Stock Photos: When Free Isn’t Too Good To Be True

Everyone loves free. For freelancers and marketers like us, it is free apps, free fonts, free Chrome extensions and free stock photos. But what comes to mind when you hear the term “stock photo,” let alone free? Probably a group of people in a well-lit conference room working.’ Or a woman enjoying her salad a little too much. Or something so bizarre, you’re unsure what to think. Whatever the case may be, most stock photos, if they are not completely unusable, are so uninspiring that they suck the life out of the content they are accompanying. I am looking at you, Mr. Innovation. Believe it or not, stock photos are not all pictures of models with cheesy smiles on a white background. There are ways to access legitimately high-quality stock photos without all of the hassle. You just have to know where to look!    Here’s a list of the best free stock photo websites – perfect for designers, marketers, and just about everyone else:


Unsplash is a collection of free high-resolution photos that look like they were taken by your coolest Instagram friend. The website is updated every 10 days with 10 new photos that you can do whatever you want with, as they say. Every single gorgeous snapshot is completely free and easily downloadable. The best part? No fake smiles or awkward poses!


Pexels compiles all the best free stock photos from multiple sources in one place which simplifies the image searching process. The photos tend to resemble the traditional ‘stock photo’ scene, but Pexels’s pictures have high quality and are visually appealing—even in the most boring settings. The collection has thousands of high-resolution free stock photos with a new selection added each and every week!


Pixabay is one of the most impressive, free stock photo websites and has easily become a favorite resource for bloggers and marketers alike. Choose from Pixabay’s collection of high-quality photos and publish them for personal or commercial use. An added bonus: they also provide a selection of free vector graphics and illustrations too!

Death to Stock

Death to Stock Photos aims to help brands, bloggers, and other freelancers create rich digital experiences with real life scenery that’s more authentic than your average stock photo. The photos are absolutely 100% free. Simply submit your email and enjoy a themed pack of quality images delivered to your inbox every month. No catch.


Designer, Ryan McGuire, recognized the need to find quality, high-resolution photography and wanted to give back to the design community by offering the images he takes — for free! Gratisography is a source of beautiful images, beautifully shot. Straying away from your normal stock photography, the site provides brilliant photos while mixing in comical ones to break up the collection. The selection of images and their versatility is what makes Gratisography such a treasure for marketers like us! These free stock photo websites may not cover all your photo needs, but it is the start to help captivate your audience and help them understand the great content you have created for them. Happy searching!

Social Popularity Showdown: Dogs vs. Cats

Ah, it’s an age-old debate: dogs versus cats. Man’s best friend pitted against… a strange furry little creature that leaves all sorts of surprises in unexpected places. Personally, I’ve always loved both (RIP Honeybear), so I’m with this girl:   BUT this is a popularity contest, and we demand a winner! So, let’s dive into the source of all truth: the Internet.  

The Showdown

Social media dominates our time connected to the net, so what better place to get started? With the assistance of Buzzsumo (a really awesome tool that monitors social shares and identifies influencers) and search modifiers, let’s look at the key queries: 40,354 pages of results   58,349 pages of results   Dogs are out to a fast start, but cats can be pretty sly. Dogs have a larger number of total results, so let’s start tallying up totals there. Our canine friends snagged up 2,506,141 shares on social media channels for the top 10,950 results. Because Mark Twain quotes are always good.   Cats, on the other paw, had a total social share count of 2,251,157 for their top 10,950 results. This one goes to the dogs! Dogs: 1. Cats: 0. That Mark Twain knew what he was talking about. Humans with whiskers? Brilliant!   Let’s pause the battle for a second, though, so I can share a few of my favorites. Here goes:   That’s enough furry distraction – back to the battle! Dogs had more results and shares according to Buzzsumo, but what about a simple Google research?   Using the same search modifier as above, cats have about 2,190,000,000 results, and dogs racked up 1,850,000,000. Cats win big. Dogs: 1. Cats: 1.   Of course, the results vary greatly, so let’s add in a third component. Plus, we need a tie-breaker.   For the third and final test, let’s look at none other than Buzzfeed. Now incorporating a site search function in addition to the search modifiers above, here’s what we have:   The top results:   The top results:   Cats do it again with about 200,000 more results on Buzzfeed. This one was a landslide, folks. Dogs: 1. Cats: 2.   Say it ain’t so! Have humans abandoned their best friend to watch cat videos?  

