Fellow copywriters, let’s talk. There has been so much debate about the growing importance of visual content, that one might feel threatened by it. But copywriters are not an endangered species – on the contrary.
Sure, images and video matter. But written content will always matter, too. It’s the combination of the two that makes for the best results. The better your online content looks, the more appealing it will be.
Here are a few easy tricks to make that happen.
1. More white, less grey
Despite popular belief, long form content does work. If you have a great story to tell, don’t restrain yourself to a limited word count.
Try to avoid a grey screen anywhere in an article. Grey screens happen when readers scroll down and the window is filled primarily with words, in lengthy paragraphs. This can easily evoke a feeling of fatigue and can trigger readers to stop reading.
Warning: grey screens easily evoke a feeling of fatigue and can trigger readers to stop reading.
Worst, because readers tend to scan in an F pattern, they’re probably not reading more than the first couple of sentences of your beautifully crafted paragraph anyway.
2. Create some air
If you stick to the general principles of copywriting, you will end up writing online content with extensive paragraphs covering ten or more lines. After all, each paragraph needs to have a beginning, middle and end. Online copywriting is different, however: allow yourself to hit that enter key just little more often. In fact, a very short paragraph every once in a while creates exactly the white space mentioned above.
Just like this one.
The same goes for using headers: using more of those not only creates white space, it also helps to guide readers through the article. And, just as important: headers are key to the SEO optimisation of content.
Also, including links helps to avoid grey screens.
3. Place images every 75-100 words
Research by BuzzSumo showed that articles with an image once every 75-100 words get most shares. For a 500 words blog post this means you will need to find five or six images to support your message.
4. Use good images
The quality of the images that you use impacts the attractiveness of your content. If you want to stand out as original, then don’t rely on me-too stock photo content like this:
Place yourself in the shoes of your reader: they are going to judge your content based on a first impression. If you would come across a blog post with this image, would you think that the content is very original and worth reading?
5. Play around with images
When you have found a good image to include in your online content, you can make it even better by playing around with it: cropping, adding text or applying filters can make an image more attractive. One of my favourite tools to do this is Canva: not only does it allow you to work with design templates and fixed sized images (like default sizes for Facebook headers), it’s also quite easy to add text to images, as we did for these PR and marketing quotes.
After editing you can use the MIT memorability tool to find out how well the image will stick with readers.
6. Embed (more than just video)
Embedding a video can be an appealing tactic to visualise content. But did you know that there are (much, much) more elements that can be embedded in a blog post, including Twitter and Instagram posts, Pinterest boards, Spotify playlists, podcasts, PDF documents and slides (via Slideshare)?
With Infogr.am you can create simple infographics or charts and embed them in a blog post – like the chart in paragraph 3.
Depending on the content management system (CMS) you use, you may have to copy an embed code and paste it in the HTML mode. Some CMSs, like WordPress, allow you to simply insert the URL in the WYSIWYG mode and it will automatically embed the element.
Storify is a great tool to share a set of tweets, Facebook or Instagram posts and YouTube videos. It’s especially useful if you are writing a blog post on an event with a lot of social media buzz. Embedding a Storify with top tweets, videos and photos adds a little extra meat to the bone.
Words are great images, too. If you have that one catchy phrase that you want to highlight in a text, you can visualise it by using a blockquote. Like this:
“Words are great images, too.”
9. Screen dumps
Especially when you share tips and tricks or instruction blog posts, screenshots are a great way to visualise your content. But did you know that is very easy to make a video screen recording as well?
All you need is QuickTime Player. Open the application, click File, New Screen Recording. Hit the red button to start recording:
You can either record the entire screen or just a part of it. Upload the video directly into the CMS or upload it first to YouTube or Vimeo and embed into your post.
This video on how to use the MIT Memorability Scan took 10 minutes to produce, upload and embed:
10. Go the full monty with longreads
Since the New York Times published the Snow Fall article in 2012, longreads have become a new standard in interactive visual content. A longread can best be described as long form articles that includes interactive visual content elements like images, videos, maps and animations. Typical for this type of content is parallax scrolling elements.
There are easy tools to build this type of visual content yourself, like Adobe Slate. If you want let your imagination run free and create a more customised longread, working with a graphic designer is probably the best option. Check out our recent longread on visual content to find out what this looks like.
With these 10 tips, you can quickly and easily make your online content look more visually attractive. Before hitting that Publish button, always make sure to preview content and add some visual flavour where needed.
Remember that grey matter scares readers off, so avoid comments like tl;dr by making it more visual.
Main image: tThe most popular image on Instagram in 2015, by Kendall Jenner, analysed by the MIT Memorability Scan.
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