social media how toDo you want to know the secrets to successful blogging? Of course the best blogs are built on top of outstanding content. This draws readers in and keeps them engaged.

But the real secret is a little deeper. Successful bloggers also know how to use visuals.

In this article, I’ll show you 19 ways to use images that will make your blog appealing to read, keep readers coming back for more and increase your credibility.

Design Essentials

First let’s look at how to use images and design for your blog.

#1: Branding

Your blog header is one of the most important design elements of your blog. In addition to having your logo in your blog header, you can use the design to convey the message you want and strengthen your brand.

pioneer woman

The Pioneer Woman does a great job of this in her blog header that changes with the seasons.

#2: Easy Reading

Images in your blog posts make your blog appealing and keep visitors on your site.


Ecoki uses photos in blog posts to make reading easy and entertaining.

The other key places to use images are in the sidebar and in the footer, depending on your overall blog design. Your readers turn naturally to these areas for useful information. This is why the sidebar and the footer are great places to show your readers what you want them to do next.

rise to the top sidebar

Notice the images used on this portion of the sidebar on Rise To The Top.

Your Primary Call to Action

You probably have a couple of things you want to accomplish with your blog. But you need to be clear about your main objective. What do you want your visitors to do when they come to your blog? Once you’ve figured that out, use images to direct attention to your primary calls to action.

sme updates

Notice Social Media Examiner's call to action at the top of the sidebar: Get updates!

These images are usually in a very prominent position above the fold on your blog. This means they’re always in full view at the top of the page, where readers see them immediately when they come to your website.

The right visuals can incite the interaction you want from your blog visitors and play a key role in helping you reach your primary blog objectives.

#3: Social Media Profiles

A blog is considered a social media platform and you want to make it easy for readers to connect with you on the social platforms they feel most comfortable with. This is why many blogs have easy-to-recognize social icons in a prominent position.

dan zarella icons

It's easy to see what Dan Zarrella is interested in with the prominent position of these social icons on his blog.

#4: Free Incentives

The primary objective for many bloggers is to increase their list of subscribers. And many bloggers give away a free report or other freebie as an incentive. Use a compelling image of your free incentive to get more readers to sign up.

chris garrett free ebook

Chris Garrett offers a free ebook to email subscribers. The red image grabs readers' attention easily.

mari smith free webinar

Mari Smith uses an appealing image for readers to sign up for a free webinar.

#5: Books

The primary objective for some bloggers is to promote their book. A well-positioned picture of your book is a great way to increase recognition, highlight your expertise and build your credibility.

jay baer

Jay Baer makes it very easy to find his book on his blog.

#6: Key Presentations

Many companies choose to embed a key presentation in their sidebar to highlight their particular area of expertise and make a call to action. Pay attention to the visuals you use to make your blog readers want to find out more about what you do.

web ink now video

David Meerman Scott has an image which links to a YouTube video in a prominent position on his blog.

comms corner slideshare

Adam Vincenzini uses a SlideShare widget to share a key presentation in the sidebar of his blog.

Key Information

Depending on your objectives, you might have more key information about your company to share in your sidebar.

#7: Products

Place visually appealing badges about your products in a prominent position to get more sales.

copyblogger product badges

Copyblogger's product badges are appealing.

#8: Blog Author Photos

If you don’t have a photo of yourself or your team in your header, consider putting one in your sidebar. This shows your readers who you are and can make it easier for them to feel a connection with you.

smartblog team

The Smartblog on Social Media shows you who's in their team.

#9: QR Codes

Another type of graphic is a QR code. If this is something your audience can relate to, you might find it useful to have on your blog.

betterbusinessblog qr code

Denise Wakeman has a QR code in the sidebar of her blog.

#10: Navigation for Internal Links

You may want to highlight certain information on your blog that readers may otherwise miss.

smetv badge

Social Media Examiner has a custom badge linking to the Social Media Examiner TV shows to raise awareness of these high-quality videos.

#11: Navigation for External Links

Is there something else you’d like to share with your readers? Make the link appealing with the right image.

brian solis

Brian Solis has an image linking to his mobile app.

