You live in a world where you have to look over your shoulder each time you use, cite, quote, link out to another person’s work.
It’s especially true when it comes down to finding great free images to add more visual appeal to your blog posts.
Why bother adding images to blog posts?
Blog post images help increase website traffic.
- Images make your blog posts more readable.
Did you know that your readers don’t, in fact, READ your blog posts? They scan them. Adding visuals keeps them engaged with your content.
- Images make your blog posts more shareable.
Articles with an image once every 75-100 words got double the amount of shares of articles with fewer images. (Buzzsumo, 2015)
- Images make your blog posts more linkable.
Adding blog post images gives you a fighting chance to beat this sad stat: 50% of content gets 8 or fewer shares and 75% gets zero links.
Here are a few more fun stats to show you why vision trumps other senses.
- In the brain, neurons devoted to visual processing take up about 30% of the cortex, compared with 8% for touch and just 3% for hearing. (Discover Magazine)
- MIT neuroscientists say we can process an image in as little as 13 milliseconds (MIT, 2014)
- Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%. (Brain Rules)
- Colored visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%. (Xerox, 2014)
- Eye-tracking studies show readers pay close attention to information-carrying images. In fact, when the images are relevant, readers spend more time looking at the images than they do reading text on the page. (Nielsen Norman Group)
- People following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations. (Research)
- Articles with an image once every 75-100 words got double the amount of shares of articles with fewer images. (Buzzsumo, 2015)
- Facebook updates with images had an amazing 2.3x more engagement than those without. (Buzzsumo, 2015)
- 52% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI. (Syndacast, 2015)
- Marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users. (Traffic Generation Café, 2016)
You should definitely read this content repurposing post to learn how to REALLY use visuals to drive traffic and leads.
BOTTOM LINE: Including visuals in your content makes it more
What do you mean by ‘free’ blog post images?
Most people, when searching for ‘free’ images for blog posts, are searching for images that won’t cost $$$.
Money, however, should be the LEAST of your concerns.
An ideal FREE image is free of copyrights, can be copied, modified, distributed, and used, even for commercial purposes, without asking for permission or giving credits to the artist.
Why is this so important?
Simple. The last thing your business needs is to be sued for using an image you had no rights to use.
And if you think you are too small of a fish for anyone to care… think again.
Ana’s sad tale of using ‘free’ images in a SlideShare presentation
A few months ago, I created a Slideshare presentation on how to get more Facebook fans based on James Bond movies.
It was appropriately called “10 Killer Ways to Get More Facebook Fans James Bond Style” and looked like this:
It was awesome, edgy, and landed over 100,000 views on Slideshare.
Then, lo and behold, I got a DMCA notice from Slideshare:
We received a DMCA complaint from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. and Danjaq LLC regarding your file and the use of 007 property claiming that it infringed on their intellectual property and rights.
Apparently, my insignificant Slideshare presentation had upset some people at MGM!
Now that I know better, I get it.
However, back then, it simply didn’t occur to me that mentioning James Bond could get me into trouble…
On top of that, I thought I was using images licensed under Creative Commons!
Thankfully, Slideshare allowed me to re-upload the Bond-free version of the same presentation. (That’s just ONE of reasons I love SlideShare – it allows you to re-upload presentations without losing the views!)
This is what it looks like now:
Not longer edgy, but completely legal! 😃 👍
So you think you can use an image as long as . . .
Let’s take a look at some of the ill-conceived, yet very common ways folks justify using other people’s images.
Attribution Doesn’t Make it Right
That’s right: giving attribution to the image creator doesn’t give you the right to use their work.
“Taking another person’s image or graphic and giving them a “shout out,” linkback, or any other type of attribution does not negate copyright infringement.
Common sense may say that an artist wants exposure for their work, but we’re talking about the law here and common sense doesn’t always parallel.
Copyright law gives the copyright holder the right to decide where their work is published and maybe they don’t want their work on your site, in your book, included in your newsletter or distributed to your social media network. It’s not for us to question why they wouldn’t want exposure.”
Their Image, Their Rules
I thought I did everything right when creating this presentation: found Creative Commons-licensed photos and gave appropriate attribution.
Yet I still got a comment from one of the image owners:
Mind you, Creative Commons licensing doesn’t require me to include attribution ON the image itself, but in the end, it’s his photo, his rules.
