How to Instantly Transform Your Landing Page Images from Good to Great

image of couple

Reading this post made us smarter, richer, more fascinating, and an average of 3 inches taller.

Let’s say you place a photo of a client on your landing page.

Just the photo. No client name. No title, or business name. No clue as to what industry that client is in, or where they come from.

Now, photos are a great addition to landing pages. Photos of happy clients help to build trust with your readers, showing the type of people who do business with you.

But would anyone even know that person was a client?

The moment you add in a few important details — the client name, the industry, and the words “one of our customers” — a fog is lifted from your page.

Suddenly there’s no confusion, no weird guessing or conjecture on the part of your readers about who this person in the picture is.

Just a couple of words. Can they really be that important? Actually, yes.

Simply adding a caption will radically increase the effectiveness of images on your landing pages. Here are four critical reasons why.

#1: Without captions, readers draw their own conclusion

So you’ve got a photo on your landing page.

It makes perfect sense to you why that photo exists. You might think it’s completely obvious.

Because you know all about your business. But your readers probably don’t.

Your readers may very well get the wrong idea. You’re forcing them to guess, to come to their own conclusion. And that might be miles from what you intended.

The job of the caption is to yank the reader from whatever they’re thinking about, and get them to read what you want them to read.

Without the caption, there’s no telling where your reader’s thoughts will end up. They may go in a direction that’s completely counterproductive to what you want them to think about and do.

The only way you can control the situation is to slide in the caption.

That way, there’s zero misinterpretation. Your reader sees the picture, reads the caption, and her thoughts are directed where you want them to go.

#2: Captions give you three ways to educate and create curiosity

When you’re getting a point across in a caption, you can use three strategies.

You can use a problem. You can use a solution. Or you can use a combination of a problem and solution.

Each one of these immediately creates curiosity and/or education in your reader’s mind.

Let’s look at three examples. You might see captions like these on a screen shot for copywriting software:

1: The solution-only caption

Our product gives you clear guidelines that let you see for yourself what’s missing and what’s working in your sales copy.

2: The problem-only caption

How do you know if your website message is working as well as it should? How can you know in advance that your presentation will wake up your audience?

3: The combination of a problem/solution-based caption

How do you know if your website message is working as well as it should? How can you know in advance that your presentation will wake up your audience? Our product gives you clear guidelines that let you see for yourself what’s missing and what’s working in your sales copy.

Do you see how all three types of captions work to educate and create curiosity?

Let’s look at curiosity a little more with Reason 3 …

#3: Captions are an effective handbrake

We’re used to seeing pictures and quickly scrolling by them.

But the moment there’s a caption, we’re practically compelled to read the content under the caption.

That’s because we want to be sure we’ve interpreted the image correctly.

It’s also why having photos and illustrations on a web page or sales page is very important. It keeps the reader from skipping quickly from the start of the page to the end.

The photo gets the reader’s attention, and the caption makes sure you keep that attention.

While creating this handbrake momentum of stop-go-stop, captions are doing one of the most valuable tasks of all:

Each caption is acting as a mini sales message.

#4: How captions create mini-sales messages

When you run a problem-solution scenario in your caption, you’re effectively doing what a strong headline does.

Every outstanding headline is designed to get your attention. A caption is simply a headline underneath a photo.

If crafted properly, a caption makes the reader more curious and compels them to investigate further into your product or service.

A solution-only caption may not create the same level of curiosity, but it will still give the reader a much better understanding of your product or service, especially if you describe a benefit rather than a feature.

Does every photo or illustration need to have a caption?

Ideally, yes. No matter which newspaper or magazine you pick up, you’ll find captions abound everywhere.

But there are exceptions.

For instance, in blog posts, the photo tends to function more to catch the reader’s attention than to drive home the point. And you don’t necessarily need to slow the reader down before diving into the content. In this case, not having a caption is fine.

And even on landing pages, there are times when you’re using a photo purely to get the attention of the audience. These photos tend to be the ones you see first on the page, and are meant to draw you in.

Other than that, almost every photo wants the power of a caption to drive a specific point home. And yet website owners miss out on the awesome potential of the caption to slow down, educate, create curiosity, and drive home a mini-sales message.

Photo. Caption.

Photo. Caption.

Yet another photo. Yet another caption. That’s the way your landing pages should be.

About the Author: Sean D’Souza offers a great free report on ‘Why Headlines Fail’ when you subscribe to his Psychotactics Newsletter. Be sure to check out his blog, too.

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Comments

  1. Do you have any examples of sales pages that use this tactic correctly?

    I want to put this into practice right away.

  2. Interesting, I never really used captions, I guess mostly because I use pictures in blog posts, and figure the post itself relates to the photo and vice versa.

    I will be setting up a testimonials section on a new website I”m designing and will make sure to use captions.

  3. Nice post, but I know its useless for non-designers without examples. Believe me, I know :)

    • I agree. Some graphics or examples to a page would help a lot.
      See captions as “headlines under pictures” and you’ll quickly get the idea.

