What Type of Images Should You Use Within Your Blog Posts?

image types

From stock photography to graphs, charts, and infographics, the types of images you can use to illustrate your blog posts are numerous. The question is: what types of images should you use?

I decided to analyze 41 blogs within different industries to help determine what types of images generate most social shares. This way you’ll know what kind of graphics you should use in order to generate the most traffic.

Here’s what I learned:

Stock photography

stock photography

You’ve seen these images before. They usually look really generic like the image above.

The big mistake most bloggers make when using stock photography is that they use random images instead of ones related to their blog posts. Sure, it takes a bit more work to find relevant images, but it is worth the time.

On average, when a blog post used a stock photography image, it received 152 tweets and 83 Facebook likes.

Overall, posts featuring stock photography came in 5th in social sharing.

Screenshots

screenshots

Use screenshots when you are describing a product. For example, when I wrote an article on the Quick Sprout Analyzer, I used screenshots of the application to explain my points.

In general, articles that used screenshots didn’t receive as many social shares as articles with stock photography did. The main reason for this is that most blog posts that contained screenshots tended to be more promotional, at least from my analysis.

Blog posts that used screenshots averaged 119 tweets and 46 Facebook likes.

Hand-drawn images

hand drawn

The Oatmeal is a great example of a blog that uses hand-drawn images. From small custom graphics to comics, almost every image on The Oatmeal is hand-drawn.

Hand-drawn images are probably one of the more difficult image types to create as you need to have good illustration skills, but they get shared much more frequently.

They are shared so much more than other types of images that they came at number 2 on my list of image types you should use. On average, they received 318 tweets and 489 Facebook likes. What was interesting about the data is that it seems Facebook prefers hand-drawn images more than Twitter does.

Graphs and charts

graph types

Graphs and charts are my favorite types of images because I love data. Anything that helps prove a point is valuable, but it is rare to see these types of images.

Shockingly, posts with graphs and charts didn’t come in at number 1 on the list. They actually ranked 4th from a social sharing perspective. On average, they received 165 tweets and 93 Facebook likes.

When I was pulling data and analyzing different image types, I noticed that blog posts with graphs and charts received the highest number of trackbacks. On average, they received 258% more trackbacks than blog posts with other types of images.

Posts that contain data may not have mass appeal, but they are valuable from an educational and business perspectives. They attract the attention of niche blogs that link back to them. The data in these posts will continue to be valuable, so even after a few years, other blogs will still link to data-rich posts with charts, regardless of the posts’ age.

Infographics

infographic

On Quick Sprout, next to stock photography images, the second most frequently used image type is infographics. I use them because I love them but also because they generate a lot of social shares.

They are so successful at generating social shares that I actually publish an infographic every single Friday. Not only does this help with traffic, but it generates a lot of natural backlinks, which helps boost my overall search engine traffic.

Infographics on average received 276 tweets and 262 Facebook likes. If you want consistent social traffic, consider publishing an infographic on your blog each week.

Royalty free images

royalty free photography

The worst type of image you can use on your blog is a royalty-free image. Royalty-free images are like stock photography images but of lower quality.

You can usually find these types of images on sites like this one. You’ll notice that the quality of these images doesn’t compare to the quality of images from sites like Getty Images or Fotolia.

Sure, they are free, but you risk losing traffic if you use them over the other image types described in this post.

On average, royalty-free images generated 59 tweets and 13 Facebook likes.

Animated graphics

gifographic

Animated graphics, or animated infographics, generated the highest number of social shares of all the image types described above. The only issue with these graphics is that they are much more difficult to generate than any other image type. Not only are they usually hand-drawn, but they are also animated.

Not very many blogs use animated graphics, but those that do find that such posts perform extremely well. On average, animated graphics generated 551 tweets and 680 Facebook likes.

I used to create animated infographics on Quick Sprout, but I discovered that the cost of producing one was too high compared to the results it generated. These animated graphics didn’t do as well in the B2B sector as they did in the sector covering consumer-facing topics such as how a car engine works.

Conclusion

If you want to generate more traffic, your best bet is to start using hand-drawn or animated images within your blog posts. If you don’t have time to create those two image types, you can also try graphs, infographics, or stock photography. Just make sure you stay away from royalty-free images.

You can also test other image types such as 3-D graphics, which, given my analysis, should do well too. I just couldn’t find enough blogs that use them to provide actual data.

What image types do you use on your blog?

