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Web Design Resources for Non-Designers

Most of you are too busy monitoring Google’s latest algorithm updates, examining web analytics, and building links and content to stay up to date on the design world.

Usually, creative people who excel at design aren’t very good at the left-brain thinking required to succeed in the highly-technical search engine optimization industry. Likewise, very few people with the analytical mindset required for search engine optimization would do well in the free-spirited design industry.

Unfortunately, in the real world, you’re often expected to do exactly that. And while most people understand that it would be ludicrous to expect their doctor to also troubleshoot their plumbing, they don’t seem to understand why they shouldn’t expect the person responsible for their SEO to also handle their design needs from time to time.

So you’re often forced to design things for your clients from time to time. Or sometimes, you just need to whip up something for yourself instead of trying to find someone who can deliver what you need on Fiverr.

Since you probably won’t start sporting a black turtleneck and talking about crop marks, press checks, or CMYK colors anytime soon, it seems silly to shell out thousands of dollars on software you’ll only use occasionally, so I’ve compiled a list of design resources for non-designers.

The resources in this list are every bit as powerful as any of the professional-grade software, but they are free. (Some do offer premium versions with more options.) The only downside is that it might be a little bit tougher to find tutorials for some of these programs compared to the industry standard software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.

Image editing

Image Editing.

We all need to edit and create images from time to time, but if you only do it occasionally, software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator works out to be pretty expensive. Fortunately, there are several feature-rich image editing programs available.

  • Gimp – Anything you can do with Photoshop can be done with Gimp, and it runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. The learning curve can be steep, but it’s worth the time.
  • Pixlr – If you’re used to Photoshop, this program has a very similar interface, and it even opens native .psd files with the original layers intact.
  • Canva – The drag-and-drop interface of this web-based design program make graphic design quick and simple, plus it comes with a library of over one million professional stock images.
  • Inkscape – Easily create illustrations, logos, technical drawings, and vector images with this free alternative to Illustrator.
  • SVG Editor – If you’re obsessed about website speed, you probably love SVGs (scalable vector graphics) and this handy tool from Google make it easy to create and edit them.

3D

OK, so you’re not going to compete with Pixar anytime soon, but 3D capabilities do come in handy for designing mockups of books and DVDs, creating characters, and even complete photorealistic animations.

  • Online 3d Package – This tool lets you quickly and easily create photorealistic mockups of books, boxes, DVDs, and CDs.
  • Blender – If you occasionally need to create 3D renderings but can’t justify spending big bucks for professional-grade software that you’ll only use a few times, Blender is the perfect (and free) alternative.

Web design

Web Design.

Designing a website requires a blend of creative and technical skills. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools available to efficiently complete both. From the pretty parts, to the nuts and bolts, to the little details, here is everything you’ll need:

Palette generator – Upload an image and this tool will generate the perfect color palette to compliment it that you can download as a CSS file.

Subtle Paterns – Creating seamless backgrounds can be a pain, so instead of starting from scratch, just download from over 400 high-quality seamless background images, including textures and patterns.

Web page editors

Whether you’re building a website from scratch with a WYSIWYG editor or fine-tuning the code on an existing website with an HTML editor, web design software will probably get a lot of use in your hands. If you have the technical chops to hand code your websites, that’s ideal, but if not, or if you just don’t want to, here are several options:

  • Kompozer – With a WYSIWYG editor in one tab and raw HTML in the other, on-the-fly editing with built-in FTP, Kompozer will make creating and editing web page a breeze.
  • Google Webdesigner – Build HTML5-based designs and motion graphics that can run on any device without writing any code! (If you want to get your hands dirty, you can edit all HTML and CSS by hand.
  • Expression Web – Microsoft offers another free web page editor which has made significant improvements since that abomination called Frontpage.

Favicon Generator – A truly polished website needs consistent branding throughout, and that means all the little details, including a favicon—that tiny little image that sits in the tab or bookmarks. Just upload an image file, such as your logo, and this handy tool will spit out the .ico files you need.

Web Developer Toolbar – This browser toolbar is available for Firefox and Chrome, and helps you troubleshoot your website and even test it at various screen sizes.

