Were you aware that up to 20% of our brain is dedicated to visual processing—something that is as natural to us as breathing? Studies show we want to “see” things as opposed to just reading them.
That’s why including visuals in your blog is so important. It’s more than simply putting reading the words on the screen. Your blog should be something you want your audience to “experience,” and there’s no better way to do it than with visuals.
In fact, Josh Schwartz, a data scientist at the traffic analysis firm, Chartbeat, did an analysis to look at how people scroll through articles. The results showed that the majority of people cannot stay focused – in fact, a lot don’t even make it through halfway. So how can you be sure to give each of your readers the best user experience possible? Easy! Just make your content visually appealing. Here are 21 ideas to help you make your blog more visually appealing.
You don’t have to create every graphic from scratch. Keep your eye out for visual content that really speaks to you, and build a blog post about it.
The correct way to curate content: Take a graphic, video or post that really speaks to you and, in your own words, tell people why (i.e. your own take on the topic). Provide a link to the original content, and credit the creator—but include a short summary and graphic from that content as the focal point of your post.
(Check out the ‘big’ aggregator sites like Digg —they curate content so expertly half the time you’ll forget they did!)
Remember that motion catches our attention similar to the way a laser toy catches the attention of a cat! Motion also feels interactive—we are participating just by watching a video, whereas photographs and illustrations are static: One glance, and we’re done. We know what it was about and—unlike with a video—we don’t have to wait to find out. (Go to DIGG’s video section and note how the livestreaming videos compare with the static video covers.)
Use this principle whenever you have an extra-important message to impart.
A love of repetition is hardwired into human DNA (that’s how we first learned how to learn). Just think of your three-year-old, wanting the same story, night after night. It isn’t the surprise ending that delights her so: It’s the same words, said in the same way. It’s the same scenario repeated multiple times.
We carry that early imprinting over into adult life. That’s why audiences respond to repetition in movie memes; why we read what is basically the same cozy mystery plot told in seven different ways. Why we trust people we know more than people we don’t know.
Use that bit of basic psychology in your blog. Always include repeating graphic elements in the same spot—for example, a logo in your resource box; a cartoon “mascot” for a particular newsletter column; the same template for your newsletter every month; the same graphic placement and size in your posts.
Take a tip from movie makers and book cover designers—use fonts to reinforce your message. For example, you will often see fantasy novel book covers with titles in “medieval” or “Celtic” fonts. Or you will see a movie title whose font and font effects reinforce both the actual meaning of the title and its mood.
For example, see how “The Shining” is written in text that seems to glow … but the peaceful scene it is overlaid upon and the very blurriness of the text seem incongruous, hinting that in this case, “shining”might not be a positive attribute. (The immense, grey masses of mountain underscore this.) You can find this example plus several more on the Videomaker.
Sometimes too many special effects and too much repetition within a graphic is kind of like melodrama in a soap opera or a romance novel. By the third time you read that “tears poured down Lucretia’s face” you’re ready to throw her a towel (as you close the book) … and by the fourth time she “trembles visibly,” you’re confused whether you’re reading about Lucretia or Bambi. The ‘less is more’ principle is ESPECIALLY important for graphics most of your audience will view on mobiles. Too many elements in a picture detract from the message.
Use graphic elements wisely. Once your visual has made its point—you’re done!
Just as too many graphics can detract from your message, too many fonts will also do the same thing. All too often, we’ll see ads with multiple fonts all over it – a sure sign of an amateur designer. For the professional look, choose a good font such as Helvetica for the headline and another simple font like Calibi for the body, and stick to it throughout.
If you are going to use slides during webinars, videos or seminar presentations, keep them simple. Only put a limited number of points on each slide to give your audience time to assimilate the information. Use lots of white space to emphasis the important information in your text. And give your slide a heading that states, simply, what that particular slide is about.
Remember, the more complex the information, the less text there should be on each slide.
For a graphic to be effective in your blog, it has to not only catch attention, it has to be relevant. It should repel people who won’t benefit from your message and speak emotionally to people who are your ideal reader.
You will increase your chances of achieving this if you ask yourself three questions before using any particular graphic:
When placing a photo of a person in your graphic, whether on a blog or in an ad, try to arrange the image so that the person is “looking” at the product you’re advertising or even the sign-up button (Call-to-action button, also known as a CTA). If your image’s “eyes” are “looking” at the product or CTA in your ad, chances are your readers’ eyes will go there too.
Graphic designers and magazines such as Resource magazine know this trick: Putting a post headline UNDER the graphic that illustrates it.