If you want to break through to real profits online, you need some serious firepower. For a limited time I’m sharing some select tips and tricks Amazon, Microsoft, NBC & Hewlett Packard paid thousands of dollars per hour for, FREE.
  • The step by step guide to monster traffic generation
  • The how-to guide for increasing conversions on your website
  • 7 Cashflow killers your analytics tools are hiding from you
     
 
100% privacy, I will never spam you!

Trackbacks

Comments

  1. Great article and yes images pour life in an otherwise word heavy post. I think graphs and matrices are easy to create and highly appreciated in the B2B community. Definitely a must.

    In general I stay away from stock images unless they are right on. I use flick and Google images to find relevant pics which are free to use.

    One question to you Neil.
    What do you think about meme macros – for instance the success baby or most interesting man – which are business appropriate.

    I tried it out in a blog post about best link building articles and created a meme for each of the article with a message.

    Check it out and tell me what you think: http://blog.linkbird.com/en/link-building/must-read-articles-link-building/

    • Karan, glad you found it helpful.
      In regards to your question, I don’t really have any data to support anything. However, through my experience I have seen that they do very well. Let me know what your experience has been.

      • Neil, thanks for your reply.

        I’ve used it sparingly over the different content that I’ve created.

        One things that I did notice was that certain topics inherently have less “suitability” for including images as part of the story. In these cases images carrying text seem to be a good solution. Macro memes – the kind like Success Kid or Most interesting man – can help you convey the message with some clean (and safe) humor.

  2. Well, I believe it’s time to start practicing Animation .gif Images :D

    Perhaps,

    Thanks a lot, Neil for the great information.

    • Bishal, let me know how it works out. Looking forward to hearing more from you.

    • Neat article. Good to see where the field is trending towards. BTW, there are good royalty-free images on Flickr. Just adjust the search criteria. But this Morguefile link you offered (and I bet that was a hidden agenda promo :) does suck quite terribly. I searched for ‘Los Angeles’ and found some horrible shots. Yikes!

  3. Hi Neil,

    What an awesome insight! Wow! I didn’t know that hand drawn images and images with some animation have such a huge impact.

    Thank you for an incredibly useful information as usual.

    Regards,
    Kumar

    • Kumar, glad I could help. Let me know if you have any personal experience on that matter.

      • Amazing post, I completely overlooked hand drawn images as an unnecessary cost increase, glad you cleared that up for me:)

        I wonder if hand drawn font has a similar effect when compared to generic sans/sans serif?

  4. Great data. I can definitely vouch for the hand-drawn images – I used hand-drawn lettering as some of my post images (ie. a hand-written version of the blog title), and some of those posts got more than 150 social shares (which is amazing for a new blog!)

    One note though: Facebook did not approve the image when I tried to boost these posts, as they contain more than 20% text.

  5. Good information, Neil. I’m surprised as you are that graphs didn’t come in #1. I wonder if they weren’t accompanied by worthwhile analysis. Or if they were just being tweeted around everywhere.

    I’m trying to reconstruct the actual order of your rankings. I don’t see them. Was that deliberate?

  6. MURALI PASUMARTHI :

    Hand drawn images are more relevant.To get more shares and tweets.

  7. I try to use animated images becoz, lets be honest, they are interesting and make your blog posts more engaging. Animated GIFs are not expensive to make, especially if you shoot your own videos.

  8. I Think We Should put more describe images for what are we going to present on our blog or website, it helps more to get more tweets and shares.

  9. Hey Neil, nice post!

    The only thing I have to disagree with you on is using morgueFile as an example of low quality royalty free photos. Since it’s a user-submitted photo database, yeah, I admit it’s going to have some not-so-great pics in it. But I’ve found some brilliant photos there as well. Like any site with user submissions, it might just depend on what you’re looking for.

    morgueFile has some beyond amazing photos of animals. Not exactly relevant for us here in the marketing industry, but it’s worth pointing out. :)

    • Nicole, thanks for the heads up. I’ll definitely have to check out morgueFile. I am sure they have great stuff there.

      • I have also used morgueFile and I have found high quality, hi-res and relevant images there.

        BTW a few months ago Flickr has released millions of images from old books in the British Museum under Creative Commons. I know that not a long of blogs use those old school pencil line drawings but I wonder how their impact would be.

        These images are certainly different from the run-of-the-mill stock photos and they should help make the post stand out.

  10. Good analysis. After searching for low cost sites to buy Stock Photos, I found dollar photo club ( $10 monthly fee + $1 per image). Other photos typically cost like $3 to get an image that is atleast 600 px wide.

    Neil – How do use any tools to compress the image?

  11. Nice post, how about Facebook post. Wondering if the same is true there running sponsored ads? Testing will tell. Thank you for the solid information.

