Picture-perfect Pinnable Pics (12 hot tips!) to boost traffic and engagement

A blog without pictures is like dessert without taste. An effective approach to images can do so much more for your blog posts than just make them look pretty. Here are 12 ways to improve your blog posts with images.

If you still think of blogging as a writer’s job, you have been daydreaming while the Internet marches on. Blogging is now a three person job:

• Writer
• Artist
• Marketer

You might be all three people at once (most bloggers are), or you might be part of a blogging team. Either way, all three people are needed. The writer comes up with the topic and the words to express it. Of course, the writer is still the core person on your team. The artist comes up with visuals that make the post more appealing and transmit your message visually. The marketer makes sure there are people there to read the post.

Today, let’s look at the artist. The artist’s job is to add images to the post. Sounds simple enough. But there is a lot more to it than that. Here are 12 tips to super-charge your blog with visuals.

Picture-perfect blogging pics

Any image is a good image

If you don’t have images yet, put up an image on your very next post. Even if you don’t read a word more of this post, the most boring stock photography image in the world is better than no image. Stock photos might not be the most pinnable (likely to be shared on Pinterest and other visual social media), but at least they are technically pinnable.

Yes, I might slap your hand for putting up a boring image, but at least you’ll be breaking up the text with a visual, which is the most basic function an image does.

Headline images

Images can serve as a headline. The headline or title is what people read first. As important as it is to have a clear headline that arouses curiosity, a good looking headline makes readers more interested in giving your content their attention. And a headline image can sometimes be more pinnable or sharable on social media than a stock photo.

Just remember that there is a trade-off, since search engines can’t read images, so you might also want a text headline.  Here is a sample headline image from our site:

T10 Content Banner

It’s not just for Pinterest

In case you had not noticed, some of the most shared items on Facebook and Google Plus are images. And links to blog posts that have good images get clicked a lot more than links with no images. If this does not appeal to the artist in you, it should appeal to the marketer in you.  See how a this pic appears on Google Plus:

Image on Google Plus

Add to that the number of smaller social sharing sites that now require images, from various Pinterest clones to new Pligg-based websites. You really cannot afford to post without an image.

Arouse curiosity

Images that arouse curiosity are better for social sharing. Why, do they get shared more often? Perhaps they do, but more importantly, the share is more likely to lead to traffic. And isn’t that the goal of getting your post and its images shared? This image from WonderOfTech.com is a great example of arousing curiosity:

An image can arouse curiosity

Use text

Here is the oxymoron of our age. People will look at images rather than read through reams of text. But images that are basically text, tend to get viewed and arouse interest best. Why? Because they carry a message. If people like the message or want to learn more, they will read your post. Careful, though – don’t throw too much text on the image and make sure the lettering is easy to read.  Here is a good example from SupportForStepDads.com that really is just an excuse for making text into an image to deliver a message:

A text message turned into an image

Here is an example from BoulderLocavore.com of a photo that simply had text added to describe the picture:

Text added to describe the image

Original images

Images that are original are generally better than stock photos. There are a number of reasons for this. One of those reasons is the previous point about text. You can turn a stock photograph into something original by adding text.  Or you can add other images to stock photography, such as the logos that Bill Gassett created for his article at Virante.org:

Add text and logos to stock photography

Images that stand on their own

This might seem obvious from the past few points, but the most shareable images are usually those that stand on their own. People will share those images (with your link) just for the sake of the image, even if they don’t care about your post and haven’t read it.  By sharing it, they extend your reach to people who might even click through and read your post.  An image that is just a title or an introduction to your post will be shared mostly by those who have clicked through to read it, like it and bother to back up and share the image.  Here is an example of an image that stands on its own from TheHappyGuy.com, and serves to entice clicks from people who would be interested:

Sample image that stands on its own

Message-oriented images

Images that are closely aligned with your message, perhaps even summing up your post or pulling a snappy quote from the post, will be most effective, as they will intrigue the very people most likely to enjoy your post.  Here is another example from TheHappyGuy.com, showing how an entire blog post can be summarized in a single mini-poster:

So an original image that stands on its own with text that relates closely to the message in your blog post, arousing curiosity for interested people to click through – that is your ideal image.

Inspirational messages

One type of image people love to share are inspirational messages of hope, of being kind, of believing in yourself. If there is a message related to your post that you can give an inspirational twist, you can make your post more sharable through the image. Here is a good example from MartinaMcgowan.com:

Inspirational pic

Humorous messages

People also love to share humor. A funny message or a cartoon can get your post more widely shared. I wrote about the value of adding a cartoon to your blog not long ago. Can you think of a funny angle to your topic? Sometimes it’s hard, but perhaps you have a braintrust who can help out. Here is a good example of simple humor from HomeOnDeranged.com.

