A fact that every content creator should know: Posts with compelling visual content average 94% more views @wpcurve. – CLICK TO TWEET
In this post we will share 12 ways and examples of how you can use visual content to make your blog stand out.
No need for expensive design here, a screenshot with a few quick annotations can increase the value of the ideas you present to your visitors by showing actual examples to support your writing.
Take a look at how many screenshots Dan Norris used in his post on reviewing websites.
A special note for anyone using a retina display on mac: The retina display can work against you when using the Shift+Command+4 option for screenshots, particularly from a browser. It takes a very high resolution image that you will need to reduce in size for the web. You want to avoid image reduction whenever possible, it makes images look blurry and low quality.
A good alternative if you’re taking a screenshot in a web browser is Awesome Screenshot. It takes a screenshot directly from browser which will make a smaller image that you won’t need to resize.
2. Charts and graphs
This is one of our favorites at WP Curve and is the backbone of some of our most popular content. Our monthly report pulls screenshots from Google Analytics charts and from some simple graphs we track in Google Drive. Google Drive has graphs that are easy to work with and simple to understand. These visuals are instantly recognizable and make it easy to follow our story.
Graphs are powerful for storytelling, they help people visualize the highs and lows of a journey. You must choose the right metrics to really flesh that story out, and sometimes that involves information you’re not always comfortable sharing.
You can see the presentation Christina was referring to here. The graphs follow Dan’s wage as he progressed through his entrepreneurial journey. This is a great metric for telling a story, you can feel your stomach drop when the line hits zero near the end. That’s what will keep your visitors engaged and coming back for more.
It turns out most classic storylines can be translated into simple graphs as well. It is no coincidence that Dan’s graph looks very similar to Kurt Vonnegut’s story shape for Cinderella below. It starts with increasing good fortune, a sharp drop with a problem, and a resolution with “happily ever after”. And like Cinderella, he has indeed reached infinite, off the charts happiness.
Slideshares are the next wave in presentations. A proper Slideshare goes far beyond the dull, text cramped slides from the quarterly board meetings at your last job. They require some additional care in their design since they often won’t have a presenter to explain the slides.
They can be used for short tutorials, list posts, or storytelling.
Each slide should communicate a single thought with a short sentence or phrase and a relevant image in the background. Think about how each slide can lead into the next, keeping the visitor constantly engaged in your content.
Gary Vaynerchuk is a master at storytelling in his marketing, and this Slideshare not only is a good example of it, but it also teaches the concepts he is using.
Look at how each slide gives you just enough information to move his idea forward but does not completely resolve the thought. He leaves you on a bit of a cliffhanger with each slide, keeping you clicking forward. Look how slides 2 through 9 feed right into each other and demonstrate how designing momentum into your presentation will keep your visitors clicking.
4. Custom illustrations and headers
Creating a custom illustration or header in your post can infuse more personality into your content. An interesting custom heading can instantly make a post more engaging and hook your visitors before they even start reading.
If you are discussing a complex or abstract idea, creating a graphic for a visual explanation for your concept can work as a bridge to help your visitors quickly and easily grasp what you are trying to teach.
Dan Andrews at Tropical MBA recognizes the value of custom visual content and has illustrator Maggie Appleton create unique images for his content and social media. This is a brilliant marketing move and develops a deeper theme and personality in your blog. These unique visuals will create a new level of familiarity with your visitors and also make for fantastic social sharing images.
If you are looking to hire a designer to create some custom illustrations, Dribbble is a good place to find a variety of designers. It is easy to browse different skill sets and directly contact a designer you want to work with.
5. Screenshares, webinars and video courses
If your blog has a focus on educational content a screenshare is an excellent way to supplement your guides. Creating a screenshare video course from a series of blog posts is a great way to refresh old content and opens new channels for sharing it.
Webinars can add a new dimension to your video courses with live viewers. A good webinar proves you know your material and are comfortable handling questions and feedback on the fly. It takes practice, but it is a solid way to create a video with long-lasting value to your audience and gives your visitors a unique opportunity to interact with you.
Bryan Harris from VideoFruit uses screenshares in many of his posts. He speeds up his screenshares slightly so you can see the entire process unfold and get a grasp of the concept quickly and completely.
Related Article: My experience reviewing 8 webinar software options
6. Vines and Instagram (#shortvideos)
For other types of content, short form video may be more effective. Using tools like Vine and Instagram, you can create 6-second and 15-second videos. The extreme time limitations force creativity. It is difficult to drive an idea home in such a short time, but it can make you think about how to tell the story in different ways. Keep it simple and leverage your title and description for context.
Take a look at how Hubspot gave a fun little glimpse into their office culture with a Friday afternoon snack break video.
