Blog images are an important part of your blogging process.
This study, conducted together with Orbit Media on more than 300 bloggers and content writers, covers one of the most important channels in content marketing, the blog. We are going to find out – through a series of questions and answers.
Well, let’s move on to our main topics and analyze each trend in particular by looking at the facts:
- What types of visuals do you include in your blog posts?
- Where do you get your stock photos or images?
- How many images do you include in a typical blog post?
- What type of files do you mainly use for your blog images?
- How do you create the graphics or images?
- How much time do you spend creating visuals for a blog post?
- Do you optimize your images for search engines?
- How do you publish your images on your blog?
- Do you use your blog images to promote your articles on Social Media?
- Do you pay attention to trends in visual content?
- Where did you learn to create and edit blog images?
Expert Insight: Andy Crestodina
“The web is visual, now more than ever. The use of images in blogs is changing.
This study shows how bloggers are using visuals, what’s working now and where there are opportunities to differentiate your blog content.”
We’ve learned that out of the different types of visuals bloggers use in their daily work, stock photos are still one of the major trends these days.
Here are our main findings:
- Nearly two thirds of bloggers are using stock photos. Love them or hate them, they are virtually standard in marketing
- Illustrations are uncommon. Just 1 in 4 bloggers use them. Good opportunity for differentiation
- Only 1 in 3 bloggers uses data visuals. Charts and graphs are uncommon, probably because data-driven content is uncommon.
Visuals are great when you want to pair a generalist blog text with one or more images and give it an appealing visual look.
They are surpassed in popularity only by original photos which are being used by more than 78% of the bloggers who responded to our study questions.
Expert Insight: Henneke Duistermaat
“Quite soon after starting my blog in 2012, I got tired of using stock photography. So, I decided to learn how to draw. I hadn’t drawn since school, so this seemed like a challenging undertaking.
But I’ve been surprised how much fun it was to learn how to draw. I now have developed my own cartoon character, Henrietta, and I can quickly create simple illustrations for my blog posts.
The drawings are more than decoration, they add meaning to my writing.
Moreover, the drawings are easy to recognize so help build my brand.
Blog readers seem to love Henrietta, as I’ve received comments such as: “I fell in love with Henrietta. Although she is a drawing, she is more real than the photos on many websites,” “I always search for Henrietta when I read your posts, because she reassures me and makes me feel safe.” and “Henrietta definitely (…) makes your posts memorable. When I see her I know something good is coming up.“”
Screenshots are also a major trend in present day blogging. Tips & Tricks blog posts, How To’s, reviews and tutorials alike, they all depend on screenshots for reference.
People understand better these types of content if they are paired with relevant images that explain each step of the process described in the text.
What’s really interesting here is that illustrations and data visuals are quite uncommon which means that whoever uses them has a good opportunity to differentiate easily from the rest. It’s easy to stand out from the crowd when you come up with originality. We can not say the same thing about memes which are rather suitable for social media and not blogs.
You can create a meme section on a blog but they will never be the main source of content marketing and neither your main source of traffic.
Expert Insight: Rafal Tomal
“I design my own illustrations because it helps me to better convey the message. Also, it can help you get more traffic because other blogs might want to use your illustrations and link back to your site. Just in case, I put my website address in the corner, because I realized that a lot of bloggers feel free to copy and use any image they find on the internet.
They probably look it up in Google images and just use it. It’s annoying when I see other articles that use my images without linking back to my site or asking for permission.
It’s time-consuming, but it makes sense for my type of blog and work.
If you’re not a designer but you want to use original illustrations, you can try to hire someone on Fiverr to create them.”
Since stock photos ranked as very important among respondents on our first question, we’re going to start with them and find out the main sources of such images for blogs.
- Unsplash is a big player, especially with bloggers, even though Shutterstock has been around a lot longer.
- People are more likely to download free photos than pay for commercial stock.
While Shutterstock and Dreamstime are two of the oldest stock photos services, Unsplash has managed to surpass them in just a couple of years. We therefore learn that bloggers are more likely to use free photos rather than paying for commercial stock despite the fact that the latter option comes sometimes with more varied choices.