Images arouse curiosity

Sexy messages

You know that people are a lot more likely to share and click through for a pretty and alluring young lady. But be very careful that your image is safe for work, or you will lose a lot of potential traffic. Even just a really pretty smile can increase click-throughs to the post and keep people feeling good about reading it once they are there.  Here is an example from HotTubCoversCanada.ca:

A tastefully sexy image can inmprove readership and sharing

Combination messages

Can you work in both sexy and humorous, or humorous and inspirational, all the while getting some of your point across. The more elements mentioned above, the more likely you are to get people clicking through to your blog posts, and the more likely they will keep reading. Here is an example from MadLemmings.com of how humor and inspiration can work with your message:

Humorous blog image

But trying to include everything in an image might be too much (seriously, you are unlikely to be sexy, humorous, inspirational, arouse curiosity in an image that stands on its own and delivers your message). So the goal is not to use ALL of the tips above, but to use as many as works for each post.

Of course, we must assume that you are writing something they will feel is worth reading.

BONUS TIP – Make it yours

Sometimes images get shared without your link. Yes, I know that might seem hard to believe on such a charming planet as this, but when it happens, you don’t want to lose ownership of the image. Imagine that 100,000 see your image without knowing that they should visit your website.

Slap your URL on the pic. Or your logo. Or your name. Or your phone number.  Tactfully unobtrusive, of course.  Here is a good example form a three months ago:

Content marketing can draw customers in

Now you are ready to go out and create blog posts that will catch the eye, and social sharing that will pull people in to read your blog posts – and help people better enjoy your post once they start reading.

I know three people who will be thrilled that you have all this pic knowledge ready to use – the writer, the artist and the marketer.






Cartoonify your blog for top SEO results

Cartoons give a blog – or any website – an unfair advantage in the search engines. Cartoons can turn an unremarkable blog post into prime link-bate, and a web page into SEO rock star status.

In the crowded world of blogging, the path to success is always to distinguish yourself. There are many ways to do this; here are just a few of the more common ways to distinguish your blog within its niche:

  • the length of the posts
  • the approach you take to a topic, perhaps playing Devil’s advocate or assembling multiple opinions
  • a unique writing style
  • incredibly thorough research
  • presentation

By way of example, Mike at Sugar Piner Realty Blog makes a big deal of how each post is a “lightning fast read”, which makes it easy for people to click through without feeling they will be stuck reading for hours (low risk).

On the other hand Neil Patel of Quicksprout Blog prides himself on long, detailed, highly useful posts. His is one of my favourite blogs; I don’t mind being stuck reading his long text because I almost always walk away something useful and actionable (high value).

Yes. Short is awesome. Long is amazing. Both these bloggers distinguish their posts by taking exact opposite approaches. But what they share in common is that they distinguish.

Whether a post is long or short, provocative or bland, informative or opinionated, presentation also counts. These days, the value of having an image on your blog posts is indisputable.

  • Pinterest is huge. No image, no Pinterest.
  • FaceBook adds images from links automatically. Your link is lost on FaceBook without an image.
  • Twitter is growing increasingly visual.
  • Google Plus is at least as visual as FaceBook…and I don’t even know if you can post there without an image.
  • Snapzu. GentleMint. Scoop.it. Manteresting. Sulia. Rockzi. Dudepins. DartItUp. Etc.  Those are just the ones where I have profiles; you might know of others.

What does this have to do with SEO? I’m getting to that.

Stock photography has bloomed (not literally, except for floral photography) over the past few years, as the number of blogs continues to rise, compounded by the realization that a blog post needs an image.

Infographics have also exploded (not literally) as everybody and their pet Chihuahua’s grandmother tries to cram “everything ever known in the universe since before the beginning of time” into one handy reference image.

People love funny pictures. #cartoons #SEO #blog posts

But Mark Anderson of Andertoons makes a strong case that cartoons are more effective than stock photos and Infographics.

It could be argued that stock photography (boring!) and Infographics (seriously?) are just being done wrong. And I might well make that case in another blog post (or two). But even done right, stock photography and Infographics would have a hard time competing with cartoons.

Is this where you get to the SEO part? Shhh. Stop interrupting.

A cartoon holds a dual promise that no other medium does. It offers the likelihood that any time invested in it will bring laughter, or at least a smile … or at least some form of amusement. Chances are pretty good that you will feel good after reading a cartoon.

