As marketers we are told every day, content is king when it comes to generating website traffic, no questions asked. However there is a very close second when it comes to what website-owners should focus on next and it is sadly often over-looked.
Having recently re-launched our website, and ever-keen to improve our user-experience and fine tune every detail, I approached a company who specialised in just that.
With more than 20 years in the industry and looking at their portfolio of work, I could see they clearly knew what they were talking about.
Speaking to the director, David, in his own words, the single most important thing about a website are the images - these are absolutely essential for keeping a reader engaged and giving your site an interesting and appealing look & feel.
With this in mind, the quality of the images we used on our homepage came up early in the discussion, where he basically said that almost all the images were pretty uninspiring, to the point where in his opinion it would turn readers away.
I then explained that the images we use are provided by our clients, and we have no control over what they send, which as you can imagine led to a stalemate, and has put us in a rather awkward situation - how can we ask our lovely clients to improve their images!?
Joking, David suggested I wrote a blog post about it, so ladies and gentlemen this is that blog post!
In our defence David also asked how our engagement was, so I sent him the below screenshot of the previous day's analytics:
He was to put it mildly pretty bloody impressed saying that our engagement is better than some of the sites he has worked on that have millions of visitors each month - he had never heard of a 2.15% bounce rate before.
(The bounce rate is when a reader comes to your site and leaves after a few seconds - hence a low bounce rate means the reader stuck around, which of course is what every website owner wants)
He even joked ‘So why do you need my help!?”
I explained I am a simply a perfectionist and have set myself a challenging target that I would like to achieve by the end of 2018.
A website with professional & interesting images that ignite an emotion, creates an immediate connection with the reader. A website with poor quality, dull imagery will lose appeal
Of course this same strategy can't be applied to corporate businesses, however, why not replace the dog with one of your team members? (minus the bandage of course!)
Proof that quality images improve reader engagement
We have A LOT of data and I study it meticulously. For example, social posts with images will receive far more engagement and will always be shown to more followers (Well that was the case until Facebook recently reduced the number of business page followers posts are displayed to, to about 1% the money grabbing @*£$&!'s), however if the image is especially interesting shares & likes increase significantly.
And is it any coincidence that the most shared articles on our website this year all have images?
The top 5 most shared articles:
Gas Analysis Specialist Appoints New Director - 106 shares
But are any of those images particular ‘beautiful’? I’m sure Mrs Thompson might have something to say about that 😉
I also use heatmap software to track mouse movement & clicks, and articles with images do tend to attract more interest (although I have to say that the headline is just as important).
How to liven up PR product images
Now I am no expert when it comes to photoshop, but I wanted to create a very quick example of what can be done by an amateur like me in less than 10 minutes….
Here I have taken a very standard product image and applied a few effects to emphasise the blue and draw the eye into the picture using a glow effect.
Of course, this would not be used in brochures or catalogues, but for PR it would help make a dull product image stand out against other similar PR’s, especially in a busy magazine or news feed.
The image below was sent with a press release this week which caught my eye:
What would normally be a product image on a white background, here the silo background gives the reader an immediate idea of the application area it can be used in, and the blur/mirror effect creates an interesting surface effect.
What effects can be used to make PR images look better?
There are some great examples of simple image editing on this blog, I particularly like this saturation trick - so simple but the effect is fantastic
And who’d of thought a teacup could look so interesting!?
Of course I know product images are slightly different, however, these types of effects are simple and really do bring images to life. In many cases it’s trial and error using photoshop blend options!
You can read more about Photoshop Blend modes explained here
How to edit PR images taken on-site
A lot of pictures are taken (or could/should be taken) out on site, so using Photoshop may not be the best option. With these types of photos I would recommend Adobe Lightroom, which is especially for editing photos.
This can take a very ordinary photo and, with practice, bring it and the PR to life. Research proves people are far more likely to share posts with great images, so this time & small investment is worth the effort to maximise the impact of your PR.
In the video below, Yuri explains how to utilise split toning, saturation, as well as graduated and radial filters. For the more advanced, he provides insights on some of the neat tricks he uses to help capture the scene, it's a really interesting 5 minute watch, albeit a little overwhelming at times if you are not familiar with Lightroom!
This kind of editing will help make the photo and associated PR look far more professional and create that emotional impact that helps enhance the story further.
Some examples from me...
As a very quick example I have taken a couple of recent images we have received and using Lightroom for the absolute first time, spent 5 minutes playing with some of the effects, the before and after are below:
This is by no means a finished edit, however in the short space of time I had, by highlighting the yellow tones and sharpening some of the gradient, it has given a much better sense of depth. If this can be done for what is effectively a sewage swamp, imagine the possibilities for less ‘sticky’ subjects!
Here I wanted to emphasise the metallic colour and focus on the blue panel in the centre. It gives the system a more modern and appealing look.
With the quality of camera now available on Smartphones, why not ask your engineers to take more on-site photos? You or they could even use an app to edit the photos 🙂
I’m sure there’s an argument that there is no place for Instagram-type images in our industry, however I beg to differ. Great looking images have a far greater impact than people think - they increase a company's profile, bring articles to life and make websites look far more appealing.
Where does the responsibility lie?
The big question that I would love your feedback on below, is who is responsible for the final photo used by medias?
Should the client provide the finished photo, or should we as a news media be editing them?
In the time I spent editing these examples, I can see that once mastered, it would not take too long to edit one photo, however when you’re editing 10-15 images per day this equates to more time where we are effectively working for free - Or would you be prepared to pay additionally for a photo touch-up service?
Let me know below!