How to illustrate company blog posts on the blog’s home page

There are many plausible reasons to keep a lively company blog, from growing search traffic, to lead generation, to building authority. Companies deciding to take effort to build and maintain a blog are faced with a number of questions which are typical for news media outlets. One of them is how to best promote written content on your blog’s home page using graphic imagery.

Blogging has become one of the most common ways to ensure that your company website is getting a steady flow of regularly updated content. This is extremely important from an SEO perspective given that Google ranks higher websites posting new content on a regular basis. For many companies, running a blog is not really different than running a news website meaning that many crucial design and publishing decisions need to be made, including:

  • How to fill the content calendar with article ideas that resonate with the audience?
  • How to craft great titles and opening paragraphs?
  • Which images to use on the home page and in individual blog posts?

To illustrate, or not to illustrate

Many people who write articles for the company blog aren’t seasoned publishers who simply know which graphics drive traffic and look great on the home page. If you leave the decision to the writers, you risk that the images will be random at best, and downright ugly at worst.

Deciding about the blog’s design, you must first understand whether the bloggers will be able (and willing) to spend some time searching for images. That being said, an imageless company blog may be perfectly okay in many cases.

Truth be told, finding good quality, clickable, and relevant images for the blog is problematic for most company bloggers especially for those who blog on software products which don’t really have product-related imagery. Here are some approaches to illustrating blog posts on the home page.

No images on the blog’s home page

Crafting strong headlines and opening paragraphs is perfectly enough for many company blogs, especially when most of blog traffic is driven by search. This is particularly tempting for companies selling products that are difficult to illustrate in a graphical way. It relates to, for example, products that offer technical components used mainly by programmers or sysadmins and also for some cloud-based services.

Illustrating blog posts on the home page is particularly difficult when the article describes an abstract concept. It’s also problematic when the subject-matter is the same for every article what makes all images similar. When this is the case, the struggle to find good images is really hard to conceal, and thus some companies just don’t use them on the home page.

Examples include the Kissmetrics blog or Hubspot’s blog which uses only two images illustrating two featured articles at the top of the stream while the rest is just headlines.

Large “hero” banners

While gigantic photos on the home page may look great in a “breaking news” section of a news outlet, they may not be a great idea for a company blog. It’s unlikely that your blogs are “breaking news”.

Here’s an example of an article listing how Xero.com boosts productivity which was promoted on the blog’s home page using a close-up photo (1600×1000 pixels large) of a hand scribbling in a notebook presumably learning to write. The connotation between this photo and the article’s topic is very distant at best. The lack of a more suitable photo is particularly striking due to the fact that it talks about the product.

If you decide to use large hero banners on the blog’s home page, you have to make sure that you won’t run out of ideas for these photos. Otherwise it may be a much better option to use something less grandiose.

The homepage of the Airbnb’s blog is a similar overkill. For some reason the reader can’t even see the headlines unless they hover the mouse cursor over the photos.

To make things worse, in some cases Airbnb’s content creators used a giant rectangle with some random pattern instead of a photo that was supposed to be there.

A mix of random photos

A mix of everything on the blog’s home page is a rather natural result of making non-media people publish articles. If you ask a developer to post an article on the blog, you can’t expect that he or she will also spend hours searching for a good image. You’re likely to get a random image loosely related to the article’s topic. And this isn’t so bad.

Not paying too much attention to what’s on the blog’s home page gives it a nice feel of authenticity. This is the way many personal blogs look like because they’re often run by regular people who focus on writing, and not on imagery. And here are some examples:

NGINX blog
Twilio blog

You can find pretty much everything here. From crudely cut screenshots, to company logos, to GIFs, to code samples, to stock photos.

Stock photos

Most stock photos look painfully artificial, albeit they’re high quality and professional in most cases. For this reason, some companies made these photos the default way to illustrate their blog content.

The biggest problem with stock images is not really the artificial feel but the fact that finding the right image may give you a big headache. They just all look the same. You either spend hours looking for good photos, or stick to a pre-selected, limited number of images which repeat on the company blog. This post on the HubSpot’s blog gives some useful tips on how to “un-stock” the photos you use on the blog.

The struggle to find good stock photos related to the article’s topic is quite apparent on many SaaS company blogs, such as Marketo, Pardot, Salesforce or Unbounce.

But for some businesses, stock photos may work a bit better. For instance travel industry may use stock imagery to illustrate places worth visiting. Just have a look at Ryanair’s blog Into The Blue, Expedia’s blog, or Thomas Cook’s blog.

Custom-made graphics

Some blogs use custom-made graphics to promote their blog posts which is often in line with the graphic style of the company website. This is particularly great for promoting the blog content on social media or in the newsletters.

The cartoonish style of Intercom’s website is also present on the company blog where many blog posts get a custom-made hero photos to match the style. It definitely takes longer to produce, but makes the blog unique especially in comparison to using stock images.

A good example of using custom-made graphics is also the Copyblogger’s blog. A unique collage combining a photo, article’s headline and the company logo is built for each blog entry. It’s a certainly time-consuming technique, but the result is unique and drawing attention to the article’s headline.

Posting full articles on the home page

Not sure how popular this approach is, but I know at least one in the form of the AWS blog. I don’t really understand why on earth would you post whole articles on the home page but if you do, then please share your thoughts in the comments section.

General takeaways

A lot of traffic to the company blog is driven by search and company newsletters what makes the blog’s home page perhaps less important than you may think. But not having any images will make it difficult to share articles on social media and in the newsletters.

It’s a viable approach to create some set of rules (not necessarily strict) for illustrating company blog posts. If possible, it’s great to add some brand feel to the imagery. It takes time but it definitely makes it easier for the articles to stand out and eventually drive more traffic and shares.

Pawel Piejko

A passionate online content marketer with experience in creating content strategies for small businesses, as well as managing the entire content creation and distribution process. I keep up-to-date with constantly evoloving trends in content creation, Social Media, SEO, e-mail marketing and emerging technologies. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions.

So, what do you think ?