5 Best Practices for Using Images On Websites and Social Media Posts for Business Owners


The use of images on your website and social media posts have often created many discussion points over the years. What images are the most effective? What images can I use without having to fork out loads of money for? In our latest blog, we uncover 5 tips for business owners and marketing managers when it comes to using images on their website or social media posts.

When it comes to selecting images to use on your website or social media post many business owners we speak to mention it is a confusing game. You find an ideal image that is perfect for your post but find you have to fork out £££ to use it.

That’s why we thought we’d put a little guide together, to give you some tips for correctly using images in digital marketing. The first (and most important) is learning about the licenses associated with different types of images.  

1. Understanding Image Licensing 

Every image on the internet has image rights attached to it. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as doing a Google Images search, selecting the picture you like best, and adding it to your website or Facebook post.

The first thing you have to do is secure a license or permission to use that image. Otherwise, you could land yourself in hot water with the original photo owner.

But when choosing a license, you might want to familiarise yourself with the different options:

  • Rights-Managed (RM) Licence – The most expensive option. This gives you the freedom to use that image exclusively in your industry. However, it’s very restrictive, and you will need to re-license the image each time you want to change the medium of use.

  • Editorial Use Licence – This refers to the ability to use logos, images of celebrities, and recognizable products within a newsworthy story. It has to be reporting, though, not commercial or promotional in any way. 

  • Royalty-Free Licence – The most common license type for stock images. It allows you to purchase the image once for use in unlimited applications. That is except for commercial gain (e.g., mugs, t-shirts, other products). 

  • Royalty-Free Extended Licence – The same as above, except it grants those commercial use rights too. However, it’s usually limited to a specific number, so read the fine print. 

  • Creative Commons Licence – Images under this license are free to use, but attribution to the original photographer or image creator has to be given. 

Now we’ve covered licenses, let’s look more closely at some best practices. 

2. Avoid Using Common Stock Photos

While stock images can be excellent choices for websites and social media posts, it’s crucial to avoid choosing those that are widespread across the internet. Many stock sites such as Pixabay and Unsplash operate on creative commons licenses, meaning all images are free to download and use (provided you attribute them).

Unfortunately, that means that literally thousands of businesses are all using the same photos, minimizing their digital marketing impact. That’s why, if you can, it’s worth investing in at least a royalty-free license to secure pictures that are in much smaller circulation. 

If you can’t afford to purchase one of these for each image you use, do a little digging on those creative commons photograph sites, and pick less obvious choices for your blog or social media posts. This is crucial because if your target audience has seen your image several times previously, it not only turns off customers to your marketing message, but it also creates confusion amongst you and your competing brands.

3. Use Your Own Images 

Building on the point made above, audiences are now aware of when they are looking at a stock image, such is their proliferation across the internet. Thus, it makes sense to limit their use and focus on producing your own photography and imagery wherever possible. 

Not only will that guarantee that you don’t end up in any trouble with other image owners, but it will also help to improve conversions on your website. For example, take a look at this case study in which a business owner changed the image on the bottom of his blog posts from a generic contact image of a telephone to a self-owned picture of himself. After adjusting the image, his conversions increased by 48%. 

4. Focus on Human Photos

Those results detailed above emphasize the other important aspect of using images in digital marketing, which is to use as many personal photos as possible. Humans within images help to add trust and credibility to your brand messaging, whether that’s on a website or a social media post. 

Human photos have much more forceful impacts and we’re talking about the cheesy American corporate image to promote your company headquarters or meeting space. Human photos are great because they build a better emotional connection than generic images of scenery, buildings, or graphic representations. 

But again, use your own where possible. Customers know when they are looking at a stock model as opposed to a small business owner. So don’t be afraid to smile for the camera!

5. Don’t Forget to Optimise

Another factor many small business owners and marketing managers fall up on is optimizing the images in question.

When it comes to pictures used on your website, you need to both change the file name from IMG000234.jpg to something Google can understand, such as vegetarian_diet_apple.jpg. You also need to manage alt attributes to further give Google some context to your image.

(We’ve written a handy little guide on optimising images for SEO here if you want to learn more about this.) 

Finally, it’s always a good idea to optimize the aspect ratio of your image to perform best on the digital marketing platform you are using. For instance, an image made for a Facebook post would look horrible as a pin on Pinterest. Tools such as Canva or Adobe Photoshop allow you to resize and rejig your images to perform their best for each respective platform.

Excellent Use of Images Can Boost Your Return on Digital Marketing Efforts

So there you have it, five tips on how to use images correctly in your digital marketing to boost performance while remaining out of trouble with photographers and image owners.

Here at McGinn and Dolphin, we’re well-versed in getting the most out of imagery for digital marketing purposes, increasing engagement, leads, and ultimately sales.

If you would like to learn more about how we can help to transform your digital marketing strategy, schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation today.

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Ali Dolphin is a UK-based marketing expert specialising in digital marketing. His expertise includes content writing, website design, and technology. Ali regularly provides insights and blogs on various aspects of digital marketing.

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