The Biggest Mistake Every Blogger Makes (And How to Avoid It)

by Derek Halpern | Follow Him on Twitter Here

Are you making this mistake, too?

When people visit your blog, they often hit your single post page first.

And when they hit that page, you have seconds to grab their attention before you lose them.

How do you keep these people from leaving your website?

You can craft an awesome headline. You can also make your content more inviting by minimizing your content width.

However, there’s one more thing you can do, and it’s extremely effective for drawing readers into your content. The funny thing is, most bloggers, including me, often don’t do it.

Enough Hype, What’s the Secret?

When you write your blog post, you use an image to grab reader attention, right?

Right!

Did you know that when people spot images, their eyes naturally drift down?

It’s true…

And since this eye-dropping behavior is coded into our genetics, you should never run an image without an interesting, persuasive caption.

I know this sounds crazy… it’s just a silly caption.

But, as Drew Eric Whitman points out in Ca$hvertising, “studies have shown that up to twice as many people read captions as body copy.”

Do you know what that means?

If you fail to place a caption under your image, people may not read anything else. Heck, they may not even read your first sentence!

How horrible is that? Do you want to lose your readers before they give your content a chance?

Heck no!

So, you better use captions, and they better be good.

What are your thoughts? Do you use image captions on your blog? Are you going to start using them?

P.S. In my next article, I’ll show you how to craft persuasive image captions. So, be sure to sign up for free email updates so you don’t miss out.

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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniel M. Clark

It’s good for SEO, too. More targeted text on the page, better for SEO. Want your images to show up on a Google Images search? Captions can help a lot.

And if you’re using Wordpress, it’s so super easy to add captions that there’s no excuse not to use them. Now if I could just remember to take my own advice…

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Derek Halpern

You and me both. I know how powerful captions are, and for some reason, I still don’t use them all the time.

Maybe now I’ll start taking my own advice, too. Heh.

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Anne

I use image captions as much as I can. It’s also a good place for keywords.

Anne

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Derek Halpern

From an SEO standpoint, I see why it’s great. However, for the purpose here, I’m talking about readership. Have you noticed an increase in readership with captions?

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Rob

Funny. Came, read the article, like it. Saw the sign image.

I didn’t notice the caption until it was pointed out in the article, then I went back up and said, “Yep, there’s a caption there”

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Derek Halpern

Eenteresting. I wonder if many other people had that experience, too. Maybe my captions aren’t good because of the italics and because they’re small.

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Travis

I actually did the same thing…

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Ronja Venus Andersson

Me too :) Saw the photo, but not the caption until you mentioned it. My eyes drifted straight down to the main text.

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Amber E.

I did the same thing. I’m not quite sure this caption theory is sound. LOL

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Simona Dedek

ditto, didn’t see the caption… lol… noticed the image, and thought the post would be about broken links. had to scroll up to really believe you there was a caption. just fyi :-)

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Cbetz

I think a caption would have definitely been noticed if the picture was larger. I’ve heard that people read from the top left and then scan across and down. I missed the caption too, but usually catch them.

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Sara K

Same here – didn’t see the caption until you mentioned it, but I’ll try it. ;0)

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Marvyn

Interesting – don’t know if it’s true but it’s interesting.

Thanks

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Derek Halpern

Studies show that captions are 2x more likely to be read than body copy. What’s there to wonder about?

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Tim Grant

citation needed.
I didn’t notice the caption until it was pointed out either.
Possibly because I came here because of interest in the article.

The nature of the text in the first paragraph was very..how should I say..provocative, making you want to hurry on to get to the point.

I also found it somewhat annoying, but then since I was here for the article, that’s not enough to turn me away.

Nice article, either way, there’s probably truth in it, and it’s just the fact that we’re in the blogging habit that makes us immune to certain psychological tricks…

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Derek Halpern

Thanks!

