It’s no secret that visual content can boost the quality and success of marketing content on the web. However, all too often, content marketers make the mistake of relying too much on the same old, boring stock images, without giving much thought to content.

In today’s competitive environment, it’s crucial that your images relate to your brand, quickly grab the reader’s attention, and completely embody the main topic all at once.

In many ways, the images you pick are as important as the content itself.

Here are three ways to choose images that will truly click with your website visitors:

1. Skip the generic stock image

Stock images can actually give the impression of camouflage on a website. A few photos of business professionals posing in front of a white background, or a generic clip art graphic of a target to illustrate goals – this type of content will not help distinguish your brand from the competition.

If you want to use visual content to stand out, it’s important to generally stay away from generic stock images. Rather, illustrate your point with photos and visuals that are fresh and different. This doesn’t mean you have to imagine colors that have not been named to be unique, but it should prompt you to research deeper themes and illustrations that are relatable to your audience.

Not sure if your visual is unique? Check out Google’s Search by Image to see what kind of similar visual content is out there.

2. Ask yourself, “Does it enhance the story?”

Storytelling can be a big point of emphasis in content marketing. Every piece of content can tell a story, big or small. The visual content you select can either distract from that story or enhance it.

Don’t simply use a visual because you’ve read data on how important visual content can be. Use a visual because it’s relatable, helpful or even inspiring. People respond to images they can relate to, so always keep your target demographic in mind, and use pictures that characterize their specific interests and lifestyle. If you ask yourself why you’re adding a visual, you will typically have a good gauge on whether it’s a story-enhancing image or not.

3. Get your hands dirty and be creative.

Want more authentic visual content? Take the bull by the horns – it’s the greatest dirty little secret for selecting visual content. While picking a visual from a stock website is easy, creating and capturing your own visual content can be even easier when done right.

Possibly the best tip for making your images feel original and authentic is to take your own photos. Depending on the subject, some of the best shots are candid photos of your team, a picture of the office or close-ups of your products. There’s no chance of anyone ever having the same images, and they are guaranteed to feel real and authentic along with the rest of your content.

Do you have a smartphone or digital camera? With a little research on basic photography and composition, you are already equipped with the skills you need to take a quality photo, and share it on social networks or on a blog.

Remember: When creating website content, you’re creating a more authentic brand experience. No stock site in the world can capture your brand like you can. So, go ahead … it’s time to start getting creative!

About the Author: Nate Holmes is the marketing coordinator for Widen Enterprises and its Smartimage brand extension. He has a strong interest in brand management, content marketing and marketing analytics.