In a good mood, the reader might be more amenable to continuing to read the post. Enjoying the cartoon, the post might be shared just for the cartoon’s sake. Who would do that for stock photography, or even for an Infographic?

Even if the cartoon sucks, you know that it won’t take more than a moment of your time, so this is a lower-rick activity than clicking through to yet another blog post on the levels of mercury found in southeast Pacific tuna. Who won’t read the cartoon?

If you have not yet heard, SEO these days is all about engagement. The more people you can get top view your content, and the more they engage with it, the better you will rank in the search engines. Lots of engaged people send lots of tweets, post lots of FaceBook comments and link back from their blogs. The natural links, just because your content is so awesome, are the Holy Grail of SEO.

eyeballs x engagement = SEO

SEO tips for cartoons (lightening fast read!)

  • Make sure your cartoon is on-topic with the post.
  • The cartoon does not have to re-enforce a specific point from the post, but bonus points if it does.
  • Make sure the cartoon can stand on its own, out of context. It will stand a much better chance of being shared in social media.
  • The cartoon does not need to have keywords in the text, but bonus points if it does.
  • Make sure the image file name and alt text have keywords, unless it would look really silly.
  • Make sure your URL is on the cartoon, in case it gets shared beyond your ability to track it.
  • Welcome reprints (you can even give link code, the way Infographics marketers often do).

Why my cartoonfographic rocks

The most shared post on this blog is actually an Infographic. It will never win any design awards, unless someone is giving out a what-do-you-call-that-awkward-thing award. But it does do four things very well:

  • It is short and sweet (lightening fast read).
  • It addresses a much-talked about topic (newsworthy)
  • It gives a useful, actionable framework for evaluating links (useful)
  • It looks almost more like a cartoon than like an Infographic (What DO you call that awkward thing?)

Cartoons are not cheap. They are labour-intensive, so you will pay a price. If you have deep pockets, they are a great investment every day. If your pockets are shallower, you might want to be strategic in how you use cartoons.

For instance, a lot of personal finance bloggers have a mix of content on their blogs:

  • useful tips and tricks for saving money, making money and keeping sane through it all
  • financial product reviews

Guess which of the two types of posts is income-producing? And guest which type of post people actually like to share? One way to make the income-producing posts more shareable is with a cartoon. The result is more inbound links and more social signals to the pages that actually need to rank well in the search engines.

Another strategy would be to have a weekly or monthly cartoon, and draw people into other posts through that cartoon. To be more clear, the cartoon would be a post on its own, perhaps with a round-up of the week’s or the month’s posts to get people moving deeper into your website.

Cartoons are particularly useful for dull topics, like grain elevators or concrete mixing. Even the world’s biggest grain elevator groupie, or the world’s biggest cement curing fan would be hard-pressed to read through 800 words on those topics without yawning.  Imagine, however,the fun you could have with a cartoon of a grain elevator sinking into improperly mixed cement. Ah, but now I mix my metaphors…

Cartoons are not your only option for effective and engaging images. Infographics work, too. Stock photography works, too. But cartoons do have a natural advantage, and are well worth your consideration. It could be the unfair SEO advantage that propels your blog.

DEAR READERS: What do you think makes the ideal image for a web page or blog post?

Why You Should Be Blog Carnival-Crazy

If you have never heard of a blog carnival or a blog round-up, this is not to be missed. As a blogger, you should seriously consider hosting a blog carnival – and you should absolutely be participating in blog carnivals every week.

First, the terminology.

  • Blog round-up. A summary of interesting blog posts from the previous week (or however long the blogger decides).
  • Blog carnival. A summary of interesting blog posts from the previous week (or however long the blogger decides).

Ah…yeah. So what is the difference? Originally a “carnival” traveled, hosted by a different blog each week. A few still do, but most are simply round-ups with a festive name.

Why your blog should host a carnival:

Traffic. When you post a dozen links to other people’s posts, guess what happens… they tweet about the post and sometimes link to it and generally send people your way.

Links. As I said above…

Networking. List a dozen blog posts and you get brownie points from a dozen happy bloggers.

Why you should submit your blog to a carnival:

Traffic. When someone posts a link to your post on their carnival, chances are people will follow the link and discover your blog.

Links. As I said above…

Networking. The blogger will appreciate that you contributed to his blog.

Blog Carnival tools:

There are a few ways that you can find posts to include in your carnival. There are two broker websites, which I will review below, and there are a few simple tactics to find posts on your own.

