Humor engages audiences in a way that other methods of communication cannot. This is the primary reason why close to one out of every three adults in their thirties feels that The Daily Show and The Colbert Report can take the place of traditional news outlets. The effectiveness of humor is also the topic of my two most recent posts: Why Being Funny Makes Business Sense and How Content Businesses Can Boost Revenue with Cartoons.
However, now that you are down with the how and why behind humor, the time has come for you to get into the nuts and bolts of it all and learn exactly how to find, choose, and add cartoons to your website.
Finding Cartoons for Your Website
The simplest way to find cartoons to add to your website is to use the cartoons and comic strips that you already enjoy. In fact, many well-known cartoons, such as Dilbert, will let you add a widget to your personal, non commercial site for free. These widgets publish a new cartoon each day on your site.
Unfortunately, going this route is not the best way for you if you are trying to earn a buck. After all, cartoonists ought to able to buy food and shelter the same as you, and they are therefore not all that keen on giving away their work (livelihood) to be used on commercial sites. Actually, when it comes right down to it, snatching the Cheerios out the mouths of the cartoonists’ children can be downright dangerous to your financial health.
When looking for cartoons you need to play it safe and assume that every cartoon you find online is copyright unless there is a written statement saying that the work can be used for commercial purposes. Failure to make this assumption can cost you up to $150,000 per work infringed.
Think the risk isn’t real? Take a look at this poor copywriter, who thought he could skate by as well: Legal Lesson Learned Copywriter Pays $4,000 for $10 Photo
Simply put: you must get permission to use other people’s cartoons on your site. Depending upon which cartoon you want to use, this can be either nearly financially impossible, as in the case with Disney characters, or simple and cost friendly, as in the case with Gag Cartoons. Going with a service such as Gag Cartoons is also a fine idea since we’re set up in a way that makes it easy to find cartoons for a wide variety of topics from animal cartoons to winter cartoons and for a range of purposes from being for blogs, newsletters, or presentations.
Once you have identified the cartoon, you’d like to use, you need to:
- Identify the owner.
- Contact the owner and request permission. If you want to be the only user of the cartoon, ask for exclusive rights, otherwise go with nonexclusive permission.
- If need be, negotiate a payment.
- Get the permission in writing (do NOT skip this step).
Determining Cartoon Topic
Selecting your cartoon topic is often the most difficult part of this entire process. After all, while making sure that your cartoon somehow represents your brand you also need to make sure that it is funny, but not funny in a way that offends potential clients and customers.
Thankfully, simply by following the guidelines below, you can be assured that your cartoons serve your business needs.
- Make sure your business needs humor. If you sell wheelchairs, perhaps your site should not have cartoons.
- Do not make the cartoon the focal point of your website or your business. The cartoon is the sizzle to the steak.
- Do make cartoons the focus of specific blog posts, assuming your site is or has a blog.
- Do not use cartoons to insult.
- Choose cartoons that are relevant to your industry. Sure, Dilbert is funny, but if you are a one-man freelance writing service, an office-based Dilbert cartoon does not relate to what you do or what you offer.
- Choose cartoons that reinforce your product or serve. What problems does your business solve? Find cartoons that tell the tales of people with those same problems.
Placement, Frequency of Cartoons on Your Site
People tend to read websites in an F shaped pattern with the most important part of the site being in the top-right corner. Since, as stated in guideline number 2 above, cartoons are the sizzle to your steak, your cartoons cannot be in the top-right corner. Also, your cartoon must not break the left margin of the F-shape. Breaking this margin makes it very difficult for visitors to follow your site’s text.
Cartoons on your landing page need to go in the right sidebar above the fold. This is where the bottom arm of the F-shape reaches out. Conversely, cartoons that are the focus of blog posts need to go at the top of the blog post above the post’s title.
To give your site a continuously new appearance, regularly update your cartoons at least once a week.
SEO and Your Cartoon
Your cartoon, just like everything else on your site, needs to be search engine optimized (SEO) so that search engines will find your site and give it a high search engine results listing. You SEO your cartoons just as you do images on your site. To SEO your cartoons:
- Name the file using your site’s primary target keyword(s) and a description of the cartoon with the words separated by dashes, such as Bob’s-Italian-Eatery-NYC-Dilbert-Eats-Anchovy-Pizza
- For your cartoon’s ALT text, use the same text that you used to name your file but without the dashes. The example above would become: Bob’s Italian Eatery NYC Dilbert Eats Anchovy Pizza
That’s it. That’s all you need to know about finding, selecting, and adding cartoons to your website. What about you? What have you learned, the good and the bad, about using cartoons to help grow your website?