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The Power of Visual Content #semrushchat

Elena Terenteva
The Power of Visual Content #semrushchat

A few years ago, words were enough to attract new audience members and keep existing customers engaged. But today, ensuring that your content is fresh and that people find it captivating and worthy of their time is a serious challenge. Of course, text is still important, but content is evolving and visuals are gaining more power.

In our last SEMrush Chat, we discussed the power of visual content and how marketers can keep pace with the latest trends. Pauline Cabrera, web designer, social media manager, SEO strategist, and owner of the successful blog TwelveSkip, provided visual content marketing insights and fresh content formats, along with our other Chat participants.

What makes visual content so powerful

To start with, we wanted to figure out why the power and value of visual content increased. Have you noticed how fast social networks like Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat grow? Posts with images are likely to get more exposure, likes, and shares. Just look at this research by Xerox: color gains readership by 80 percent and increases comprehension by 70 percent. And these are just a few examples. Bill Slawski @bill_slawski explains the growing power of visuals: “A picture allows you to show things words can't possibly paint; it can take viewers on a new journey.”

Web designers always seem, to me, like new age artists who are able to create a masterpiece that will attract online audiences. A good designer knows the principles of creating relevant and interesting designs. Our special guest also points out what make a headline thrilling, captivating and intriguing.

You can also find several curious facts in this article posted on Canva’s Design School page about the human brain and why it’s so responsive to visual information. It’s really interesting that people associate certain colors with good experiences and certain colors with bad ones.

For example, social networks like Facebook and Twitter successfully use blue and white as their brand colors, because they’re pleasing to our brain and they evoke freshness.

 Each color is associated with certain feelings and moods. Many advertisers use this to improve audience comprehension and learning. Facebook and Twitter are just a few of examples of companies that successfully use the power of color and visuals.

For instance, red stimulates the appetite, and that’s why many restaurants and food brands use it (e.g., McDonald’s and Kellogg’s), while yellow represents warmth, cheerfulness and clarity (it’s used by companies like National Geographic and Ikea).

 Visuals grab people’s attention and better engage them because they tell a complete story. As Miles Technologies ‏@milestech said: “Visuals trigger reactions and tell a story.”

 Let’s consider cave drawings. Humans didn’t have a writing system in those days, and they often explained their thoughts through artwork on rocks. They could visualize things; it was an intuitive and simple way to communicate.

Q1 recap

Visual content helps to evoke emotions, and it can tell a story on your behalf. So make your story interesting, engaging and thought-provoking. As Pauline Cabrera @Twelveskip recommends, “make people hungry for more of your content.”

psychological triggers

One key element to success for any business (and perhaps even the most important one) is understanding human behavior and psychology. If you understand peoples’ emotional triggers, you can influence their decisions. This is the power that every marketer wants to possess.

Curiosity is one of the strongest psychological triggers. It inspires action and increases brain activity. A great design and headline will intrigue people and make them think. Not only should they like it, but they should want to know more and believe that you will tell and show them something that they’ve never heard or seen before.

Keep in mind that piquing your audience’s curiosity is difficult, but meeting their expectations can be even harder.

As Pauline recommends, don’t forget to ask yourself the following questions: “Do I let people know what kind of outcome or benefits they can expect? Is my visual exciting enough?”

Two initial feelings that drive human actions are the desire to avoid pain and the desire to gain pleasure. Actually, this principle was introduced by Sigmund Freud. These are the most powerful driving forces; if marketers want to influence their audience, they should encourage people to believe that having your product/service is a pleasure, while not having it is a pain.

One way or another, some of our Chat participants also mentioned this principle:

 Think what feelings and emotions you want to evoke in people. A lot depends on your intentions and goals:

 Try to understand what’s really important to your targeted audience, as Mediabistro ‏@Mediabistro suggested along with our other guests: “People engage with content that strikes a chord with their emotions. Understand what's important to your users.”

Many will probably agree that there is almost nothing worse than boring content: perhaps the topic is tedious, has already been covered multiple times, or lacks fresh ideas. In other words, it’s boring! Something provocative can surprise and hook people. Try to tease your readers a bit, but always know where to stop.

Finally, Chris Desadoy ‏@EliteYouTubePro made a very good point, saying that even good visuals can bring negative results if presented improperly:

You can also find interesting pointers on using behavioral triggers with visual and emotional content in Luke Summerfield’s article.

triggers in visual content marketing

Understand the values that drive your customers and what their beliefs are. Make sure that the emotional triggers you use smoothly intertwine with your brand.

Cheap visuals

Let’s admit it, we love free stuff! And luckily there are quite a few free tools that allow us to create pretty good images, infographics and other types of content. We asked our Chat participants how they create splendid visuals without wasting their budget. So be sure to save this checklist with great tips from our experts!

How to create visuals for free

visual marketing trends

The online space has already become very rich in visuals. And it seems that the emphasis on different formats of visual content will continue to increase. 79 percent of internet traffic will be video content by 2018, according to WebDAM. We asked our guests to share their thoughts on this topic and try to predict some visual marketing trends.

As we noticed during the chat, many experts assume that the demand for video content will increase, and in response to this, a lot of companies will begin to focus on this format. What’s more, short videos are also gaining power:

Rohan Ayyar @searchrook agrees with the previous statement, adding one more visual content format to use: “short video clips and GIFs with text overlays.”

Don’t underestimate digestible content that’s meant to grab viewers’ attention and compel them to come back for more. ”Infographics still have life; short, snackable videos and GIFs are key. The interactivity of content is becoming more important,” according to MOI ‏@MOIglobal.

Live-stream videos are said to be another important trend in the near future. Apps like Periscope and Meerkat represent an absolutely new social medium and have gained explosive popularity.

