1. No unicorns: Relevance and proper tone are essential
Example: Bob sells life and long-term care insurance, and he wants to add some compelling imagery to his agency’s homepage. His young nephew, an aspiring graphic designer, suggests that he use some cool photos of twenty-something hipsters.
Bad idea, right? Yup. It’s misguided because twenty-something hipsters have about as much relevance to Bob’s product and target market as … unicorns. Not only will such images cause confusion among his desired audience, they may cause frustration. In any online marketing endeavor, relevance is key.
2. No mug shots or mystery meat: Know when to call the pros
Top real estate agencies clearly understand the value of professional photography. Most of their agents and brokers have professionally snapped headshots on their personal sites and marketing materials. It’s easy to see the impact these have when you see amateur mug shots—they look pretty bad in comparison, don’t they?
Here’s another example of when to call the pros: If you’re a restaurateur, caterer or pastry chef, persuasive images are essential. Photos will either cause cravings or nausea among prospects. Similarly, a landscape architect or interior designer will want imagery that shows their work in the best possible light.
3. No funhouse images: Don’t distort photos
The biggest indication of a hack small business site—and as far as prospects can tell, a hack small business—is one that’s littered with distorted photos that evoke funhouse mirror reflections.
Distorted and/or blurry photos tell the viewer, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing,’ or worse, ‘I don’t care about the details.’ No small business owner—regardless of the industry—wants to send that message!
4. Consider the blind (people and spiders): Optimizing for search
It’s a common misunderstanding that search engine spiders can’t see pictures. They can—but you have to paint a picture with words. That’s where ‘Alt text’ comes into play. Meant to aid blind Internet users, Alt text describes image content (but doesn’t show up on the page). Search engines read this text too, so it’s an online marketing best practice to give short but precise descriptions of your graphics and photos, and when logical, include target keywords that consumers may use when searching for your products and services.
5. Go easy on the gloss: Avoid overly slick images
Jakob Nielsen has been observing online user habits and crunching numbers since the dawn of the Internet. Every online marketing expert listens to his rules because they’re backed by empirical research. In his article “Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design,” he advises webmasters to avoid displaying “anything that looks like an advertisement.” Why? Because people have developed quite a knack for tuning out ads.
Also, it all goes back to rule number one regarding relevance and tone. In some industries, gloss sells. In others, gloss seems out of place and raises red flags among consumers.
As a small business, your site is the keystone of your online marketing efforts. By taking a little time and money to find the right imagery, you’ll establish more credibility and trust among visitors—setting you up to close more sales. (Because that’s what this online marketing business is all about.)
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