On the other hand, we may not have all the facts here, since there are tens, even hundreds of other stock photography services out there. Some or commercial, some are free. Even more, there are bloggers who are going to alternate these services and pay for the photos they cannot find on free platforms.
The following graphs shows us the three major stock image sources in Google Trends:
We recommend at least one visual in every blog post. And, we have learn that every blogger is following this specific advice. However, we are going to find out, together, the amount of images they use on a regular basis.
- Most bloggers are using more than one image. Text just isn’t sufficient anymore. This aligns with the responses from our blogger survey.
- Everyone uses images. Zero bloggers reported just using text!
There’s some really good news in this graph. There are no bloggers who ignore the power of visuals. Not anymore. They are important in today’s context even if you only upload a generic stock photo, considering that most of the blogs include social media share buttons. Social media is based on visual imagery and posts based on text only are more likely to get unnoticed by the audience.
Another piece of good news is that most of the blogger use more than one image. A third of them reportedly use even more than 4 visuals for each blog post which is a lot but not hard to understand.
A lot of bloggers need charts, graphs, screenshots and other similar visuals in order to back up their ideas.
It’s not that hard to include 4 screenshots or 4 graphs into a single post.
Expert Insight: Mike Alton
“Using multiple images per blog post is a tactic that I teach and stress repeatedly. Like any “rule”, bloggers are free to break this one. But you have to know why you’re breaking it and why it’s important before you make that decision.
Your readers all learn and process information in different ways. Ideally, you would provide every piece of content in audio, video and written format so that every audience member could consume in the way that best suits them. But since that’s usually not feasible, the next best option is incorporate different styles and mediums throughout a piece of content to keep everyone engaged – even those readers who don’t actually like to read.
So embedded images and video help to accomplish that.
Furthermore, with each additional image that you include, you’re introducing additional opportunities to engage readers and convey information to them that words simply cannot.
A picture says a thousand words, right? Use that to your advantage! Use images to explain complex ideas or statistics, or to interject humor. Use images to break up long swaths of text and give your readers a chance to ‘catch their breath.’
And finally, additional images spread throughout a blog post provide additional social sharing options. Those images can be shared to Facebook or Twitter or, most importantly, Pinterest, providing additional touch points and clicks to your content.
Which means that more images results in 10x better content.”
If you are wondering about how to use images on your blog, you should wonder first about the file types you are going to use. There are a lot of variables that are important in search engine optimization.
One of the most important of them is the website load speed.
JPEG is the most popular format of them all because it actually established a balance between speed and quality. JPEG images are easy to optimize for web and you can adjust their compression and quality according to their maximum width and height. Also, considering that compression is good, they don’t take a lot of space on the server and as of consequence, they load fast even on slower internet connections.
PNG files are the second option due to their transparency features which make them suitable for logos, icons and other similar visuals. At the same time, GIFs are a good choice for animations.
Their compression is good, they do not take a lot of space and there are not many alternatives that are suitable for web, except, maybe, for the HTML5 scripts.
Expert Insight: Donna Moritz
“Having a blog that focuses on visual content means that I am always looking for a happy medium between image quality and image size, so it has less impact on site speed. The majority of my images are JPEG files because they’re the easiest to compress without losing quality.
But I try to include GIFs in posts too – to add emotion and humor!
A great tool for compressing GIFs and even hosting them (so you don’t have to upload them to your website) is Gifmaker.”
We’ve learned that a lot of bloggers use stock images in their work. These are however, not the only types of visuals popular with blogs. And, when you do not download your files from the Internet, you might need to create them yourself or hire a professional to do it.
- Most bloggers use simple design tools now. These tools are everywhere and people know they don’t need Adobe to manipulate images.
- Bloggers know how to keep costs down. The less expensive the approach, the more popular it is. People know they don’t need freelancers or agencies anymore. They don’t even need installed software. You use browsers to find images. You use browsers to design with those images.