#12: Clients and Sponsors

Consider highlighting the clients you’ve worked with or your blog sponsors. Be sure to check whether you have the right to publish their logos.

web advantage clients

Web Advantage shows a selection of their clients in the sidebar of their blog.

#13: Awards and Prizes

Share badges of awards and prizes you’ve won.


Erik Qualman, author of the book Socialnomics, highlights one of the awards he received for his book on his blog.

#14: Social Numbers

Display widgets highlighting the size of your communities. Popular widgets on many blogs show the number of your Twitter followers, your blog subscribers and your fans on Facebook.

scott monty subscribe

Scott Monty has some great social proof next to his "Subscribe" button.

#15: Rating Systems

If there’s a widely recognized ranking tool in your industry with a badge, consider placing this on your blog for social recognition.

simply zesty adage button

Simply Zesty highlights their ranking on the popular Ad Age Power150 list in the sidebar of their blog.

#16: Social Networking Sites

Most social networking sites have widgets you can embed on your blog. This is a great way to grow your communities on social media platforms. It gives your readers the choice of where they want to connect with you. And as the communication styles vary on different social media platforms, it also lets your readers choose how they want to connect with you.

citrix workshifting flickr

Citrix has a Flickr feed on their blog Workshifting.

#17: Regular Guest Blogging Sites

Many bloggers also publish articles on other websites and blogs. Badges from these blogs can add credibility and social proof.

kristi hines contributor

Kristi Hines shares the badges of the places where she publishes articles regularly in the sidebar of her blog.

#18: Blog Directories

A number of popular blog directories offer badges and widgets for their community to use.

content marketing today alltop

Content Marketing Today has the Alltop logo and widget on their blog to highlight their presence in their industry.

#19: Community Badges

Blogs with active communities can consider using a badge to incite more interaction within their communities.

cree led revolution

The business-to-business company Cree uses a badge on their blog to incite readers to join their community.

Are You a Fan of Social Media Examiner?

Would you like to help us spread the word? Here’s a special badge just for you:

sme fan

Use this badge on your blog to show your readers that you’re a fan. Click here to find out how.

Identify the Images You Need for Your Blog

You’ll notice that many blogs use a variety of images. But you don’t need to include all of them. Too many images can become a distraction.

Plus, you’ll use most of these images with a link and these links are “site-wide links”—they appear on all of the pages of your blog. Choosing which site-wide links to use is a strategic decision. You want to stay focused on where you want to send your readers.

So try to find the right balance you need to make your blog appealing and the right images to use to get what you want out of your blog.

What are the images and badges you have on your blog and why? Please share them in the comments below.

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  • Great article, Cindy. You’ve given me some new ideas for improvements I can make to my blog. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Glad you liked it Charlene! There are so many different types of images to add to your blog, it’s easy to get carried away. I really like looking at how the good blogs do things because all of their images seem to work well.

  • Cindy..yes we know content is king and big bro Google loves it, but we must implement images also if we want to stay relevant and looking good for the readers.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • Antonio, I think big bro Google also likes images (with good tags). I’m always amazed at how well they do their job.

  • TheClickWhisperer

    Cindy – please add something about using original imagery to illustrate the point being made. I try to make a point of creating original images that reinforce the point I’m discussing in my blog. Although this probably makes me a bit more retentive than other people who use stock images, recycle images and consider their thumbnail portrait an image. I’m just trying to avoid being boring. So if you’ve got those PShop skillz – flex ’em.

  • Hi Cindy. Thanks for this very interesting post. Recently I started using istockphoto to buy images for my posts. I take great care to find out which image best represents the content. I’ve discovered that thanks to the use of great images my stumbles upons have increased significantly. I’m talking about an increase from a few to a couple of hundreds. So, I totally agree that great Images enhance your blog. Of course, I know that content remains king. But, I would advice anybody blogging to check out istockphoto to enhance the content.

  • Very tricky with images on blogs. So many people post images without any concern for copyright. My general rule is if you want to post a photo or image, take it or create it yourself so there is no debate on who holds copyright to it.

  • Great list Cindy! I’m all about the call to action images. I really love the idea about posting badges to the blogs that a writer regularly contributes to as well. After speaking with HubSpot this morning and reading this article, I am motivated to implement these tactics!