  12. Rahu, you can use irfanview to compress pictures.

    BTW very informative article Neil. I get amazed to see how you come up with such a catchy article daily. I find it difficult to resist, when your mail lands in my inbox.

  13. Nice post. I never really thought about using different kinds of graphics. Since we can easily make animated ones, I am going to try that first. Your the best!

  14. I’m surprised about the animated graphic statistic. The example you showed created lag on my laptop, and they also seem to be a bit distracting.

  15. Hi Neil!
    First of all: thank you for all the information and analysis!
    I recently started a massage salon for women. Now working on the website and blog.
    I love to take quotes and put them in my own design. Because the quotes are always related somehow to massage (spiritual quotes, quotes on relaxation etc) I use nature photos as a background to the quote. I used to get free ones but I recently started to take my own nature pics. Taking the nature pictures myself adds more value to the quotes, I think.

    • Reshma, great strategy. I have seen similar things done across different industry. The images you are creating and placing quotes over are called “posters” and tend to do very well on social channels. Keep up the great work.

  16. Neil, do you consider a video an image? What about slideshare? Thanks for the stats. That would make the start of a good infographic for Friday.

  17. Hi Neil,
    Thanks for yet another great post. I’d love to see you tackle the related question—what ratio of graphics to text is ideal? Certainly this would depend on a lot of factors such as subject matter and niche/industry. But I would think that a higher volume of images per post would play a significant role in share stats.

    Just a thought.

    Thanks again!
    —Peter

    • Peter,
      Great question. The ratio really depends on how your site is set up and your industry. I would do some a/b testing to see what the right ratio is for you. Please share your results :)

  18. Yes! This makes me so happy! Take that stock photos! I wish more people realized what a difference the right images make. I’ll have to educate them with animated infographics :D .

  19. I mostly use stock photos. I always search a related one that fit’s in with my blog post.

    I also use infographics, but I did not create it myself. Animated infographics are new to me. I have to check them out.

  20. Hi Neil. Great article! My biggest concern is… how do I credit the images, whatever type I use? Or do I even need to? Most sites (including this one) don’t show any photo credit at all. Additionally, how does one find images for say, something like a fashion blog, without paying models and doing all of their own photography? And if you do, how do you protect those images?

  21. Great post Neil, just what I need at the moment! Thank you for continuing to help all the bloggers out there.

  22. Great post! I usually try to use images from Google or Flickr for a natural-like stance and totally try to avoid stock photos until is absolutely necessary.

  23. Hi Neil,

    This one is so easy for me, I feel like I’m cheating. I just use my travel photos because that’s what my brand is built on; blogging from paradise. Sometimes I share the odd photo here and there non traveled related – like today when I’m featuring 2 of my buddies – but overall, it’s all travel, all the time.

    I’d add to make sure that the images are fully aligned with your brand. Hand-drawn, snapped and yours, or if they’re royalty free, people feel that you’re either aligning the image with the post or that the pictures are some add on that don’t vibe with the core message of your blog.

    Again, I feel blessed because I just snap away with a nice camera, edit a bit and post to my blog. I’m also taking shots in some of the most beautiful places on earth so it adds that much more pop to my posts.

    Just align perfectly and more than anything, share the style of image which feels true to your brand and of course, true to you.

    Thanks for the smart share Neil.

    I’ll tweet in a bit.

    Ryan

  24. More great info. What about screenshots and personal images? Ever use these? Some bloggers sort of swear by them – like it’s the whole point of blogging.

    I had a fairly successful blog years ago that I abandoned, and I always used stock images. Sometimes it would take me twice as long to find the right image than to write the post!

  25. I don’t agree about royalty-free photos. I do agree that quality is important and finding outstanding photographs–or taking them yourself, which I do–is key. Bad photos don’t get shared but regardless of origin, great photos do. But not everyone has an eye for composition…..

  26. Great information! This is the first good article on the subject of images that I have read.

    I believe that there must also be a relationship between image type and subject matter. So, not only would it matter whether you were communicating to businesses or to the general public, it would also depend on the type of product or service.

    I also wonder if you think that the same results as in your study would apply to websites, rather than blogs. There are many websites that use or should use images that are not using blogs now and may never use blogs.

  27. Hi Neil,
    Thanks for the very informative analysis. I use free images, some from open projects that just specifically request that you credit their site. I just make sure the images match the post content. It does take a lot of time to find the right images.

    I always credit the site that’s associated with the images. I have been experimenting with including the credit as the caption under the images and placing the photo credit at the very bottom of my post. I have seen both styles on well-known blog sites.

