Are Your Photos Killing Your Website?

Photos Rule, But Not If You’re Doing Them Wrong

When Rule #1 is use photos, Rule #2 must always be: use them correctly.  

From image sizing to image selection and placement, incorrect use of photos on your website can result in some unintended consequences:

Reduced Readership.

How’s that possible?  If there’s one thing we’ve all learned about marketing, it’s that photos (plus videos and other images, like infographics) capture the eye and draw readers in.  Heck, that’s old news…it was a golden rule way back before the internet was even invented.

Photos Rule the Web

So, it’s no secret that visual imagery is the key to creating attention-grabbing content.  Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, photos rule.  You know this instinctively because every time you scroll through your Facebook feed, which posts are the ones that get your attention?  Photos and videos.

And it’s not just instinct that’s telling us the importance of photos and other visual.  There are studies, surveys, and clinical research on how the brain responds to imagery to back up all of this.  As a result, the web abounds with stats on how people are more likely to engage, read, return to, shop, recommend, or trust your content when there are images involved.  Instinctively, you know they make your site look prettier, and from experience, you know images draw you in.

So, what’s the problem?

Surprisingly, there are several problems!  Every day, people use photos in a totally incorrect manner, which means at best they’re wasting their time and money on images…and at worst they’re reducing readership.

If you’d prefer not to be making those types of mistakes on your own website, read on.  Following are 5 ways to make sure you’re using photos, infographics, and other imagery correctly, thereby attracting and retaining readership and eventually even making them do what you want to do.

1.  Use Images That Give Clues

One problem is since photos give the brain an idea of what it’s getting into should it decide to delve further into your content and actually read it, problems can arise when you use the wrong photo.

Use a misleading, irrelevant, or otherwise confusing image in your content, and it’s like false advertising.  You’ve essentially given your readers’ brains a fake, incorrect guide map to your content.  When they find out they’ve been led astray, they’ll react just like you would when you discover, on vacation, that a local has intentionally steered you the wrong way after being asked directions.

Outta here!

Do readers (and yourself) a favor and choose your images as carefully as you create your headlines.  After all, they sort of serve the same purpose: to convince readers that they want to see more of your content (i.e. the body).

2.  Put Images in the Right Places

The concepts behind these principles stem from the old days of print advertising.  Your instinct may be telling you to put a nice big image at the top of your page.  While that’s fine, make sure it’s not taking all the glory from your carefully crafted headline.

Since people read from top to bottom, and since a photo is the most attention-grabbing feature of an article, guess what?  Anything that’s above your huge, attention-grabbing image will be pretty much invisible.  Nobody will see your headline, which is a shame because headlines are important and extremely useful in drawing readers in, too…the right kind of readers.

3.  Use Images That Have Value

Hearkening back to tip #1, choose your images carefully.  A quick scan of the internet will reveal countless examples of poorly chosen images that tell visitors you just don’t give a d&*mn.  Not sure what that means?  Take a look at these violations:

  • very obviously stock images that don’t convey a very deep sense of what you’re trying to say because they’re so bland & there’s no connection with the people
  • same goes for cartoons: nobody connects with a cartoon
  • Low-resolution pictures that are pixelated
  • stretched-out images that got resized incorrectly
  • Low-quality pictures that were blurry to begin with, or had bad lighting, or are otherwise amateurish looking
  • images that have no value to the website message- they serve as placeholders and that’s it
  • photos that make visitors go away: huge faces, crowd scenes, historical images

4.  Use Images That Don’t Slow Down Load Time of Your Site

This is perhaps the worst error you can make with photos and other graphics on your website.  A large, beautiful, high-quality photo is also a heavy photo, in terms of megapixels.  The heavier your overall website is, the longer it takes to load.  Slow-loading sites are a top pet peeve of internet users…in fact for every fraction of a second longer it takes for your website to load, you’ll lose more and more traffic.

Now you can see why using images heavier than necessary will really kill your website.  In many cases, they’ll prevent the site from ever being seen at all, as potential visitors lose patience waiting for it to load and simply click away.

Want to test the load time of your site?  There’s a free online tool for that called the Pingdom Website Speed Test.  Use it, and reduce the weight of your images until you get it down to around 130 KB or less.

5.  Place Images so That They Don’t Break up the Flow

This goes hand-in-hand with tip #2, about where the eye travels as it’s reading.  We English speakers read from left to right, which means the left margin is our starting point for each new line.  The left side of your text serves as an anchor, to which your eye returns after completing each line of text.

What happens when you break the guiding line with a photo?  The readers’ eye becomes confused and it’s basically just very annoying to read your copy.  Don’t use left-aligned images unless it’s an emergency.

So, examine your own website and its use of photos and other graphics.  Are the images hindering or helping the reader get to your content?  Follow these 5 guidelines and you might just see an increase in traffic to your site.

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