More than half of the bloggers that took the time to respond to our study are creating their visuals by themselves. Moreover, they are no longer using desktop based professional tools such as the Adobe Suite. Instead, they use online apps like Bannersnack.
There are two reasons for this choice:
First, we know that online designer apps are significantly less costly on the long run. If you are a blogger or a content marketer, you might not want to invest in these kinds of tools since your work does not depend directly on the designs themselves.
Secondly, online apps are way easier to learn and work with compared to professional designing apps. Most of the times, they are created with the general audience in mind.
They allow bloggers to create professional designs but at the same time, anybody can work with them regardless of their professional background.
Based on what we’ve learned in the previous chapter, we can only expect that bloggers who use online tools spend less time designing their visuals and more time with their other creative processes. Here’s what we’ve found out:
- 9% of bloggers are spending a lot of time. We should wonder if they’re getting better results?
And, it seems we’ve anticipated correctly. Online tools are easy to use and visuals are created in less or just an hour. At least, this is the amount of time 62% of the responders admit to spend with their visual content.
At the same time, less than 10% are spending more than 3 hours to design the visuals for a blog post.
Expert Insight: Andra Zaharia
“When I saw these stats, I immediately thought: “that’s me”!
As a content marketer, it’s sometimes difficult to express myself visually which is why I continuously try to improve.
Having worked side by side with designers for over eight years, I know which elements I should include but often lack the skills to execute at the quality level I want. As a consequence, I’ve sunk many hours into tinkering with visual assets that turned out to be barely good enough.
Creating well-documented and helpful content is just one of the aspects you have to master as a content marketer. Today’s standards are continuously evolving towards cleverer, more eye-catching visuals that entertain and keep readers engaged.
Five years ago, quality stock photography was rare in blog posts. Today they feel overused, impersonal, and just not enough to draw in readers or listeners.
Visual assets can be a powerful amplifier for great written content. For example, they can drive more clicks when someone shares your post on social media (provided you include a CTA in the featured image). Plus, you can’t do content repurposing with them.
Experience taught me the value of having a consistent visual approach that supports and strengthens the points your articles make. Matching your blog content with stellar visual assets is yet another way to show your commitment to quality and a powerful tactic to appeal to people’s emotions.
To make the most of your work and stand out, your writing and your visuals should go hand in hand.”
Search engine optimization is an important part of a blogger’s daily work. People understand the importance of search engines and the amount of organic traffic they can deliver should they optimize their content for search. What about the visuals? Do bloggers optizmize them as well?
- People understand basic Image SEO. Most bloggers are sensitive to how search engines index images. Probably they are deliberate when choosing file names and ALT tags.
As we can clearly see from the responses we got, bloggers do indeed consider SEO as being important for the visuals they post on their blogs too. In fact, more than 80% of the bloggers involved in our study reportedly optimize their images. 54% do it all the times while almost 27% do it regularly but not always.
And, it is quite easy to understand the fact that some images are of less importance for search engines, being uploaded as general representations/stock photos with the purpose of improving the design and not to complement the texts.
Expert Insight: Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré
“If I’m doing SEO for a B2B SaaS client’s site, I always optimize images for search. I meticulously double check all the work of previous optimizers and make decisions based around long-term SEO goals. I’ve seen a lot of success via image search results if the clients image is the number one result on Google (which is dependent on a few factors) or if their image goes viral as a result.
In terms of my consulting site, I’m just now getting around to optimizing it (in general) ten years after going self employed.
Something I really should’ve done sooner because I’m already seeing results for very recent updates.”
Since most of the bloggers rely on their own designs and stock images, the answer to this question was somewhat expected.
Expert Insight: Jacob Cass
“I personally prefer uploading images directly to my blog so I maintain control of the images for the years to come. If you embed the images, you run the risk of the content being unavailable at a later date.”
And, we weren’t disappointed at all. 95% of bloggers upload their images on their blogging platforms, as opposed to less than 5% who embed them from other sources. It’s only logical since the embed option may not be as reliable as thought.
When you do not possess your image, you depend on the third party’s website uptime and server connection. Also, other webmasters might delete their images or pages and as a consequence, leave you without visuals on your own articles.
