You’ve just finished researching and writing a killer article on strategies for training your cat to do back-flips on command. This knowledge, gathered into a single, easy-to-read format, is ready for primetime! Only one problem, nobody’s reading it. You’re stuck with two “likes” from grandma and grandpa; you know, the people that think Facebook wall posts are a great way to send private messages? Yeah, something’s wrong, so how do you boost your post’s reach?

You’re probably missing a picture that’s as captivating as that catchy headline (you added a catchy headline, right?). A killer image is a great way to amp social media traction and eventually boost search engine rankings for your content. Here’s why:

1. Images Draw the Reader into the Article

When’s the last time you purchased a product online without viewing a picture or video about the item? While clicking on a blog article isn’t the same thing as making a buying decision, if you’re creating a blog post with the hopes that it will go viral, you need to think about your audience as if they were your customers. How will they learn about your post? Once they learn of its existence, will they read (buy) it?

According to Shai Aharony, the Founder of Reboot Online, ”…a well-illustrated blog will enable you to interact with your readers and keep them engaged – in turn driving traffic to your site and securing return visitors.” Your article is a piece of you that you’re sharing with the outside world. Just as the cover of a book is important, so is the featured image for your post. This image needs to be hyper-relevant to your article and draw the reader into the piece. A great picture, combined with a killer headline can make or break a blog article.

After all, if nobody reads your article, what’s the point of writing a thought-provoking, informative article?

2. Increased Traffic Boosts Your Search Engine Rankings

Google knows all. If you’ve married the perfect image and headline together, and effectively marketed your content via social media and other legitimate channels, Google and Bing will take notice. How? The audience that views your article will likely be using Chrome, and they’ll be logged into their Google account. In addition, search engines crawl the web millions of times a day. Your website will eventually be analyzed and the content you have will be indexed.

As you gain traffic, some of your audience will find inspiration in your content and share it with their friends; either via a social media post or a quote in their own blog content. All of this registers on Google’s radar, leading to ranking boosts for the key terms associated with your content.

Without the image mentioned above, your content may not have received all of that initial attention that put you on Google’s radar. Images are vital, even if Google’s crawlers disregard images when analyzing your content.

3. Swapping Out Feature Images Keep Content Fresh for New Social Media Shares

Facebook is getting smarter every day. One of the recent improvements to Facebook’s New Feed analysis is their ability to monitor how long you look at posts from friends and businesses you follow. The Verge reported in June that Zuckerberg and company are paying attention to the length of time spent paused on a specific update as you scroll through your feed. This tells them that an item might be extra interesting and worthy of a boost in your friend’s news feeds as well.

While this is sure to create an even more effective distraction from work and everything else in life, it’s an important consideration for bloggers that share their content via the world’s most popular social media platforms. It’s also important to realize that if someone’s seen your post already, they’re far less likely to pause on it a second time. So, if you’re going to share your content more than once via social media (as this fancy infographic recommends), be sure to take the time to find a new feature image to draw viewers in for a second look.

Don’t sell all your hard work short by forgetting to add an image that’s relevant and eye-catching. You need to earn that initial traction so that you can gain the attention of the search engines that deliver an endless flow of traffic to your site. Plus, an image is the perfect way to compliment that great content you’ve curated. Give your readers a break from all that text, and throw a couple great images their way to make them feel right at home. You’ll notice major improvements in reach and a reduction in bounce-rates. Seriously, adding a photo is one of the best ways to boost your article, so get out there and start searching for that perfect image!