Olga pointed out the importance of a simple and easy-to-comprehend design, and I couldn’t agree more. The same goes for infographics. It’s great when you provide unique data, interesting facts and insights with your infographic, but you should also ensure that it’s not confusing and that viewers will easily understand what you’re trying to say.

Interactive elements provide an amazing, engaging user experience. Using interactivity helps to trigger emotional connections and can turn passive visitors into active users who browse your website with pleasure.

I also recommend using the color palette provided by Debi Norton ‏@BRAVOMedia1, which demonstrates which emotions each color evokes:   

In the near future, marketers will focus on telling stories that embrace their brand. 

visual marketing trends

From what has been said, we can conclude that soon visual content will be a key element of any successful marketing strategy.

visuals and lead generation

The marketing landscape has been changing and visual content is on the rise today. This means that whatever your goal is, you should pay attention to emerging content formats in order to keep up with your competitors. We wanted to find out if there are any ways to generate leads using your visual content.

Even the most stunning images and infographics require a catchy headline. One of the most popular tools is Portent’s Content Idea Generator. Just type in your subject and it will offer you multiple variants for your headline.

Pauline suggests several other ideas: “Blog about it and optimize for search engines, and promote on social media (your own channels and groups).”

Your content, whether it’s an image, infographic or video, can give you the power to understand and influence your customers. It should clearly and intelligibly deliver them your message. Content that you produce should trigger not just emotions, but also actions, as ThinkSEM ‏@ThinkSEM explains:

Content can be an effective tool for building credibility and trust, but only when it’s high-quality and consistent, as Ecreativeworks ‏@ECWseo pointed out: “Be consistent in posting visual content that draws people in. When they realize they like your message, they'll come back.”

Indeed, every good story must be consistent, including your message, tone, and your product itself, because consistency creates accountability and establishes a brilliant reputation for your brand with people.

Make sure that your CTA buttons are effective and enticing. Otherwise, it will be much harder for you to achieve your goals. Leaving out CTAs hinders important interaction.

Jerome Joseph Gentes ‏@JJGentes stressed the importance of measuring your results: “Analytics and data science on visual content and content marketing are key. If it doesn't click, fix.” Don’t be blind to what’s working and what’s not. But we’ll return to the subject a little bit later.

Some of our Chat participants proposed that building a lead-generation funnel around visuals is not the best option:

Chris Desadoy ‏@EliteYouTubePro continues that “you should create a lead-generation funnel that solves a problem or answers a question, and then create visuals that support it.”

turn visual content into a lead-generating channel

As Pauline Cabrera ‏@TwelveSkip advises, “create a powerful visual then focus on promoting it,” which brings us to our next question.

visual content distribution

So your gorgeous visuals have been created and you’re ready to rock. What’s your next move? How will you distribute your content? Here’s how our guests answered.

Pauline recommends using different social networks for different content formats: “Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram: for short videos. YouTube: for longer videos!”

Also, you should choose a particular social channel according to your industry as Moin Inaam ‏@MoinInaam suggested: “The answer depends on which industry you are into! Pinterest is best for food, Instagram is best for fashion.” It’s really interesting that some industries focus on certain social networks, instead of trying to grasp all of them. But there are already several food and drink brands that seem to do pretty well with Instagram.

This is not a new topic, and some people think that videos can improve CTRs for your email marketing campaigns. But you should be careful and understand whether or not it’s appropriate to include videos in emails to all your clients. You can discover several useful tips in the article posted on Kissmetrics’ blog “How to Include Video in Your Email Marketing.”

Open Graph was introduced by Facebook as early as 2010. It allows you to turn pages on your website into so-called Facebook “rich graph objects”, so they will have the same functionality as any other object on Facebook.

The keynote here is that today, all of the major social networks recognize Open Graph tags, and because these social platforms can drive a huge amount of traffic to your website, using tags can affect your CTRs and conversions.

Finally, as some of our experts believe, great visuals will work well on every possible platform:

visual content distribution

When choosing channels for distributing your visuals, think about where your audience is. This should be one of the initial steps of your marketing campaign.

how to measure visual content success

Last but not least, we discussed a topic that is of great interest to many marketers today. Our special guest offered several benchmarks that will cast light upon your visual content’s performance:

Apply the same tactics that you use when measuring your success with other content formats. Set your goals and KPIs, as MOI ‏@MOIglobal recommends:

According to Curata, there are several key categories of metrics that you should be measuring, based on your goals and channels: consumption, retention, sharing, engagement, leads, sales and production/costs metrics.

Here are several other good examples provided by Aamina Suleman ‏@thinkdesignvis: “Use key metrics to measure visual content: subscriptions, reshares, comments, session duration, bounce rate, downloads, and views.”

When defining your KPIs, do it for each stage of your campaign:

Scott Johnson ‏@iScottJohnson pointed out that it’s crucial to know whether or not you’re reaching your most influential users: “Who is sharing your content? Are you reaching influential users?”

Basically, this approach is a “backward” way of getting new customers. Instead of going for leads, likes, shares, and other objectives, marketers can focus on customer service, which can eventually bring new leads. With the help of the inverted funnel approach, you can make your audience feel important, rewarding their own efforts and success.

Let’s sum up!

key metrics for measuring visual content success

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Elena Terenteva, Product Marketing Manager at SEMrush. Elena has eight years public relations and journalism experience, working as a broadcasting journalist, PR/Content manager for IT and finance companies.
Bookworm, poker player, good swimmer.
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Pauline Cabrera
Great post as usual Elena! Thanks again for the invite. Super awesome and helpful crowd, I've discovered a lot of new tools! :)