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How to Use Images in Your Blog Posts

This guest post is by Karol K of ThemeFuse.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

I’ve always liked this adage even though it’s one of the biggest cliches ever. Pictures, photos, image—they are all great for visualizing your posts and making them more memorable.

I know that it’s the content of the book that’s important, but what would be a book without a nice cover? Okay, let me stop being poetic and get straight down to business.

Why you should use images in your blog posts

1. They help your written content to deliver the intended message with a bigger impact

There’s really no better way of doing this. If you want to really emphasize a strong point, you can do it by writing it in bold as a separate paragraph and then placing an image next to it. Of course, the image has to be of some relevance to the text, or it won’t work.

2. They make your post more memorable

We humans need an anchor of some kind to memorize things. Most of us tend to remember things in snapshots—by visualizing them. It’s not natural for us to remember something as text—a set of words and sentences. It’s difficult to make a snapshot of a piece of text. Images do this job a lot better.

(Quick note. Sorry, but a headline is still the most important factor for every blog post. Just wanted to make this clear.)

3. They break the text visually

In most cases, reading from a computer screen is not comfortable. Eyes get easily tired, you can’t be staring at a computer screen for more than an hour at a time, and let’s face it, sitting at your desk is not the most comfortable position either.

Images are not the magic-bullet solution to make all of these go away, but they do make it easier for the reader. If the text is long you—the author—absolutely must break it down into smaller chunks.

The first rule of breaking it down is to use short paragraphs, no longer than four to six lines. However, even if you’re doing this, you will still end up with a number of paragraphs, and they need to be broken down too. The solution: images.

When you place an image every six to ten paragraphs, the text gets really reader-friendly. Everyone can easily follow your way of thinking and do a little five-second break to look at an image. And then they can easily return to the place where they’ve left off.

I’m sure that there are many more reasons for using images, but I’m confident that the above prove my point well. And, of course, I’m not even going to discuss the situations in which a blog is totally image-driven, like all kinds of photo blogs, for example.

What’s the best place for an image?

I’m no guru here, but I think that the best place is the beginning of a post (somewhere near the headline). It’s where the reader looks first, so if we want to help them to memorize anything, this is the placement to use.

Of course, you can use more than one image in a blog post. So my recommendation is to use the first image at the beginning, and then spread other images evenly throughout the post so they do their job of breaking the post down visually. Which brings me to the next point…

Don’t use too many images in short posts.

Images should make reading easier not harder. If you break the text too much, the whole purpose loses its sense and turns into an obstacle.

The perfect number of images per post for your blog is for you to decide. It depends on the blog’s design, the average post length, and the content of the post as well. You can find your number by testing a couple of possible setups and deciding which one works best.

The size of images

The maximum size you can use is the width of the content block on your blog. So again, it’s design-dependent.

That being said, the most common approach is to use images that are smaller (except for photography blogs) rather than bigger. That’s because the image is just there to aid you in conveying the message; it’s not to be the message itself.

An image is an extra element. If it’s too big it becomes the main element. I’d advise you to use images that are either not wider than one-third of your content block width, or even up to the whole width but really small in height.

Now, there’s an exception to this rule—screenshots.

Screenshots usually work as main elements of a post, so they need to be bigger. Also, they need to be bigger for readers to be able to see clearly what’s on them. Another approach is to present a screenshot as a thumbnail along with a lightbox gallery link.

How to embed pictures on your blog

Before you stop reading, bear with me! I know that this is basic and everybody knows this, so there are only two things I want to tell you here.

  1. Upload images in the exact dimensions you intend to use: always resize your image to the exact size you’ll use in a blog post. Bigger pictures consume more space than smaller pictures, so there’s no point in uploading a large picture and then scaling it down inside of WordPress.
  2. Use an image optimizer plugin: something like WP Smush.it. I’m not going to go into technical details because, to be frank, I have no idea how it works, but what I do know is that it optimizes the size (the disk size, not the dimensions) of images with no loss of quality. And it’s free.

Remember attribution

There are basically three types of images you can use:

  1. your own images
  2. free images
  3. paid images (usually referred to as royalty-free images).

Attribution is a thing you need to have in mind when using free images. It depends on the license a given image is shared with, but what you usually have to do is to somehow attribute the image to its author or creator.

The most popular way of doing this is by placing a link to the original image in your post. Some image directories require you to do this, and some don’t.

Treat attribution as a payment for the image—which essentially is exactly the case.

Do you have any strategies for using images on your blog you’d like to share? Feel free to share your opinion and advice in the comments.

Karol K. is a 20-something year old web 2.0 entrepreneur from Poland and a writer at ThemeFuse.com, where he shares various WordPress advice. Don’t forget to visit ThemeFuse to get your hands on some original WordPress themes (warning: no boring stuff like everyone else offers).

