6 fatal mistakes of using images in blog posts

Secrets to getting blog article images working for you, not against you

Posted on 31 Aug 2013 by Jes Stiles to Content Marketing & Blogging

6 tips for using images in blog posts

Blog posts without any visual media make me cringe. For the most part, I consider lack of images to be a cardinal sin. Why?

Adding relevant images to your blog posts does more than just beautify your article. You grab your readers attention and visually break up content into engaging segments. This is an easy way to make your content user friendly. And ultimately, making your content user friendly increases the likelihood it will be read and shared.

But it’s not only the inclusion of images in blog posts that is important, it is also the way in which you do it. Used incorrectly, images can hurt your user experience and SEO efforts. Here we take a look at how to avoid the most common mistakes.

1. Using poor quality or boring images in your blog posts

How not to use images in blog posts

Your article is original, why shouldn’t your images be as well? Using a stretched or pixelated image taken from another website will not look good at any size.

What’s worse is adding that boring or overused stock photo your visitors have seen before. It leads to a poor impression of your blog’s content quality and may discourage readers from returning.

Creating your own images is easy as long as you realise they don’t always have to look ‘professional’. Images are always useful when they effectively help illustrate your point.

You don’t necessarily need graphic design skills. Often images with character and personality elicit reader interaction more than highly polished graphics.

Why not take a photo with your camera phone, draw a stick figure cartoon, make an annotated screenshot or create a chart in excel. There are many creative options to create engaging images and reap the benefits including:

  1. Improve reader experienced
  2. The chance to rank in (the much less competitive) image search results as Google likes to index new, unique, high quality images
  3. Act as link bait for other websites looking for informative images, especially in the case of illustration and graph type images

Pro tip: Creating original images not an option? Don’t just do a Google Image search and use another sites image without permission, you can get sued. Look for images with a creative commons license. Wikimedia Commons and Flickr Creative Commons are both good sources.

2. Uploading unoptimised, incorrectly sized images

Almost as important as image quality is page load time. This is especially critical for mobile users with limited bandwidth. When your images are not compressed (aka the “save for web and devices” option in Photoshop) they take much longer to load. This will disengage your readers and often leads to higher bounce rates, a poor signal to search engines.

Make sure to optimise images for the web. Avoid relying on the CSS to scale images for you. Resize them to your desired dimensions before uploading and be sure to save at a reasonable file size (under 60K) for quick page load times.

If you can’t get your hands on Photoshop to resize images, Gimp is a free alternative.

3. Using the wrong image file format

When working with image files, it is essential to know when to use JPG vs. PNG (it is unlikely you would ever use GIF format in a blog post unless you require animation). JPG is the best format for visually complex images like photographs as they support a wide range of colours and remain crisp even at small sizes. But JPG files lose image quality with every save.

PNG, on the other hand, should be used for graphics where you have blocks of flat colour, require transparency or use effects such as drop shadows. For example, illustrations, logos, charts or anything with text. Why? PNG files do not lose quality during editing, unlike their JPG cousins. The downside of this losslessness is that they tend to be a little larger in file size.

JPGs are for photographs and realistic images. PNGs are for line art, text-heavy images, and images with few colours. GIFs are just fail. - Amit Agarwal from Digital Inspiration

4. Unintentionally linking images

Wordpress users, I am talking to you! One of my pet peeves with Wordpress is that every image is linked by default. When the visitor clicks, they are taken to a page with the image alone on a white background.

Such pages are sub-optimum to say the least, but can (and often will) be crawled by search engines. Say you have 100 blog article each with 2 images. That can results in 200 ‘thin content’ (poor quality) pages being crawled by Google, pulling down the quality of your blog in the eyes of search engines and hurting your ability to rank well. What's more, these pages split your link equity and readers attention, taking away from other more valuable link paths.

Now, there are cases when linking to the image is legitimate, such as showing a larger version of an infographic. And that’s no problem. Just be sure when using images in blog posts, all image links are useful for your readers.

5. Poor image placement

Where the image is located in your blog posts is almost as important as the image itself. No-one likes to be greeted by a wall of text. So make sure on all device screen sizes, your readers can see an introductory paragraph and an image above the fold (without scrolling).

There is also the question of alignment. Do you put the image on the right or left of the text. While I always encourage running your own a/b tests, I have found that right-aligned images flow nicely and makes text easier to read. While text that wraps around left-align images is more difficult for the readers eyes to follow.

Right vs left image alignment

Alignment is not an issue for centered images or images spanning the full width of your content area. For many bloggers, this also removes formatting and readability issues on the smaller screen of mobile and tablet devices. As you may be able to tell by how am using images in this blog post, I am a fan of this approach.

6. Not taking advantage of image SEO opportunities

While not as powerful as page title tags or urls, images are still a key element of on page SEO. When using images in blog posts you should pay special attention to:

  • Image file name: If you were looking at a file named image1234.jpg, would you know what the image was? Search engines don’t either. So before uploading, give your image a keyword rich, descriptive yet concise name. Follow best practice by separating words using a dash (-) not an underscore (_).
  • Alt image tag: This short text snippet shows if, for any reason, the image can not be displayed. It also explains to Google what you image is about. Keep them under 140 characters while being keyword based and related to the image visuals.

Pro tip: Always host your own images. If you pull in images by linking to external sites, you are ultimately at the mercy of whether or not they continue to host those images. You also lose many of the potential SEO and page load time benefits.

How to add images to blog posts in Wordpress

Control your size, alignment, link url and alt image tag with Wordpress image editor.

Wordpress image edit screen

What are your thoughts on using images in blog posts?

I hope the above warnings help you effectively add images to your articles. Do you have a tip about using images in blog posts? Share it in a comment or tweet it to me.

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