“A blog can waffle on for a thousand words, but the header image must explain it all at a glance.” Hmm, as neat as that sounds, it’s not entirely true. That’s not a quote I’ve taken from anywhere – I just came up it with to get going. In fact, I don’t believe that’s the purpose for your header image or featured image of your blog post at all.
The picture that appears at the top of your blog post should not be trying to ‘sum-up’ the contents of the blog. Rather, it should be working to complement the title of the blog, as a means to entice people to click on the link and read it.
The Idiosyncrasy Of The Blog Post
Blogs are an unusual form – or rather they are idiosyncratic. They are not news articles. They are not sales pitches. They are not short stories, opinion columns, or charitable pleas.
No, they very much sit within their own niche. Blogs are about your customers, clients, and other people that are interested in your industry, of which you are just a tiny part. They are there to add value to a product or service that you are selling on your website, and are often designed to give advice, and actionable tips that readers can take away and use themselves.
But, whatever they are – more and more blogs are becoming a visual format. A blog without any images at all is quite frankly boring to look at on a web page – and I for one tend to click away if there isn’t a few pictures livening things up. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
Put simply, humans are visual creatures, and so we are attracted to images. Indeed, according to Heidi Cohen:
- 94% more total views on average are attracted by content containing compelling images than content without images.
- 67% of consumers consider clear, detailed images to be very important and carry even more weight than the product information, full description, and customer ratings.
- 60% of consumers are more likely to consider or contact a business whose images appear in local search results.
- 37% increase in engagement is experienced when Facebook posts include photographs.
- 14% increase in pageviews are seen when press releases contain a photograph. (They climb to 48% when both photographs and videos are included.)
What Sort Of Images?
The trick with featured images for your blog posts is that they shouldn’t be too obvious. They should of course be relevant to the topic, but nonetheless slightly (and I do mean slightly) abstract. In fact, some of the best images for blog posts have a certain amount of poeticism about them.
For example, I once wrote a blog about designing for web pages above and below the fold, and I chose the following image:
Now, obviously ‘the fold’ in question has to do with what’s displayed on a web browser – everything ‘above the fold’ is what users can see before having to scroll down the page to view ‘what’s below the fold’. It has nothing to do with paper or origami.
But that’s the beauty of the featured blog post photograph – you don’t have to be too literal, just compelling.
I could have, for instance, opted for something very literal, such as this:
Although the above image is perhaps a little more illustrative of what the actual blog post is actually about, it’ just not eye-catching enough. It’s a little too informative and not entertaining, not exciting, not visually appealing. It’s boring, frankly, and would give the impression that the accompanying blog post will be boring also.
Now, that’s not to say that the above image is wholly inappropriate – on the contrary, it is illustrative of some of the points that the blog post made, and so it played a very suitable role in the body of the blog post. But as a featured, click-enticing header image… no. It doesn’t work. I wouldn’t click on it – would you?
Where To Find Stock Images
Your budget may not allow you to hire your own photographer, and you of course may not have the time, the resources or the skill to create images of the quality that you will require.
But that’s what stock photo libraries are for. These are catalogues of images that you can either buy from the internet, or otherwise use for free.
I must admit that I’m a massive fan of pixabay.com for finding some great, free, high-quality stock photos. But, bootstrapbay.com has a rather nifty list of 15 sites with amazing stock photos, all of which can be used for free.
Obviously when you’re using images that you find on the web, you do not own the images, and so that means that whichever pictures that you choose should be free from any copyright restrictions – otherwise you could find yourself being sued.
Look for images that are licensed under the creative commons public domain dedication.
Another good resource for searching for free-to-use images is of course Google – though you will have to use an advanced search (though this is quite simple).
Simply type your search into Google, select ‘Images’ and hit ‘Search’. Once the collection of images has been returned, you now want to click on ‘Search tools’, located just beneath the search bar, and then, from the drop-down menu, select ‘Labelled for reuse’. Hit ‘Search’ again, and this time you will be returned a collection of images, all of which you can use on your own blog for free.
Some Further Tips For Selecting The Right Stock Photo
Ok, so now you know the sort of thing that you’re looking for in your header image photo, you know where to look for these photos, and how to ensure that the photos that you are selecting are legal and free to use – but, that’s not everything.
When choosing photos, you also need to consider the following:
Image quality needs to be of a high standard. You can get away with a few illustrative screenshots in the body of your blog post, but for the header image, quality counts. Nothing blurred, fuzzy, or pixelated will suffice.
Once you’ve chosen a style for the images on your blog, you need to stick to it. You can’t have serious, ‘poetic’ photos one day, and then switch to silly cartoons the next. Consistency is key, and it must keep in-tune with the overall feel and design of your website.
As a blogger, you probably read plenty of blogs. And, if you do, you will no doubt come across the same old image for the same old thing again and again and again. Now, obviously you will from time to time create blog posts, the topics of which will have been covered by bloggers before you (this post for instance, is not the first one that has ever been written on the subject of the stock photo) – but this doesn’t mean that you should use the same images that those others have.
People who read blogs like to see that the author has put in a little effort to think of something a little interesting for the header image – and they will not be tolerant of those who have obviously raided the stock photo library and plumped for the same thing that every other person has. Be original, that’s the key. Poetic, thoughtful, and slightly abstract – and legal, of course.
Do you know of any great stock photo catalogues that our readers might benefit from? Please share your secrets in the comments below.