Try it—and see if you notice an increase in conversions.
If you take your own photographs, get into the habit of reading photography books, blogs and print magazine—or take a digital photography course, so you can take your photographs from good to “WOW!”
The most interesting images are ones that tell a story. They make your reader wonder things like, “Why is he doing that? What’s going to happen next? What is she crying about?”
(And make sure it’s the same story your text is telling!)
The only exception to the “tell a story” rule is an image that shows someone what you are talking about—like a “how to” image. So if you are writing, “Click on the blue button under the ‘Finances’ tab” then a screenshot of a mouse clicking on that spot would be effective reinforcement for your reader’s learning process.
If you provide original images on your blog, consider allowing people to pin these images to their Pinterest accounts without having to ask you for permission. Every time they use the ‘Pin it!’ button, you will end up getting the credit you deserve automatically on Pinterest.
Use a handy WordPress plugin like the Pinterest Pin It Button for Images to make the process easy for you too!
Make sure they enhance your blog’s mood and message—but never, ever get in the way of your headlines and posts.
Nothing will make your blog post more irresistible to your ideal reader than an image that triggers the correct emotion. So don’t be afraid to use highly-charged photographs … and do remember that positive emotions trigger more shares than negative ones.
If you’re looking for original images instead of stock photos, sometimes you can create great ones on your own. But, as we’ve already mentioned, be sure you know what you’re doing so they’ve got that “wow” factor you need
When choosing images from a stock site, don’t go for the first image you find—especially if you have actually seen the image before on someone else’s site. Keep searching until you find the perfect image.
Overused stock images can actually detract from your blog’s value, making you seem slick, insincere and “the same as all those others.”
Instead of having a static photo for your blog cover photo, consider a repeating-loop video in your header area instead. Choose one that creates a positive feeling and tells a story—one that’s emotionally relevant to your blog focus, your brand and your ideal reader/viewer. (Try NimbusThemes.com popular Lara Theme.)
Using this type of theme won’t work for everyone—but at least consider it, and ask … “would this theme work for me?”
According to Buffer Social, photos and image quotes posted to social media with a hashtag show an increase of 16% in shares. Find relevant hashtags, ALWAYS check them in Twitter Search to make sure you’re not using one that doesn’t mean what you think it means (or belongs strictly to someone’s brand)—and ask people to share.
Just because the experts say a certain type of graphic or a particular hashtag create a certain increase in shares doesn’t mean that will necessarily work for your blog. (Use your website dashboard stats and your social media insights sections.)
ALWAYS track your hashtags and visual posts, to see whether or not they really do increase reader engagement—and be prepared for surprises. You may find a certain visual type you’ve been dismissing is actually your most popular—and vice versa.
Different types of video sometimes work better than other types, so experiment and see which ones your visitors respond to the best.
A good rule of thumb: If something is happening in the moment, raw footage and livestream usually adds to the excitement. You can achieve this feeling and draw your visitors into experiencing exciting moments or momentous events with you by posting Instagram or Snapchat photos, using looping Vine videos … or going livestream with Facebook Live.
But don’t stop there: Get creative, and figure out other relevant ways to use Facebook Live (for example, creating a weekly video event).
See what other people are using Facebook Live for by visiting the Facebook Live Map and clicking on any node … anywhere in the world!
Speaking of Twitter’s Vine app, try making these short, less-than-six-second looping videos for yourself. (To see Vine in action—and get ideas—check out Mashable’s The Beginner’s Guide to Vine.)
Get into the habit of thinking outside the box when dealing with visuals. For example, don’t just create the traditional Slideshare slides: Add your videos to your Slideshare presentations.
Last, but probably one of the most important aspects of making a page visually appealing is the use of colors. Colors can intensely affect our emotions, and the perfect combination of colors can create just the right feel for your blog. For more information on using color in your blog, check out Lifewire’s article on How Color Psychology Affects Blog Design
These are just 25 ways to make your blog more visually appealing … but your best results will come when you start thinking about your own ways to maximize your blog’s visual content.
There are many things that go into creating a great blog. If you want to learn more about creating the ultimate blog, consider our Blogging Mastery course which is a part of our Million Dollar Marketer program linked below.
Margery Hinman, Ph.D., is founder of Million Dollar Marketer a membership program combining a collection of online tutorial, resources, and strategies for the rising online entrepreneur. Our Blogging Mastery course is just one of 20 different digital marketing courses that can help you achieve your online goals for 2017 and help you on your way to a great income in your own online business.
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