Let's start with this: the headline (or in the case of a blog post, the title) is the single most important copy you will write. It often means the difference between a winning ad or a losing one, between a blog post that explodes in popularity or one that decays in the silent darkness of obscurity.As if that isn't enough pressure on you as a writer, the image associated with your blog post is becoming increasingly important. Blog posts with images are more likely to be read. Recently, I noticed a slight downturn in the number of reads my blog posts received. After comparing the popularity (click-throughs) of posts with “image covers” vs. those without, it became clear to me that every blog post needs a great visual headline. (I just made that term up. I hereby ™ it!)
In this tutorial, I'll show you how to make these images yourself, without the expense of a graphic designer.
You see, I'm not a graphic designer, nor do I wish to hire one to make a cover for every post on my blog. That could become prohibitively expensive very quickly. I also don't want to take the time to master design myself, and I especially don't want to spend hours slaving over Photoshop. After doing some research and experimenting, I came up with an effective and inexpensive (potentially even free) way to make my own Visual Headlines™.
Here's how I do it, and if you follow the instructions below, you can too. I've included both a written tutorial as well as a video screencast, demonstrating how to make your own Visual Headlines™.
I want to acknowledge and thank my friend Frank Viola, who prompted me to make this tutorial.
Tutorial: How to Create Your Own Amazing Blog Images
- Sign up for an account at Unsplash.com and DepositPhotos.com. Both of these are a great source of royalty-free images. Unsplash is free, but you have to pay for DepositPhotos. Also, for more sources of royalty-free images, try this resource page at the Canva Design School Blog. (TIP: sign up for Appsumo and check for a deal on Deposit photos bundles. I have bought several bundles of hundreds of images for very little money, well below their normal rate.)
- Sign up for an account at Canva.com, which is an online visual design tool for non-designers. It's free to sign up and use many of their designs, but for their premium elements you have to pay. Even if you pay, the prices are quite reasonable.
- Think about your blog post, and what kind of image would work well to capture the big idea. Don't be cliché. If you're writing about negotiating, don't use a stock photo of two men in suits shaking hands. Be a little creative in your image selection, and your Visual Headline™ will bring a bigger payoff than one with the cliché and obvious photos most people use. Remember your photo needs some “negative space” (an area where you can easily overlay text) where the background is not so busy.
- Download your photo and notice where you save it on your hard drive.
- Go to the Canva website and log into your account. Browse the designs for the one you like (it doesn't have to be the one labeled “Blog Cover”). Think about whether the type f ace and layout in Canva's template design fits the “look and feel” that would work for your blog post.
- Choose the template you want to use.
- Now you have a choice to make: either use Canva's default picture (not recommended, because everybody does this!), search for a new one in their library (better, but still the good ones are used a lot by other Canva users and they cost $1 each), or use the photo you selected from your stock photo account (best, in my opinion, as long as you don't pick lousy images.)
- If you use a Canva stock image, you replace the template image by simply clicking on the new one. If you use your own image from one of your stock photo accounts (or one you made yourself!) you have to upload your image to Canva first. Then replace the Canva template image with your own.
- Alter the text to match your blog post title (headline), make sure the typefaces and colors work, and make sure the title is easy to read.
- Save your final Visual Headline™ to your computer, and then upload it to WordPress and place in your post. Voilà! You have an amazing image for your blog post that makes you look more professional, grabs your readers by the eyeballs, and gets you more clicks, shares, and comments.
Please share your own tools, photo sources, and images you have created by linking to them in the comments below!