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Do you use images on your website and social media channels?

Do you use images on your website and social media channels?

At its core, marketing is storytelling. A good storyteller — and marketer — draws you in and gives you lots of reasons to stick around for more. As digital marketers, we have more tools to help us tell bigger, richer stories. While there’s no denying social media is an essential supporting character, your website is the hero of the story. 

An effective business website creates a narrative that can help, inform or entertain customers (and potential customers) — but words are not enough. We live in a fast-paced, visual world of skimmers rather than readers — there’s simply too much information coming at us too quickly for us to absorb it all. 

Smart marketers know that simply adding an image at the top of a product page is the reason a customer reads more than just the headline. If you’re skeptical of the power of images, Marshall McLulhan’s famous quote from 1964 still holds true: The medium is the message

Are you using (the right) images on your website? 

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Five ways images can underwrite digital success:

  1. Images keep us on-page for longer. According to Neilson Norman, the average time on-page for a website is less than a minute and the first 10 seconds are critical. Images closer to the top of the page — or placed alongside a title or product name — can be pivotal for a customer deciding to read more or keep moving. To be effective, your images should tell a story, whether it’s a product shot or an infographic that helps explain an important concept.
  1. Images help with the retention of information. There’s a lot of truth to the saying that a picture is worth 1,000 words. Study after study shows that images and videos not only tell more of the story, they help us remember it too.

    According to the dual-coding theory, the “picture superiority effect” is based on how we retain information. Seeing an image helps us encode a concept into our memory in a more accessible and concrete way than if we just read or talked about it. What’s more, our brains can process images as fast as 13 milliseconds, which is 60,000 times faster than the time we take to process text. 
  1. Images help improve your search engine rankings. Think of images as an SEO tool. Tagging your images with relevant meta keywords and descriptions and ensuring a quick load time is like getting a free fast pass at Disney. Not only can images help you reach more consumers organically in the search engines, the resulting increase in on-page time can improve the relevancy of your website and its performance in the search engines. 
  1. Images improve social sharing. Think of the last thing you shared on your favorite social media channel. I’m betting it was image-based, right? It’s no surprise then that images in social media get more engagement and click-throughs than updates without an image. Customizing images with logos helps improve organic traffic growth to your website. 
  1. Images can support calls to action. In a previous life, I was a magazine editor and part of my job included finding the best pull quotes from a story. We’d then place those pull quotes in strategic areas — or in images — to encourage the reader to continue reading. And we’re still doing that on websites and in social media because it works. Remember, we’re storytellers and our ultimate goal in the art (and science) of persuasion is to compel a consumer to click a button or make a purchase.

Images aren’t just a pretty sideshow on your website. They’re a key component of your digital marketing platform and ignoring them is like saying you don’t need customers to make your business successful. Images help you tell your story in different ways and they help your customers remember who you are — and why they need what you’re selling. 

If you’re struggling to find cost-effective images, this list of free (or almost free) image services will help:

  • Pexels. An extensive catalog of free stock images coupled with unique images submitted by artists. You’re free to alter and distribute without attributions or permissions. Bought by Canva in 2019, you can download and create directly in Canva.
  • Pixabay. Also acquired by Canva in 2019, you’ll find a robust library of images for commercial or private use that can be altered and shared without attributions or permissions. I love their filter option in the search bar, which allows you to search images by color, orientation, dimensions and media type. 
  • Unsplash. More than half a million images licensed under Creative Commons, which allows you to use, alter and distribute without attributions and permissions. Their app allows you to create on the go too.
  • Burst by Shopify. The e-commerce giant launched Burst in 2017 to support their customers’ needs — but you don’t need to be a customer to sign up. Most of the featured images are shot in-house and designed to be used in website banners, social media updates and so much more. 
  • Death to Stock. A membership-based platform that continually delivers fresh, unique content. Sign up for their 14-day trial and you’ll have access to all their content, which should help you decide if they’re right for you.
  • Ingimage. Also membership-based but with more than 7 million images and thousands added monthly, there’s lots to choose from here.
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