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Comments

  1. Ben Clapton says:

    Great tips. Personally for me – and this is purely my own personal taste – if I’m using multiple images in a post, I always start mine floated right, and then alternate the floating – left, right, left etc. I find that it gives a nicer flow to the post.

    • Karol K says:

      As a matter of fact, I’m using a very similar strategy. But for me the first image is either left or right, and all the other ones go across the whole length of the content block.

  2. This is very helpful to everyone especially to those blog who are into designing, like me. I am just confused why didn’t you use images in this post? *Kidding.

  3. James V says:

    Thanks for this post! I run a photoblog format for my website, and I’m always looking for ways to do it better. It struck me as odd that you didn’t insert any photos into your article, though!

    Also, just a tip, I think that search engines put a lot of weight on the filename that you use. A lot of the traffic to my blog comes from keyword searches that match the filename, as well as the text of the header and the comments, so now I’m especially careful to re-label all my photos before posting.

    • Karol K says:

      You’re right, images can have big value in terms of SEO. But search engines look at many more things than just the filenames. Things that also count are the ALT tags, and the actual text around the image.

      This is another reason why using filenames such as “d2″, “34f” or any other random string of characters is a good idea at some times. There are some images you don’t want to rank for. Like the elements of your design, for example.

  4. Hi Karol,

    Image is something that I overlook on my blog. I understand the benefits of using image, especially breaking down the text to make it more readable and also great to help to explain some detail.

    Just would like to share a tip to find images that are good for commercial usage on Google so that you literally have unlimited access to great pictures! Also, this is extremely important to avoid all the hassle for using copyrighted images!

    Go to Google Images > Advanced Image Search (at the top right hand corner) and check commercial use and/or modification and you are good to go!

    Cheers,
    Ming

  5. Don’t forget to name image file properly, as it is also helps easier to find your post on internet.

  6. Marge Newton says:

    Great info here. Being a local travel site, I use a lot of photos in my posts, and discovered that WP Smush.it is one of the most important plug-ins to help keep the speed of the site up. I’m so happy you included it here.

    • Karol K says:

      I agree, Smush.it is great. When I first installed it I was amazed by the amount of disk space (and bandwidth) it can save me.

  7. Good, useful post…I think it’s funny though that you didn’t use any images in this post! (possibly as it was a guest post)

  8. So very true about the use of images in blogs, for the various aspects described in this article. I even see some sites that are image-heavy, text-shy which is fine by me as it saves time for me to get the message in a short amount of time. Blogs that are written as a short mini-novel devoid of images are not very attractive. I try to strike a balance with images and text for my site http://this1that1whatever.com.

    • Karol K says:

      Sure, it all depends on the nature of the blog. For some people image-heavy strategy works better than no images at all. For others it’s the other way around.

  9. It’s almost too bad there wasn’t an image embedded here to show people how it can break things up, but I know it would be out of character for this blog. I employ the strategy on one of my blogs with at least one picture for every post and on my other blogs with an occasional image. I think it does help draw a person’s eye & keep people on the post longer; at least my analytics seem to support that view.

    • Karol K says:

      This is exactly the strategy I’m using on two blogs I’m a part of: newinternetorder.com and themefuse.com – one image to lead the post and then maybe other images in the body of the post whenever it makes sense.

  10. Kevin Rossen says:

    Irony = a post about using images with no images.

  11. Kevin Rossen says:

    Irony = a post about using images with no images.

    • I was about to chime in and say the same thing!!!

      Fail

    • Karol K says:

      Ok ok guys, I get the message :)

      • Yorelis says:

        I’ve been using images on my blogs forever and a lot of my readers have told me they like this strategy, I’ve been told it gives a visual incentive to the whole reading experience. I do recommend using images on blogs. And unfortunatelly for some people reading anything without an image in it, or any other type of visual element, it’s just boring to them.

  12. Tim Barnes says:

    The information is good, however, I agree with Kevin. I find it ironic that you would write about using images in a post but have no images.

  13. Craig Parker says:

    That was my first thought as well. Maybe it was just to see if we were paying attention.

    Is it helpful to have all of the images on the left, right, or alternating? I tend to alternate them, but didn’t know if someone had actually studied which way was best.

    • Karol K says:

      Well, I haven’t studied this, but I think that the best practice is to “alternate them a bit.” Not too much and not too little. Some variety is ok, but if there’s too much then the article starts to look messy.

  14. Dragan Palla says:

    I agree that images makes better impact on reader and content.
    Good advice though you could it edit some picture in this post :).

  15. Peter Lawlor says:

    I’ll add another tip. If you use Adsense, or think you might in the future, think twice about placing images at the top left of a post.

    If you decide to place adsense ads in the top left position, you’ll need to go through each post and move your image. I use WP-Insert plugin for adsense which makes it easy to manage adsense site-wide but if posts have images in the top left, then I have to go into each post and move those images and than manage adsense ads in WP-Insert.

