We all know that visuals are very important on microblogging social media sites like Instagram and Facebook, and they are just as important for blogs. I might even say that visuals on long-form social media content like blog posts are even more important to keep readers engaged. Unlike microblogs, long-form blog posts need visuals to get attention, create scanability and also to keep readers engaged through reading longer posts.
In addition to helping you keep a reader engaged, you boost SEO through captions and alt text. Images also allow you to show even more of your creative side and can be an opportunity to establish your “branded” look.
Sometimes a subhead is just a subhead
While subheads and quote call outs are also effective ways to add visual appeal and scannability to your posts, images are a must for every post. But where you get them matters. You cannot just take images from the Internet. Some students have tried to get away with adding: Courtesy of MTV or some official wording like that to a caption. They, and about a billion other people, honestly believe that adding this acknowledgement covers their butts for copyrights. No… there’s no courtesy unless you ask MTV in writing and how likely is it that a) you will do that and b) MTV would give you permission?
So how do you keep your visual appeal high and your copyright legit? Here are 10 ways to do just that:
1. Take your own pictures
Your photos don’t need to be artistic and perfect — they just need to be clear and illustrate the words or points in your post. Here are some tips from Teachable on how to take good pics with your phone. You can personalize your images by captioning them, framing them and/or adding text overlays.
2. Ask (bribe/beg) a photographer friend to help
If you’re starting a lifestyle and fashion blog and you need to take pictures of yourself, you will obviously need help getting pictures. Most of us know at least one or two friends/coworkers who are known for taking good pictures. One of my students trades with her friend. He takes her pictures and she helps him write his posts. Win win!
3. Use Google Images – the legit way
Of course, our first stop when “shopping” for photos on the Internet is Google images. This is a great resource, but you have to make sure you’re using a legit image. Here is how: When you’re on Google images, go to “Tools” and then “Usage Rights.” Search for Labeled for Reuse. IMPORTANT: Do not simply copy the image from Google. You need to actually visit the website to check to see if you need to attribute the image or provide a link to the website.
4. Know the free sites for usable images
You can also search for photos and illustrations offered on Flickr under a Creative Commons license, or search the Creative Commons site. Just put in your keywords and the results will show images that you can use on your site with proper attribution. There are many good sites for usable images. Pixaby.com is one of my favorite sites. This Mashable article lists 101 sites which sounds a bit exhausting, but I recognized most of the top 10. You will need to sign up for an account with some of them, but it’s worth it. You can download images and this will give you better quality than simply copying.
I have never been able to score a copyright usable image from Shutterstock, though they claim to have them. (Let me know if you ever locate one!)
5. Avoid or bling generic images
Use legit images but avoid super generic images (the business world is famous for these: like the handshake or the group gathered around a computer pretending to be fascinated.) You are better off using an amusing gif than a photo that screams “stock!” Although there are some good photos in the WP photo library, they are pretty generic.
You can always bling a boring photo by adding a text overlay to it. Pablo by Buffer is an app that lets you upload photos and quickly add text and it is very easy to use. Some bloggers like to have a signature inspirational quote at the end of each post, and Pablo is a fast and easy way to do this.
6. Avoid generic clip art and b/w tables, graphs
While the notoriously bad clip art of the 90s and early 00s has given way to some fun emojis and icons, there is still some bad clip art out there. I also put boring b/w tables and/or graphs in this category. 😡
It’s super easy to make a colorful graph in Canva. (I love Canva. They should hire me to be a spokesperson because I am constantly introducing people to it.)
😛 With the upgraded Canva account ($12/month) you can access tons of icons and emojis, but WordPress has some emojis too. You just need to adjust one setting in Writing. Here are the directions from WP.
7. Use memes and gifs
Don’t go overboard but memes are a fun way to add visuals. GIPHY is good source for fun visuals. Some of my students like to include a gif at the beginning or end of every post as a kind of visual signature.
8. Take screenshots
I use Jing for my screenshots. It’s free, easy to use and you can add text and arrows.
You can embed posts from social media sites like Twitter and Instagram but often they don’t look very good. Instead take a screenshot.
Suppose you’re reviewing restaurants, and you’re not sure if you can use an image from their site or not. (Technically, if you’re editorializing and recommending a place/product and using a picture from its website, they are not likely to come after you for copyright violation; they probably would thank you for a good review.) It’s generally considered fair use that you can use images for reviews, like album or book covers. If you’re just not sure, you can screenshot the website. (Here’s my fave restaurant in Media, PA, and not just because my niece Annie works there. The deviled eggs are incredible and the pizza will not disappoint.)
9. Group or frame multiple photos
When you add media and choose images in WP, if you choose more than one photo to insert into your blog post, you will be given the option of framing/arranging them. Canva also has many frames that you can use for photos or you can easily create a photo collage. Using a repeating framing style is an easy way to give your blog a polished and cohesive look.
10. Embed a video from YouTube
It is very easy to embed a YouTube video (here are the directions from WP Support) so it will play on your blog and it adds a visual to the post. When you use the embed feature, you also don’t have to worry about copyright violations. But if Google does remove a video, it will be removed from your post too.
I hope these 10 tips will help you create visual appeal using legit images. Here are some more tips and advice from Buffer Social’s terrific article 23 Tools and Resources to Create Images for Social Media. Let me know if you have any go-to resources for visuals that I didn’t mention. Please leave me a comment below and if you like this post, please consider sharing. Thanks!