Just because you're a blogger doesn't mean that you get a free pass to use words alone to share your message.
It's your job to share your message with your audience by any means necessary.
Everything you include in your blog posts should aim to keep your reader from leaving the page AND provide the information their looking for as quickly and clearly as possible.
Visuals help with both of these things.
Great bloggers often evoke their inner Bob Ross and ignore their inner Ernest Hemmingway (if you didn't do your assigned reading in high school and that reference when over your head, he was a notoriously wordy author).
The purpose of the first sentence is to get the reader to read the second. The purpose of the second is to get the reader to read the third.
Media elements should be treated the same.
"The purpose of this visual element is to get the reader to read the next sentence."
Great visuals will keep readers on your site and they are much more likely to read more of your content.
Remember, you're competing with tens of thousands of other content creators AND readers who are have increasingly shrinking attention spans.
You don't write 2,000 word blog posts so that people will read just 200 words and leave, do you?
Of course not!
In this blog post, I'm going to give you some actionable methods you can implement immediately to make your blog posts more visually appealing.
Utilizing some of the 22 visual elements I'm about to show you will ultimately lead to:
- Better engagement
- Higher average time on page
- More value for each reader (which will make you a more respected writer)
- More sales for you!
Visuals in your posts don't only help with retention, they actually help convey your message and can help your readers comprehend the information you're sharing.
AND THATS NOT ALL!
Visual content is also much more likely to be shared.
Blogs with visual content get 94% more shares!
Ok, you're sold on adding visual content to your posts (or you're a robot that is immune to persuasion).
Before I give you the different types of media elements you can add to your blog posts, let me explain my approach to adding media to my blog posts.
How To Use Media in Your Blog Posts
You shouldn't throw visuals into your posts without purpose and context.
I am NOT recommending that you use every single one of these visuals in your posts but I am going to try to give you some inspiration for visual elements you MIGHT want to add.
Don't add too many visuals to your post if it doesn't match your style and particular audience. I like to use a LOT of visuals in my content and my readers have come to expect it. Every blog is different so don't assume I'm insinuating you should use as many visuals or all of the visual types I'm about to share.
Your posts should blend well with the theme and style of your blog.
Everyone's audience is unique and your media should be targeted towards your unique brand and following.
If you're in a professional niche, you might not want to use funny gifs and goofy YouTube videos like I do.
If you're style is more laid back, you have a tremendous amount of freedom for making your posts more fun for your readers and you can take full advantage of this fact and utilize as many visuals as you want to craft posts that keep visitors on your page until the last sentence (which should then encourage them to do something else, like buy something!)
The rule of thumb I use here on the EntreResource.com blog is to add some sort of visual break up every 250 words.
Remember, that is MY rule for THIS blog. This may or may not be the same for you. If you read other blogs, you might notice that this is a lot of visuals relatively speaking.
A "visual break up" isn't merely limited to images and videos. I use things like content boxes, quotes and other tactics to make sure my text isn't too...texty!
Yes, I made up that word...
The Best Tool for Crafting Visually Attractive Blog Posts in WordPress
Before I get into the tips themselves, I need to share with you the wordpress theme/blog post editor that helps bloggers (myself included) create awesome looking posts.
It's called Thrive Themes and there is a plugin called "Thrive Architect" that makes editing your posts easy.
I HIGHLY recommend that you check out Thrive Themes. It has changed everything about how I craft my posts and I haven't looked back since I started using it almost 2 years ago.
Thrive Themes gives you a LOT of options when it comes to designing your posts. Some bloggers don't like having a lot of options because they want things to look "perfect."
This is of course impossible to accomplish.
Don't feel that you need to use every feature or that you need to customize the heck out of everything. There is no harm in keeping things simple.
Also, be sure to utilize the "save as template" functionality so you can have consistency in your blog post designs and use the same formatting in all of your content.
Oh, that content box I just used above was actually one of the built in templates from Thrive Architect 🙂
I don't know of any current Thrive Themes discount codes, but it is well worth the current price.
1. Featured Images
This seemed like a fitting #1 tip since the featured image will be the first thing that your reader sees.
