A picture is worth a thousand words. Which is great when you've got lots of space to fill and don't have the resources to fill it with a thousand actual words.
But what sort of photos work best in the context of a marketing strategy? Also, how can photos help with SEO? And how and where should you use them?
As I've been writing these last weeks, content marketing is not only central for SEO success, it's also the key to audience engagement. Photos, together with videos, are the most effective ways to engage audiences. Whether a single photo, multiple photos stacked on one page, or a single photo gallery containing many photos, images always help to capture the eye and increase metrics like time on page, social sharing and page views.
What Images to Use
Unfortunately, too many marketers use staged shots of products, models or executives in blog posts, websites and newsletters -- which are often beautiful and effective in places like catalogs, but aren't particularly personal. To get at more engaging and essentially human images, think about using photos of your employees, customers, manufacturers or distributors interacting in real-life settings.
If you're a vintner, show people harvesting your grapes. Or if you're a manufacturer, show how things are assembled and by whom. Or if you sell software, show your engineers at the white board. And definitely show the social settings in which business gets done -- real people going about the real work of actually living.
The most enduring and memorable images include people. Study after study indicate that images such as landscapes are the least memorable, but photos with people interacting with other people or engaged in some activity are remembered. Your photos don't have to be particularly professional or even shot with a fancy camera; they just need to be clear and bright and shot the way any normal person might shoot a picture. Photos like these are, simply put, more human.
Getting Good SEO From Images
Like everything in SEO, having a keyword strategy is key. Assuming this is in place, think about the sorts of photos that will reinforce your keywords. Beyond that, there are three key elements to getting good SEO from your photos:
1. Alt text
2. File name
Alt text -- or the alternative text -- is that bit of text that shows up in the HTML briefly describing the photo for search engine crawlers. This is necessary because those crawlers can't see the photo, obviously, and the alt text is the way to make images visible to them. Most CMSs, like WordPress or those built on Drupal, usually provide a field for the alt text, so use it carefully to describe your photo while reinforcing your keywords.
Search engine crawlers also look at the file name. Use actual words and not some bizarre naming convention -- or, worse, the file name assigned by a camera. Use dashes to separate the words describing the photo and make the last word the size of the photo, like this: worldwide-widget-co-employee-egg-toss-300x300.jpg. This makes it easy for crawlers to further identify the photo and match it to potential search queries.
A good caption will also ensure an image is well-optimized for the search engines. Here you can include not only the photo context or description, but also identify the people in the photo. This is the best place to put your keyword strategy to work -- but do it in a way that makes sense and accurately describes the photo.
Anyone in your company can take photos for use in your marketing channels with something as simple as a smartphone. Save photos in your company's CMS database or use a social photo-sharing site like Flickr to get even more leverage from your photography. Use images in your websites, microsites, landing pages, blog posts, Facebook Page, newsletters or mobile apps. Use a hero image to anchor a page of copy, or fill out a photo gallery app with a range of pictures from an event.
Follow these tips and you'll speak volumes without a lot of effort. If you've got more advice, use the comments section below to give us your tips. Next week in the content marketing series, I'll talk about how movement marketing can be an effective and impactful element of your content marketing strategy.