    • Karol K says:

      Good advice, thanks for sharing. From what I can recall I think I was guilty of this once. Removing images by hand is a lot of work.

  16. Dave B says:

    Another good reason to use images: I find that many visitors to my blog (a music blog) come from image searches on Google & other search engines (though it’s hard to know if they actually read the article, or just look at the image preview that pops up when landing on the web page in question).

    Also, I used to put images, with a caption, right after the headline, but now place them further down, since search engines would pick up my caption as the text to show in their results. Often the caption was specific to the image and not a good representation of the whole post.

    • Karol K says:

      This is something that can happen once your blog has been around for a while, and G.Images picks up its content. This is another reason why it’s nice to use images. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Useful information, but you’ve missed how useful images can be as part of Search Engine Optimisation.

    Images are a great way to include keywords or keyphrases on your page:

    1> In the image file name
    2> In the image title
    3> In the image description
    4> in the image alt tags.

    All of these are accessible in the image upload dialogue box in WordPress.

    It would also be worthwhile to point out that free images can be found on Flickr – look for images that have a Creative Commons license (see http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/ for more info).

  18. Garth Beyer says:

    I did not catch that until I read the comments. That’s a compliment to you since you had me deeply focused on the content. I’ve been able to use my “common-sense” attitude when placing pictures in my blog but this post helped create the borders around it. I would also like to add on to the idea that your picture should not be larger than your post. A gentle reminder that because you have a small post, does not mean you should eliminate using a picture. I often share short poems and I insert a very small picture. Using a picture that small still leaves the same effects as if you inserted a large picture in a post with more content.

    • Karol K says:

      This is an interesting idea. I, personally, thought that there’s not much place left for images in smaller posts. Will have to give it a try. Thanks!

  19. I would say it’s quite weak guest post.

    Nowadays images play much bigger role and there are multiple additional reasons, rules and guidelines to use images in the blog, than what we see in this article.

    And by the way, I guess author of this article didn’t intend this post to have any big impact or be memorable :)

    • Karol K says:

      I’m sure there are many more reasons for using images, luckily the internet isn’t going anywhere so we can discuss them next time :)

  20. Robet says:

    Images are essential in every post if you ask me. I always have images on my blog, you can attract someone to a post just by the featured image you have with it. It’s also much easier to read a post with images than just a big chunk of text

    Also it’s important that you remember to resize your images to keep loading times to a minimum

  21. Lisa Sumner says:

    Good advice, but I have to agree with the comments above! No pics?? One thing I like to do with my photos is alternate them from left to right going down the post to keep a good flow, keeping the relevant photo near the text as much as possible. Since we read left to right (in most countries) it helps keep the eyes going in that natural, left to right motion.

    Just my two cents!

  22. As a newbee the information on blogging is of great value and yes i need to add some pics to my bloggs as well.

  23. The most popular way of doing this is by placing a link to the original image in your post. Some image directories require you to do this, and some don’t.

    • Karol K says:

      It all depends on the source of the image. Some directories only require you to mention the author’s name, and no link is necessary.

  24. Marcia Ford says:

    My thoughts exactly, Kevin. In fact, about a third of the way through I stopped reading and scrolled down to see what images he used.

  25. I was told to watch out for Smush It, because it strips all of our meta data (I provide most of my own images). So I haven’t been using it and saving smaller image files when I’m editing pics for my blog posts.

    Another plugin I use, for when I don’t have an image in my own library, is Photodropper, which searches images on Flickr for the right licenses that we can use. Love that site. The only two downsides I’ve experienced are (1) some photographers have very specific rules around usage – the plugin grabs their information for below the image, but they may also want a link to their site and a bio; and (2) if someone deletes the image or their Flickr account, you lose the image in your post.

    Thanks for sharing your tips.

  26. As a beauty and fashion blogger, I totally agree that images are so important. And they should definitely display at the beginning of the posts.

    They shouldn’t be the focus of the content, but they help explain the words and help ideas come across.

    http://www.thegirlieblog.com

  27. Steven Fogg says:

    Interesting post. I think what you haven’t said is just as important here. It’s another point in the Why use images.

    I create my own graphics to headline my posts. And I try to create graphics that not only look great on my blog, but also look really good in Facebook and Google. Which I manually post into my G+ and Facebook timeline. The better the graphic the better response rate. (It also ranks higher if I manually enter the post rather than using a timed post delivery like Hootsuite)

    For example I just wrote a post on how I increased my Facebook engagement by 100%. I created a headline banner that looked like a graph increasing made out of the Facebook logo. (It helps being a graphic designer)

    I then used screen shots of showing examples from within Facebook on how the engagement had increased as proof of concept. A great way to prove your point.

