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How To Use Images In Your (Written) Content (For SEO & UX)

Images are a big part of today’s internet use.

If they’re properly used, they can increase the traffic and engagement your article gets. The thumbnail of articles is often much larger than the title heading. This image is the first thing people see when they come across your content.

For this reason, we need to take a look at how to use images in your content to improve SEO rankings and user experience.

Read on as we take a look at some practices you can follow to elevate your written content with images.


How to use images in your written content

  1. Images should supplement your text - give further context to your text.
  2. Use descriptive alt text for your images - helps with search engines, and visually impaired users, and it displays when the image isn’t loading.
  3. Use descriptive filenames for your images - Google uses the URL path and filenames in addition to alt texts to determine what the image is about.
  4. Use images that have their subject take center stage - as opposed to a cluttered image.
  5. If you want to write text over an image, make sure it has space for it.
  6. Your featured image should be captivating - this helps when your post is being shared around the internet.
  7. Use infographics and graphs - they visualize your written text and make the information easier to digest.
  8. Use images that point toward parts of the text you want to emphasize - this will let readers know the following information is important.
  9. When writing about a product, use photos that highlight it - whether it’s a real-life product or an application, use images that showcase its features.
  10. Add captions below your images - explain what is being shown on the image and how it’s relevant to the article.
  11. Use high-quality images - avoid blurry or grainy images as they’re unappealing to the eye.
  12. Be mindful of image sizes - you don’t want big file sizes that take time to load.
  13. Try using unique or original images - as opposed to a generic handshake image when writing about finance.
  14. Use an image to segue into the next section - this will let users know what’s coming next.
  15. Optimize image placement - always use images near the relevant text and use captions.

Overview - Using Images in Your Written Content

Even top-grade articles with 100% correct information can struggle in the face of SEO and user experience. When you write an article, you need to think of the machine (Google) that’s serving the article to users and the users themselves.

In order to optimize your article for SEO and user experience, there’s a certain set of rules to follow, and one of them is adding images. This also helps draw viewers in and boost understanding and retention of the written information.

Google values content based on how well it does with users. What you need to do as a content writer is use images in your content that will make it easier to digest. This will help your user retention.

Here are some of the tips to consider when using images in your written content:

1. Images should supplement your text

A good image placement in written content is when the image is contextually appropriate. If you’re giving instructions on how to do something in a step-by-step guide, use images that highlight the steps.

Whether it regards instructions or you want to produce an emotional response in the reader’s mind, you must make sure the image has the right intent for the content.

If you’re writing about bodybuilding supplements, instead of using an image of a bodybuilder standing in front of a mirror, you should use one where the bodybuilder is doing reps. This conveys a positive response to the supplements you’re writing about.

Types of images you can use for your content:

  • Stock photos
  • Screenshots
  • Infographics
  • Charts and graphs
  • Hand-drawn illustrations
  • Animations

2. Add alt text to your images and descriptive filenames

Adding alternative text to your images is a must for a few reasons. First off, Google uses alt text, computer vision algorithms, and the page’s content to understand what the image is about.

With image search making up 22.6% of all Google searches, it’s important to have alt text on your images in order to drive traffic through them as well.

On top of this, Google sometimes shows images as the first result, even when you’re doing a regular search. For example, if we write “social media usage chart” in Google, the first results shown are images of charts for social media usage.

Another use for alt text is improved accessibility for users who can’t see them. For visually impaired users (3.3% of all internet users), people who use screen readers, or users with a slow internet connection, alt texts will be read aloud or displayed instead of images.

The correct way to write alt texts for your images is to describe what is going on in the image in context with the article you’re writing in 125 characters or less. Let’s have a look at the image below.

Image credit: ninersnation.com | San Francisco 49ers fans having a tailgating party.

A bad alt text would be ‘Football fans having a picnic party in a parking lot’. This alt text is descriptive, but it isn’t specific enough.

Since we can see the 49ers logo and Levi’s Stadium in the background, you can be more specific with the alt text. A better alt text would be ‘San Francisco 49ers fans tailgating in a Levi's Stadium parking lot’.

3. Use descriptive filenames for your images

In addition to alt text, you must use descriptive file names as well. The filename will transfer into the image’s URL, which Google also uses to understand the image.

In this case, the filename of the image we used should be ‘San Francisco 49ers fans tailgating at a parking lot in Levi’s Stadium.jpg.’

4. If the image is supposed to have a subject, make sure it stands out

When choosing the right image for a certain context, it’s important to be mindful of the subject’s position in the image. You want the main subject to stand out and be easily recognizable.