Infographics

Infographics.

Infographics are still an effective method to earn social shares and links, and they are a great way to present a lot of data-rich information, but they can be a pain to create. Here are several tools to simplify the process that might even be better (and easier) than traditional design software.

  • Infogram – Build beautiful data-driven infographics in just three steps with this free tool.
  • Piktochart – With a simple point and click editor and over 4,000 graphics, icons, and template files, Piktochart makes it easy to create infographics that look exactly the way you want.
  • Easel.ly – Loaded with tons of creative templates and an east-to-use interface, this is another powerful tool to create your own stunning infographics.
  • Venngage – This drag and drop interface provides all the charts, maps, icons and templates you’ll need to design attention-grabbing infographics.
  • Vizualize.me – Turn your boring resume into a unique visual expression of your skills and experience to stand out from the crowd.

If you are in a saturated market or have a great idea you are certain will be a success then it may make sense to splash out for a custom designed graphic, but in less competitive market some of the above quick-n-easy tools can still be remarkably effective.

Data visualization

Google Charts is a great way to create all sorts of charts, and the best part is that you can create them on the fly by passing variables in the URL.

Typography

Typography.

Today you have plenty of options when it comes to font choices, so please stop using Arial, and for the love of all that is good, never use Comic Sans or I will hunt you down. You can choose from thousands of free fonts, so it’s easy to pick one that fits your project perfectly.

  • Typegenius – Choosing the perfect font combo can be tough, but Typegenious makes it easy. Just pick a starter font from the drop down list and the site will recommend fonts that pair well with it.
  • Google Fonts – I recommend embedding Google fonts instead hosting them on your own server because they load more quickly and there is a chance they’re already cached on visitors’ computers.
  • Font Awesome – This is an awesome (hence the name) way to add all sorts of scalable icons without a load of extra http requests. Simply load one font for access to 519 icons that colored, scaled, and styled with CSS.
  • DaFont – Download and instal these fonts (.ttf or .otf formats) for designing documents or images on your computer.
  • What the Font – If you’ve ever experienced the rage-inducing task of figuring out what font was used when your client only has a 72dpi jpg and no idea how to track down their previous designer, then this is the tool for you. Just upload your image and it goes to work figuring what font it is.

Social media

Social Media.

Social media can multiply your website’s exposure exponentially, but it takes a lot of work. From branding profiles on each network to crafting engaging visual content your fans will share, you’ll have to create a lot of graphics to feed the beast. Doing that manually, the old-fashioned way is tedious and slow, so I recommend these tools to speed up your workflow.

Easy Cover Maker – Stop wasting time trying to position your cover and profile photo for your Facebook and Google+ page. This tool lets you drag everything into position in one handy interactive window, then download the image files.

Quote creators

  • Quotes Cover – Just select a quote or enter your own text, apply various effects for your own unique style, and download eye catching pictures perfect for social media. It even creates the perfect dimensions based on how you intend to use it.
  • Chisel – This tool has the most user-friendly interface and tons of great images and fonts to create the exact message you want to share.
  • Recite This – There are plenty of images and fonts available, but the downside is you have to scroll through images one at a time, and fonts are selected randomly.

Jing – From the makers of Camtasia, this free program gives you the ability to capture images or video (up to 5 minutes long) of your computer screen, then share it with the click of a button.

Social Kit – Create cover images, profile pictures, and ad banners for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube with this free, up-to-date Photoshop plugin.

Social media image size guide – The folks over at Sprout Social created (and maintain) this handy and comprehensive Google doc listing the image sizes for all major social media networks, and since it’s a shared document, you can have Google notify you anytime it’s updated!

Meme creators

Instead of wasting time searching for the perfect meme, why not just create your own?

Stock photos

Powerful photos can mean the difference between a dry post that visitors ignore and one that entices them to read more. The good news is you don’t have to take your own spend a fortune on stock photos because there are several free and low-cost options available.