    The headline image not only looked great on my blog, but also in my Facebook timeline.

    • Karol K says:

      That’s a great advice. Thanks for that. And your images look really cool. Especially the facebook graph and the Christmas tree. I will have to keep that idea in mind next time I’m selecting a headline image.

  28. Robby G says:

    I recently began using big images, breaking up the text around half way through. I find it to look quite appealing and it gives a nice impact.

  29. Leo AW says:

    Images speak a thousand words. That’s what I believe.

  30. Chirag says:

    Nice blog post. Naming the image file properly does the job. It helps in Image Searches!

  31. Drewry says:

    using images in your blog posts also help to get additional traffic from Google web images :-)

  32. Paul says:

    Great post and follow-on comments. Also, the file optimization tools folks shared was something I have not explored before. Looking forward to trying them out.

  33. JJ says:

    Align right is how I like to display the first image, then alternate sides usually.

  34. Mike says:

    Great overview! I’ve been trying to learn a little more about this!

  35. vishnu says:

    Very useful info,
    When i looked out in my blog ( http://www.linkstoweb.in ) I found that Picture that i have put in the blog is the big source traffic !

  36. Rakesh says:

    What an irony, Article advocating image does not have a proper image to endorse his/her article. Though the points raised here are very useful and interesting.

  37. Taline says:

    Very true! I think that images make a major impact on people understanding the topic and remembering the material. I have started using more images in my content and have seen people stick around a lot longer on my site! :)

    • Karol K says:

      That’s great to hear. Have you tested different types of images to see if it changes the results even further?

  38. Bougie Girl says:

    Images are very important. I started using them back in August and traffic to my blog has increased as a result. Images are also a great way to keep Writer’s Block at bay!

  39. trailsnet says:

    Thanks for the great advice, Karol. I especially appreciated the SmushIt referral & downloaded it immediately. I’m wondering if anyone out there has had any experience w/ the SmushIt for NexGen photo gallery?
    One point I’d like to add when it comes to images. For many websites/blogs images are more than just adornment. The photos are a key part of the blog post and should match the content. For example, when I write a trail blog on trailsnet, the photo will show a representative section of the trail, while the photos on the ActiveTravelsTour site will show photos of important tour aspects such as lodging, scenery, restaurants, & other amenities that are an important part of a tour.

    • Karol K says:

      Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about combining Smushit and NextGen.

      I agree that images are often mandatory for some kinds of posts. Especially when you’re describing how to do some manual work, or give any kind of advice where image is TRULY worth a thousand words.

  40. Brett says:

    I’m glad you made a point to mention how to attribute credit for free images. On my martial arts blog I always try to be careful about the nebulous world of copyrights.

  41. Jenny Shih says:

    I wholeheartedly agree at the importance of images, especially the points about breaking up text and enhancing your message.

    One addition I would make to the details here is to be careful in choosing stock images. There are several images from sources like istockphoto that are used over and over again on many sites. The power is quickly lost when everyone uses the same images. There’s one case where I associate a particular image with an online class I took. But now when I see that image in a blog post on a totally different topic, the image brings me back to the class (which distracts me from the blog post).

    Images are great, and consider being a bit unique when you use them.

    • Karol K says:

      That is true. There are lots of cliche images out there. That is the big problem with stock photos. Often, going the other way and finding something on flickr is a much better solution.

  42. One relevant image in the beginning of the post, then if necessary more images for longer articles. I break up longer articles with sub-headings. I am also very aware of the color of the imagery, if I should use full color or b/w (used to own my design company for 6 years in my past life). When the article is more general, I use full color, but when the article is more about people and silent reflection, I subdue the image to help with the mood.

    • Karol K says:

      This is a very important point you’re bringing up here. Images can’t be included into a post just for the sake of it. I agree that they have to reflect the content and not create any confusion.

  43. I have tried to use images many times. A lot of times the images do not look like I thought they would though. I can never get the professional look that a lot of other bloggers get.

  44. Ling says:

    In my experience, images also contribute to traffic via their “alt” tag. So make sure to wrap the images using proper labels.

  45. I just learned (this morning, actually) that if you don’t include images in your post it can be difficult for someone to pin the post on Pinterest. I don’t know about anyone else, but I use Pinterest daily to hang onto Internet content I want to come back to later or want to save for ongoing reference. I also visit the Pinterest main page often for ideas. So…if you aren’t including images, you may be losing an opportunity to spread your work through a popular social networking outlet!!!

  46. I think the best place to put a pic is right aligned with the first or second paragraph. Just make sure it is above the top half of the fold is a good rule of thumb. Thanks for the Smush.it plugin. That’s good stuff.

  47. aboabdulla says:

    I use blogspot and it is good in image upload, adding caption. My blog is new ( 2 months old ) and my pagerank is now THREE!:)