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Brandon Russo

I read the caption and actually thought it was funny and completely illustrated your point before I read the article, but I guess that’s just me. :)

Vivek Parmar

well according to me, the mistakes are
> Don’t know anything about SEO
> Didn’t know how to write a perfect title
> Lots of Grammatricla Mistake

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Derek Halpern

Did you even read the article?

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Pamela Wilson

Hi Derek,

One thing you might try is “deep captions.” These are captions that are more like paragraphs: two-three sentences that summarize your main points (using keywords, natch), and draw the reader in.

And I’m in the same boat: I know they work, but do you think I remember to add them for every post? Nope! It’s something I’m working on, though.

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Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion

And it appears to me ‘Vivek’ knows nothing about couth…

Anyway, I appreciated this Derek. I honestly don’t put captions on most of my photos and realize I’m wasting an opportunity.

Much thanks

Marcus

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Derek Halpern

lol

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Duane Anderson

Definitely. Definitely captions are important. Funny, I just went through this thought process when developing http://viplaketravis.com. I think the photo itself will have a huge determination on whether the caption is read. Like for the image on this post, I don’t think there’s as much need for a caption. It’s a picture of a sign and it’s spiffs up the post. I’m not looking for more information to help me understand the sign. But when the photo is more intriguing or more complex to understand, then I’d be more likely to look for a caption, and then flow into the page.

Cheers!

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Derek Halpern

That lake travis site came out nice. I need to make my way down there again this year!

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Duane Anderson

C’mon down!

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Camy

The site (http://viplaketravis.com) looks good, but sadly not on a netbook. The bg image is too big. Could you offer a different bg size depending on the viewers screen resolution?

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Tim

Ha! I laughed when I read Rob’s comment. I did the same thing, I read the whole article without noticing the caption. Then I went back up and noticed it. Guess there’s something wrong with me…but I already knew that.

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Derek Halpern

I’m finding that captions don’t apply that much for people who are already interested in reading the content. However, there are people who need that little push, and sometimes the caption does it perfectly.

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Kye

Interesting reading the comments about the photo and caption on this article. Here’s my experience:

1. How I got here: I found a link to this website in my email this morning–didn’t know about you before. I was scanning quickly, just seeing if your content might be worth following (i.e. I’m in ‘discovery’ mode)

2. I clicked on the title, from the main page of the blog (i.e. I was already interested)

3. Out of the corner of my eye I saw there was a photo of a sign. I registered it as one of those photos that bloggers add for visual interest, not a photo of something the post was about, and ignored it (i.e. my eyes never really looked at it, therefore there was no chance for them to drop from it to the caption).

Reading the post, I remembered when I was little and looking at National Geographic, I would always look at the photos and read the captions under the photos. So, point taken. But I think it only works if the photo is worth focusing on. I think the photo has to be content, itself. A photo of what the post is about. Else, I skip ‘em every time.

Thanks for an interesting pause for reflection!

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Tim

Hey Derek, I totally agree with you. If I am already interested in the content, I just jump right in and start reading. I’ve noticed that I look more closely at the picture and the caption if it is placed right at top of the content or somewhere within the body of the content. When it’s off to the side, I am less likely to look at it. This is a very interesting post….I can see how subtle differences can make a big impact on where the reader focuses their attention.

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Derek Halpern

I’m going to start experimenting with some full width images before content. I think that might be a good option.

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Justyna Bizdra

Hi Derek,

You raised an interesting point.
I don’t always use captions on my images but when I see them on other blogs, it is fun to read them, as in most cases they create interesting combinations altogether with images.

I agree with Kye, when she writes about captions on images worth focusing on, which are content itself.

