Use These Free Image Tools to Boost Social Shares and Arouse Interest

shutterstock_133031378In the spirit of the “there’s no such thing as a dumb question” maxim, let me ask you this: What do you notice first on a webpage or blog: the first paragraph, the headline, or the main graphic?
It’s never the first paragraph and more often than not, it’s the graphic that catches your eye. Unfortunately, many bloggers and others who depend on readership fail to bother with a good graphic at the top of their articles. There’s really no excuse for this because there are many easy and free ways to create graphics that combine illustrations and words for your website.
Making a habit out of incorporating good graphics with your website copy will pay off in several ways. Among the benefits communicative graphics can deliver are:
• Increased content delivery,
• Arousing interest in your content,
• Brand messaging, and
• More social sharing.
Let me elaborate further on those points and then I’ll steer you toward some sites where you can easily put together good graphics to illustrate your blogs and website copy.

Marrying a photo with type

In many cases, your graphics can communicate one of the most important ideas you want your readers to get. The right marriage of a photo with a few words can be powerful and memorable. Think of some of the billboards you pass on the highway. They have a strong image and a few well-chosen words.
In a similar way, when the brain processes an image it uses different areas of the brain than when it processes words alone. Tossing an illustration or photo at your website visitors gives you more “pulling power” to draw them into reading what you have to say.
There are at least two good ways well-designed graphics can further your brand messaging. First, the images you select communicate style and tone which makes an impression about your brand. Second, when you combine images with type, it’s often a good idea to include your brand or URL someplace within the type. That visually reinforces your brand immediately and also gives you “branding power” if it is shared in the social media.
And speaking of social media, content that includes images command more social shares than plain old words…with apologies to the English language.

Free tools, free images

If you aren’t a Photoshop power user – or don’t want to invest in the software – there are several excellent places online where you can merge images and text to make powerful graphics. Some of the most popular are:
These online apps have greatly increased in power over the years. They often have their own gallery of free images you can use. Sometimes they charge small fees for other images or features. They generally let you upload your own images as well.
If you’re a Mac user, Apple’s Pages makes it easy to combine type and include things like drop shadows or reflections. Software such as PowerPoint can also be used to make good imagery.
I won’t delve deeply into acquiring the images here, but there are plenty of public domain and Creative Commons images you can use. With public domain you don’t have to give attribution. With Creative Commons you usually do. A good place to start is by searching Google Images. Once there, click on Search Tools > Labeled for reuse > Labeled for reuse.
Sometimes I go straight to because all the images there are public domain. If you’re creating an infographic or going for the new flat user interface feel, you can probably make good use of the free icons at The Noun Project, many of which are public domain.
Whatever system you decide to use, you’ll soon become an expert; cranking out images to accompany your writing will take very little time and extra effort will benefit you significantly in the long term.

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