Expert Insight: Vlad Calus
“We’re usually uploading the content direct into your CMS (WordPress) as we usually customize images in a style that fits our brand & blog best.
Sometimes, when it comes to sharing the social content and examples from brands & pages we embed the posts directly from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Youtube so it looks in the best possible way.”
Social media is an integral part of a blogger’s marketing strategy. However, social media is also based on visuals and this is one of the main factors bloggers started to use visuals on all their posts regardless there was an immediate need for such a file or not.
As a consequence, 75% of the bloggers who responded to our questions admit to always use blog images when they promote their posts on social media.
Expert Insight: Olga Bedrina
“Social media has become a very cluttered space. If you are not promoting your content using visual forms of communication (such as images, but also GIFs and videos), you might be missing out on a lot of opportunities to reach and engage with a wider audience.
From our experience, we noticed that tweets and posts with images and videos get much more engagement than just bare text.
You can also re-share and re-promote older content with new images and videos.”
All bloggers are marketers although sometimes, they conduct marketing without even knowing they do so. Each time a keyword is researched and included inside a blog post, each time a blog post is shared on social media, the author conducts marketing.
This is one of the activities that just like writing, requires a lot of research and commitment to stay up to date with the latest development that may help us improve our results. The following graph is therefore good news, since more than half of the bloggers are following trends and try to stay up to date with them.
Sure, there is room for improvement on these numbers but nevertheless, they show a positive trend among bloggers.
Expert Insight: Heidi Cohen
“Businesses use visuals as part of their content marketing, blogging and social media to attract audience attention and reinforce their brand. To this end, the visuals should follow brand guidelines including style, color, fonts and other elements. While visual trends evolve, brands change more slowly. As a result, a company may continue to use a visual style aligned with their brand. For example, Content Marketing Institute’s lead blog image always includes the post title, the author’s name and their logo.
As a marketer, I believe that businesses miss an opportunity when they don’t include their brand name and logo in their visuals. It’s like creating a television ad that doesn’t mention the product or company since people may walk away from their set but still hear the sound.
Similarly, for visuals that may be seen out of their original context, always include the URL referencing the article on your site or blog.”
The bloggers’ commitment to stay up to date with the latest marketing trends is also visible when it comes to visual design.
More than two thirds of the bloggers who answered our questions admit to being self taught designers and image editors.
Webinars and tutorials play an important part in their home schooling as well but what we have learned here is that people are investing time in improving their skills and try to rely on themselves when it comes to the different parts of the editorial process.
- Bloggers are resourceful people. We experiment. We test. We try different things. We don’t usually pay for knowledge. Two third of us learned to properly find, manipulate, post and promote images by doing the work ourselves. There’s a little bit of designer in all of us.
Expert Insight: Marius Ciuchete
“But what happens when the image you found to be almost perfect for your next blog post needs few tweaks to make it an even better fit?
Enter my favourite tool: Affinity Photo.
It’s a great application that can be easily installed on your laptop/tablet, with an intuitive interface that will allow you to start doing great adjustments to your photo in minutes.
The support built for this product is amazing: tens of tutorials available at any moment in Youtube and their own website explaining in details how to achieve certain effects on photos. You can learn how everything from basic operations like placing a logo on top of an image, to advanced ones like corrective & retouching, or HDR merging.
There isn’t much that you can not do with Affinity Photo. It has become my favourite tool quickly after working with it and has replace the need of having any other photo manipulation app installed on my iPad or my Mac.”
Visual assets are an important part of any digital marketing strategy of today. In fact, one cannot separate content marketing from visual marketing anymore. Visuals add style, information and important guidelines to an article, a social media post or even a guide, a research project or an eBook.
It’s important to stay up to date with the latest trends in this industry and always be eager to learn more about the phenomenon.
Our study came up with interesting figures and facts, and they all seem to be backed up by active and successful marketers from all around the world, from all industries and fields of knowledge.
What do you think about these numbers and to what extend to you find yourself in them?