3 Dirty Secrets to Picking the Best Visual Content for Your Website
Building a website without graphics is similar to building a house without a roof — it's not very useful. Marketers understand they have to use graphics, but picking the right ones isn't so simple when there are millions of digital images to choose from. The wrong imagery is worse than none at all, while the right images can evoke a long-lasting positive brand response.
So how should retailers proceed to find the best visuals? Here are three "dirty secrets" that can help you find the visual content that best suits your website and intended audience:
1. Most visuals don't enhance the story. Content marketing is really about telling a brand story through informative, relevant content that builds an audience. You need to set up thoughts, feelings and emotions about the brand through words and images that propel the audience to take action. The problem with many visuals is they can serve as a distraction away from your core message. Understanding marketing metrics such as "content with visuals is 50 percent more valuable" doesn't mean you can simply choose any imagery without considering the broader brand story. Consider why the visual is being introduced and what effect you expect it to have. If you don't have good answers to these questions, then you either don't need a visual or you picked the wrong one.
2. Generic stock images make your site … well generic. If you want your site to blend in with the competition and not present any compelling reason for interaction, then be sure to use generic clip art and graphics. What's generic? Consider a hot air balloon under a caption of "Our expertise can help set your business higher!" Or using generic photos of meetings and phone calls to illustrate your company's "collaborative benefits."
Using generics is easier, but there isn't a payoff. The imagery is overused and the overstaged shots aren't authentic. As a content marketer, it's your job to push to find fresh visuals that set your brand apart. Remember to create themes and emotional responses that position your company as a more relatable entity. If you have trouble gauging the "generic value" of your visuals, use Google's handy image search function to uncover similar-looking content.
3. You have to dive in and create. Enhancing the story of your brand and avoiding generic images are both examples of being more authentic with your marketing. In order to foster this authenticity, you need to put in the work and get your hands dirty. This means creating your own visual content. DSLR cameras produce stunning results for less than $600. Even smartphones are taking some National Geographic-worthy photos.
Spend some time learning some basic photography skills and how to properly compose a shot. These images come royalty free and have a sense of realness that can't be duplicated with stock images. Post your company's photos on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc., or spice up your latest blog entry with some stunning homemade visuals. You should also encourage customer submissions through social channels or contests.
When choosing an image, ensure it makes contextual sense and will serve to inspire or aid your audience in some way. By using some "dirty tricks" you can move beyond the generic to offer unique visuals that complement your content.
Jake Athey is the marketing manager at Widen Enterprises, a company that develops, markets and supports digital asset management software.