When creating any piece of digital content online, the imagery that accompanies it (or is the centerpiece of it) is becoming more and more important. I’ve found success in creating visuals through infographics, quotes online, examples of my work (rough and finished), creative photography that’s original and showcases benefits, and informational graphs, statistics, and bullet points of helpful information.
A couple real-world examples:
- This image for a blog post about long form blog posts – Long form blog posts are hugely helpful in upping your ability to get seen on Google and it shares why quickly. Perfect for tweeting.
Link to see it in context
- An Infographic about why Amazon is successful. – Because it’s so visual when people started to land on it in search, they’d stay longer than a text-driven post making Google rank it higher and subsequently helping my agencies website rank for related terms like eCommerce and anything to do with Amazon over this past year.Link
- Super visual heavy ‘Crash Course to Hand-lettering‘ where I intentionally stuffed it with useful mini tutorials, called out with custom design and tons of great examples of hand-lettering so that my Pinterest pins could be off the chart and all directing back to the post. – Link
Each of these has allowed me to better tell my story online over time. Wielding visuals in web design project is also crucial, and one benefit has been in cases like my clients Deneen Pottery or M.I.N.N.E. Apparel is that the tolerance for vertical scrolling down web page allows you to progressively reveal more in a way that resembles a timeline. This progressive revealing is like storytelling and can be used to help customers get to know your company or your cause.
How visuals fit into a content strategy
Of course a home page of a website is only a small percentage of total website hits these days if you’re doing it right because you have a landing page for niches or individual services, articles, events or any number of other content buckets. The importance of building a website to expand on useful or entertaining buckets of content can’t be overstated- and of course a content strategy that involves visual content is going to take a lot of time but yield a ton of return.
Visual content should be a cornerstone of your content strategy, along with long-form useful guides or other ‘shareable’ types of content. Imagine your friend that is into this topic would want to send it to another friend who is also into it. This is the start of good content.. and sometimes our intuitions aren’t enough so looking to services like Twitter search, hashtags on Instagram, or social media data services Nuzzel and BuzzSumo will come in handy to really take a hard look at the numbers of what is currently working on the subject you’re checking out.
When to create the visuals yourself
You shouldn’t really be doing this if you work for a company of more than 10 people and you’re not a designer. For blog posts or other ‘short-lived’ types of content, of course sometimes it’s not cost effective to hire a designer to create visuals for every article, so in these cases it’s smart to have some sort of convention – some set of rules for what a sites visuals will look like.
If that’s not an option just yet:
- Come up with some adjectives for the types of photos you’ll use (do they have a ton of white space, are they all ‘down to earth’, or abstract. Find what works for your brand voice – or what will speak to your audience.
- Stick with the conventions you come up with and resist the urge to get experimental every time you have a new blog post.
- If you’re not familiar with Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator (my preferred editors) use free stock photo sites like PicJumbo and Startup Stock Photos – along with free visual interfaces for featured images like Pic Monkey, Ribbit, Pixlr, or Canva.
- Add your brand in a classy way so even if people just casually see your post on social media they are exposed to your brand, and will be more likely to be familiar with it if they are ever in a position to work with you (hint: this is good.)
When to Outsource or Hire someone to create visuals
If it’s not your personal portfolio, and you’re on a tight budget, work with a professional designer to:
- Create a template for what featured images for articles should look like
- Buy or license software, or have them create on something open source, so you can swap out photographs and titles without paying them every time.
- Have a really specific description for the types of images you’ll use in conjunction with the designs, and some parameters for how overlaying text will work. Have the designer create 3-5 based on real-world scenarios so you know you’ll be covered for long and short blog titles.
This is just the beginning of course, if your operation is beyond 10 people, or if you are part of a large organization, the content factory should have a visual designer or several dedicated to facilitating this part of the content marketing strategy.
Personal branding for people looking to break into Ad/PR/Social Media and Digital Content Roles
The biggest thing is to set up habits around creating new things on a regular basis.
My study of SEO has had a weird affect on me, it’s helped me be more prolific when it comes to looking at what people are searching for and trying to create more of that on a regular basis.
I think that creating on a regular basis and experimentation is the single most attractive quality to me as regards to making a hiring decision.
If you’re not a designer, work with the coolest designer you know on a logo
…Or someone with really good taste and come up with a logo for you and your work. If you don’t know how to create a website (I like WordPress for anything with more functionality than this,) create a simple website with a blog on Squarespace.. It’s dead simple for personal sites, and pay the golldarn bill. I’ve seen so many visual designers who link in their Twitter bio to dead sites on Squarespace. What is it 10 bucks a month, to maintain a professional front for potential employers and anyone who wants to see what you’re about professionally? That’s a gimme. I’d take that every time.
Create a nice looking site and personal brand and then create on there. Don’t worry about making everything perfect, just write and create visual pieces about what your learning regarding effective work in your industry. Do a case study on a real experiment you’re running for a non-profit. Share as you go, and employers notice this, and you learn a ton while doing it. Share on social and see what people respond to.
It’s dead simple but 90% of people won’t do it, because they’re lazy.. err I mean busy or tired.
Personal experiments with one’s own visual content, however rough, can help inform your decisions your future employer and make you savvier in speaking intelligently to the challenges of doing it well and help you learn how to catch people’s attention.
We’re at an all-time attention deficit, because there’s so much vying for it all the time. It’s strange though that if you provide clear value or entertainment you cut through so much of the shitty content that exists out there. You just have to experiment and get better, and work hard to provide rad content so that you can be in that top 20% and not that bottom 80% that turns into static and nothingness.
Good luck and godspeed.