The importance of images in blog posts

To understand the importance of images in blog posts, let’s look at our own interaction with content on the web. It’s a bit of a cliché, but people really do respond more to content in posts that contain great images.

Here’s a question for you…

Imagine you’ve searched Google for something, anything! You see a list of their suggested 10 most relevant results for your search. How do you choose what to click? Now, imagine that Google were to add a small image from posts and pages alongside each search result. How would that influence the search result you click on?

I reckon you may well select something different based on the influence of the images.

So, images are important. Right?

You can even brighten up the dullest of 404 Not Found pages on your website by adding an image. Visitors will understand that you’ve given some thought to the possibility that they might end up there, which might encourage them to navigate to other pages, or search your site for what they were looking for, rather than just bouncing off to one of your conmpetitors…

Image of a lost man in big city
Not exactly bright, but more interesting than plain old ‘Sorry! Not found’

What do images do for a blog post?

For a start, images help to break up large text blocks. Unless for in-depth technical research (and even then it’s debatable) people don’t like reading masses of text. It’s boring and unattractive. If you add a smattering of images, you really can make your content more interesting. Apparently, readers prefer to scan content in narrow columns, rather than read wide sentences that spread across the width of the page. Images floating left / right, with your text wrapping around them, can give a similar effect to having text arranged in narrow columns.

Placed above the fold, an early image on your blog post can really attract your reader’s attention. Don’t let it fill the entire screen, though. You want your readers to see that there is real content there too!

You can also tag your images to optimise them for SEO by adding title and alternate text attributes. These go some way to helping search engines understand what your image is, and what context it has within the content itself. As well as helping your page achieve better search results, you may also find your images showing up in image searches!

Photo of a blue cat in a basket showing inappropriate use of an image in blog post

One word of warning – add images for a reason! It goes without saying that adding a photo of your cat playing with a ball of wool in the middle of a blog post about the Russian Revolution probably isn’t appropriate.

The downside to images on blog posts

Even the smallest of images increases the page size of the average blog post. Make sure your images are optimised before they get added to your post so that they don’t slow down page load time. Don’t upload a raw 5mb image straight from your smartphone to your blog post and expect it to load quickly.

You can do several things to optimise your images :

  • Resize your image to get it down to the width and height that will be displayed on your website. So, for example, if you take a photo that is 4000 x 3000 pixels in size, and the width available for it on your website is only 500 pixels, then scale the image down to 500 pixels wide before you upload it. This will greatly reduce it’s file size.
  • Optimise your image for the web. This means reducing the file size on an image without impacting the quality (or reducing the quality to a still acceptable level).
This image has been optimised

There are plenty (hundreds) of programs and web services available to resize and optimise your images, including Photoshop, Kraken.io, imagify, Tiny PNG, and jpeg mini.

Example of unoptimised image
This image has not been optimised

Comparing Optimised Images with Non-Optimised Images

Take a look at the 2 images on the right.

The unoptimised one is 481kb in size, even though I resized it down to 2000px wide before uploading to the site.

The optimised one I resized down to 350px wide before uploading and letting Imagify optimise it. The final optimised file size is reduced to 19.7kb. So, resizing and optimising your images can save storage space on your hosting server, and will result in far faster page load times. This doesn’t have to reduce the visible quality of your image either.

You can also use an on-the-fly image optimiser plugin within your WordPress site, so that every image that gets uploaded gets optimised according to the settings you apply. Good examples are smushit and imagify. We favour the Pro version of Imagify, and use it as part of our Website Performance Package. These plugins are ok, but it’s still a good idea to do at least some of the optimising before the image gets uploaded to your site – it will save you upload time, and it will stop you from prematurely filling up your hosting space.

In Summary

Great image usage can make the difference between a forgettable blog post and a highly engaging one. This can improve your visitor experience, and therefore help your conversion rate and your SEO. Images need to be optimised to not slow your site down. They also need to be used in the right place, and in the right context, for best effect.

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Categories: Design, SEO Hints and Tips, Wordpress

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