I've built six websites using Squarespace since January this year, and am working on my 7th and 8th sites. Building websites from scratch is but a small part of my services, but it's been an enriching process on several levels. I've worked with business owners and organizations that span the gamut: lawyer, painter, professional photographer, musician, personal stylist, church. Some clients needed to digitally showcase their work. Others wanted an online space for their community that would draw new members and increase their sense of fellowship and fraternity. For one client - an attorney - the website has generated not just more traffic, but contactable (and potentially convertible) leads, which we continue to cultivate through consistent e-mail marketing, social media and online and in-person events.
There is much to be said for how to make your website "great". Written content certainly plays the most important part, given how Google and other search engines rank sites in searches based on their SEO. Google and other search engines demand that one's website contain not just relevant keywords, but content that provides value to the visitor who is searching for guidance, if not a specific solution. It's no longer enough to stuff your website with keywords. In fact, keyword-stuffing would only get you black-marked by the world's most powerful search engine as less than worthy of high rankings. Long-tail searches are the norm these days, and your written content should cater to this.
Plus, Google does pick up the keywords used in the descriptions you give to your images when you set them up in your website architecture. So it's not entirely true that images do little to help give you visibility. Ask any SEO expert and she'll probably confirm the same.
This post, however, is NOT about SEO and the like. Instead, I want to share what I've learned about the power of visual beauty. The visual experience for your visitor cannot be discounted when you're putting together your website, or updating it. Certainly, there are those who are much better trained in this field, who are much better placed to talk about the power of visuals, both digital and otherwise.
But I can see - from the responses I get from people who saw my portfolio online or provided feedback to my clients - that visuals really do count. The visceral appeal of beautiful, well-taken images help keep a visitor on a site, and quietly compels her to click through to other parts of the site. Haven't all of us experienced this?
Conversely, we also react negatively to less than appealing graphics or pictures. Ever been to a site that has images that are badly taken (i.e. not professional), out of context, dated and lacking even a modicum of artistic appeal?
The reality is that we're all drawn to beauty. If you want to draw the attention (and keep it) among website visitors, you've got to have beautiful, crisp, clean photographs. In a text-weary world, having enough "white space" and well-placed images can do a lot to boost your website's appeal.
Admittedly, some could say that creative professionals such as sculptors, or musicians or even photographers have much more opportunity to use their photographs to connect with an audience and build a brand. Their work is already pieces of art, ready for the perfect photograph.
I have a slightly different view: even if you're an attorney, a well-taken picture of you for your bio, or at a speaking engagement, or working with a client, can also be highly compelling. The point is the "well-taken" part of it - "professional but approachable" is entirely achievable with a good photograph.
In short, if you have limited marketing funds, then spend your money on paying a professional photographer to take your head-shot. First impressions really do count, and in today's text-weary world, a picture can say a lot about you. And if you need what I consider "supportive" images i.e. stock images that enhance your brand (look and feel) or a blog post or other content, there are thousands of beautiful copyright and royalty-free images available online. These can help to deepen your website visitor's emotional experience when used to create breaks in content that give the reader some relief. I use such images, for myself, and for my clients. There are great websites that offer royalty-and-copyright-free use of images (e.g. Pixabay, Negative Space, Dreamstime etc.), and I've never left them empty-handed when searching for something that works for a client, whatever his or her business or profession.
In all of this, it is little wonder that Instagram has become a leading player in the digital marketing and social media world (just ask the Millennials). In fact, visuals now play such a big role in marketing (which is really mainly digital marketing), that providers such as Vimeo now offer stock videos.
This is a masterly move. Marketers like myself are always on the lookout for better design and graphic content. Speaking of which -- I've been in search of some beautiful video footage for a client's website, and just found a few wonderful options. I'm convinced it's going to entice her first-time website visitors to explore the rest of her site, and get to know the value she offers, and at the very least, pique their interest. Isn't that what good website content is all about?
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