A montage of images - from Google ImagesContent marketing is not just about words. Images are important too – for several reasons. Here are some of them.

Make it easy to start reading

If your web pages are quite wide, your reader will find it difficult to scan backwards and forwards to read the text. Wide columns make it tiring to jump from the end of one line to the beginning of another. If the page looks too tiring, the visitor may not even start reading. You can use an image on the right of the page to reduce the width of the beginning of your article. The image will attract the eye and your reader will hopefully start reading the narrower opening of the article. Then it’s more likely that they will continue to read the rest.

Break up the text on a page

Just as you can use images to reduce column widths throughout the page, you can also use images throughout long articles to break them up. Place them in sensible areas of your articles, perhaps under sub-headings, and you help readers who want to scan through the page (as we all often do) rather than read the whole article in one go. They may not read it right away, but if they think it’s worth coming back to they will hopefully bookmark it.

Give the impression that “there is so much in it”

I remember a TV ad for TV Times magazine whose catchphrase was, “I never knew there was so much in it.” This catchphrase springs to mind whenever I think about the people I used to study on the London Underground who were reading magazines. As a magazine journalist myself, I was always intrigued to watch how people read a magazine. Most of us don’t open page one and start reading – we flick through the magazine, scanning the pages, then go back to something that grabs our attention to read that in more detail.

What I discovered while watching people is that they always took longer to scan from cover to cover if the page layouts contained multiple elements. Consider the two examples below.

A side by side comparison of two magazine layouts

The layout on the left is eye-catching, artistic and clean. The one on the right is busier and, well, messier. It has three photos, two captions, a large standfirst and two sub-headings. Now consider this – which one is likely to make you linger longer.

What I then realised is that, psychologically, if you scan through a magazine really quickly, without stopping to read very much on the way, you get the feeling there isn’t really very much in it.

If you follow this notion through to web page content, you should think about ways to stop people just looking, seeing only one thing and then moving on. Images are a great way to keep people on a page for longer, to draw their eye to parts of an article you want them to see.

Be seen on Pinterest and other image-based bookmarking sites

If you don’t have at least one good-sized image on a page, there’s nothing for social media sites like Pinterest and Weheartit to display when people want to share your content. You can easily share links on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and Reddit but the growing popularity of image-based sharing sites means you need to ensure images are available.

Attain more traffic from Google

Google is not just a text search engine, it is an image search engine as well. Some sites earn a lot of their Google traffic through Google Images rather than the main web search. In order to appear with a good rank in Images, you need to ensure your image files are sensibly named and that similar keywords appear on your page where the image is hosted.

For example, if your article is about solar panels, you should ensure the images on the page are called something like “solar-panels-xyz-model.jpg” instead of “pic1234.jpg”, also that you use the ALT attribute behind the image to correctly describe the image (for example, ALT=”solar panels XYZ model”). Depending on how your page ranks generally for the term “solar panels”, your images for that page would also achieve a rank in Google Images.