How to choose illustrations for an expert article to engage and not lose the reader

You only have a few seconds before your brain loses concentration on this text and asks you to switch your attention to something else. Clip thinking, you know. He needs it to be simpler and faster, so that the essence is captured on the fly and it is possible to move on.

Most of the content that you consume is adapted to this mental incontinence — posts in social networks by SMM-schiki dilute emojis or "sew up" text into cards and show it as a carousel. And they manage to convey the essence in 15 seconds of storis on Instagram.

All this is great, but there is a format that you can't adapt that way. This is Longrid. At the same time, you can't do without it in content marketing.
What's wrong with longreads?
They're too long. I saw a guide on setting up an email newsletter for beginners with a volume of 60 thousand characters! But even if you don't bother, the article is still at least 10,000 characters.

In order for a person to read such an article to the end, he needs to be entertained all the time. Visual solves this problem — it facilitates the perception of the text and helps to convey the idea to the reader faster. And, since it's not just about entertainment, memes are not always appropriate.

Memes do not convince to buy
Content marketing and expert content is always a belief.

Every article has a goal: we don't just talk about 10 ways to hitchhike, but try to convince the reader to perform the desired target action. For example, buying travel insurance is an unsafe thing to hitchhike.

The persuasion process consists of three stages:
Capturing attention. Any communication begins with it, it was deduced in the classical formula of AIDA.
Understanding. It is necessary that the person understands what you want to convey to him. If you speak different languages, there will be no understanding. As a result, you will not convince the interlocutor.
Acceptance. The person agrees with your point of view and arguments.

This was formulated by Carl Hovleind from Yale University, and I completely agree with him.

Another problem besides the length of the longrid is skepticism. We do not have time to critically comprehend a short post of up to 500 characters in social networks. When they saw it, they moved on. But if we are reading an article, we have plenty of time.
Features of content consumption: why it is difficult to convince a person
It is difficult to convince the reader of their rightness with the help of content for four reasons.
1. Study the audience using the person method
We have a limbic system, we have a neocortex. It has a program in it: if everything is as usual in the surrounding space, then it is safe. If information comes through the sensor systems that something has changed (sounds, picture) — it may be dangerous. We always direct our attention to where something is changing.

It is impossible to ignore a car alarm precisely because every three seconds there is a sound change — I looked at this example in the book "Made to Stick".

From this point of view, the Internet is now as safe as possible. The information space is oversaturated: dozens of approximately identical articles have been published on the same topic. Everyone wants to be useful, but this is no longer a novelty for people. Consequently, they stop paying attention to the monotonous information noise.
Reason 2. The more complex the topic, the more difficult it is to achieve understanding
Expert content is always complex technical topics:
how to design equipment;
how to set up advertising in Yandex.Yandex. Direct;
how to work with Google Tag Manager.

On complex topics, the brain automatically falls asleep. The cognitive load is too high.
Reason 3. A person thinks critically and rarely takes everything on faith
In our age, no one believes anyone, skepticism is off the scale. There's too much advertising, someone wants to sell us something all the time. The critic inside is always vigilant: "Who said that this is so? Why should I believe you?" If the arguments are weakly presented, the article is unconvincing.
Reason 4. Selective perception of content
People often "scan" the text before they start reading. If the article looks bland or the content is not obvious, the person closes the site.

The second option is blind spots. They include:
everything that looks like an advertisement;
everything that a person "already knows".
If the reader has one of the two triggers turned on, he closes the site again.

Well-chosen images located in the article allow you to eliminate all four causes.
How to use images correctly in an article
Visualization helps to attract attention, explain the material faster and more clearly. Instead of dozens of verbal examples, it is enough to show the scheme once. This way the material is better absorbed: it is stored in long-term memory, and a person does not forget it.

There are four cases where an illustration is necessary.
When there is too much text
Look at the anti-example:

Such a canvas of text is inconvenient to read. We need elements on which the brain will rest and reboot.

Specifically in this text there are numbers — 60%, 69%, 67%. They can be visualized as a diagram. Another option is to try to find a paragraph or sentence that is easiest to transfer to the picture. Visualize it:

I'm not saying that you need to completely abandon the text. There are tasks that cannot be solved without it. For example, search engine promotion. In the picture, the search robot will not see the keywords, but it likes longrides of 15-20 thousand characters. If you replace the entire text with an image, you will not receive traffic from the search.

Otherwise, everything can and should be replaced with schemes.
When there are allegories in the text
In one of my articles, I explained the principle of "raising the price by showing value" through scales and weights. This is a vivid image, it can be visualized:

Here you will have to connect your imagination and choose an illustration that is associated with the problem.
When showing the sequence
If the text contains a sequential algorithm of actions, demonstrate it in the image.

Here you can use not only a flowchart, but also a mental map - MindMap. The advantage of this method is that we can use conditional operators.

For example, if the agency was called by phone, then the salesperson will have one script for the conversation, and if the manager simply did not pick up the phone and calls back — another.

When we give the classification
There are several options here. The flowchart is the simplest:

But what if you need to show the properties of each object? You can use a graph and an illustration at the same time. For example, different types of speakers are shown here and how they differ:

The idea, which would take a whole paragraph to explain, is laconically illustrated with one image.

Another example. In an attempt to formulate what I am doing, the phrase "expert content" was born in my mind. There are many meanings embedded in it that are incomprehensible to a person unfamiliar with me. I made a tag cloud:

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When we demonstrate the numbers
The last case is when we show the dynamics: "it was like this, it became like this."

The diagram immediately conveys the essence to the brain – there was less yellow, there was more, there was red, there is none here. A person immediately understands the essence. Here is an example from an article about the war with search engines:

Which images don't help illustrate the content
And now the category of harmful advice. Everything that is collected in it is guaranteed to reduce the quality of your article in the eyes of the reader and your statistics on the effectiveness of content.
Stamp images from stock
As soon as we see something familiar - a quote, a meme, a video — it immediately falls into a "blind spot". A person sees information, but his brain does not remember it.

For example, we are writing an article about how important it is to achieve goals. Here the stamp will be pictures with darts. I checked: 6 out of 10 people to the question "Are you reading an article about goal setting, what will be the picture?" they answer "Darts!"

We are talking about building business processes - the stamp will be growing schedules, gears, etc.

We talk about interpersonal relationships — we see faceless white men. They are simply killers of any content.

The stamps themselves are not bad and not good. And the phrase "a group of like-minded people" once sounded great. The problem is that too many people have used it, rubbed it to calluses and now the brain does not want to step on it because it hurts.

What to do? We are guided by two principles:

Do not take stamped images from stock

Even if you give a felt-tip pen to a child and ask him to draw a tractor for an article about tractors, you will get an illustration better than if you take a worn-out picture from a stock photo. Your picture will be unique.

I do this. I draw the diagram myself (although I don't know how to draw). I send the sketch to the designer and put a clear technical specification. He understands and draws beautifully.

If you need a flowchart or a mental map, you can use any free service.


Sofiia Dolia

Content Marketer at Seoplay