A video posted by HubSpot (@hubspot) on
Infographics are a powerful way to convert an entire blog post into a highly shareable and interesting piece of content. They are excellent for presenting statistics, data and ideas where numbers and words alone would have less of an impact.
Creating infographics is easier than ever with tools like Visme, which allows you to make infographics, charts, and presentations for free. Take a look at this Visme infographic below for lots of fresh ideas for creating more visual content.
8. Quotable social images
Tools like Canva allow you to easily place text over images with plenty of templates to get the image the way you want it. This is a great way to take some of the quotables out of your content and place them on relevant images for easy sharing that will drive more visitors to your content.
Social images have a particularly powerful effect on twitter. Buffer recently mentioned that tweets with images receive up to 150% more retweets. Aside from the psychological evidence that images are more compelling, a tweet with an image can occupy 4 times more space in your feed. Bigger is better on a noisy twitter feed.
Here are a few ways you can place text over an image:
Quote a guest or author: We use our quotable images in our social media to promote new posts. It’s an easy and effective way to introduce our guest writers and attract visitors with a catchy quote.
Ask a question: What question would someone ask that your content can answer? Ask it in an image to prime the visitor to the problem you solve or to start a conversation. Take a look at how MetLife takes the somewhat bland topic of insurance and, through a simple question, demonstrates why it matters in an interesting way.
Show some stats: If you have simple statistics that you want to stand out in your article, place them in an image to stand out.
9. Memes and animated gifs
Memes are a little different than a quotable social image and have potential for viral sharing. Memes are usually funny, ironic and leverage pop culture. It builds on a theme or situation that is already familiar and puts a new spin on it.
Meme Generator has a library of different sample images ready for you to add context. Just be careful that you don’t get lost in the cat pictures.
Animated gifs are similar to memes, but have a key limitation, they currently cannot be used on facebook.
According to the Mere-exposure effect, people prefer ideas or images over others that they are already familiar with. Using pop culture characters in your memes and gifs can leverage this social phenomenon.
Despite Facebook not allowing gifs, Buzzfeed is a testament to how powerful memes and gifs can be with social sharing. Buzzfeed creates and curates animated gifs and memes in the form of listicles (article + list = listicle). It ranks 7 out of 10 among the top US websites across all categories, and 51% of its traffic comes from social media referrals.
10. Interactive visuals
Adding interactive elements go a long way at capturing the attention of your audience. They will likely get hooked on the functionality of the interaction and stick around to consume the content. One of our most successful examples of this was our post 50 Traffic Tips for Content Marketers.
Another good example of interactive visual content is a post Dan created on Speckyboy with an illustration of a discussion complete with audio clips. It features caricatures of some familiar web marketers with their voices recorded sharing their ideas. Each is like a mini podcast.
11. Data visualization
Great content marketers collect large amounts of data to support the claims they make. People love to consume data, especially data that ties into a story.
A jaw-dropping example of how complex data can be presented in an interesting visual format is Matthew Daniels Rapper Vocab chart. This example is not only rich in data and visually engaging, but it is also interactive.
12. User generated content
If you have a dedicated following, user generated content is an excellent way to get your audience participating in your content creation and you may be surprised at the talent and creativity they can bring to the table.
A common and easy way to start with this is having caption contests. The New Yorker has a weekly caption contest where thousands of people submit their take on a cartoon. You could easily host a similar caption contest on your Facebook or a post and have people post their ideas in the comments.
These types of content ideas may work well with certain topics and audiences but not with others. Experiment with a few of them and see what interests your followers. Once you find what is sticking with your audience, double down on that and include it wherever possible in your content.
To wrap things up, here are a few tips that universally apply to all of these different types of visual content:
- Keep it high quality: Generally good looking images are important for the results you want. Don’t post pixelated, irrelevant, distorted or poorly designed images.
- Visuals should stand alone: Your visuals should be complete ideas in themselves, they should not need the context of the content to be understood. This will make them easier to share and will drive more traffic once shared. Two exceptions to this rule may be screenshots or charts and graphs.
- Try to keep images under 100k in size: Load times are important for SEO and bounce rates. At WP Curve we aim to keep images under 100k to keep the page loading quickly.
- Tell a story: Make visual content support the story you are telling. Your content and the visuals should have an interesting narrative surrounding them. The story you create is your modern-day brand building.
Special thanks to Payman Taei from Visme for contributing some excellent ideas and content for this article.
Related Guide: The ultimate guide to creating content that converts
Related Email Course: 6 hacks that for creating content that converts
Emarketer.com – Photos Cluttering Your Facebook Feed? Here’s Why
MDG Advertising – It’s All About the Images [Infographic]
Web Marketing Group – Why every SEO strategy needs infographics
Similarweb – Website analysis of Buzzfeed
Do you use any other types of visual content? What visual content works the best with you and your visitors? Let us know in the comments.