Image credit: britannica.com | A German Shepherd

If you’re writing an article specifically on German Shepherds, you should use an image of a German Shepherd alone rather than with a group of other dog breeds.

The appropriate context in which you would use an image with a clutter of different dog breeds, among which a German Shepherd can be spotted, is if you’re talking about how the German Shepherd compares in size to other dogs.

Image credit: germanshepherddoghq.com | A German Shepherd standing next to two other dogs

5. If you plan to add text to your image, make sure it has space

Images that have a lot going on aren’t the best choice if you want to add text to your image. The cluttered space will make it hard for your readers to follow the text.

Instead, what you should do is find an image that has an open space where you can place your text or add borders to the image.

6. Use a captivating featured image

The featured image should be one of the most important parts of your content to focus on. It serves as a thumbnail for your article, both on and off your website.

This is especially important if you’re looking to share your content on social media in order to promote it.

Let's take a look at how Twitter displays featured images in thumbnails.

BBC World News account sharing an article about the consequences of Elon Musk’s careless tweeting habits.

You can see that the featured image takes over 50% of the tweet. It’s the first thing that people see while scrolling before reading the text around it. Having a captivating featured image will make people stop their dead-scrolling and interact with your article.

7. Use infographics or diagrams to visualize the information you write

When writing stat pages or articles that feature scientific findings with many numbers, it’s important to use images that visualize the information you write. This helps readers better understand and retain the information they’ll read.

Sometimes stat pages can seem convoluted, with numbers and statistics everywhere. This can make some users overwhelmed and make it hard to follow. Let’s take a look at the image below.

Image credit: Datareportal.com | An infographic on social media uses statistics.

Imagine having to go through all of the information on the image in written form only. Displaying that same information in an infographic below the text will make it easier to digest and understand.

8. If you want to emphasize a part of the text, use a photo that points to it

Using a photo that features a person or an arrow pointing at part of the text can help you capture the reader's attention to a significant part of the text.

Having this type of image in your text will also help them find the important part later on if they return to the article again.

9. If you’re writing about a product, use images that showcase it

Whether it’s a real-life product or a software service, you should use images of the specific features you’ve written about in your product review.

For example, if you write a review about a smart TV and you list all the available ports you can use to connect the TV to other devices, you should include an image showcasing the ports of the TV.

Image credit: the-gadgeteer.com | The different connection ports on a Hisense H8 Smart TV

10. Add captions under the images to explain them

This helps both readers get a further understanding of what they’re seeing as well as Google. As mentioned before, Google uses image captions in addition to alt text and page content to determine the subject matter of the image.

11. Use high-quality images

High-quality images are more appealing to the eye. It's as simple as that. Users don’t want to see blurry or grainy images.

Having high-quality images can help you generate traffic solely from them since users are more likely to respond positively to high-quality images.

12. Be mindful of image sizes

Although high-quality images are appealing to users, it’s important to take note of the image sizes you use in your content. Images usually take up the largest portion of a site’s data size. You need to be mindful of this, as it can increase page load times for the users.

Google’s site crawlers even consider how fast a page loads for the average user while determining a page’s ranking. This is a huge reason for you to optimize the images you include in your content.

You should always compress your images or use lazy-eye or responsive image techniques to optimize your page for both SEO and user experience.

You can utilize tools like ScreamingFrog to conduct an image optimization audit for your website to find all the images that might slow down your site.

13. Try to use unique images

We’ve all seen the cliche handshake image in finance articles when talking about loans or some kinds of deals and agreements.

You should always try to use unique images whenever possible. Making your original images is even better. Whether it’s through photography or graphic design, having your own images in your content will elevate it to a higher level.

14. Use an image as a transition into the next section

You can use images to segue into a different part of the content. This will let users know what to expect in the following part of your article.

15. Optimize image placement

It’s essential that you use images in the correct place within the article. They should be contextually related to what you’ve written.

The main image that encompasses the topic itself should be placed closer to the top of the article. The following images should be relevant to the specific part of the article where you placed them.


Conclusion

Effectively using images for your written content in order to improve SEO rankings and user experience takes time to master. Thankfully, by looking into Google’s documentation on images, we can work out the correct practices.

To outline some of the most important pieces of advice on how to use images in your content, you must use images that supplement the text, add alt texts to images for accessibility and Google’s ranking system and prioritize using original images. Besides, you should also be mindful of image sizes as large images can hinder your site’s load speeds which will make you lose ranking and traffic.

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