One of content marketing’s biggest advantages is the fact that it can be used even without a massive budget. Traditional advertising campaigns, which once required costly physical placement, would price small- to medium-sized business owners out of the running, but written content—which can be easily produced and syndicated online—has no such barrier.
However, having a basic content marketing strategy is no longer enough to see exponentially increasing returns. Almost every company with an online presence is using some form of content marketing, which increases competition and drastically increases the need for companies to find new ways of standing out. Images, which can enhance the visual attractiveness and inherent value of content, are a pivotal element to building a more compelling content strategy, but finding affordable images can be a challenge.
Fortunately, there are many free and cheap sources of images that you can use to complement and support your content strategy.
Written content is great; it provides detailed information, rounds out online pages, and perhaps most importantly, gives something tangible for Google to scan and interpret. Posting high-quality text-only content will undoubtedly earn you some loyal readers and followers, but it’s difficult to get noticed unless you have a strong visual cue to draw your readers in.
For example, site visitors are far more likely to click into an article that features an image in its heading than they are a plain-text article; according to MDG Advertising,that distinction can earn you 94 percent more views. Similarly, shared articles and features on social media tend to get more likes, clicks, and shares if they sport an accompanying image. You can even increase the value of your blog post by using illustrative or example images to prove or validate your points.
There are many ways to use images in your content marketing campaign, but all of them ultimately serve the same goals: increasing your visibility and improving your users’ experience.
Obviously, if you can get your images for free, you’re going to want to. Fortunately, there are dozens of sources of free images on the web, and most of them have a surprisingly diverse collection of material. It will take you some time to find the perfect source for your needs, but once you have one, your image-hunting will be accelerated and simplified.
As a first step, try out Photo Pin. It’s a completely free tool that allows you to search through Creative Commons photos and images from sites like Flickr. If you find an image you like, you’ll be able to download it and then use it as you see fit—whether it’s embedded in the body of your post or just serving as an accompanying image. However, do note that not all photos on Photo Pin are licensed for commercial use, so be sure to verify the licensing agreement before you put them to use.
Other options for free images include:
Remember Your Attribution
When using free images, it’s legally mandated and personally courteous to give proper attribution. On most of these free sources, you’ll find short snippets of code that you can copy and paste into your blog in order to post a proper attributing link. If you can’t find one, be sure to acknowledge the source of the image and link back to where you originally found it.
There are also a number of relatively inexpensive subscription and per-image sources of visual content on the web. For example, Picjumbo offers a number of free images, as well as a $6 monthly subscription for more advanced features and a wider variety of available photos. Compfightis another search tool that will populate both free images and paid stock photos that you can browse for and purchase for a reasonable price.
Cheap and free sources of images are great for the small business owner looking to enhance his/her content marketing strategy with a handful of visual pieces. However, there are some drawbacks to using these types of images over a long period of time.
First, the pool of images you have to choose from is significantly smaller. You may find that you’re using the same image as another site for a different blog, or that your image appears so general and common that it turns some users away. Handling your own photography, paying for more diverse images, or creating your own images through other means can remedy this, but also cost more as a result.
Second, the images you find on free and cheap providers aren’t specific to what you’re covering. Demonstrating a step-by-step tutorial through images or creating an interactive infographic will require you to find or create very specific visuals; if this is your goal, free or cheap images will not be a possibility.
If you’re trying to dramatically increase the value of a blog, create a piece of standalone visual content, or otherwise try to use images to bolster your authority, remember that you get what you pay for. For the more important images, it’s almost always worth paying a little extra, or taking extra initiative to find the perfect material.
For the budget-conscious entrepreneur trying to make gradual improvements to his/her content marketing strategy, free and cheap sources of images are the way to go. All it takes is a bit of extra time and dedication to find the right images to complement your work.
Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.