  • Great suggestion!

  • Hi Juan! For this post I focused on site-wide images in the header, sidebar and footer, but you’re right, the images in your blog posts can have a big impact too!

  • Good point Scott.

  • Nick, what I find interesting is how those action images can really help you achieve your blogging goals, specially if they stand out.

  • I love using images on my site for product promotion, social profile promotion, and the top places I contribute to, as you pointed out above. 🙂 I also think images make a great divider in an article so it’s not too text-heavy, making it easier to read.

  • I really like eoki’s layout (with several small blurbs about the articles in a horizontal arangement). Is there a way to do this with hubspot’s built in blog module? Or would I need to switch to a different application?

  • Larry

    Thanks so much for this post! There’s so many helpful tips in here. I blog for a really cool start-up called Lifesta, where you can go to buy and sell daily deals (like Groupons). Its like a StubHub or eBay for Daily Deals. It initially was a challenge for me to come up with ideas for content for the blog in this industry, but I think that I have a good start. I will definitely take into account these tips, and if you wouldn’t mind, check out my blog at
    for more ideas that you may have for me. All constructive feedback is welcome! Thanks Cindy!

  • Thanks for your “ways to use photos to engage.” I think your have some great points and insight but also thought some of these ideas could have been consolidated don’t you think? This could deliver more impact for me at least. For instance using photos for social media networking and for profile pictures could have all been under one bracket. I am trying to see where the integration of these ideas happen or was that not the purpose of this post?

  • I really like the message that you have shared here today.
    In fact I made changes to my site as I read (Smile). One of the things that you
    mentioned in our posting mentioned social media badges and the number of people
    who follow you.

    I use a badge for my Facebook page but it gives the number
    to my “Like” page which is only 225 people as opposed to my social page that
    has over 2500. How can I show my larger Facebook page on my site? My site is


  • @CindyKing:disqus It’s not just an article i can say it a junction of creativity, useful and practical solution.

  • niki_torkative

    Found this article really useful thanks Cindy. Plenty of food for thought about the different uses of imagery and how best to make it work hardest.

  • Amanda

    I Cindy, I see that you used an example of a QR code on a blog. I am wondering why you would ever use a QR code that links to a page on an electronic site instead of a hyperlink. I have used QR codes on printed materials, but never on online content, I was interested to see if there was a specific reason. Thanks!

  • Nice post, Cindy. I recently wrote about using images but focused solely on using images within blog posts to add eye candy and help the reader absorb your message better. Thanks for using my QR code as an example as well – it was recently updated to include an image within the QR code – pretty cool and another way to incorporate imagery and make it stand out.

  • Great tips, Cindy! I will be sure to share this with my friends. I especially loved the #8 — putting a face to the blog plus great social proof! 🙂

  • Yes eoki is fun! I’m not familiar with Hubspot’s blog module, you’ll have to check with them directly.

  • Sebastien, I think there’s a difference when you are using images to fully support your goals. The best blogs definitely choose their images wisely. That’s why I find it useful to get very clear about what each image does and why it’s there (beyond being just eye candy).

  • Donald, I suggest you check out Facebook’s plugin page and find the one you want, the one that suits your communication goals best.

  • Hi Niki, I find that when I’m tuned into what the image does it’s much easier to see why it’s there. Lots of fun!

  • Amanda, this is on Denise Wakeman’s blog and it shows her audience that she knows all about QR codes. I think it goes well with her business which is a great reason to have this image on her blog.

  • Hi Cindy!

    Thanks for sharing these ideas. They make the blog look colourful and attractive. I guess we have to be discerning in much of these we put on our blogs to avoid the “very busy look.”


  • Yes! I’m jealous 🙂 I saw your new QR code after this was written.

    Your article goes well with this one too:

  • Like Erika, I also like #8, guess it’s time to get a haircut and get a new picture for the blog!

  • Yes. Yes. & YES!…

    And you even threw in a shout out to the techie QR code!