  • Unsplash – These are not your typical cheesy stock photos; they lean more towards the artistic side. New photos are uploaded every day and they’re all 100% free.
  • StockVault – With over 54 thousand free images available, both artistic and corporate-style, you should be able to find the perfect photo for just about any project.
  • Dreamstime & iStockPhoto – Both of these sites give you the option of a subscription model or a pay-as-you-go credits. Many images on one are available on the other, but I’ve found great images that were only on one of the two sites, so it’s worthwhile to check both.

Inspiration

Even the best designers hit a wall, creatively speaking, so it helps to look for inspiration. These sites curate the best designs around and are updated regularly, so you’ll find plenty of fresh ideas for your project.

Tutorials

Since you’re days are filled with keyword research, content development, link building, and other SEO-related tasks, you probably don’t have time to stay up-to-date on the latest design trends and techniques. No worries—with these websites, you’ll be able to find a tutorial to walk you through just about any design challenge.

  • CSS-Tricks – Whenever I have a CSS question, I always slap “css tricks” on the end of my search because Chris Coyer has the most detailed, yet easy-to-understand tutorials on damn near every scenario you could imagine.
  • Tuts+ – Learn everything about graphic design, web design, programming, and more with a growing library of articles and tutorials.
  • Smashing Magazine – This is probably one of the most comprehensive web design resources you’ll find anywhere, going wide and deep on every aspect of web design.

About the Author

Jeremy Knauff is the founder of Spartan Media, a proud father, husband, and US Marine Corps veteran. He has spent over 15 years helping small business up to Fortune 500 companies make their mark online, and now he’s busy building his own media empire. You can follow Spartan Media on Twitter and Facebook.

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5 SEO Mistakes Killing Your Content Performance and a Fix for Each

Common SEO Mistakes

Common SEO Mistakes

Even the most seasoned content marketers make mistakes. In the world of SEO-driven content, with constant algorithm tweaks and changing search patterns, it’s nearly unavoidable. However, those same mistakes can often lead to discoveries that enable even better content performance.

The key is being able to recognize those easy-to-fix SEO mistakes and address them. As a result, your content will become an optimized, integrated network of metaphorical highways, leading searchers to best-answer content in a strategic and purposeful way.

So, what are the most common SEO mistakes, and how can they be addressed? Below, I’ve singled out the ‘usual suspects’ along with guidance on how to fix them while setting yourself up for long-term SEO success.

SEO Mistake #1 - Choosing Target Keywords Based on Volume vs. Relevance

How Keywords Affect Content Marketers: Great content isn't great unless people see it. But when content marketers overemphasize high-volume keywords, they miss out on meaningful engagement.

It’s tempting to plug into your keyword research tool of choice and select keywords with the highest search volume as your focuses for new content. But if the content you’re creating doesn’t match the search intent for that high-volume keyword, it’s unlikely to perform to your expectations.

The Fix: Google it! All jokes aside, evaluating the first ten search results for your target keywords can help you understand what searchers are trying to find, and what supporting content you should provide to truly be the best answer for that query.

While you’re analyzing those top results, pay attention to key factors that will shape your content creation and promotion strategy:

  1. What type of information is NOT included in top content, but is topically related? This can help you inform how you differentiate your content.
  2. What’s the content demand for that keyword? For example, are mostly top of funnel blog posts ranking, or are you seeing mostly product or service pages?
  3. How many backlinks and referring domains are pointing to the top search results? This can help you understand how competitive the first page of results is, and whether or not ongoing link building should be part of your content promotion strategy.
  4. How long is the top-ranking content for that keyword? This will help you determine ideal content length for your own post.

SEO Mistake #2 - Targeting the Same Keyword with Multiple Pages or Posts

How Same-Topic Targeting Affects Content Marketers: Pressure to create comprehensive content on a topic can actually result in dilution within search.

The conventional wisdom that more is better doesn’t apply universally — especially when it comes to SEO-driven content. Creating multiple pieces of content that target the exact same keyword is a surefire way to stand in your own way of success. There’s enough competition out there for B2B marketers without having to compete with your own content.

For example, a B2B technology company that wants to rank for B2B software consulting should optimize their service page for that term based on what is currently being served in search results. But, if they also create a series of blogs or resources that are targeting that specific term, search engine bots will be confused about which page is the best answer for that query. This could result in none of the content appearing in the top 10 results, in favor of competing sites with a more clear ‘answer’ to that query.