If you have a great featured image, the reader might assume that the content is great as well.
You don't have to overlay your title text like I do. Many bloggers just use relevant stock images for their featured images. I prefer a little personality but I don't fault anyone who wants to keep it simple.
I do believe that a stock photo is better than nothing.
If you decide to customize your featured images with overlays like I do, there are a number of tools that make creating featured images easier.
Here are my two favorite tools for creating awesome featured images.
1. Canva - The most robust tool for the novice designer. You can create templates and branding style defaults that make creating lots of featured images very easy. You can also use Canva for creating other media elements like infographics, ads and more.
Create a basic template for all of your featured images. I made the mistake of creating unique featured images MYSELF every time I wrote a post...I did this for about 100 posts! Create one great style and use it over and over with different images and colors.
2. Drop Caps
In the spirit of tip #1, this seemed like a fitting #2.
Now, that large "D" there isn't a typo, it's an example of a drop cap.
A "drop cap" is when you use a proportionally larger first letter for effect, typically featured in the of the first word of a blog post.
3. Bold, Italics, CAPS, Colors, Underlines and HIGHLIGHTS,
If you have an important sentence, feel free to draw attention to it with the use of simple enhancements.
I recommend that you practice some consistency though if possible.
If you usually highlight text that is important, try to do that across all of your posts for continuity.
Also, ALL CAPS seems like yelling so be sure to use that properly.
Be careful not to over do it with these though. It will lose impact if you use these too often.
4. Author's Bio
Blogs that have multiple writers should always include an author's bio at the beginning or end (or both) of each post.
It seems standard across most blogs to include a short bio at the top consisting of the author's name + picture + his or her title followed by a more detailed bio consisting of about a paragraph at the end.
Here is an example of how CrazyEgg.com uses author bios.
The bio is a great way to introduce yourself to your readers and it might even make them more likely to engage with your content.
5. Click to Tweets
Although Twitter isn't one of the channels I focus a lot on, I frequently add click to tweets to my blog posts.
What is a click to tweet?
Here is an example of a click to tweet about, click to tweets!
Click to tweets are an awesome way to get your message shared, gain Twitter followers AND make your blog posts easier on your readers eyes. #blogging #design
Click to tweets are also great because they can direct some traffic back to your blog posts if people share them!
You might also get some more followers as a byproduct.
Go on, try clicking the click to tweet above, I dare you 😉
Compose these in the same way you'd compose any tweet and use relevant hashtags.
6. Instagram Posts [Embedded]
This is another double whammy. Embedding Instagram posts on your blog does two things...
- Adds a great visual
- Can help gain more followers on Instagram
Embedding an Instagram post is very easy since Instagram provides you with the embed code.
You will probably want to do a little bit of resizing though since these are pretty large by default.
Here is how I do it (in less than 30 seconds).
Kindof trippy that I did that GIF on the post you're reading right now, right!?!
Oh, be sure to follow me on Instagram if you aren't already 🙂
7. YouTube Videos [Embedded]
This one is a TRIPLE whammy.
- Add great visuals
- Gain more followers
- Keep subscribers on your page
Embedding YouTube videos (whether your own or just relevant videos from others) is a great way to beef up your content, grow your subscriber base AND keep visitors on your site.
For the sake of an example, here is a great video I've embedded from my content marketing hero Neil Patel about keeping readers on your posts!
If you do share someone else's video, I recommend that you reach out and let them know.
They might reciprocate the favor and share the blog post that you embedded the video in!
8. Infographics [Embedded]
People LOVE infographics.
Here is an infographic ON the power of infographics
- Infographics are another great way to get backlinks if you use a tool that allows you make it easy for readers to copy the embed code to your infographic to share on their blog.
Just ask Jeff Bullas who just got one from me with his infographic above!
9. Slideshare Slideshows [Embedded]
LinkedIn has a lesser known service called Slideshare that actually can generate a lot of traffic back to your site.
Creating slideshows is easy and you can get embed codes to insert them into your posts very easily.
You can use any powerpoint tool to make these presentations (I like Google Slides).
