If used correctly, cartoon illustrations not only attract readers to the articles on your website, but they can also help you to realize more clickthroughs from your advertising. Here is what you need to know:
Studies have shown that ads which are placed near the top of your page get better results than ads placed in lower positions. Also text ads get better results than banner ads containing fancy graphics. There's a reason for this. Web surfers have been inundated with advertising and over a period of time have conditioned themselves to ignore ads as they read the webpage. This is especially true for image ads or banners.
What you don't want is for your ad to look like an ad. If you use Google AdSense ads on your page you will find that these ads are designed to be unobtrusive. Google gives publishers the option of changing the color scheme on their ads and by selecting a background color, text colors and link colors for your ads which match those of your page, you can actually make your ads blend in very nicely. Google allows this.
Google does not, however, allow you to place related images right next to their ads. They don't want any suggestion that there is a relationship between the image you are using and their ads. Nothing prevents you from using an image to illustrate your article as long as the image does not appear to be part of the ad. Because the image stands out from the rest of the page, it can still draw attention to the area of the page where your ad block rests, which encourages your readers to read the ads and maybe respond.
To illustrate the use of cartoon illustrations, on my website I have published the article you are now reading, but I laid it out with a cartoon illustration (see link to my website below).
The first thing you see when you are reading is the title of the article and the illustration underneath. Next your eyes tend to gaze over to the right where the ads are displayed. If one of the ads catches your attention you will click through. If not, you will continue down the page and read the article. This is the order in which I designed this page to be read.
The search engines read the page in the same order as the html code is written, which means the first thing they will see is the title of the article and the alt code on the image. If both use keywords closely associated with the content of the page it helps to bring in visitors interested in your subject matter and it keeps the Google ads relevent to your content.
I like to use cartoons as illustrations because of their fun and colorful appearance. People love cartoons and they are a natural device to attract readership. Advertisers who wish to put their ads on your page will also appreciate the way cartoons are used to bring more attention to their sales message.
Ron Coleman is a freelance cartoonist whose work has appeared in hundreds of magazines and trade journals. He maintains several cartoon websites and you can see more of his work on his own website: http://www.colemantoons.com