When you intend to publish a picture / photo on the blog, WordPress expects you to fill in a few fields. It seems to be bothersome, right? Not only that you put a lot of time into writing an article, you still have to think about describing the picture. How to fill these fields? The answer to this question is so extensive that I decided to divide it into two entries. Let me start with an underestimated element of image optimization. Caption, also known as a label.
The slogan “the picture is worth the words” made a bold career. It is worth considering what it means for people who write. Does the text have no chance to compete with the picture?
“Developing technologies will foster the image career of the web, replacing the text and even threatening to bruise it on the website,” Jay David Bolter predicted almost 20 years ago.
During the classes on media knowledge, I asked students for an opinion on this forecast. One of the students said then: “The picture will never replace the text, because it is ambiguous.” Although it may not sound particularly revealing, we often lose this idea in prophetic judgments about contemporary visual culture.
“The picture is worth a thousand words” assumes a chapter between the word and the image. Meanwhile, research shows that Internet users like to look at images that increase information value and make a visual story. Well-chosen images are those that do not compete with the text, but complement it.
So instead of frowning on the image, it’s better to associate it with the text.
Is it worth placing pictures inside the text?
The intuitive answer is yes. Someone who has come to your website probably wants to do something as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is for this reason that he reads impatiently and carelessly. He intends to make sure that the text will be valuable to him. Pictures in the text, like sub-titles or bullets, facilitate scanning and help him gain this confidence.
However, the text with pictures is read differently than without them. And it does not always work in our favor.
In one eyetracking study, 82 participants read the text on the screen. Each group received a different version of the text:
– with pictures related to the content,
– with pictures unrelated to the content (ads),
– without pictures.
The medium-difficulty internet text concerned changes that took place as a result of the tsunami. In the first version, he was accompanied by two photos. One presented a bird’s eye view of the destroyed coastline, while the other – a map depicting the ocean floor. In the second version, instead of these photos, two advertisements appeared in the text that were consistent with the scientific topic.
The subjects had to read the text and then complete the multiple-choice test. The understanding, but also the reading tempo was checked. It turned out that the article with related photos was read 19% slower than the one with the ads and 15% slower than the text without pictures. The presence of pictures did not affect the test result, so the article without pictures was understood equally well.
Two important conclusions follow:
– only images related to the content have a chance to catch the reader’s attention,
– readers slow down to look more closely at pictures and link them to the content.
The second conclusion involves risks. Let’s, however, take care of the first one first.
Which images will work inside a blog article?
– product photos,
– comparison of the before and after versions,
– photos, preferably those that have the main character and arouse emotions.
Such images can squeeze the maximum out of the reader’s fleeting attention. However, as the second conclusion suggests, they interrupt the flow of reading. Even a picture very much related to the content, will distract the reader from the text.
How to use the power of the picture so that it does not turn against us? The image should distract the reader only to attract it. And often he can not do it alone without the help of a signature.
Why are the captions under the pictures important?
Let’s specify, the signature is the text that appears under the image usually in the gray box. In WordPress, the field that needs to be filled in for the signature to appear on the page is called the Label. Many people do not fill it, but it’s definitely worth doing.
I did not appreciate the signatures for a long time and gave only a source of illustrations in this place. It is puzzling, because I often start reading the article from them. This is consistent with many studies that emphasize that captions under the pictures are read several times more often than the main text. In addition, which is a sensation in online reading, we read them carefully.
In one study participants had to view pictures with signatures and then describe them as accurately as they could. It turned out that they read the signatures because they used words that appeared. But they also looked at the pictures because they were talking about details about which there was no question in the signature. So reading the signatures did not take place at the expense of viewing pictures.
The authors of another study presented the tested with two versions of the text: with signed pictures and without them. Users who received text with pictures understood, memorized and more willingly followed the instructions.
It’s no secret that academics often read scientific articles in the following order: first, abstract, then conclusions, and then review the illustrations. Therefore, in the scientific article, captions under illustrations should be self-sufficient.
How to form a signature?
Picture captions are not common practice in online texts. And if they appear, they are usually limited to explaining what is in the picture, e.g.
Sales email from Marasco
Bohinj lake in Slovenia
Such signatures are better than nothing, but rather they will not convince the reader to read the text.
A good signature plays three roles (though not always all at once):
– says something that the picture itself can not say (because it is too ambiguous or difficult to decipher),
– tells the reader what to look at,
– convinces the reader to look at the picture once more and draw attention to something that he probably did not notice before.
It happens that one signature fulfills all these three functions. I found an example in the book by Cialdini Pre-swazja. It concerns the history of the Japanese consul in Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara who, against the decision of his government, issued thousands of visas for Jews. He had to leave Lithuania for this insubordination.
From this period comes a picture of two Japanese girls, one of whom holds an infant on his hands. They stand in front of the gate to which the tablet is attached. Below the photo there is the following signature:
In Czechoslovakia, Chiune Sugihara placed his family (wife, son, sister-in-law) outside the park, on whose fence there was a plaque with the inscription: “No entry to Jews” in German. Was it in the group accidentally, or was it a conscious operation and expression of bitter irony? Look at Sugihara’s sister-in-law’s right hand …
– says something that the picture alone can not say: In Czechoslovakia, Chiune Sugihara puts his family (wife, son, sister-in-law) outside the park to take pictures,
– he tells the reader what to look at: on whose fence there was a plaque with the inscription: “No entry to Jews” in German.