1. Tweet a request for contributions.
2. Ask your mastermind group on FaceBook or Skype or wherever (I have seen this done effectively several times).
3. Post a notice on niche forums.
4. Track the blogs you like via RSS and choose the posts you like most (several people do this).
5. Do a blog comments carnival. I take the more substantial comments that I leave on other people’s blogs, and I blog them into a carnival.
6. Post a notice on your own blog – that might be enough to get a flood of submissions.

BlogCarnival.com: This website has been around for a while, and lists hundreds or blog carnivals.

What I like about the site…

It is nicely automated. When you put in the URL of a blog post, much of the submission form is auto-filled.

Plenty of blogs in all sorts of niches, and since your posts will mostly be relevant to one niche all the time, and to most niches on occasion, this works well.

What I don’t like about the site….

Most of the carnivals listed no longer exist. At least there is a notice that the carnival does not exist, but still it does clog things up. I always sort the available blogs by “most recent” carnival, and don’t bother with ones that have not been kept up to date.

Several blogger I know who have used the site have complained that they don’t get the submissions people send. I know some go through, because I have had success, but I have no idea what submission success rate is.

Each carnival opens in the same window, so to submit to several, I need to manually open up several windows at a time.

BlogCarnivalHQ.com. In response to the submission problems at log Carnival, this site was set up by Tom Drake, a leading financial blogger (he also runs Fwisp, a growing social bookmarking site for finance bloggers).

What I like about the site…

Quick clicks to each blog, uncluttered by hundreds of no-longer active carnivals.

Great for finance articles.

Solid programming and a personal commitment by Tom Drake to keep it functioning properly.

What I don’t like about the site…

The site is still new, so other categories are pretty sparsely populated. (This is your chance to get your blog in on the ground floor.)

Each carnival opens in the same window, so to submit to several, I need to manually open up several windows at a time.

If you don’t want to run your own carnival, but you do want a post included in a carnival, there are three ways to find carnivals to submit to. One way is to search Google or Bing for carnivals or round-ups related to your niche. The other two ways are to search the two blog carnival websites I reviewed above.

Blogging Fail – how to tell a spam blog

If you have old material, sure, go ahead and recycle it. But it looks like somebody was so eager to spread around their old material, that they didn’t bother recycling – they went straight to reusing it.

(Good thing this is not toilet paper!)

Can You Survive the Blog?

No, this is not a horror movie (you might be thinking of The Blob). This is a blogging contest. I love a good blogging contest, and it seems that there have been precious few of them of late. But along comes…

…and it’s time to have some fun.

Blogging contests are a always great way to gain recognition as a blog writer and make new connections. They give new links for both people and search engines to follow (good for SEO) and they create a sense of importance for your blog. Plus, you could win prizes (but , really, that is probably the smallest benefit).

This contest is even better.

It’s like a reality TV show – only, it’s a reality blog show. Have you ever watched Survivor? Me neither. But if, you have, this is a lot like that show. Two teams will be selected and each will have to build a blog together. Along the way, folks get voted off until only one person gets to keep the blog and the fabulous cash prizes. This is a pretty original contest, so it is worth entering.

Here are the rules…

The Rules

Starting September 5, 2011, they will begin accepting entries for potential contestants. The deadline for entries will be September 23rd, 11:59 p.m. EST. Selections will be announced on October 3rd, and the official Surviving The Blog contest will begin on Monday, October 10th.

To be considered for one of the 2 teams, here are the guidelines:

  1. Write a “Why WeBlogBetter Should Choose Me” blog post for your blog that announces this contest, your intent to enter, and reasons why they should choose you over everybody else. Be sure to include ALL sponsors banners and links. (See code on the official post ). This sponsor list will continue to grow and it’s your responsibility to make sure you have the latest updates. You do not need to own a blog, however, to enter, you’ll still need to write the required blog post – you can do that by guest blogging on another blog or by starting a free one at WordPress.com, Blogger, Google Sites, or even on Squidoo.
  2. Tweet this post on Twitter at least 7 times. (Once per day for a week) Be sure to mention @WeBlogBetter so that they can verify that you’ve done this.
  3. Share this post on various social networking sites.
  4. Subscribe to the WBB Email List, if you haven’t already
  5. Follow these WBB Team Member blogs: PositiveSpin, LiveYourLove, Hajrakvetches!, SoloMomPreneur, FindAllAnswers.com
  6. Send an Email to: [email protected] with the subject: “Intent to Enter” that includes the following required pieces:
  • Link to your “Why WeBlogBetter should Choose Me” blog post
  • The Twitter ID that you used to tweet this post
  • Evidence that you’ve shared this post on other social networks (screenshots, links, your profile, etc.)
  • The email you used to subscribe to the WBB Email List.
  • A Short bio of yourself that includes details that will make you stand out from the crowd.
  • A 250×250 or bigger photo of yourself (Must be appropriate and Safe For Work).

