Keeping you in the picture

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed a slight change in the format of last weeks posts. They didn’t contain any images.

For years, I have invested a great deal of time trying to find interesting images for blog posts. I was of the opinion that posts needed images, yet as I discovered last week, that’s not always the case.

Images suck up lots of my blogging time

In recent months I have become increasingly aware of how long it takes me to find the right image, edit it so that it’s the correct size, then compress the image so it loads quickly, then position it so that it’s in the ideal spot within the post and then get the correct attribution, so you know who actually owns the image.

I found that I’ve been spending hours of my time on images every week, when I could be using that time to share useful ideas with you.

So, I decided to see what would happen if I posted for a week, image free.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Either no one noticed or no one was bothered, as not a single person mentioned the lack of images.
  • I have been able to add a new dynamic to the blog, by getting ideas to you a lot faster than before. Last weeks posts were all written on the day they were published. Previously, posts were written well in advance, then edited (including image work) the day before they were published. It feels a lot more natural to share ideas with you, whilst they are still fresh in my mind.
  • I’ve had more time available for blogging, allowing me to share more ideas with you than I would have been able to.
  • Posts load faster now because they use a fraction of the data they did before. This is especially useful for those of you with slow, mobile connections.

Social shares

I was expecting to see far fewer people share my posts on social networks. This didn’t happen.

It’s a fact: The image pulled from blog posts into services like Facebook or Google+, is a big factor in people seeing and resharing them. Previously, I tested this and saw a direct drop in shares when posts were on Facebook with no image associated to them. People are visual, after all.

I was able to overcome that problem by using a great little WordPress plugin, which grabs my avatar image and inserts it into my posts, when you share them on social networks. This approach has worked fine for me so far. It’s also used by brands like The Wall Street Journal and by some fellow bloggers, including Seth Godin.

The idea of going a whole week image free was to measure the impact over a full, working week. I am still going to use images in posts, but not in every post – just when one is needed.

Don’t try this at home

[quote]Blogging without images isn’t a good idea for most people reading this and I am not suggesting you try it.[/quote] I believe that a great image does add something to a blog post. This is especially the case if you need to show products regularly in your posts or if you need to show images that are linked to the visual nature of your services. Also, if you only blog once or twice a week the time saved will be minimal – across my 4 sites I sometimes publish as many as 40 posts in a month.

Images are also useful if you are big on SEO and want to optimise all your posts using image alt tags.

As I never optimise images for SEO and I don’t offer a particularly visual service, these reasons are less compelling for me. They could be a lot more relevant to you and your blog though, so please don’t copy this approach unless it’s in line with what you want to achieve.

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