– convinces the reader to look at the picture once again and pay attention to something he probably did not notice before: Was it in the frame by accident or was it a conscious operation and an expression of bitter irony? Look at Sugihara’s sister-in-law’s right hand …
This is a reference example. However, not every picture will provide an excuse to create such an intriguing signature. It is enough that he meets one of the three conditions.
The National Geographic is famous for its good signatures. Apparently they are working on a specialized group of editors, with grateful name captionists (from the word caption – the signature under the photo).
Here are the signatures from National Geographic in my translation:
A tourist from Estonia photographs Bohinj Lake shrouded in morning fog. Regardless of the weather and the season, you can always see something new here.
The fishing town of Izola, located near Piran on the west bank of Slovenia, offers a wonderful view of the opposite mountain range. Although this small Mediterranean town, its roots date back to the Roman Empire.
The first description encourages you to look at the picture once again and observe this “something new”. After reading the second, it is difficult to resist the temptation to learn more about the town of Izola. Both signatures sound interesting even without the accompanying photos. You can view them in the gallery dedicated to waterways in Slovenia.
Do you need to include captions under each picture? Opinions are divided. Some argue that they use signatures only when they provide important messages. Others are more stringent – if you do not think of any signature, it probably means that the picture should not be on the page.
I think the answer depends on the type of content. In the information or specialist text, signatures are often necessary.
Captions in the information text
On the side of a certain city appeared the article Stop, a frog on the road! Volunteers from amphibian patrols are already working. Under the picture depicting a frog creeping along the wall is the signature:
In the spring, the frogs start their annual migration from their winter lairs to nearby water reservoirs. Many of them die during the journey.
The picture showing a frog held in a rubber glove is described as follows:
Volunteers are involved in the action of helping the frogs for the twelfth time.
Each of these signatures passes more than the picture itself could tell. The subject of nature is an extremely grateful topic for signatures, which is why I am not going to stay on it.
Another article, which appeared on the same page, concerns the promotion of bicycle traffic. The first picture shows a group of people with certificates in their hands. If it were not for description, we would rather not guess what the photo refers to:
Employers who promote cyclists in their team have long been waiting for the possibility of certification of their activities. Now they will be able to obtain the “Cyclist-friendly employer.” Another article, which appeared on the same page, concerns the promotion of bicycle traffic. The first picture shows a group of people with certificates in their hands. If it were not for description, we would rather not guess what the photo refers to:
In the next picture we see in the foreground a man riding a bicycle with a trailer, in which he sits a few-year-old child. Under the photo we read:
Bicycle couple: dad and child in a trailer. Now, kindergarten parents will be able to try out these trailers as part of the “Podczep się” campaign
This signature promotes the campaign, and inclines the interested parties to search for information in the article. Another signature plays a similar role:
These three trailers will soon be available for rent in public kindergartens.
All these signatures tell the reader something that the picture alone can not say.
When creating signatures in journalistic texts, the rule 5 W (who, what, where, when, why) will work. Check the facts: names, dates and places, and specify the source. The signature under the picture will probably be read more carefully than the text itself, which means that readers in the comments can point out mistakes.
Signatures in specialist text
The authors of information pages usually remember about the signatures under the pictures. This can not be said about the creators of specialist texts. And yet the signature under the screenshot or graph is usually necessary to understand it.
And again you can stop in the description of what is in the picture. However, the Marasco sales email signature does not sound too intriguing, right? In the specialist text it is also worth telling the reader about what is not visible in the picture.
A good example is the captions that appeared under the pictures in the article Prospect Theory and Loss Aversion: How Users Make Decisions.
However, under the screenshot from the GoPetplan website, presenting the costs to be incurred in the case of various diseases that meet cats, this explanation is given:
Insurance companies capitalize on our tendency to pay much attention to the unlikely but very expensive. Here, GoPetplan.com calculates expensive vet bills to convince users to buy a policy for their cat.
I read the picture captions on the nngroup page carefully because I find additional messages in them that were mentioned in the article.
Write in simple language!
If possible, write in present tense and active page. Do not start from the screen shot shows, go straight to the point. In this way, you create an impression of immediacy.
Imagine telling a friend about what’s in the picture. Thanks to the captions under the pictures you have the chance to reach a wider audience. They are usually written in a simpler language, which allows the main message to be understood also by less-competent readers.
And what does this have to do with SEO?
Is there a relationship between the captions under the pictures and the rankings? If so, then indirect. They certainly provide a context search engine based on which robots can decide what the text is about. Admittedly, the file name and the alternative text will work in this role, but the hints will never be too much. Much more important, however, is the second reason. Well, thanks to interestingly described pictures, the reader has a chance to stay longer on your site. So let’s give them the attention they deserve.