9 tips from Literally Media on engaging users with Image Testing
Ranked #1 in ComScore’s Humor category, Literally Media has curated a large portfolio of digital comedy and culture brands. They are also, among our global customer base, one of the most experimentation-minded teams. Specifically, they’re the most active users of Image Testing. We sat down with their team to learn about the ways they’ve gotten creative, drawn readers in, and developed their style through designing experiments and image tests.
Here are the 9 key tips that emerged from our discussion:
1. Be straightforward
According to Colby Droscher, Editor-in-Chief of Literally Media’s Entertainment Brands, his team uses Image Testing’s metrics to ensure their content is actually engaged with post-click. “There used to be a philosophy used widely online of withholding information from audiences.” Droscher says. “But we learned that straightforward pieces of visual content perform much better.” When testing images, focus on Quality Clicks to understand what images are getting people to actually engage with your article post-click. “Understanding what information to give your audiences up front helps you weed out clickbait titles and images, which we know is a horrible practice and leads to a bad user experience, and more and more platforms like Facebook are targeting and punishing that behavior” mentions Droscher.
“We learned that straightforward pieces of visual content perform much better.”
2. Tease the action
That said, being straightforward about what will be on a page after a user clicks doesn’t mean giving away the climax of the story. “The point is to draw readers in and then give them the information they came for,“ says Droscher. For example, if an article is about a horse race, the thumbnail should be a snapshot just before the horses cross the finish line — rather than a clip that shows the winner.
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3. Word-image overlays draw readers in
Text overlays on images perform well, because “you not only get a sense of what is behind the page, but you also get a bit of extra information up front,” says Chris Doyle, Head of Product and Technology for Literally Media. Use word-image overlays to draw attention to your text and try different combinations through Image Testing.
“The point is to draw readers in and then give them the information they came for.”
4. Consider the eyeball’s order of operations
“When we first took over Cracked, they primarily used stock images for their thumbnails, focusing mainly on their headlines to attract readers.” says Droscher. “But now we know more about how users look at content: thumbnail first, then title, caption, description. That’s why it’s worth testing every image.”
5. Empower teams to test every piece of content
“Image Testing takes the guesswork out. We used to have post-mortems to discuss what worked; now we bring the Image Testing results to those meetings to do that part of the analysis for us.” says Droscher. Use Image Testing so your teams save time otherwise spent poring over results to make deductions for future decisions. Droscher adds, “We give our teams license to mess with content because there’s no risk, it’s easy, doesn’t require much training, and we want to get to 100% of our images being tested. At the end of the day, every test helps us learn a little bit more of who the audience is and what they’re looking for.”
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6. Test images that you think would not work
When digital audiences are changing at such a rapid pace, gut instinct alone can’t keep up with what readers are looking for. “We have embraced a sense of evolution, and we’re continuously surprised by what we think will or will not work. We’re constantly wrong, but our users see the optimized results, and that’s given us the freedom to experiment.” Droscher adds that, “Sometimes we will take content that is performing poorly, ask everyone to contribute an image idea, and throw it back on the homepage to give it a second life. You would be surprised at how images we think look horrible actually result in strong Quality Clicks.”
“We have embraced a sense of evolution, and we’re continuously surprised by what we think will or will not work.”
7. Apply your learnings elsewhere
Publishers are managing digital ecosystems across platforms and devices; use learnings from Image Testing to boost engagement everywhere. “YouTube is all about the thumbnails. So we embed thumbnails on our pages, Image Test them, and then use the winner on YouTube, and we see more engagement.” says Droscher. Lena Blanky, Literally Media’s Head of Revenue and Operations, says that the team is always thinking about where else they can get creative with Image Testing, and what other applications might be out there.
8. Develop your style
Readers should immediately recognize your branding when they open your homepage, so as homepage teams develop the style audiences love coming back to, use Image Testing to find out what appeals to them most. “Our Cracked team used Image Testing to develop a style of image that is now all over the website.
We figured out what users liked seeing again and again and crafted our style out of that.” Droscher continues, “What works on eBaum’s World doesn’t necessarily work on Cracked, so we have to figure out what style appeals to those different audiences. You can endlessly ideate and experiment, without relying entirely on your gut, and get real-time feedback from your audience.” Chartbeat’s data shows these methods are working, as both eBaum’s World and Cracked have shown about a 15% CTR increase since implementing Image Testing into their strategy.
9. Have fun with it
“Image Testing has opened us up for the future,” Droscher says. “We know we’ll never have it all figured out, but this allows us to quickly play with, borrow, and test new ideas, and create competition within ourselves to better reach our audiences.”