“You only get one chance to make a good first impression”, right?
When it comes to blogging, the first thing a potential reader sees is your feature image. We spend a lot of time focusing on the content; the planning, the writing, the headline…but have you ever stopped to think about the importance of the image?
Why is the feature image important?
Your feature image is multi-purpose. It’s the hook that draws readers in and makes them want to read your article. It should grab their attention and encapsulate the topic and tone of your content.
It’s also an opportunity to promote your brand. Links to your blog articles will travel far and wide (or so we hope!), and by incorporating your key brand elements, you are raising brand awareness.
All social media platforms now have a visual aspect. Using images in your blog is an important way to catch people’s attention and encourage clicks.
And when they do land on your blog page, the image is the first thing they see. You can reduce bounce rates by reassuring visitors they’ve arrived at the right place, by using the same image they saw on social media and including the title for the content they were looking for.
Last, but not least, your image can actually enhance the content itself, by creating a vision in the reader’s mind, and making it memorable.
What should you consider when choosing and designing your feature image?
Photography vs. Graphics
If you have someone with graphic design skills within your team or are in a position to outsource to a professional designer, then a fully-designed graphical blog image can be very effective and eye catching. Check out this example below from The Podcast Host.
But if not, then a good quality photograph works just as well.
Using your own photography offers uniqueness and a ‘human’ element to the content which readers will relate to – remember, even an iPhone can take a brilliant photo these days! I would strongly recommend you use your own photos if your product or service is tangible or visual.
Millie’s Beach Huts is a great example – in this recent post, they have used a real photo from a dog walk in Aviemore to illustrate the topic of their content, featuring Millie the dog who is a central character in their branding.
But sometimes it’s just not practical to take your own photos for your blog. Thankfully, stock photography has come a long way and there is a fantastic range of free or affordable photos out there. Some of our favourite free stock image websites include www.pexels.com, www.pixabay.com and www.librestock.com.
To brand or not to brand
Even if you choose to go down the photography route, you can still make sure your blog image reflects your brand by overlaying the photo with text, shapes or your logo.
When people are scanning through Twitter or Facebook, you’ve got less than a second to catch their attention and make them take a closer look. It might be your blog title, the interesting image you’ve used, or they may simply recognise it as being your latest article because of the fonts and colours.
By combining all of these elements in your blog image, you maximise your chances of that click through.
Best tools for creating blog post images
So if you don’t have a graphic designer on call, how can you create a great blog image for yourself?
There are a number of fantastic free online image editing tools out there, perfect for the amateur designer and very easy to use. But right now, the two market leaders are PicMonkey and Canva.
You’re onto a winner, whichever you choose. But here are some reasons why you might pick one or the other.
Let’s start with our favourite.
We use Canva to design our blog and social media visuals because you can save your designs and edit them later. This means we can create a custom template for our blog post images and re-use it every time, ensuring that the size, position and colour of our brand elements remain consistent.
If you’re stuck for inspiration, Canva also has a range of standard templates to choose from, which is great if you don’t have a natural eye for design and need a starting point.
Another time-saving feature is their built-in stock photo bank. Images cost $1 (the websites we listed earlier are free), but if you’re short on time then it’s worth it.
If you’re looking to scale up your production of blog and social media visuals, you might want to consider investing in Canva For Work. The pro version of the software allows you to store your brand elements (logos, colours, fonts etc.) and automatically resize your designs for different platforms.
So you could create your blog image then automatically generate an accompanying Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest image to go along with it. Pretty cool!
The only drawback of Canva that we’ve found is that your font choice is limited to their standard selection. In other words, if you use a specific font in your brand then you can’t install it and use it within the software.
PicMonkey is a very similar tool to Canva but has a couple of key differences that might influence your decision.
Firstly, you can use any font, which gives you better control over your branding. It also has a better range of photo editing features, so if you regularly manipulate photographs then PicMonkey might be for you.
However, on the free version of the software you can’t save designs for later, so if you want to create a standard format for your blog images then you need to lay your elements out on a transparent canvas and download this as an image. Then you can insert it into any future design – with a background photo behind and text on top, it will give you the same effect.
For creating blog images, neither is really better than the other, it just depends on how you prefer to work and which features are most important for your design.
If you want to explore some other alternatives, here are a few to try:
The main takeaway here is that image matters! The strength of your blog post feature image can have a big impact on the success of your content, so it pays to spend some time on it and make it as good as it can be.
Have you used Canva or PicMonkey for your blog post images? Let me know which is your favourite in the comments!
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