    Images give advertisers so much more advantage by allowing them to say and express ideas without the lengthy copy. I also like the portion where you introduce your authors using an image. This is huge in aiding you stickiness. People want to connect with real people! Give them a real image!

  • Cindy, Thank you so much for the fabulous ideas. I just had my website redone and still a work in progress. Your article will help me a lot! I hadn’t thought about adding a pic of my husband’s newest book on right column. Can’t wait to start implementing.

  • mildmanneredmillions

    if anyone needs any help with these shoot me an email, I’d be happy to help you implement them into your blog!

  • Hi Cindy!

    I couldn’t agree with you more. There’s a strategy for using particular images for particular reasons, just thinking about organization for the easiest read that’s all. Thanks for your insights 🙂


  • Hi Cindy,

    Personally, I know it sound cliche to say “a picture’s worth a thousand words” but in this case, I think it’s true!

    Pictures add that little extra umph to your blog posts and over site in general. A good image, captures the readers attention…their emotion. And thereby keeps them on your site longer.

    As for me, I try to use an image on EACH post that I write. Often times, this part takes the longest. You know, you gotta find the right image!

    I’m also a fan of using images to showcase clients you’ve worked with or news sites that you’ve been featured on (or places you’ve guest blogged). In my case, I showcase images to major conferences I’ve spoken at in my niche (real estate). Though I do this at the footer of my website currently.

    The other images I think are important are sidebar images that serve as your Call To Actions – like “subscribe” here and the like.

    All of the others sounds great, and are well executed in each of the examples that you’ve shared. The only one that I’m a little “iffy” on is the QR codes… Mainly because to this day, I’ve failed to see anyone execute theme effectively. I’m as techy as they come and there just isn’t enough incentive to get me to click a QR code. Just one man’s opinion anyway 🙂

    Great write-up Cindy! Appreciate all of the great examples!

  • Roslyn: I agree! It takes finding a good balance. Asking yourself, “what are the most important things that I want to showcase?” In other words, what’s the desired outcome I’m looking for?

    Otherwise you run the risk of having too much on your site and that’s never good. It confuses the reader and ultimately, makes it challenging to have them take a specific action.

  • There’s some fantastic ideas here Cindy, I hadn’t thought of many of them and look forward to implementing some on my blog. Thanks so much! Regards from Julieanne

  • Kristi: I agree with your last comment – ”
    I also think images make a great divider in an article so it’s not too text-heavy, making it easier to read.”

    A great image captures the readers attention long enough to stick around, read past the headline, and maybe even read the entire article without just skimming through it 🙂 Heck, sometimes finding the right image for a post takes me longer than drafting the actual post itself! But a good image, is well worth it and definitely helps bring greater attention to a post.

  • Such a great list. I still think images are one of the easiest ways to add engagement to a blog and one of the most overlooked opportunities. Great list.

    – Jason

  • Thank you for your insightful essay, Cindy. I learnt that I could enhance my blog with a variety of engagement tools and involve the reader. I enjoyed the teach.

  • Such a great list. Thank you so much for the fabulous ideas.

  • Thanks Cindy for these great ideas. Iam going to implement them into my blog. Thanks once again for the list.

    Singha Roy

  • Ricardo, I love your way of using photos of places where you’ve been featured!!!

    Yeah… I personally find that the QR code works well on Denise Wakeman’s blog because it sends a relevant message to her audience. Who knows, it might have a date limit on how well it’ll serve it’s purpose, but I think it’s fun there now.

    Anyone with some social media marketing experience under their belt can easily see the value in images. But with the choice of images out there, it’s easy to get carried away and put too many images, or images that don’t fully support your blog goals.

    After the header, it seems most people focus on the next big photo real estate of the blog post image… but the sites that work best for me always seem to have very well chosen images in their main design elements too.

    For example, yesterday I stumbled across a blog with way too many images for my brain. There were tons of images going on in the header, in the sidebar, in the footer and there was also a fantastic picture in one of the blog posts that clamored for my attention. But you know what, it was too much for me. The images didn’t tell a coherent story and I didn’t actually get around to fully reading the blog post because everything was so busy. So I didn’t bookmark it to go back there later. On good sites all of the images work well for me, sometimes on subtle levels.

