Building up a solid resource of free images online is a great way to create an effective digital asset that will keep driving traffic and references to your site.
Here are a few actionable tips and examples on how to use your own images to market your business online:
1. Create a viable "freemium'' model
Giving things away is one of the best ways to win users' hearts and turn them into subscribers. While the free-image niche is saturated now, there are still some great ways to stand out using ingenuous models, for example:
- Canva is giving away most of its elements but they would charge for the best ones. The trick is, the images they charge for are really outstanding and they blend so well into the final design that I imagine most people just can't resist.
- Smart Photo Stock is only charging you for a higher-resolution image, allowing you to have most of them for free.
2. Engage your community
Engaging your fans and readers is a great way to grow your site content and turn your followers into brand advocates.
The best example of that done well is ImCreator: They encouraged their fans to join them in creating a free resource for website owners. The result: a huge resource of free content created by means of collaboration with the site users.
This is a brilliant marketing tactic, allowing you to build the loyal community and eventually have your site build and promote itself.
3. Generate mentions and references
Providing free images has long been a great way to build links and references. The process is very well described by James Reynolds:
Step 1: Find what types of images are popular in your market. Just type your keyword into Flickr and see what images tend to perform well.
Step 2: Create visual assets designed to appeal to website owners in your market. You have a few options here:
- Take your own pictures (That's easy nowadays). Take lots so that you'll appeal to people looking for very specific shots.
- Create diagrams or illustrations: If you notice popular websites use diagrams, DIY them in Photoshop or hire someone to do them for you.
Step 3: Upload to Flickr. This is where almost everyone goes to find images for blog posts: You can also link to where this image is hosted on your own site and ask to reference the original.
Keep in mind, first, to upload images with SEO in mind. Name your images using descriptive titles that include your keywords. Second, set Creative Commons license so that people can share your picture with proper attribution. Here's what you need to know about Creative Commons license. Here's also a good guide on getting noticed on Flickr.
Step 4: Monitor and outreach. This involves both approaching bloggers you already know to invite them to use your images, and emailing those people who are already using the images without proper attribution.
Subscribe to PlagHunter.com to monitor images which are identical to yours being used elsewhere. Brighton Cormac also suggests using Google's Search by Image to locate some images you own being used without your attribution. Rather than get angry about it, simply ask nicely to be cited for the image.
This tactic is especially effective when you provide photos:
- From industry events (bloggers and journalists always search for photos to cover the event);
- Relating to a recent or upcoming trend (monitoring and using trending hashtags makes it easier to both spot the trend early and market your images that reflect it);
- Yearly holidays and festivals.
These links are legit, they usually improve traffic, especially when they target a trend. The best part is they help you build connections with bloggers and publishers.