BOTTOM LINE: when using other people’s images in your blog posts, you’d better be aware of image licensing requirements, plus be ready to fix things if and when trouble comes – even if you think you’ve done everything right.
If you don’t think it’s a big deal, here are just some examples of why you might want to reconsider.
- This agency got sued $8,000 for using an image on a blog post that got less than 100 visitors. They called it their “most costly mistake since starting the business”.
- Likewise, this agency got sued $4,000 for an image that would have originally cost $10.
- This company was republishing newspaper content under a CC licence for others to use. However they didn’t have a licence from the original creators of the content to do that, so they got sued.
- Persephone Magazine used an image with a Creative Commons licence and were later sued for $1,500 for using it. It turned out the photo did not belong to the person who uploaded it with a CC licence, which led to 73 companies being sued who used it.
- GoodReads faced one of the biggest copyright cases ever, when they were sued $150,000 for an image someone uploaded of a boy band member.
(hat tip to Why Your Blog Images Are A Ticking Time Bomb at for these examples – you can find several more in that post)
So no more of this please:
Additional resources on image licensing
- Blogger’s Guide to Copyright and DMCA – Natalie Mootz at blogging.com
- Creative Commons Licenses Explained In Plain English – Sara Hawkins at sarafhawkins.com
- About The Licenses – at creativecommons.org
- Creative Commons on Flickr – Creative Commons explanation at flickr.com
When in doubt, use Reverse Image Lookup
Not sure whether the image in question is free of copyright shackles? Do a reverse image search to see if you can track down the original source.
TinEye.com is the best free tool for the job – simply enter the image URL and TinEye search results will return all instances of this particular image found online.
10 2 sites to find the best free blog post images
Let me start with a quick disclaimer: there used to be 10 royalty-free image aggregators listed below.
I no longer trusted a few websites to do what they claimed to do – provide us, website owners looking to legally use images for the content we create, with exactly that – images we could, with all confidence, use in our content.
Take, for instance, Compfight.com, a site that aggregates Creative Commons images from Flickr.
Here’s what you might see when searching for an image at Compfight.
- That’s an ad from DepositPhotos.com (one of the two sites I actually happen to love and recommend.)
- “All rights reserved” link leads to a Yahoo! Help page that walks you through setting up a Flickr account (no explanation of what “All rights reserved” actually means.) And by “All rights reserved”, by the way, Flickr means you MAY NOT use this image in any way, shape, or form… duh! YET…
- Apparently, as long as you give attribution (a link) to the image owner AND Compfight, you can use the image however you please… (NOT!!!)
- A link to buy images from Shutterstock.
I CRINGE when I think how many a content creator might’ve been mislead by this gross misrepresentation of Creative Commons licence… that could lead YOU, the content creator (NOT Compfight!) to a legal battle with an image creator.
And, believe you me, Compfight is FAR not the only image site carelessly encouraging you to do something that’s a bit legal (and common sense!) no-no.
2. LESS IS MORE
This morning, I was working on a new Lesson for my Content Boomerang Students.
Content Boomerang is a content repurposing training I offer to website owners who want to see greater returns from their content marketing efforts – more TRAFFIC and LEADS, to be more precise.
After all, you work hard to create that content, to begin with… doesn’t it make sense to milk it for all it’s worth instead of letting it rot in your archives?…. Click here if you agree.
Here’s exactly what I wrote in the Lesson:
I could easily named a few dozen websites you could get your images from.
However, it would be completely counterproductive. The last thing you need is to go down the rabbit hole of looking for that one ‘perfect’ image.
Here are the two websites you’ll EVER NEED to find the right image for any occasion.
That got me thinking…
Why am I telling my Students EXACTLY where I go image-hunting for all my blog posts, as well as countless content repurposing projects I work on?…
Yet, I am doing a disservice to you, my Reader, by giving you a lot more than you actually need to get the job done?…
Why am I competing with when what you really need is to get out of the time-wasting rabbit hole and just GET IT DONE?
Thus, gone is the list of one-too-many ‘free’ image aggregators.
Here are the only two free image sites you need to get the job done.
Pixabay.com is my favorite go-to site for free images – free to use, as well as free to acquire – meaning you don’t have to pay to download an image.