I’ll definitely increase the amount of captions on my images :)

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Salvatore

I also didn’t read the caption until I felt obliged to when I got to the point of your post. On my browser, the caption is hidden below the fold, so that may be part of the reason, as well as what several others have noted – it is an obvious stock image and one that I have seen often enough before (or at least several variations on the same theme) to have developed “cute caption road sign stock image blindness” in the same way that we have all developed “banner ad blindness” and “SERP sponsored link blindness”. I’d be interested to see the comments if you change the image to something more intriguing and have the caption above the fold – I’ll bet the future commenters might then be confused as to why none of us earlier readers read the caption…

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John

Insightful post. I’ve never even considered adding captures to images.

The thing that actually grabbed my attention was the title of the post. Like others, I didn’t even notice the image caption. I think that if the title is catchy enough, that would be enough to get a reader to read the article. A title catches the reader’s attention and the photo convinces the reader that the post has value. I think captions are only really effective when the caption adds value, like explaining something about the photo.

Still, I will admit that adding an image and a caption does help to make a more refreshing read than a post which is only text.

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Constantin

Thanks for the awesome post!

I’ve been using 430 px wide content columns but now I consider changing it to 480 (and also moving on WP).

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Camy

A very interesting article. Thank you!

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David

It therefore makes me wonder why you didn’t use a caption here:

http://socialtriggers.com/perfect-content-width/

And what do you do if you can’t afford your own stockphotos and instead are using something like Cresstock, which asks you to keep their default caption when you use one of their free images?

Btw nice blog :)

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Jay

i might not ever stop reading this blog. I swear. You have so many valuable posts to treasure. I can’t even give you a sentence about how good this blog is right now.

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John

To be honest i didn’t really notice the image, never mind the caption!
I think that’s mainly because i came from your email: you’d already pre-sold me on what to expect, so by the time i arrived i just wanted to get to the meat of the content.
I think the situation would be different for people who arrive at your post from the search engines.
A quick question for you…Why did you float the image to the right?
Don’t you think if you floated it left, people’s eyes would be drawn to it more naturally and then wander back across to your text?

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Joel Schmidt

Derek, this is great advice. We often caption but not with SEO in mind. However, as I’m work on switching my blog over to Thesis, I’ve found (I think) that the Thesis image handling system doesn’t accommodate captions apart of the standard WordPress functionality. Can you recommend a solution or point me to a tutorial? Thanks!

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Earl Bowser

Ahhh, very nice. I came here from a Thesis blog, but didn’t get the point that was being made. I even had to re-read your post to realize the point; captions help, almost guarantee, that a visitor will pause just long enough to keep a bounce from being recorded, which has the added benefit of turning a brief pause into a longer visit.

Being a web guy and a photo guy, I should know this, thanks!

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Kathy Hassan

I didn’t read the caption. I saw the image but was drawn to the article primarily by the title. Didn’t read the caption until after you referenced it. Then again, I’m reading this on my iPhone and it’s super tiny so I didn’t bother.

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Kundan Bhardwaj

I never knew of this aspect of SEO. Content width is also important was not even on my list to do. Anyways thanks for throwing light and letting me know about this.

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Michael Max

My suspicion is that it depends on the kind of person who is doing the reading. Some people are more attracted to images, I think those with captions will add a “little something extra” at least subconsciously to the reader.

Those who prefer text to images would likely miss the captions. Just a guess. Still I’m planning on going through and updating my site. I think they are a good idea and if nothing else gives google one more keyword to index.

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Andrew Richardson

Hey Derek,

The issue people are having with not looking at the image first is due to a slight oversight on your part. I know you know this because you wrote about it a while back in a post about using images to draw people in, but you were very careful to point out that the images have to be relevant.

I think that the particular photo you used in this post was not necessarily irrelevant but it certainly screams: “I went to shutterstock and typed in “Mistake” into the search box and this is what it gave me”. People have grown accustom to this type of post image, it basically serves as “filler” for your line length. I know because I’ve done the same thing.

