As far as "web content" is concerned, few ingredients get overlooked as often as images do. That's kind of surprising, given that they make an instant impact, and can make or break a first impression.

finding that diamond in the rough images for your site

Because no part of your online marketing plan is unimportant, we want to see you make the most of the images on your business website. Here are some of my fav strategies for finding those diamonds in the rough:

1. Create written content with images in mind. The best way to marry images with text is to think about that relationship ahead of time. In other words, create blog posts and other text content with a thought towards what kind of image you might use in conjunction.

2. Look for colours and shapes. Common sense tells you that, when you're trying to attract attention, it makes sense to use attention-grabbing images. Keep that in mind as you look through your collection. Try this tip: when selecting stock images, start a few pages deep (many people are too lazy to go beyond that point - leaving lots of great images unused), scan thumbnails without looking too closely. Pay attention to what catches your eye at a glance. It’s very likely that colour block, a very simple image or perhaps a face is what gets your attention. No surprise there, as people are naturally drawn to eyes and bright colours, while tending to avoid complexity.

3. Don't be afraid to spend a little money to make an impact. While free stock images and Creative Commons free use images do exist, keep in mind that a good image is a bit like a tie or a scarf – you might feel silly spending a lot of money on one until you see how well it brings everything else together. As with most things in life, shopping the bargain bin isn't always a great strategy. And realize that clip art and often-seen images just don’t make any manner of good impression.

4. Know the difference between stock images and "stock images." There are images that are available for purchase, and those that just scream "fake." You want images that have a bit of personality and fit what you are talking about.

5. Use images that are safe for readers and viewers to pass along. If something in your marketing content (either written or visual) seems a bit risqué, there’s a chance others might not pass it along. So, stick to a what will resonate with your audience.

6. Consider getting your own custom images. Many companies decide that custom images or photos must be too expensive without ever exploring the possibilities. Often, by getting a batch done all at once, or having a bit of editing done to an existing image, you can get a unique visual at a fair price.

7. Remember that drawings, videos and animations count, too. Most of us tend to associate website images with photos, and indeed they tend to be the most prevalent. But, drawings, videos and animations can make an impact, too, so consider sprinkling them in with other forms of content.

8. Once you’ve got a great image, it’s time to consider placement. In my experience, right-justifying images is usually better than left. The reason being that word wrap on list-type items seldom flow well around an image. Whereas a right-justified image can fill any gaps and helps word-wrap flow better. Those websites that have the room for larger images may want to consider centred full-width for big impact. I personally only apply left-justification to small images, and away from any list items.

9. Try incorporating graphs and charts. Likewise, graphs and charts can tell a story or convey information in a way that words or other images can. Consider using them when you're trying to explain a before-and-after relationship, or something with strict numerical values. Be aware that these types of images do better within a story that headlining them.

10. Use screen grabs to explain situations or step-by-step processes. Sometimes, you don't need fancy images to show off a practice or idea. In those cases, simple step-by-step screen grabs can do a better job of explaining, or supplementing an explanation, that anything else can.

11. Don't forget to title and ALT tag all of your great images. By adding the right titles and tags to your images, you make them easier to find (and are fantastic from a search engine optimization standpoint).

As we all know, a great picture is worth a thousand words… and possibly at least as many clicks. So, make the most of your image content, because it could be an important but overlooked part of your online marketing strategy.

Some of my top image sites: istockphoto.com and veer.com

So, share... What strategies do you use to get the best images possible?

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By Randy Milanovic