The Verdict

It was close (actually, it wasn’t that close), but our obsession with cats on the web wins them the grand prize of most popular pet. I blame I Can Has CHEEZburger for adding fuel to the cat craze for the larger part of a decade. Aside from seeing that we clearly love all our four-legged friends, there are lessons to pull from this.  

The Takeaway

By using tools like Buzzsumo or even a simple search modifier, we can hone in one specific results to identify aspects of content that “goes viral.” For example, many of the top posts adhere to the popular “listicle” format. Some pieces play on humor, while others tug on your heartstrings, and others still are just downright different.   It all comes down to what I refer to as “The Four I’s”: In order to be successful at content marketing, you need to have at least one of The Four I’s. Ask yourself the following when planning:  
  • Interesting – Can this piece hold readers’ attention, or is this a waste of time and energy for me and them?
  • Informative – Does this content offer some kind of insight or provide valuable information that will make my readers’ lives better in some way?
  • Important – Is this relevant to my audience? Why should they care about what I am writing?
  • Imaginative – Am I adding to the discussion on the topic, or am I simply regurgitating existing information?
  It’s fair to say content promotion and amplification are more important than creation, but you do need to start off on the right foot. A good strategy can draw attention to just about any piece; a good idea will make your promotion even easier. Begin with at least one of the four I’s, and you’ll be off to a great start.   So, what are you: a cat person or a dog person?  

The Top 8 Digital Marketing Posts of the Week

It may have been a short week with the Memorial Day holiday, but the search engine marketing world was as busy as ever. We have combed through many of the industry’s top blogs and put together a list of the top blogs and articles of the week. Without further ado… 1. 3 Crazy PPC CRO Hacks To Boost Conversion Rates Right Now Search Engine Land consistently delivers industry news and updates, as well as fantastic posts for leaders in SEO, Social Media, Paid Search, and other aspects of digital marketing. In this post, Larry Kim dives into making the most of your PPC campaign. Hint: it’s not bidding to have the top position. 2. 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report Social Media Examiner released its 2015 Industry Report this week, and it goes hand in hand with another post from them this week – Social Media Marketing Trends Gaining Traction in 2015: New Research. I’ll ruin the surprise for you: social media is still here to stay; it’s more powerful and more important than ever. Having an effective social strategy in place will pay off in big ways. 3. Four Mobile Dos and Don’ts for SMBs Mobile has been a hot topic in recent years, especially since “Mobile-geddon” in April. Kelly Wrather breaks it down with two dos and two don’ts. “Don’t Be Afraid of Change” is a nice lead in to the next post from Conversion XL, and “Do Put an Emphasis on Quality Content” is a short version to the following post. 4. A Look at Domain Strategy for Businesses with Multiple Store Locations Another do for businesses with multiple locations is to consolidate marketing efforts with a single domain. Link building, content, branding, everything is done best when you focus in on one domain. We still see companies trying to leverage several domains and usually with little success. Our own Dylan Vergurgt breaks it down for you. 5. Why You Should Test on Mobile and Desktop Separately More than ever, users access sites and get to know brands on mobile devices. Conversion rates – ecommerce in particular – don’t match up to desktop users though. ConversionXL breaks down why and how to test differently for the mobile and desktop versions of your site. 6. Why You Need to Start Creating Long, Evergreen Content Today Mobile has had all the attention lately, but Panda is just as relevant as ever. Whether on mobile or desktop, users – especially millennials – are eating up quality content. Visual aids, especially infographics, get a lot of love, but Julia McCoy explains why long, evergreen content is your best friend. 7. 10 Tips for Keeping Your WordPress Site Secure Another hot topic in recent years has been cyber security. Whether it’s protecting your credit card information (*cough* Target *cough) or your website, taking precautionary measures is undeniably important. WordPress is an extremely popular and user-friendly CMS, so Greg Secrist lends a hand with his top tips to your site secure. 8. Is Brand a Google Ranking Factor? – Whiteboard Friday No weekly roundup of search engine marketing blogs would be complete without a WBF from Moz. Rand delivers once again and tackles a tough question. He explores how brand does or does not play into site rankings and overall digital marketing. Give it a watch.   So, there you have it: my top 8 search engine marketing blogs of the week. What would you add to the list?