Content marketing is still the tried and true digital marketing strategy for everything from SaaS to socks. It's simple. Write amazing content and people will find you. Sort of. It's actually a lot more complicated than that. Yes, you need to write compelling and engaging content. But getting that content to show up in Google search results takes a lot more work.
In this article I'm not going to cover all the ins-and-outs of content marketing or content optimization tools. But I do want to share an essential part of content marketing that works and will boost your marketing performance.
I use visuals in just about every article and blog post I write. That starts with a compelling and catchy lead image. There are tons of free-to-use photography sites like Unsplash where I can search by keyword and find something clever, exciting, provocative or fantastical. Unfortunately everyone also does this and most of them use Unsplash too.
I tend not to waste a ton of time on this one however and I've found that my title is more important anyway. So I just try to choose something that is a little out there, that one might not to expect with my topic, and one that likely wasn't used before (as best I can).
Here's an Simple Example
Say I'm writing an article about the best places to camp in Los Angeles. A quick search on Unsplash returns hundreds of camping images. From tents to campfires, mountain ranges to rivers and everything in-between. Most people would choose one of these. But I'd try to find something a little more offbeat.
Compare the two images below. The one on the right is clearly about s'mores and camping. The image on the left is a s'more but not really related to camping. I prefer the left image as it's more eye catching and indirectly relates to campaign and makes the reader do an association — which gets them thinking and more likely to engage with my content.
Like I said, everyone adds a leader image to their blog posts, it's par.
Here's what's not par — using quality visuals throughout a post to help tell my story. This may sound obvious, and to some extent it is. But it's also not easy, so many of bloggers either skip it or just do the bare minimum. As an example of amazing visuals we can look at the content marketing big boys. Hubspot. These guys are known for building compelling visuals and often infographics like this one, it's really long so I had to cut it up.
Now that took a legit graphic designer hours if not weeks to make. Other than Hubspot and a few monster content marketing sites, most bloggers can't afford or even have the expertise to make a graphic like this. That's ok. I promised I would show you an easy way to make compelling graphics that are way better than more Unsplash searches. I just add annotations to my images. And you guessed it, I do it with Markup Hero.
Now I don't have to use license free images. Certainly when I'm showcasing a product or service I will take a screenshot with Markup Hero and annotate that like these.
And if I'm talking about something I don't already have an image for or that I can take a screenshot of, then yeh, I go back to the Unsplash well. Again, I pick something offbeat and compelling, but still relatable for my readers. Then I just add a few annotations to make it pop and tell my story.
So back to the best places to camp example article. Suppose I was at the part where I was telling users about the amenities of a camp site (allows campfires, dogs off leash, has bathrooms, etc.). I might include an image and annotation like this.
Making this image took me 60 seconds to find on Unsplash and another minute or two to add a clever annotation that not only makes it unique and stand out, but also tells an important part of my story. So yeh, easy, and anyone can do it. No design skills needed. I think of it as bullet points on steroids.
Adding Annotations is as Easy as 1-2-3
Here's a step by step on how I do it. And Markup Hero is free with no signup or credit card required to try.
- Screenshot using Markup Hero or just find an image and paste it into https://markuphero.com/new
- Use the built-in annotation tools like arrows, boxes, ovals and type to make your image something amazing
- Click the share button and copy markup to clipboard, then paste it into your blog post editor
Beware Copyright: One thing I look out for is using someone else's images without permission. I got burned on this one time and it cost me. So I generally do one of two things. If I can find something that works on Unsplash, i'm good. If I borrow something from someone else's blog post I'm sure to call them out, like I did with the Hubspot infographic.
And if I take a screenshot of something that's not mine, I'm careful to pick sites where I have reasonable confidence they'll be happy not mad — assuming I give them a shout out. There is some risk there, but I'm ok with it. You can decide what level of risk you're comfortable with.
Bonus: Search Benefits of Annotated Images
One other thing I've noticed over the years about annotated images is that they tend to stand out more on image sites like Google image search, Pinterest, Imgur, etc. Just take a look below. Which image stands out? Yeh, my boy Boomer. And yes, people do find my blog and content marketing articles through image search so I get a bonus for making annotated images.
Be sure to add relevant captions and alt tags of course. And, as Jessica Huhn from Referral Rock points out in her content marketing article, it's always better to create content that stands the test of time. "Using evergreen content rather than current events doesn't need to be refreshed as often." This goes for visuals too. Choose imagery that will last and remain relevant when your images show up in search results.
Bonus Bonus: Create Visuals that Stand the Test of Time
In her content marketing article, Jessica Huhn from Referral Rock, shares some great insights around the importance of evergreen content over current events. Visuals that show up in search results
There are tons of great articles providing statistics around the importance of visuals in my blog posts. So I don't really need to sell you on that. But making graphics that stand out over the crowd doesn't have to be costly or time consuming. Sure, if I had the resources to do images like Hubspot does them, I probably would. But I can use Markup Hero for free to take screenshots, upload images and annotate them in seconds giving me an edge over my competition.