Using Images for Better Linkbait

The following is part of a series on image optimization. In this post, we’re going to be talking about images for increasing the success of linkbait.

While the long term viability of the infographic as a linkbait tactic remains to be seen, there’s no question that adding images to your posts can definitely increase a post’s linkability. First, as an example of how having no images can ruin a post, take a look at this post on  Museums in New York City from Frommers (screen shot). Now there’s no question that Frommers is one of the most respected and trusted names in the travel space, but do they really have zero budget for images? I mean, even if there is zero budget, what about Creative Commons images? I found this shot below of the Giant Whale in the Museum of Natural History in less than 3 minutes.

Blue Whale at Museum of Natural History in New York City

The next example is when you put up images, but they either suck or are just boring. Case in point: this article from Lonely Planet on local bars (screen shot). If the place you are talking about is as good/interesting as you say it is, there should be creative pictures online. If there aren’t, use Craigslist to hire a local amateur photographer and put the picture into creative commons in exchange for links.

But back to the core topic: using pictures as linkbait. Generally speaking, the more unique, shocking, and unexpected the image is, the better your post will be. This image below of a crazy woman with a colander on her head is one I love–it’s just impossible to look at it and not laugh a little!

Crazy conspiracy theory woman wearing colander

For more examples, here’s a post that went viral about 60 completely unusable stock photography images. Maybe that’s not your editorial style? How about this post that got over 1600 upvotes of “women laughing eating salad“. Sure, it’s been done already, but a few days later over 1400 votes were given to a post about “Men Laughing Alone With Fruit Salad“. So sometimes it’s just a mater of creating exceptional content for boring topics.

Need more ideas? Ok, let’s say you run a website about cheap hotels in Paris. How about “Unusual Pictures of the Eiffel Tower“. Have a website about car insurance? Include pictures of funny car accidents, like this one.

Mini Cooper Meets Wall

Some other advice: unless you are Agatha Christie or Steven King and people “know” to expect a surprise ending, put your strongest image first. You have the first few seconds to grab someone’s attention, no more. Just forget what your English teacher told you in high school about saving the best for last. There was no interwebz when he/she grew up. If you are going to have a lot of images, go with thumbnails linked to larger images to keep page load times to a minimum. Unless you have a real need for a crazy huge files, keep the image below 1024×800 so people can see the whole thing on their screen. Download time and page size does matter. If you’re not a well known and established brand, avoid the muli-page slideshow gallery: it’s just a bad user experience. People Magazine might be able to get away with 50 page slideshow, but your celebrity/fashion website probably won’t.

So what are the takeaways from this post:

  • Use images. They will almost always make your post more linkable.
  • Use interesting images and not boring ones. If interesting images don’t exist, seize the opportunity to create them.
  • Lead with your strongest, most compelling image.
  • Use image compilations to make saturated or boring topics more interesting.
  • Use thumbnails to link to larger images to keep page size as small as possible and load time as fast as possible.
  • Avoid multi-page slideshows if at all possible because it creates a really bad user experience.

photo credit:, OpenSkyMedia

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