Blog posts can be essential for driving traffic to your site and letting search engines know what you're all about. But the 500-word blog post with a single header image is not only old-fashioned, it's ineffective.

No matter what niche you're targeting, audiences across the board prefer visual content. Whether you're writing a viral-worthy listicle, posting a how-to, or sharing information on a topic that inspires you and your audience, you need to include visual elements to keep your readers hooked. Text is not enough.

So how can you use visual communication to spice up your next blog post? Here are a few strategies you need to try.

1. Create a custom header that tells a story.

Your header image should never be stock imagery. Instead, it should be custom-made for this particular blog post. That way, you can design it to communicate more than just the basic topic. Instead, it can tell the story of your blog in a specific way.

You'll want to repurpose this header for social media channels. That's why you need to make sure it's really worth a thousand words. The story it tells will encourage more of your followers to click through and find out what this blog post is all about. It will also make your social media post about the blog a more compelling share.

2. Include an image every 75-100 words.

In an analysis of more than one million blog posts, content analytics platform BuzzSumo found that posts with an image every 75-100 words got double the number of shares compared to articles with fewer images -- and also performed better than articles with more images. Take this article from a Spain travel website. It follows the 75-100-word rule and has three times as many views than another article with fewer words.

So if you want to create shareable content, you need to include more visual content -- which includes everything from static mini-infographics to videos.

3. Incorporate data visualization.

When you're sharing the results of a study or providing an in-depth analysis, the numbers can be fascinating-- but they can still appear dry and uninspiring when they're in a big block of text. Instead, pull out the most compelling data and include charts, tables, and graphs in your blog posts. These also make for highly shareable assets on social media.

4. Illustrate a story.

When you're telling a story -- perhaps talking about a customer journey, or sharing the history behind your brand --the most effective way to go is often to include illustration. Blog posts can be hard to relate to when told in the abstract.

Instead, consider inventing a character with a name and a particular problem. Then illustrate that character as she passes through the customer journey, working with your brand to achieve a goal.

These illustrations will keep the reader engaged over the course of the blog post, and will make the piece more relatable on a human level.

5. Embed videos.

Video will comprise 80 percent of all web traffic in 2019, according to Cisco. Web users love it: it keeps them engaged, and it's highly shareable. If you can include any relevant video with a blog post, do it.

You might be embedding a relevant video you found online. Or even better, you might share a video of your own. Creating a custom motion graphic or video helps you say exactly what you want to say. What's more, it's highly shareable, and you can use it across channels and on multiple places on your website. Consider creating a motion graphic about:

  • How to use your product or services

  • Your company's basic offerings

  • 5 advantages to working with your company

  • Your mission, vision, and values

  • What makes your company different

The sky's really the limit when it comes to what you can do with video.

6. Include an interactive widget.

Interactive tools help personalize the customer experience, and keep them on the page longer. In fact, visual interactive content boasts a 70 percent conversion rate. So consider how a simple tool that asks readers yes-or-no questions might boost the success of your blog post.

For instance, what if you included a calculator to show how much money they might save with your product? Such a tool can help readers feel that they've learned more about what their needs are, how the blog post relates to them, and how your company can help them achieve their goals.

Incorporate these six strategies into your next blog post and you're sure to see increased returns and shares.

Published on: Nov 5, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.