How to add value to your website using images

It’s easy to become fixated on online content as being purely text-based, with the focus on keywords and links.  We all know that pictures are worth a thousand words, and can quickly communicate your brand values.  We also know that many people scan images on a page before they settle down to read the text.  In my past life as a magazine publisher I was well aware of the importance of picture captions, and many magazines such as Q and Empire built a large part of their brand value around witty captions.  Just take a look at Shortlist, run by Emap alumnus Mike Soutar, for an object lesson in caption writing.  The modern version of the picture caption is the tag, which can send your fabulous images to new places and people across the web.  So how can you capture the value of images on your website?   Here are some ideas to inspire you to build an image gallery and use it to drive your online revenues:

1. Drive traffic to your site through image tags and image search

Adding relevant tags to your images will make them more visible to image search.  By creating a gallery on flickr or other sites you can capture the interest of new prospective customers and link them through to your own site.  Artists and photographers are doing this to promote their portfolio beyond their own site.

2. Make it easy for users to find products on your site

Shopping in the real world is a predominantly visual experience – we browse and something catches our eye.  Many e-commerce sites miss out on this by not offering a gallery of tempting product images.  Exhibition businesses are experimenting with a rolling arcade of interesting product images online to replicate the traditional show experience.  Exhibitors can upload their best product images to the show site to be visible to buyers.

3. Show off your portfolio

If the end-result of your product or service is largely visual, say if you are a garden designer, architect, interior designer or artist, your portfolio is a key part of your brand identity and helps convert visitors to enquiries.  It’s criminal not to have every project or product represented visually on your site.  Even on a low budget, using gallery services like flickr makes large visual portfolios quite achievable.

4. Encourage users to contribute images and drive traffic

Not all images need be editorially created.  Photo Answers, an enthusiast site, encouraged its users to post their best pictures for sharing and comment, and reached 70,000 images in a few months.  The gallery section drove traffic rapidly as it reached critical mass.  Recent functionality allows users to add their own custom tags to photos so they can be easily searched.  Even if your visitors are not quite this prolific, running image-based competitions will generate appealing visual content in many markets.

5. Develop new revenue streams

Magazine publishers who have a valuable archive including images, are keen to upload these to the web, and make it easy for users to view, browse, search and purchase copies of their greatest images.  You need to have set up a suitable copyright agreement with the photographer if they are freelance.  I know of one publisher who pays freelances a tiny amount per view and then shares the revenue on sales.

I’d be keen to hear from anyone who has used an extensive image gallery to drive traffic and revenues on their website and has ideas to share.

Carolyn Morgan’s consultancy business, Penmaen Media, creates practical digital media and marketing strategy for businesses that want to use the web to grow their revenues.  If you’d like to discuss how you can better exploit images on your website, please contact us for an initial conversation