I curse whoever first wrote “Have an image at the top of your blog post.”
Ever since then it’s been a barrage of crappy stock photos slapped at the top of every half-assed blog post across the internet.
Take this example. Am I supposed to believe there’s an company in the world that has this many perfectly-coifed, attractive people? This looks like some kind of Children of the Corn spinoff in the making:
If I do a quick reverse image search on Google, I find that this same photo has been used 140+ times, without alteration:
How exactly is this creativity? In what frakked-up universe does this crapola actually add value to content?
Every time I see something like this, my stomach hurts.
Stock photos don’t kill me. People using un-modified, boring stock photos kill me.
I’m not anti-stock photo. I use them all the time. I love them. What I hate is folks reflexively slapping a random photo that’s vaguely business-related at the top of a blog post. It screams “I don’t give a crap.”
Which is a very long introduction to a fantastic bit of research:
Cartoons outperform stock photos 2:1
Mark Anderson at Andertoons — a great artist and a super-sophisticated marketer in his own right — tested a cartoon versus a stock photo. He had 260 people view a blog post. Half saw the post with one of his cartoons at the top. The other half saw the post with a stock photo.
The results are pretty telling:
But, if you read the whole article, the gap is even larger. In some versions of the test, he had 2:1 or 3:1 result.
Mark’s stuff is brilliant, but there’s a bigger lesson here: People prefer some creativity. If you’re going to add an image to your blog post, your options, best to worst, are:
- If your post is data-driven, why not really bend reality and present the data?!
- Original artwork, like a cartoon. It’s not expensive. Mark offers subscription services for $20/month, for example.
- A stock image, but altered. I love to use animals with speech balloons. It’s corny, but it makes me giggle in a non-too-insane manner, so I keep doing it.
- Anything but a non-altered stock image.
- A photo of your dog, Harryhausen, ripping apart a newspaper.
- A photo of that mole with a hair growing out of it that you have on your arm.
- A scan of your latest belly-button lint.
- The latest annoying internet meme.
- Really, still, not a stock image.
- A stock image.
This is not a sales pitch for Mark’s work, by the way. I get no kickbacks. But his stuff is awfully good. Check it out.
Update: In the “See! I’m not the only one!” column is this great post by the folks at Overit: How and why to use illustration in web design. I kinda want to abduct their designer to do some titles like that…