just fill your blog post with images it won’t increase engagement. As a matter of fact, it can make things worse.
As for the emails, more images may actually lower your click-through rates. Particularly, if you’re using more than three per message.
Summary: pay attention to medium and the role images play in it. If images work in one medium it doesn’t necessarily mean they will work in another one.
2. Infographics are the best
Again, some studies suggest that infographics increase traffic by up to 12%. But you also should know that there’s an epidemic of bad infographics on the Internet because thousands of marketers are using them to get cheap backlinks to their websites.
It got so bad that some prominent publications reject guest posts that contain infographics all together.
Summary: irrelevant and low-quality infographics will alienate major publications and reduce the chances of your content getting shared by them.
Web-content with images gets more views
Web-content with images gets 94% more views. Well, okay. To be honest, I couldn’t even find the source study for this overused statistics. But the articles that use this stat also claim this:
The Top Content Categories Where Images Boost Article Performance:
- General news
Not your typical blog post, unless you work at the New York Times or a similar publication.
But here’s another number. Approximately 94% of all blog posts on the Internet have zero external links. That means that 94% of web content is practically ignored. So to have 94% more views compared to non-viewed content is not that much of an achievement, right?
Summary: posts with images can get more views, but the correlation is not direct. After all, the majority of content on the Internet is @#$% anyways.
4. Images boost credibility & memory retention
There was an interesting study a few years ago that concluded that images of brain scans boosted the credibility of scientific research. Thus, a myth was born that images boost credibility.
However, you should understand that in this particular example the credibility was not due to the inclusion of images per se in the research.
After all, the more “credible” articles were compared to the ones with bar graphs and topographical maps of brain activation, i.e. other images.
So the reason is not images, but imagery being more relevant. The images we can associate the content with when we memorize and process it.
Next time you include an image of an office worker with her laptop in your article about “office productivity”, don’t expect the leaps of credibility due to the loose connection. Not every image will boost the credibility of your article.
Same goes for increased retention level, i.e. visual content is easier to remember and provides higher retention levels.
Again, it works only with highly-relevant visual content, not loosely connected stock photos attached to the post.
Summary: increased credibility and retention benefits of imagery in content marketing are valid only when images are highly relevant to the content itself
Don’t get me wrong: there is nothing bad about images per se. They can really enhance all the things mentioned earlier: engagement, retention, conversion. But only if they are used at the right place at the right time.
There’s nothing worse than an image thrown in the article just for the sake of it.
Myth #2: Insert Image Every 250 words
This myth comes from SEO, an Internet discipline that is obsessed with quantifying everything.
Pick any SEO tool and what you’ll see is an approximation. Best practices: average post length, the average number of shares, domain rate, a number of backlinks.
What we have here is, again, simplification. If there are ten posts on Google’s first page with half of them 2000 words long, and the other half 1000 words long, the “perfect” post length, according to SEO-tools, would be 1500.
The same goes for images. The perfect number of images will be, say, six. It means there should be an image every 250 words in a 1500-word post.
A random picture inserted in the article every 250 words, at best, allows some breathing space for the reader, especially if that’s a long article, but that’s it. It won’t bring all the benefits marketers claim to achieve.
The advice to insert images every […] word is a short-cut to using filler images and low-quality graphics, especially when such advice is given to content writers and guest bloggers.
Myth #3: Good Images Cost You $$$
The efficiency of images in your content marketing should be based on two equally important characteristics:
But it comes at a price. Stock-photos, although high-quality, are at the same time overused and generic.
Paid photo stocks are high-quality and are more exclusive, but come at a higher price.
Custom drawn illustrations have always been costly. Even a logo can cost you $250 minimum.
So, what to do? Consider these three options:
- Contact designers on Dribbble / Behance and use their old images
- Use niche websites
- Do it yourself
Contact designers on Dribbble & Behance and use their old images
Both Dribbble and Behance are filled with astonishingly good works from illustrators.
You might think that this level of quality is difficult to afford, especially if you’re planning to use it in just one blog article or an email newsletter.
You’re right, it’s expensive to order new illustrations.
But what about the old ones? Many aspiring designers and illustrators will gladly permit you to use their old work in your content. It all comes down to whether it was a personal project or client work, because they simply may not have the right to share it with you.
Thankfully, most of the Dribbble illustrations are designers’ personal projects for building followership and attracting new clients. For that reason, many of them will be happy if you give them additional exposure by using their imagery in your content.
However, state clearly what kind of material you’re working on and that it’s high quality because most designers wouldn’t want to associate themselves with low-quality content.
Use niche websites
Thousands of people use popular photo stock websites like Unsplash and Pexels to find images. That’s why you see the same images on different websites used over and over again.
That’s why it’s a good idea to search for less popular, niche websites with original content. Below are a few examples:
Moose is a free stock photos website with a twist: all images are done by the same team of professional photographers.
Moose, or Icons8 Photos, is filled with original high-quality photos, but the prevailing style, for now, is kinfolk minimalism.
This style is suitable for many types of content, but these days it is especially in demand for hi-tech digital production and advertising.
Hi-tech magazines such as TheNextWeb and many startup promo pages like to include images from Moose, so the style may seem familiar to you.
Ouch! is a library of vector illustration with 40+ styles inspired by the latest trends in graphic and web design. But it’s primary strength comes from its utility.
These illustrations were made specifically for UI/UX professionals to be used for error and welcome pages, operations like email send or log out and other common online scenarios.
This type of classification makes Ouch! Illustrations highly-relevant not only for particular website screens but also for various content types as well. You can browse illustrations by type, style, or simply search queries.
Do It Yourself
Although there is an astonishing amount of free drawing tools and free vector tools on the Internet, most tools take time to master and you’ll still have to devote a big chunk of energy to create something that looks good.
However, some tools make this process much easier.
Remember Ouch? What if you could combine any Ouch illustrations with each other, add text, background, resize, and rotate. That way the finished images would be highly-relevant, yet still high-quality.
This is exactly what Vector Creator does.
It has less than 10 buttons, but they bring such power. If only there was such a tool for photos as well…
Well, there is. Combine, arrange, recompose elements in any way you like with Icons8 Photo Editor:
- 50+ models (kids, men, women, body-types, race, find anything)
- 1000+ objects
- 250+ backgrounds
- Upload your own photos and objects and clip them automatically
It’s easy to create fully customized high-quality photos with Photo Editor within minutes.
Using Images The Smart Way
Images are not a universal antidote for poor content quality. If anything, they are one of many elements of great content marketing that is hard to pull off.
Hopefully, you’ve learned from this article that simply inserting images into your blogs, landing pages, or email newsletters doesn’t do anyone any good no matter what the internet marketing gods say. If anything, it can actually make things worse.
But if you search for quality and highly relevant imagery to go with your content, rest assured that your effort will be noticed by both your readers and colleagues. Good luck!
About the author: Andrew is a usability specialist and content creator at Icons8
Title image from Surr pack on Ouch, the free vector library