  • Oh, OK. I put social networking and profile images in separate headings because I’ve seen different business models where there’s a case for them being more effective when they are separate. It all depends what you need to have in your primary real-estate and what fits there for best results. You know, I’ve noticed changes in trends with regards to where it might be best to place these two types of images and it would require further research to see if those trends were based on changing business models or not.

    Plus I think that when you evaluate your goal for each image it makes it easier to eliminate the risk of putting in too many images and streamlines your message to be most effective.

    The best practices in social media are not static, they evolve, different business models have different things that work best, different audiences react differently and many businesses have created success by being different. I’ve always found that assumptions can easily lead you into error, or make you lose out on traffic or whatever results you are after because of these differences. That’s another reason to take a step back and evaluate each image first. Then move up and see which combination work best for you.

  • LOL with regards to your comment on QR codes: some of us need to show others that we follow technology and are trying out ways to use it in our marketing 🙂

    And you make me want to keep an eye out for more examples of group blogs with photos of their bloggers on the front page somewhere. I’ve seen lots with photos on an about page or something similar. But some businesses could probably benefit with having those photos of multiple blog authors up front. It’s definitely not something for every business, but I could see it being really interesting for certain companies. Thinking about it makes me feel like I’d want to know such a company…

  • Thank you Cindy you knocked this one out of the park as usual. Some great pointers for me to use.

  • Fantastic post, cindy. Appealing images can aid dress up a post, attract readers’ attention to the copy, and encourage them to stick about to read the post. Graphics help illustrate a point and can present or clarify data.

  • Too many good stuff! Your post is valuable….

  • Jason, I was wondering, have you seen changes in how to best use images over the last couple of years?

  • Yes @CindyKing:disqus. most quality blogs tend to use a top half-width image as a lead in now (and front page thumbnails). I don’t think most understand WHY that works, but they just know that it helps.

    better photos are being used and creative commons is becoming more of a standard. photos engage 3-5 times more than no photo images typically. Especially in a marketing/sales scenario. That seems to be getting through.

    images for calls to action are getting more and more research and testing. telling us more about colors and how images affect buying.

    just a few trends I have noticed. plenty more.

    – Jason

  • Agreed 1,000%!

    I think people get caught up with thinking EVERYTHING is important. The mentality is “oh, I should add this… and that too… oh, can’t forget this…” Next thing you know, your site is crowded with so much junk that people can’t even tell WHAT you want them to look at.

    So yes, I’m all about minimalism. What are the most important pages/elements of your site? Where do you want to direct people? And then…what do you want them to do next? What action do you want them to take?

    If none of that is obvious through your content and design, it’s time to rethink a few things 🙂

  • Sylvia

    Great post!! I really appreciate it.I am creating my blog, so your tips are very useful for me.Thank you Cindy

  • Thanks for these excellent tips. While I don’t use many of these on my blog itself, I always use a funny or interesting pic in my posts and users often comment about the image. It is an excellent way of drawing in visually stimulated readers.

    Ana /

  • Great list Cindy! Quality photos and images in a blog are like eye-candies that attract readers. Tip # 3 is one of the best and highly recommended for it may create further connection between the reader and the author. Looking forward to more helpful tips.

  • This is a really fantastic, basic article about how a blogger can make themselves successful! We’re always trying to encourage our Community to do things like what you’ve mentioned. Regardless of a new blogger or a veteran, points such as these are always great to keep top of mind.

    Thanks for helping educate the blogging Community.

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  •  Hi Cindy,

    Valid points you make here and I truly understand the value you placed in each of your posts listed above.  Social media (much like “traditional” media) IS always changing and as a community we are still finding new ways of “doing” social media.  I think you have some cleverly conceived ideas here and shows your insight—just simply offering other ways of viewing the work.


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  • Thank you so much Cindy! This article has really inspired me to enhance my blog. It’s great to get hear about new things and get reminded of some old ones that work well. I am looking forward to reading more of your articles in the future.

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  • Hey Cindy,

    great sum up of ways to use graphics for your blog. I think personal branding is something that can speak a lot with pictures compared to just words, although I do believe you need both working in concert.

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