A common question asked by bloggers and website designers is whether or not premium stock images make their websites “better.” In this article we will attempt to answer this question, and provide examples of how stock photos improve website design. And we will also outline situations where stock photos should never be used.
It is common for visitors to drift their eyes over images before they read the first word of text on your page. We are naturally attracted to vibrant images, and we tend to form opinions about the quality of the webpage very quickly. These first impressions greatly influence whether visitors bounce away from the page and never return, or stay and read the entire article.
It is paramount that any images chosen for inclusion on a webpage be of sufficient quality. While it might be “free” to throw up a photo you took with your own camera, you are taking a great risk if your photographs are not high quality.
To quote Google:
“Good-quality photos appeal to users more than blurry, unclear images. In addition, other webmasters are much more likely to link to a good-quality image, which can increase visits to your site. Crisp, sharp images will also appear better in the thumbnail versions we display in our search results, and may therefore be more likely to be clicked on by users.”
For this reason, spending a few dollars on a professionally photographed stock image is a cheap investment with a large payback. A well composed, attention grabbing image properly represents your blog post, or webpage, and keeps your visitors engaged.
Image Indexing = Traffic
Another reason to have high quality images on your webpage is because they get indexed by search engines. When your image gets picked up by a search engine, it gives you another source of traffic. For instance if you have a webpage about the benefits of fish oil, and you have an image of fish oil capsules on your webpage, the image will get indexed.
When someone searches for an image of fish oil capsules, chances are they will find the image which was indexed from your webpage. Clicking on it will send them to your webpage, thus giving you free traffic.
This is where having chosen a high quality image pays off. A low quality image is not likely to be clicked on, but a very nice stock photo will stand out in a lineup of indexed images.
How to Choose the Right Stock Image
Every stock photo agency should provide a search function which allows you to type in keywords based on your article or webpage topic. Once you enter your search, you will likely have many images to choose from. A second way to find image ideas is to browse an agency’s most popular photos section.
When narrowing down the search, concentrate on images which are well composed and “popping” with vibrant color. Give even more weight to images which tell their story very succinctly. Your visitors shouldn’t have to look at an image for very long to figure out the message it is conveying.
Once you find the image you want, you only have to choose the resolution you require. To be on the safe side, always choose a resolution which is slightly more than you need for your current project. You may want to crop the image after the fact for your design, or perhaps use the image in a future design where a larger size is required.
When NOT to Use Stock Images
It should go without saying that you should never use stock images to replace your company employee directory. Nor should you utilize stock images of people to suggest that they are part of your company.
While this may seem like common sense, we still see many companies using stock photos of people to suggest they are company representatives. And despite being lampooned for doing so, political campaigns routinely use stock photos to suggest the people in the photos are supporting their campaign or cause. Not only is this extremely misleading, it can lead to legal disputes by the models in the photographs.
Premium, high quality stock images clearly improve website and blog designs. They lead to better visitor engagement, and create positive first impressions. Stock images create a new source of traffic once they are indexed by search engines. Provided images are used to convey a proper story, and are never used as the face of your company or campaign, they are an important part of many web designs and blog posts.