A few ‘good-to-knows’ about Pixabay:
1. Create a free Pixabay account
I highly recommend to do so. Registering is free and, once a member, you’ll be able to follow photographers you like and favorite (i.e. ‘save it for later’) images.
2. Narrow down your search
Pixabay offers a choice of photos, vectors, illustrations, and videos. You can also narrow down your search by a few other parameters; category and color might be the most helpful.
3. Use Editor’s Choice images for inspiration
If you are struggling with where to start your image search, check out the Editor’s Choice section. You’ll find it by scrolling down the home page or going to Editor’s Choice section. That’s the best place to start looking for that emotional connection that might be perfect to take a viewer through your presentation.
DepositPhotos image collection is a LOT better than Pixabay, but you’ll have to pay for it.
Good news is that these images are inexpensive to purchase.
Here are your plan choices (as of July 2017, see the current plan pricing here):
$1 per image is very reasonable. Shutterstock costs 3 times as much.
A few ‘good-to-knows’ about DepositPhotos:
1. Apply filters to narrow down image search
DepositPhotos has a number of helpful ways to find what you want faster.
2. Find similar images / images with the same model
I find these two features particularly helpful when I have an ‘image theme’ in mind.
For instance, in this presentation, I wanted to find images with the same mime models.
And here, I wanted to use images with the same model within retro genre.
How to Properly Add an Image to Your Post
Since we are on the subject of adding images to blog posts, let’s talk about the way it should be done.
Why is this important?
Search engines don’t ‘see’ images the way humans do – they are but strings of code to a search engine.
The more information you add to that code, the better a search engine is able to interpret and rank an image.
Yes, you are reading it right: adding relevant information to every image you upload to your blog posts could help your posts rank better.
When uploading an image to your blog, pay attention to:
1. Image File Name
BEFORE uploading an image to your site Media Library, give it a relevant, keyword-based file name.
In other words, DON’T name your image based on what it’s about. Name it based on what your post it about.
👈 This is the featured image to my Link Building: What’s Naughty, What’s Nice? post.
I didn’t name it “half-dressed woman”, although that’s pretty much what the image is of.
Rather, I named it “link building”, since that’s what my post is about.
2. Image Title
As you can see, my title is keyword-based (but NOT keyword-stuffed!).
3. Add Alternative Text
… or ALT tag (“alt” stands for alternative).
It acts like a description of the image and is another great way to use your post keywords.
Note I didn’t say “stuff with keywords”. Keyword stuffing hasn’t worked in ages and can, in fact, have a negative effect on your SEO.
4. Image Caption
That one is strictly for your readers.
That’s where it’s good to tie your image to your post if the relation is not too clear.
You can also show off your wit here by adding a joke or sarcasm – both work equally well.
5. Link URL
I almost always leave this one blank.
Since search engine spiders follow each link they find on a given page, what’s the point of sending them to the one that leads to a dead end with no content?
There are 2 exceptions I make to the no-link rule: when I want my readers to be able to enlarge an image and when I want to link it to an external resource.
There’s a LOT more to learn about images and SEO.
Recommended reading on the topic:
- SEO Image Optimization: 10 Proven Ways To Boost Yours – Taylor Manning at madlemmings.com
Final Words on Free Blog Images
Images are great to have, but they have one great flaw – they could significantly slow down your blog.
1. Resize images before uploading them to your post
Easy to do.
If you are using software like Snagit, you can easily resize the image in the Edit panel.
Alternatively, you can use free tools like Image Optimizer.
Here’s also a great WordPress tip on optimizing your images in WordPress settings – something very easy to do, yet an often overlooked step:
2. Use WP Smush.it Plugin
WP Smush.it is a free WP plugin that will automatically reduce your image files, thus improving your blog performance.
CAVEAT: this plugin is resource-intensive and could slow down your blog – the opposite of what you are trying to do.
3. Get Faster Web Hosting
If you are just starting out online, chances are your site is hosted by HostGator or BlueHost – two most popular choices in web hosting.
And that’s absolutely fine. Traffic Generation Café has been hosted at Hostgator for the first two years of its life – up until I got fed up with constant outages, restrictions, and slow loading times.
I am now with A2 Hosting and my uptime is 99.9%. Plus it really is lightning fast.
Happy free blog post image hunting!
From Ana with