Statistics show that we don't just like visual content, we need it. Multimedia has become essential to content visibility and survival on the Internet. As images and videos continue to be the dominant forces in online traffic generation, content creators must work to combine visual with text to guide and engage viewers. Recent studies have proven that multimedia — even one simple image — is more successful in attracting and engaging web users than text alone.
Why We Need Visual Content
Time is valuable commodity and the average viewer does not want to feel they are wasting it. In 2013,according to a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average human attention span was clocked at just eight seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. The same study found that only 28% of words were read on an average web page. The Poynter Institute's Eyetrack study in 2006 estimated that users read an average of 77% of story text. According to Smashing Magazine, half of the visitors to a web page leave (or bounce) without engaging, while only 25% of the remaining visitors read beyond the mid-point of a typical web article.
Visual content is processed in the brain 60,000 times faster than text. With 90% of the information we encounter being visual, it's no surprise that our brains process it so much faster. But it does mean that visual content is vital for audience engagement. Adding any relevant multimedia will boost views and engagement.
When visuals are incorporated into content, the time users stay on a web page increases. Articles with imagesreceive 94% more views than those without images. Posts containing images, text and video will attract nearly six times more views than plain text. Forty percent of people will respond better to visual information than plain text. A Comscore study found visitors will remain for two minutes longer when they watch a video on a page. Interactive content also retains users and increases the likelihood of shares.
Statistics on Multimedia Use
Images, infographics and video dominate multimedia content because they are memorable, accessible and easy to share across social media platforms. We know how much of a difference a simple image can make on enhancing content. What about infographics and video?
Infographics are a visualization of data designed to convey complex information in a quick and memorable way. Using infographics boosts traffic 12% more than text-only content with the same information. They are also easy to share on social media and therefore can reach a wider audience faster than multimedia that requires more investment.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research supposes that a minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. SEOMoz found that "posts with videos attract three times more inbound links than plain text posts." Video has the benefit of being more engaging while presenting more information in a shorter span of time than text or a manually-controlled slideshow. The downside to video is that users are unable to share just a portion or screenshot of the media to demonstrate why they are sharing it. When including video as part of your content, choose a short clip, no longer than one to five minutes duration, to encourage content sharing.
How to Boost Visibility of Multimedia Content
Visual content is great for attracting users who are browsing other content, but it can't be picked up by search engines just on its own. Just as visual content enhances text, text boosts visibility of visual content in search engine crawls. When preparing multimedia content for a blog, you'll need to implement SEO elements — titles, keywords, tags and file names — to optimize that content for search rankings.
Understanding why we need to incorporate multimedia into online content will help us implement it efficiently and effectively. When you know which media best serves your text, you can create compelling content that performs well and benefits both publisher and audience.
Content on this site was originally written by Katharine Miller between 2000-2015. Many feature articles and interviews were published in print and on websites that no longer exist. Katharine is reproducing her written material here for portfolio and archival purposes only. Links and credits to clients and original publication will be included where possible.