    • Here are some examples (without graphics)
      1) (Don’t you just hate painful clients? Learn how to use the power of the ‘six critical questions’ to get incredible testimonials—and attract clients that make every day an absolute joy).

      2) Organised people already know how to plan. They don’t need information like this. Yet most planning books are written without considering chaos at all. Learn how the ‘Chaos Planning System’ is a radical, yet perfectly intuitive way to plan). And learn how to get things done, and take long vacations as well.

    • And here’s one with a graphic link.

      The image address for this one is:
      http://www.psychotactics.com/images/stories/benefits_pic0_small.jpg

      The caption (which appears on the sales page) is:
      Benefits, features and bullets seem deceptively simple to write. Learn how to avoid mistakes made by most writers (even experienced ones) and write benefits, features and bullets that jump out at your reader.

      See

  4. As the man said, “On the average, twice as many people read the captions under photographs as read the body copy. It follows that you should never use a photograph without putting a caption under it; and each caption should be a miniature advertisement for the product – complete with the brand name and promise.” – David Ogilvy

    • Absolutely. The numbers I’ve seen suggest that the caption is the third most-read element, after the headline and the P.S. I suspect they might even be the second most-read element. It’s really hard not to read a caption. :)

  5. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Having a little bit of a caption can “pre-sell” our posts and help set us up for getting the readers involved further in the product or service or even for getting them on a list. Those captions or lack thereof can provide so much in a little bit of space and doesn’t take too long to do.

  6. Ok I’ll do a bit of an experiment then :-) Currently my landing pages (and store) have images of the classic ebooks that we produce. None of the images have captions, mainly because the title and author should be readable on the image itself.

    Next week I should be updating the website. I’ll put captions on everything, even if it’s just the title again, and I’ll add more images with attention-grabbing or compelling captions beneath them. I’ll be able to see if it makes a big difference to how our audience engage with the website.

    Wish me luck! :-) I’ll be back to report.

  7. Hi, I’m another chancer, hoping that the following link won’t get me in trouble. But, I feel that some people might not understand how to add a caption to their images. The following link might help some. Sorry if this gets me sent to the naughty chair. Just trying to help…

    http://webdesign.about.com/od/graphics/ht/caption_images.htm

  8. Captions are important for reader understanding, and also for search engines. On an early blog post I put a fairly random caption and title to an image, and that is one of the most searched terms that brings people to my site. Wish it had been more relevant. They are now.

  9. I also love when someone takes the time to style their captions.Try changing the font size, weight or face. Or add a border or background. Treating the content on your page as a design elements is a great way to enforce visual hierarchy!

  10. Sean, yet another reason is that they have the potential to promote SEO. Also, they’re a wonderful tool to help those w/serious visual impairments understand what the photo is. Why bypass that market? You might think blind folks don’t do photography, buy cars, skydive, paint, etc., but I know blind persons who do all these things. (obviously they won’t be the ones driving, but wait a few more years & the self-driving technology of the Google car or that of Virginia Tech that allowed a blind guy to drive the track at the De Tona 500 just might allow that as well.) So–keep the alt text & captions for images coming!

  11. You are quite right! My posts that include images have outperformed those that don’t over the long term.

  12. How long and descriptive should captions be? Also how are we going to position an image and its caption in a blog so that it catches more attention?

  13. I like your post, Sean. Especially the way you describe the three ways to educate and create curiosity.

    Sometimes we think the digital age is different from everything that happened before. We forget how much we can learn from what advertisers have done for many years. David Ogilvy was mentioned already by Jodi. Joe Sugarman also suggested that most people read the headline and caption before reading the copy of an advert.

    John Caples said: “Don’t run pictures without putting captions under them. Put a brief selling message or human interest message under every illustration you use.”

    And #11 of Drew Eric Whitman’s 22 Response Superchargers: “Put selling captions under photos.”

    Why do we always try to re-invent the wheel?

  14. Stupidity, I guess :)

    ======
    Why do we always try to re-invent the wheel?

  15. Definitely made sense to me. Good evaluation

  16. Amazing how much s simple little thing like captions can do for you, and I like point 4 in particular.

    When I write a sales letter, I always like to have the 10 or 15 headlines on the page tell my entire story so that those people who only ready headlines still get all of my sales message. Until I read point 4 in this post I’d never thought of doing the same thing with image captions.

    But it makes sense. I’m sure there are some people who stop on long webpages to read image captions, the way that some people stop to read headlines. And it I was to include a headline-style caption with each of those images so that together they all told a complete story, I think it could work great.

    I feel a split test coming on!

  17. So if captions are that important,
    does that make a caption > a thousand words? :P

  18. So if captions are that important,
    does that make a caption > a thousand words? :P

  19. I have used testimonial style captions for a number of my internet marketing projects. That way you can 1.) reassure your prospect about you product 2.) show them a vision of what possible if they use your product. Both of these triggers can go a long way in closing the deal.