10. Pinterest Pins [Embedded]
Pinterest is an awesome channel for bloggers to repurpose their content and get more clicks back to their sites.
If you're unfamiliar with Pinterest, I highly recommend looking into a course called Pinterest for E-Commerce. It is an awesome starting place to learn how to make Pinterest work for your blog or business.
Oh, and follow me on Pinterest if you aren't already 🙂
The process for embedding pins is a bit different.
You can't just embed the pin, you have to ALSO embed the "pinit.js" line of code at the end of the post.
I've shared how to embed images, but now let's talk about adding images directly to your site.
There are 3 kinds of still images.
- Stock photos
- Your own photos
- Screen shots
Canva also supports tens of thousands of free images and they have a large selection of paid premium images as well.
The big issue with free images is that so many people use them.
Some of the more common images are used on some of the larger blogs or on popular paid ads so you'll want to try and avoid duplicating their style if possible.
Free can often lead to "corny" if you aren't careful.
If you're running ads, I recommend you go with a premium image that is more original.
Your Own Photos
Some of my favorite bloggers take a lot of their own pictures and it adds a lot of personality to their content.
You might be thinking, "well I'm not a photographer and I don't have a good camera, so I should't do this."
The truth is you don't need to be a professional photographer or have a high end camera to snap great pics.
If you have a smartphone, you also have a more than competent digital camera. The iPhone is a tremendously capable tool for taking and sharing photos with your readers.
Fun Note: I found that iPhone camera picture using Pixabay.
If you decide to buy a camera, I recommend the Sony A5000 since it takes crisp photos and is a beast when it comes to filming videos for YouTube thanks to it's adjustable screen which allows you to watch yourself as you record.
I use that camera and my iPhone for most of my filming and images. The iPhone is mostly for images and on the go shots while the Sony A5000 typically stays mounted in my studio on top of a Socialite 18" Lighting Ring Mount.
One of my favorite parts of the iPhone is that it syncs easily with my Macbook and iMac (yes, I'm an Apple fan boy).
I can get an image or video from my phone straight onto my computer for editing in less than a minute thanks to Apple's airdrop feature.
It's a beautiful thing.
For most devices that you use for photos and videos, there should be some sort of simple digital connectivity to make uploading your content to your computer easy. Take the time to find out how to do this with your devices and you'll save hours of time later!
If your blog is like mine and you need to demo a lot of things that are on your computer, a tool like Snagit can be a lifesaver.
Currently it costs about $49 but it gives you the ability to take screenshots and annotate them (like I did in the air drop example above).
The tool I use for actual screen recording (not still screenshot images but actual videos) is Camtasia. It is from the same company that made Snagit.
12. In Text Opt-Ins
You can argue that adding opt-ins and lead magnets to your blog posts takes away attention from the content, but if you do it right, it can actually enhance it.
Here is a live example that I use here for my "Perfect Blog Post" ebook opt-in.
GET A FREE COPY OF MY LATEST EBOOK!
Learn How to Make Serious Money Blogging WITHOUT Writing Hundreds of Posts That Get Almost No Traffic!
I prefer this sort of opt-in because it's a bit less intrusive than a traditional pop up (although I use those as well).
If you make sure that the opt-in is related directly to the content the reader is reading, this isn't going to seem intrusive at all.
13. Bulleted Lists
This tip is in the same spirit as "use short sentences."
The Thrive Architect tool allows you to create styled bullet points.
Bullet points do a lot of great things for your content.
I absolutely love bullet points and use them as often as necessary in all my content.
14. Table of Contents
These are something that I love to use in my longer posts (like this one!)
I create my table of contents with Thrive Architect (there it is again!) and it is very easy.
Once I've written a post and used my headings properly (H2 and H3 mostly) I can easily add a table of contents using those as my "chapters" essentially.
Again, I can't stress how cool Thrive Themes (and Thrive Architect) is!
If your blog post is selling something, whether it's your product or an affiliate product, adding a clear button that triggers your link is a great idea.
Here is an example of a button I can create with Thrive Architect and it's for....THRIVE ARCHITECT!
