As I mentioned above, when I set up a Drupal site for a client, I include a separate field for the image so that I can use that field and image to reference the blog post elsewhere. On my own site, for instance, the Home page includes a slideshow of images from featured blog posts, and there are four thumbnail images from other recent articles and stories. That same image gets used in category lists and the RSS feed.
More importantly, when you share new posts to social networks like Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, it's far more effective to include a great image with your post, than just text. Social networks are becoming increasingly visual. Images or posts with images achieve exponentially higher engagement levels than just plain text. When you, or any of your readers, use your social sharing icons, the networks will actively scan your post for images and try to choose the best one for you. When you have a dedicated field as I do that's labelled and programmed correctly, the networks will often correctly guess that that image is the one you might want to use. However, if you have no image at all, the networks may find other images from your website to include that might not be appropriate at all. You're then left with the choice of posting a bad image, or no image at all.
The right image can not only be interesting to your readers and used on social networks, but it can also add real value and insight into your post. For instance, we often use screenshots when talking about apps and websites that obviously do a much better job communicating what the app looks like than my poor writing.
Even better is when you can find an image that is interesting, different, and not necessarily obviously tied to your topic or industry. The viewer will naturally stop and think about the image you chose and consider why you used it. Getting your readers to stop and think is something every blogger should hope to do!
Another aspect to images is that they can introduce your topic. Since your image is going to be used as a thumbnail on your website and social media, it's often one of the first things a potential reader will notice. Is it compelling enough to interest the reader to find out more? Does it tell the reader what your blog is going to be talking about?
This is where a great image can really help you and your blog. I will be the first to admit that most of my images do not fall within this category, and I wouldn't expect them to. Every once in a while though, I will try to create or find an image that is so perfect, so compelling, that it may be more interesting and valuable than the blog post itself.
For some businesses, it is the image itself that is the point of the blog post. If you're selling a product, you might get a fantastic picture of your product in action, an image that's so interesting and cool that your readers and followers love it and want it share it with their friends.
This is where the true power of images can come into play. They say that an image is worth 1000 words because a single image can convey a tidal wave of emotional connections and meanings to another person. If the topic of your blog allows it, you should strive to pick an image that will touch your readers on an emotional level.
For instance, years ago I took a break from the IT industry to sell swimming pools and hot tubs. When the company produced marketing materials for the summer, they could have used stock images of each pool, but that wouldn't have been very effective. Instead, they used images of families in their backyards enjoying their pools. The images evoked happiness, love, family bonding, summertime and other emotional ties. In fact, the images told mini-stories which potential buyers could relate to. Choose or create images with that kind of emotional power whenever you can, but don't abuse it by going over the top! Don't think you can choose a picture of a sad puppy just because it's sad. It has to relate to your content in some way.
I've mentioned before that today's readers aren't interested in reading page after page of solid text. Our blog posts need to be broken up into smaller paragraphs, bullets, blockquotes and subsections. Similarly, one or more images will help add color and interest to your blog, and break up all that text.
Images are excellent for SEO. SEO is all about making sure that you use your targeted keywords often throughout your page and website, and images provide an opportunity for you to do just that.
Starting with the image itself, make sure that the image file name is meaningful and using one or more keywords if possible. Just use a dash to separate the words like Blogging-Image-Benefits.jpg. Then, when you have uploaded your image, you must set a Title, Alt and Description text for the image. These are generally not displayed to visitors, but will be scanned by search engines. Other sites, like Pinterest, will use the image's description so make sure the text adequately describes what your blog post is about.
Having great images that are appropriately titled will actually bring you additional traffic just from the image alone. If someone does a Google Search on one of your keywords and one of your images comes up, that will bring them to your blog post. I get a great deal of St. Louis related website traffic due to some St. Louis images I used on my St. Louis company page.
A picture can be a great way to make your readers laugh, and that can sometimes be even more valuable than getting them to stop and think! It's also something a little different than maybe some other blogs in your industry.
The challenge of course is finding an image that is funny, but not insulting or offensive. This is where the meme phenomenon comes into play. Businesses can use one of the many free apps to make their own memes for use on blog posts and social media. We will dissect memes in another post, but the gist is that you would take an image of some kind, typically of something most people would recognize, and then add some text on top of the image to make it funny. Be sure to get feedback on your meme before posting it online!
There are many things that a blogger can do to communicate their professionalism to their readers. Including a well-chosen image in every post is one of those subtle techniques that, when executed, will probably not be noticed as such. Forget to include images in your blog posts though and your readers may wonder. Your blog will look bland, and your Facebook Page will look boring.
Don't be boring! Including interesting, colorful images in every blog post and your blog will benefit tremendously.