Sponsor rules

And if you wish to sponsor, you can do so at the following levels:

  • $50 Basic Level – Get a link with the anchor text of your choice included – Lowest Placement
  • $100 – Silver Level – Get a 125×125 banner w/Link – Bottom Placement
  • $150 – Gold Level – Get a large 300×250 banner w/Link – Middle placement
  • $200+ – Platinum Level – Get a large 300×250 Banner w/Link – Top Placement (Top dollar gets top placement). Plus get your ad displayed in the rotating banner for 6 months (right sidebar of WeblogBetter and the 2 Competing Blogs)

Let the blogging begin!

Link Variety or Link Relevance?

Over at WebProWorld this question caught my attention:

One of my ways of getting links for my sites is posting articles on blogs. I submit these articles to a site and they publish them on blogs relevant to these articles. So if I write an article about guitar playing, this article is published on blogs dealing with guitars/guitar lessons/ etc.

I have written a good amount of articles for my guitar site, and they are published on guitar blogs, I get a good few links that way, but they are coming from the same blogs. I was wondering, if I keep on doing this, would it be better, seo wise, to write less relevant articles, say about jazz music or something like that. That way I would be getting links from different blogs.

So my question is:
What is better, getting 50 links from 10 different blogs that are very relevant to my site, or getting 50 links from 50 different blogs that are less relevant to my site?

Here is my response, in a little more detail than I answered in the forum post itself:

I would take a 3-step approach. First, get good coverage in those blogs (and other websites) that are highly keyword relevant. Relevance is perhaps the most important factor for SEO. In this case, his main keyword was “guitars”.  He had submitted articles to all those blogs that were specifically about guitars.  In so doing, he had built up a strong message for the search engines that his guitar site is one that is respected by other sites in the niche.  That is a strong ranking signal.  He now has links at a number of “guitar” websites:

G G G G G G

 

Endorsed by guitarists.

 

But he has not sent a signal that his site is respected by others beyond his niche, but related enough that they really ought to know.

So step two is to submit his articles to websites that cover related topics, such as music in general, musical instruments in general, various forms of music, etc.  He could easily write articles about rock or country or some other types of music that involve guitars, for instance.  The search engines value keyword relevance, but they also value topical relevance (and don’t forget that many of these music sites will have the word “guitar” mentioned here and there.).

Plus, they value a wide variety of linking domains.  Getting a link on many music websites broadens the variety in his link profile, while solidifying the authority in his niche (because music, rock and country are still in his niche).  His link profile now looks more like:

G G G G G G

M M R M R M C M R M C C M M M C C M R C M C M M R M M M C

 

 

Now you’re endorsed by the whole band.

 

Now, on to step three.  Since one of the ranking signals the search engines look for is how widely popular a website is, find ways of writing about other topics that a more diverse blogging community will be interested in.  First define our target.  If you use the Free Traffic System, as I do (see my Free Traffic System review), you can search for blogs by keyword, and easily see which words bring up the most number of blogs, and even what types of topics they cover (some “music” blogs might only cover very specific niches, whereas others might cover anything music-related.) You can also use a Google or Bing search or search one of the larger blog directories. Let’s take a common example – there are a lot of MMO  (make money online) blogs out there.  OK.  How can you write an article about guitars that an MMO blog would want to publish?

Easy.  Prepare a video about guitars to post on YouTube in order to draw traffic to your site.  Next write an article about how you posted a video on YouTube to draw traffic to your guitar site.  Make sure to explain how you portrayed the guitars or how video is a great medium for showing off guitars – just to make sure your article about making money online is also an article about guitars.

So he should identify each target set of blogs and figure out what he can write about that will be about guitars (or whatever your main keyword is) but also about their niche.  All of a sudden, the link profile starts to look more like this:

G G G G G G

M M R M R M C M R M C C M M M C C M R C M C M M R M M M C

n y e d c g y o p s j q c x j d b i m l j e d s a r t h y u v q l o j y z h u y l p a s r c b v e q j h y t f v x s a k f d h u j m n r s w a g c e w b g k l u q i o v r s

 

Now the whole crowd is cheering for you!

 

Wow!  Let’s review what the search engines see when you follow this approach to link-building:

  1. Websites just like yours link to you.  That is an expert endorsement.
  2. Websites related to yours link to you.  Lot’s of them.  That is quite an impressive endorsement, too.
  3. Lots and lots of websites of all kinds link to you.  Your website is profoundly popular.  It must be good.

Now go out and show everybody what an amazing website you run.