What can I say, I like big buttons and I cannot lie 🙂
16. Pull Out Quotes
You're probably using quotes in your blog posts already, why not draw a little more attention to them by pulling them out to the forefront?
Using "pull out quotes" will help you break up your text and draw attention to key points.
Whether they are your own quotes or quotes from others, consider giving them the attention they deserve.
"Using 'pull out quotes' will help you break up your text and draw attention to key points."
I've created an example to the right. There are an infinite number of ways to format your own quotes so don't be afraid to get as detailed or keep it as simple as you want!
17. Images to Your Other Posts
You want to keep your readers on your site. If they are getting bored of one article, that isn't awesome BUT you can at least try to encourage them to read another article that might be more interesting to them.
Be sure that these are relevant to the post that you place them in.
I used the post grid feature in Thrive Architect to create the image with link to post above, but you can use a number of other tools to do this (or just use images with links).
GIFs are the love child of images and videos.
They are typically under 30 seconds long and play automatically. The files aren't as large as videos and they can be used to add humor OR you can even make short tutorials like I have done in this article already several times.
Occasionally, I'll embed a GIF from a 3rd party service like Giphy, like the one below.
GIFs rock. Use them freely!
If you don't know what a meme is, Google it.
Memes typically are funny and add a since of personality to your content.
You can find a lot of memes that you can use without attribution OR you can create your own with tools like MakeaMeme.org.
20. Content Boxes
Think of a content box like a post-it note that contains important information that your reader might want to know.
Thrive Architect makes creating great looking content boxes very easy.
Use styled content boxes like this one to bring attention to important parts of your blog posts.
21. Banner Ads [Embedded]
It's debatable if these are a piece of visual content that enhances a blog post or if it simply gets in the way and risks annoying your readers.
If you use relevant banner ads (like the one above) your readers shouldn't have an issue and they can help break up text heavy posts (while making you some money in the process).
22. Audio [Embedded]
Repurposing your blog posts into audio form is a great way to engage more readers AND keep them on your site.
You can also consider free tools like Sound Cloud for embedding audio files to your blog posts.
Additional Tips for Using Media in Your Posts
Before I cut you loose to go and add these awesome new visual elements to your blog posts, let me leave you with a couple of tips.
1. Compress Your Files
One of the downfalls of using a lot of media in your posts is that the file sizes can add up and slow down your page load times.
According to Edwin Toonen of Yoast.com, "
Google’s latest research shows that the chance of a bounce increases 32% when the page load time goes from 1s to 3s. 1s to 5s increases the chance to 90% and if your site takes up to 10s to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123%.
Slow pages will lead to more bounced traffic, lower rankings in search engines and ultimately, fewer conversions.
This defeats the entire purpose of using them in the first place, doesn't it?
So, there are a couple of things we can do to make sure our pages are as zippy as possible.
- Compress images and GIFs with a tool like TinyPng.com
- Use a premium hosting service like WP Engine (what I use here on EntreResource).
- Embed when possible instead of hosting directly (YouTube videos for example instead of hosting the videos directly on your site).
- Test page speed (on both mobile and desktop) and optimize if it is too slow.
I recommend reading this article from machmetrics.com to learn more about what page speeds and page sizes are considered "average."
2. View Your Post on Mobile Devices
One mistake I often make is forgetting to double check that my visuals look the same on mobile as they do on desktop.
With Thrive Architect, I have the ability to hide elements on different devices which is awesome.
There is no point in using visuals if they don't look right on mobile or tablet so be sure to edit/resize them properly so that they do.
Don't be afraid to hide them on those devices if they aren't completely necessary.
3. Use Alt Text and Descriptions for all Media
Yes, this part is a pain in the butt, but adding proper descriptions to your media elements will help you from an SEO standpoint.
This will take more time, but it is a habit you should adopt and follow whenever you add any sort of media files to your posts.
4. Use Proper Attribution
You need to ensure you aren't sharing the work of others as your own.
Be sure that you have permission to share anything that you use in your posts and always properly attribute the content creator and link to where the content was first shared.
Here is a great article posted on Lifehacker.com explaining how to know if you're allowed to share something or not.