The Fix: Determine which of your pages or posts is the best answer for that particular query by analyzing ranking and analytics data. Which post or page sees the greatest amount of engaged organic traffic for your target keyword, and most closely matches the associated search intent?

Once you’ve determined your target page, it’s time to evaluate the remaining content targeting that keyword. Look for opportunities to:

  1. Remove or prune low-value or outdated content. Is there a blog post full of stats from 2009 that’s hindering your priority page’s chances of ranking? It might be time to consider removing that post and implementing the proper redirects.
  2. Optimize existing content for related, but different, keyword targets. For example, if you have a priority post for Chocolate Chip Cookies, and another post that more closely relates to ‘Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies’, consider optimizing that post for the latter and implementing internal links back to your priority cookies post.
  3. Combine closely related content. For example, if you have several blog posts around your targeted keyword(s), consider combining those posts into a longer, more robust piece of content.

SEO Mistake #3 - Ignoring Internal Link Structure

How Internal Linking Affects Content Marketers: Links are like electricity on the web, lighting up content for people and search engines alike.

Content is discovered by links. Your site’s internal linking structure tells bots (and users) which pages are most important, and which pages are most relevant to specific keywords. If you link to several pages from the same anchor text, for example, there will be some confusion about which page is truly ‘about’ that topic. Other times, you could have pages or posts on your site that are orphaned, with no internal links directing users or bots their way. This can confuse your site users, search engine bots, and even your own team. Confusion is not a ranking factor!

The Fix: Make sure you develop and continue to update your site’s keyword map. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet that lists your page’s URL and associated target keyword(s). This keyword map will help you determine what anchor text should be used to link to your target pages.

Next, conduct a site audit to determine:

  1. If there are orphaned pages that need internal links
  2. If you are linking to multiple pages with the same keyword-rich anchor text
  3. Where there are opportunities to create additional supporting content
  4. Where you might have opportunities to reduce and prune existing supporting content

Next, you’re going to want to crawl your site to find any orphaned pages. Then, map those into your overall keyword strategy and implement internal links.

SEO Mistake #4 - Ignoring Data from Other Digital Tactics

How Marketing Data Affects Content Marketers: Inspiration often drives ideation for many content marketers, but data drives optimization for ideal content performance. Marketing performance data can provide both.

Any data you can collect about how your audience engages with your content has the potential to be an SEO gold mine. For example, analyzing the keywords from your paid search campaigns can give you insight into which keywords are your best converters, and what content best suits searchers for those terms. Social posts that get the greatest amount of engagement can tell you which topics your audience is most interested in. Ignoring data from your other marketing and sales channels means missing out on an opportunity to better engage your prospects.

The Fix: Meet with different teams or departments to find out what kind of content performs best on their channels. Look at the data each platform or channel provides and compare that with your site analytics data for a full picture. And, be sure to share your channel performance data with the rest of your marketing team. The more information available related to content and marketing performance, the better equipped you are to optimize.

SEO Mistake #5 - Giving Up

How Persistence Affects Content Marketers: Content performance in search is a long game and persistence is essential for success.

SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes a lack of results can feel demoralizing, but giving up is simply not an option. You wouldn’t stop building your house just because the nearest lumber yard ran out of wood, right? You’d find another lumber yard and keep plugging along.

The Fix: Take a step back. Re-evaluate the search landscape, your competitor’s organic presence, and your site’s overall health. Being able to remove yourself from the frustration can help you find opportunities you may have missed and additional whitespace to tackle.

Next, seek out advice from other SEOs. Ask questions on social media, in specific groups or forums, or send a question to your favorite SEO blog. If budget permits, enlist the help of a consultant or SEO agency that can help you break through your roadblocks.

Finally, we have two big SEO bummers that are tougher to fix, but absolutely necessary to address.

Bonus SEO Mistake: Migrating Your Site with No SEO Plan

How Migrating Without a Plan Affects Content Marketers: A bad migration can effectively undo your hard work, reducing content visibility and creating more user friction.

If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of SEOs cringing around the globe. A botched site migration can wreak havoc on your organic positioning and torpedo your results. It can take months, even years to recuperate organic visibility to pre-migration levels.