Stock photography has become so abundant, especially amongst bloggers who have little photographic experience or resources that people are beginning to adapt to it and are able to quickly (Think Gladwell’s “Blink”, that fast) tune it out just like we tune out most sidebar advertisements. This is why you have a bunch of people saying “I didn’t even look at the image until you mentioned it”. Not because your idea was wrong, but because the execution was poor, and I feel this is an important distinction.

I’ve noticed this in my own work. While running an image based campaign for Pinterest, using dog photography, I used mostly non-stock photography and often had great results. Near the end of the campaign I began to run out of fresh photos that were relevant to the copy so I started using some stock photography. I saw a significant reduction in response to these photos. It’s not like the photos were really different, in fact the production value was probably far higher than the ones we had taken, but they “felt” different to the audience, more distanced and cold.

I think one of the best examples of good image usage in a blog is: http://www.theminimalists.com/. The majority of the photos on their blog feel “real” and I am drawn into them almost instantly.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, Derek, on this. What have you found in your blog, have you found that real photos get more attention or the stock ones?

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Tisa Yonts

Hi, I’m working on a blog for my artist daughter right now and I tried the captions but it really detracted from the paintings to have a caption attached at the bottom. So, I think maybe for artists it may not be a plus

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Amy Bales

I never thought about this before, but it’s so true! I am going to my blog immediately.. thank you! And what do you think a good caption is?

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Istiak Rayhan

I never used any caption in my blog. I am going to do that for my next post.
Thanks for sharing.

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Jemma Taylor

Never thought of ‘Blogging’ till now! Maybe because I don’t really many have followers and friends of my niche! But will surely be following these rules once I implement! Great tips!!

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Shruti

I know of some useful blogs that have not been updated in so long that I seldom even check to see what’s new — and may miss what’s new. You mentioned that it’s important to keep a schedule, but I’d like to add a few tips:

(1) Before you “go public,” publish five or more posts. This way, when you do go public, people who find you will spend more time on your blog, and people who are not interested in a particular topic are more likely to read your other posts than to merely dismiss you and go elsewhere.

(2) Don’t be reluctant to publish reruns, particularly of popular posts, updated if possible and with a new title. You should be constantly attracting new readers, so don’t assume that someone who sees a post on 8/4/13 also saw it on 11/7/10. Some items may be tied to the calendar and deserve annual or more-frequent publication.

(3) Build up a backlog of posts (some complete, some almost complete and some that may be just concepts or titles). If you come up “dry” on a particular day, look at your pending post list.

(4) Read, read, read and listen, listen, listen. New blog posts won’t always pop magically from your brain. You can publish your reaction (which can be praise, condemnation or amplification) of what you’ve read online or on paper, or a movie or TV show you’ve watched, even a conversation you’ve overheard.

(5) Periodically change the way your blog looks. You can change a background color, change the title typeface, move the sidebar from one side to the other, change the sequence of items in the sidebar. Don’t let readers think, “same old same old.” This goes for websites as well as blogs.

Thanks
Shruti

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Sam Adeyinka

hey Derek, I’m so glad to have found this post.

This post is really short and insightful. Since I’m trying to put together some blogging mistakes I think this would help me know how to go about scribbling down my stuff. Thanks! :)

Sam

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Sunil Thakur

Soo brilliant this post . Love the metaphor tip. I catch myself using them alot in real life interactions (everything in my world is like childbirth) but it’s great to see this laid out as a point to consider for blog posts. Total gem (no metaphor pun intended)!

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Jan van der Walt

I have just one major bug on my blog, what a call “spy followers”. It seems that nsome people try to get followers by just “following” for no reason what so ever, excpet that they want you to visit their site. And then they try “you site was so informative and great and they really found value in it”. Point is that the particular post they comment on was just a Contact me page. How do you get rid of these bugs.

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Shawn McConnell

People who find you will spend more time on your blog, and people who are not interested in a particular topic are more likely to read your other posts than to merely dismiss you and go elsewhere.

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Alicia H.

I’m going to start implementing this tip on my blog! Great post, thanks!

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