What’s a Featured Image? (And why do I need it?)

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This is one of those WordPress things that sounds complicated, but is actually super super simple. However, don’t let that fool you! Featured images are still super important. It’s an easy way you can help your blog look more professional while helping with social media shares and even with your Google rankings. So what’s a featured image? A featured image in WordPress is just a specific image that you want to be highlighted (featured) along with that blog post.

Blog posts often have lots of images. In this blog, I use a lot of screenshots of the backend of Divi or WordPress, to show people how to do specific tasks or create certain designs. On my teaching blog, I use a lot of photos from my classroom or of the teaching resources I’ve created. Depending on your content, you’ll have different kinds of images on your blog, but almost all blogs have some kind of image.

But what about the featured image?

This is one specific image that you choose to ‘represent’ that blog post. You can choose from the images you’ve used in the post, or you can choose a separate image. To choose a featured image for your post, you need to open up (edit) the blog post. On the right hand side bar, you’ll see ‘post’ and ‘block’ at the top. Click on ‘post’ and all of the WordPress info related to that post will appear. You can edit things like the format, author, categories, etc. If you scroll down in that right hand side bar, you’ll get to ‘featured image.’ Click on ‘set featured image’ and you’ll have the option to choose from your exsiting media library or upload a new image.

Whatever image you select as your featured image will be automatically pulled to display by WordPress. If you’re using Divi, that image will be pulled to the Divi blog module. You can turn that feature off in the blog module. I sometimes do that on new site builds where the blogger doesn’t have much content or images yet. But I recommend keeping it on and setting up all of your blog posts with featured images that are optimized for SEO.

Tips for creating and using featured images:

PRO TIP: Make graphics for each post.

I usually make a graphic for each of my blog posts with the title of the post. This is in addition to whatever images I add to the blog post that are needed for explaining and showing the content of the post. I set this title graphic as my featured image. That way, my blog roll page looks nice and neat and all the posts have graphics with their titles. It’s also good if you’re using Pinterest, because then you have a ready-made graphic to use for a pin to your blog post.

This is my graphic for this post:

Another PRO TIP: Make one image and change the background colors.

If you don’t have time to make images for each blog post, you can make one graphic and use different color backgrounds. Then, set all of the featured images on all of your posts to that same image, but rotate the colors. And voila! You’ll have a stylish looking blog roll with less than half the effort. And you can always come back and swap out the featured images later!

One more PRO TIP: Name your featured image

To help with SEO, make sure to name your featured image something that has to do with your blog post. Google doesn’t know what to do with ‘screenshot d0239ds9er,’ but if you name your image ‘how to add a featured image,’ or whatever is relevant to that specific blog post, and then upload it to WordPress, that will help the Googles find your image and your content. And read this article for more on basic SEO tips for your new website.

Seriously, last PRO TIP: Add alt text to your images.

You can also add ‘alt text’ to your images to help with search engine optimization. Add relevant descriptions to all your images to help them show up better in Google. You can do this in the WordPress admin dashboard > media. Click on the image you want to add alt text to, click ‘edit image’ on the right sidebar, and a box will pop up where you can edit the alt text (alternative text). There are lots of online resources to help you with writing appropriate alt text for your featured images (and all your images, really!).

What do featured images have to do with SEO and social media?

Featured images not only make your blog and your website look better, but they are also great for SEO and social media. So, when people share your content, the magic of WordPress pulls the featured image to show up as a thumbnail. But, if you don’t set a featured image, it might pull another image from the post. Or, it might not pull anything at all and leave that space blank. Obviously, having a great featured image helps with sharing and gives potential readers a clue as to what the article might be about. That entices them to click through and read your blog!

Not only does the WordPress featured image come up when you share your link, it also comes up when your blog post shows up in Google. When you Google something you might see thumbnail images next to some of the results. Those are likely the images that the author set as the featured image. So, setting those featured images in your own posts will help catch readers’ attention. And, hopefully, convince them to choose your article to read.

Examples of Featured Images for WordPress Blogs:

These are some examples of featured images that I use on this blog. I made all of these in Canva. Most of them took me less than 15 minutes to make, and some of them were much, much quicker. I try to strive for a consistent style and colors. And I always makes sure the text is large and in a clear font. That way, people can still read it, even when it’s a tiny thumbnail.

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