September 06, 2013

Ignore Images at Your Own Risk: The Power of Photos for Website Traffic

A blog post is making the rounds on Facebook (NewsAlert) in which a mother writes an open letter to teen girls about scantily clad Facebook photos and how they affect teen boys. The author includes photos of her own family, in swimsuits at the beach, which has raised a cry of “hypocrisy!” in more than half the comments to her post. Her message was diminished and lost – or was it? The hubbub has driven readers and created conversation about her intended topic.

In Web content creation, images are more important than words at attracting a viewer and prompting exploration. Research group Neilson Norman has consistently found, over a decade’s worth of study, that users stay on a webpage less than a minute, reading only about a quarter of the text. And with mobile Web usage on the rise, the less text to be read the better.

Image via Shutterstock

Images first communicate a message about what we find beautiful, shocking or poignant, and secondarily tell a story about our product, services and attitude. The look and feel of our website creates a perception about our business that either connects with or repels viewers.

Facebook knows this, and restructured its personal wall pages into timelines to highlight photos. Twitter (NewsAlert) added integrated photos in 2011 and Pinterest, the online image corkboard, functions entirely off the idea of cataloging web content by image rather than link.

Consider these numbers from Jeff Bullas, one of Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers:

  • Articles with images get 94 percent more total views
  • Including a photo and a video in a press release increases views by over 45 percent
  • 60 percent of consumers are more likely to consider or contact a business when an image shows up in local search results
  • On an e-commerce site, 67 percent of consumers say the quality of a product image is “very important” in selecting and purchasing a product
  • In an online store, customers think that the quality of a products image is more important than product-specific information (63 percent), a long description (54 percent) and ratings and reviews (53 percent)
  • Engagement rate on Facebook for photos averages 0.37 percent, while text only is 0.27 percent (this translates to a 37 percent higher level of engagement for photos over text)

So how’s a busy business owner supposed to do this? There are many simple plugins that allow you to add a photostream or slideshow across a range of webpage design software. Any designer who created a custom site for you should already have recommended space for images (if they didn’t, get a new designer!). Many WordPress and Joomla standard themes have integrated slideshows or image grids and third party companies like Hi Slider offer flexible, easy to use tools to add slideshows and slider banners to blogs and websites. Hi Slider’s latest release is a full WordPress plugin which is created to work across all Web browsers and devices. Since it’s not Flash based, Apple (News Alert) users won’t have any problem seeing exactly the website you want them to see.

The power of images in creating connection, emotion and response isn’t new; think of how long we’ve carried photos in our wallets of beloved family members. But as our cultural fascination with cataloging every moment in photos continues to grow, it’s worth it to save yourself a thousand words – post a well captioned picture.

Edited by Alisen Downey


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