    I have had a few images pulled from my blog and I believe it was because the photo credit was not seen since it was all the way at the bottom of the post. For this reason, I am considering sticking with placing photo credits under the image.

    I look forward to your next post.

  28. Am surprised about the royalty free stock photos negativity concerning Morguefile (and similiar sites like Pixabay and Unsplash) – all of which have some fantastic and very relevant photos on their sites. I think Ana Hoffman, from Traffic Generation Cafe, did a great post about these royalty free stock image sites, and how useful they are (as well as providing a good selection for review).

    Like any photo search, you have to look around for a while to find the one that suits your own website and story. Admittedly the content on these sites, might not suit a certain niche but the selection is huge and varied. As a previous comment mentioned, a bad photo, regardless of where it is sourced won’t be shared.

    I personally, would find a hand drawn picture to hold a lot less appeal to me from a visual perspective, as a poorly illustrated one could look lazy and cheap.

    Cheers,

  29. What you have said is absolute write. And these are the top images used know a days. It wil surely benefits to highlight the blog.

    Always nice to read your articles, More informative.

    Way to go. Animation rockz.

  30. Summarized everything! Thank you!

  31. Thanks Neil for sharing this type of valuable information. It will help us for our next blog posts.

  32. Great information Neil !

    Thanks for sharing with us :)

  33. Great post and i love it..thank you for sharing

  34. My favourite is the hand-drawn images. I use it really often, and you’re right, it gain much likes and shares. :)

    Thanks for this Neil!

  35. Hi Neil,

    Nice article I do agree with your all points. I always research a lot to find valuable images for blog post.

    I do agree with shutterstock it has very high quality images with very low cost I gonna try this.

    Thanks for sharing.

  36. Hi Neil,
    I use stock photography, but I am interested in using animated photos, where can I find them?
    P.S I am a beauty blogger, I have no idea about programming !

  37. This is a great post Neil! Thanks for sharing.

    I knew that images could “make” a blog post but I didn’t realize that they may also “break” a blog post. It seems that using low quality images may be worse than using none at all.

    I will be sticking to high quality relevant images for a while and tracking how well they do.

  38. Hi Neil,

    This is a brilliant finding. As they say, free things can land up in trouble. Free images has to be of low quality, also the collection is defined for some categories. I used them.

    Infographs are taking the world, they are much detailed analysis with image presentation.

    The best is indeed the handcrafted ones, but it is very time consuming.

    Nice post Neil.

  39. Hi,

    I agree with you 100%, though, as you said, finding those type of images and using those type of images can be very time consuming. For someone who has a lot going on and who is very busy, where blogging is not a full time job, it can be daunting. But, anyone who is serious should put in the work to increase their shares. Find relevant images that fir the title and gives a glimpse of what the reader is about to read about. I think images sometimes can be just as important as the headline. Thanks for sharing! I will to pay attention more to my images!

    Regards,
    Lawrence

  40. Hi Neil
    Great article.
    I personally use Flickr images only, of course always giving credit and a link back to the author.
    It works for me. I think that is one of the best places to find good quality photos.

    Scott

  41. Hi Neil,
    I felt glad on reading your post.

    Royalty free and stock photography images are good for newbie bloggers.
    Hand drawn graphics, animated graphics are not everyone’s cup of tea.
    Infographics consume a major part of blogger’s valuable time. And fortunately if it goes viral the reward would also be enormous.
    Screen shots and charts can be used in some kinds of posts only.

    I would like to add one more type,

    The images that are taken from our own mobile or camera, can be the best choice. Though it may have some limitations like time consuming, quality etc, it still have many advantages like freshness and no copyright issues.

    Thanks Neil, once again.

  42. Finding appropriate images is one of the tedious tasks in blogging.

    When I started blogging I found it very hard because I had heard that using licensed images can be a reason legal dispute as well.

    Images at QuickSprout are always very professional which makes it an awesome blog to read.

    At my blog I have complied few sites where bloggers can get professional images..

    http://www.bloggingcage.com/get-free-stock-images/

    Hope this article would help many people.

  43. Hi Neil,
    I was in the middle of writing my blog on big data visualization when you published this. So I am commenting after I published my blog at spideropsnet.com/blogs. You always have great content and great advice for us to follow. I have found a new way of putting information on blogs using interactive graphs. Please visit my blog on big data visualization for a sample.
    Regards,
    Ganapathi

  44. I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
    I will bookmark your weblog and check again here frequently.
    I am quite certain I will learn many new stuff right here!
    Good luck for the next!

Speak Your Mind

*