June 21, 2018
Ah, yes, a face that launched a thousand websites and, possibly, had the same effect on them as the iceberg had on the Titanic! Okay, this guy’s beard is impressive but by no means unique, and as for his image, well, it’s everywhere! Stock photos are a great solution if you want professional quality images on your site, but don’t want to shave your savings account any more than this guy wants to shave his beard.
However, they’ve got their downsides and, although some stock images are better than others, there are plenty of reasons for avoiding them altogether. Generic content of any kind can kill your website and get potential customers clicking away, surprisingly quickly.
Stock photos are, compared to the alternative, cheap as chips. You buy a licence for a small fee and hey presto you have professional looking images all over your website. Professional is the keyword here! Yes, we’re all photographers these days, but most of us are actually a bit rubbish at producing high-quality professional images.
The one-click approach to sourcing visual elements (combined with their low cost) is, however, where the advantages of using stock images ends. So, why do many people shy away from creating high quality original content? There’s a one-word answer here – cost. This is where many small-to-medium companies wuss-out! Why pay more for original content and imagery when you can use a stock photo and boring generic content?
Let’s continue with trust. It’s a big issue on the internet and has been from day one. Is the hunky guy you’ve been dating online quite what he cracks up to be? Or is 30-something Amadeo from Naples actually 60-something Bert from Swindon? The latter is probably more probable! Dating aside, when it comes to online marketing, the first thing you need to gain is your potential customers’ trust.
This is where that costly original content comes in; compare a generic ‘contact our helpful customer service‘ image with a photo of your own staff and you can begin to understand why real, original images are the starting point for building trust.
We’ve all seen that approachable, often blonde, usually female individual with the headset and the cheerful, if insincere, smile. In fact, like the bearded gentleman above, we’ve seen her a million times and one thing we know, immediately, is that she certainly isn’t a customer service agent! Instinctively, people begin to think that your ‘helpful customer service team‘ just doesn’t exist.
It’s important to keep it real – at all times! You’re a real person, with a real business – so why place fake models on your website? You might not be the best-looking bunch but that doesn’t matter. Placing real people and images of your company on site makes your whole business more approachable. Take the Content Juice Blog as an example – we could have used stock images for our author bio inserts, but we didn’t. We used our ugly faces instead. Why? Because we really do exist and we’re not afraid to show you that!
Although they’re highly guarded secret formulas, Google’s algorithms are well known to prefer a diet of original, useful and high-quality content. Google, in fact, has never made much of a secret about it wanting to see this kind of content and will reward it with high ranks in search results. The bottom line here is cash, Google has a fair bit of that, and that is down to reputation.
It’s (largely) a trusted search engine, but that trust depends on it turning up relevant, useful and high-quality content for users, one hundred per cent of the time. Google knows the importance of this type of experience and has consistently sought to provide it. Google robots feed on content rich diets but only because the end-user (humans) requires it.
If you’ve wowed one person with your content, then they’ll likely pass it on. If it’s a great set of images, interesting, useful or just plain funny content – it’ll get shared. This type of marketing (word of mouth) is the oldest in the book and possibly one of the most powerful forms. When someone you trust recommends a product/page to you, then you tend to take the product itself on trust too. This gets you, as the seller, past that first hurdle with virtually no pain at all!
So far, this post has talked mostly about images and, it’s well known, that every picture speaks a thousand words. For many products and services, original and professional images are crucial. They’ll whet the appetite of your customers and hopefully get them hovering close to that ‘add to cart’ button, if not clicking on it immediately.
But what about the rest of your content? Written content, whether it’s a hundred or a thousand words, needs to match the quality of the rest of your content. If possible, it should even better it; while images tell stories quickly, words are the long form and words really can be powerful things. Whilst we all know not to believe everything we read in the papers, people do have something of a respect for the written word.
Whether it’s your blog, product descriptions, your ‘about us‘ or your ‘contact‘ section – don’t rely on basic, generic written content. Get creative, be individual and by doing so you’ll give your site personality, not banality, character and voice. People just love that!
Keeping it real, being honest and providing high-quality content for your customers will go a long, long way to gaining their trust. It’s the sort of content that not only improves your chances of selling to, and building relationships with, your clients but will also be lapped up by Google and its many algorithms. Stock images, however impressively bearded, and generic content, simply can’t compete with that!