Images Apparently Help with Search Engines

Wordle image for blog post on using WordleI’m no web search expert, but from various things I’ve heard and read from people who seem to know what they are talking about, having images, not just text, in our blog posts can help the search engine ranking prospects of those posts. See for example this presentation by Danny Dover, from the top search people, SEOMoz.

So I nearly always have an image of some sort in a blog post. And I work at finding something related to what’s in the text. Sometimes the relationship is a bit tenuous, as in the image of clouds which I used yesterday in a post elsewhere about the use of the word “nuance”.

I usually spend more time than I care to in searching for a suitable image for a post. Which is why I like to be on the lookout for easier, faster ways to accomplish the objective.

Ease of use is important

I like to get images that are:

  • free to use
  • ideally able to be modified without breaching copyright

A note on “free to use”. I’ve found I can waste a lot of time looking at “free” images I’ve found via Google, that turn out to be “royalty free” but still requiring a one-off payment before they can be used.

Two sources I use a lot are Wordle and Flickr.

I also invariably use one or both of those for slide decks for my presentations.

In this post I want to focus on Wordle: note that I posted about Wordle a couple of years ago, so this is an update which hopefully benefits from my longer experience now with the tool.

In a subsequent post I will turn my attention to Flickr.


Wordle is self-described as “… a toy for generating ‘word clouds’ from text that you provide”.

A toy it may be, but it is also a very useful communication and business aid.

For example, in a presentation on social media a while ago for a local business group, I wanted to explain how a systematic, strategic approach to social media can transform confusion and overwhelm to clarity and a sense of balance. To do that, I used the same set of words and then used the Wordle tools to rearrange how they were presented.

To start, I just typed some words out. You can do that straight into the online tool or type them into an external file, then copy and paste them. You don’t need punctuation and in fact the tool will not feed punctuation marks into the image.

You hit Go and the image is created.

This was the first, “confusing and overwhelming” version I created for my presentation to the business group:

Wordle image showing social networking apps in disorder - image created on

This was the second, “clear and balanced” version:

Wordle image to show social networking apps in order and balance - image via

Note that the words used for the two images are not identical. For the second image I used more words.

Also, I discovered that the clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text, so with the words I wanted to emphasize for the key platforms I was focusing on in my presentation – Facebook, Twitter, blog, YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn – I just typed them in more than once (from memory twice, but you can experiment to find out what works for  you).

By the way, from the feedback I got, the images worked very well to make the points I wanted to make.

Create with Atom, RSS or URL 

You can also create a Wordle image by dropping into the appropriate box an Atom or RSS feed, or a URL for a web or blog site.

This is an image I created using the URL for one of my blogs:

Wordle image created from URL of Des Walsh's blog

You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.

This is what I got when I changed the font and colors (but not the layout) for the image just above:

No prize for guessing what words I use most in my blog!

Lots of Options

The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends. Or, as I do sometimes, just take a screenshot and save that.

You don’t even have to link the images back to the site or provide attribution to, but as a courtesy I always aim to provide an attribution: with presentations I do that on the acknowledgement slide at the end.

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