The Fix: Always, always consult your in-house SEO team or SEO agency when you’re considering a website migration. Before you move forward, it’s imperative you have a plan for technical, on-page, and off-page factors.

If you’ve already migrated your site and have experienced a loss of organic traffic and rankings, start with a site audit. Check for the basics, like whether or not your site is being indexed, first. Then start to evaluate technical factors like broken links, crawl errors, and duplicate content.

When in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Recovering from a site migration is a challenge for even the best of SEOs, and sometimes those big challenges call for a little teamwork.

Bonus SEO Mistake: Not Optimizing for Mobile

How Not Optimizing for Mobile Affects Content Marketers: Even the greatest content can’t stand up to a bad mobile experience. Users will bounce, reducing engagement and sending negative signals to search engines.

Mobile accounts for about half of web traffic worldwide. Knowing this, in March 2018 Google started migrating sites to mobile-first indexing. Providing a seamless mobile experience is no longer optional, especially when you’re living in the wild world of search.

Sites that didn’t properly prepare for this can and will likely see some declines in organic search traffic and rankings as a result. And, as more sites follow mobile best practices, more users will notice and become frustrated by poor mobile experiences. This leads to declines in other pivotal ranking factors like on-page engagement. In short, if not properly addressed, a poor mobile experience can wreak havoc on your search visibility.

The Fix: The first thing to do is to conduct a mobile audit on your site. Understanding your site’s mobile performance is step one toward making improvements. Look for things like:

  1. Mobile site speed. A couple great tools for this are Google Page Speed Insights and Pingdom. These tools can tell you where to look for issues like slow-loading code, images that aren’t optimized, and other technical issues.
  2. Mobile experience. Visit your site on your phone. Ask someone who doesn’t use your site regularly to do the same. Record your experience, take notes on where you get stuck and why. Click on everything. Turn your phone into horizontal mode. Try to think of every single way a user could browse your site. And, don’t forget to try a site search on mobile.
  3. Look at mobile analytics. This will tell you key metrics like mobile bounce rate, mobile time on page and pages per session.

These steps will help you build a hypothesis to test against. Is your mobile bounce rate crazy high? Does your site take a long time to load? Is your time on page way out of line with desktop traffic? Then, use A/B testing to root out the discrepancy. Use these same metrics to test if the fix is working. Then, repeat with another element.

So, What Does This All Mean for You?

Ultimately, following SEO best practices as a content marketer can reduce performance-related headaches and set you up for long-term success.

For example, when Innovatech Labs decided it was time to make major changes to their website, they worked with our team at TopRank Marketing to implement a safe website transition strategy, minimizing their risk of reduced content visibility on Google. This assessment involved avoiding many of the big risks mentioned above, including linking, use of data and keyword research which allowed us to act quickly post-migration to combat organic traffic declines. The result? Double- and triple-digit increases in organic traffic (and increased conversions, too!).

A best-answer content strategy focused on creating content with the most relevance to their audience was the ticket to better marketing performance for a martech SaaS company. Working with the team at TopRank Marketing, long-tail and hyper-relevant keywords were researched for a comprehensive content strategy to help the brand content become the best answer for those queries. The “best answer” approach and topics were applied across organic and paid efforts. As a result, the volume of both paid and organic MQLs increased, leading to better content performance and spontaneous proclamations of love from the client’s sales team.

Fixing these big SEO mistakes aren’t only for short-term wins. Our longtime partner Antea Group USA has achieved amazing triple-digit growth over three years by avoiding these big mistakes and implementing an ongoing commitment to SEO-driven, best answer content.

As I mentioned earlier, even the most experienced content marketers can make these common SEO mistakes. But, with the right SEO strategy driven by diligent execution and monitoring of results, you can get back on track. The key is to be intentional about your site’s architecture, as well as the content you create, and to never, ever give up.

Still feeling stuck? Or maybe your team doesn’t have the resources to take on this battle alone? Check out our SEO services, tweet us your thoughts @toprank, or drop me a line in the comments. We are here to help!

The post 5 SEO Mistakes Killing Your Content Performance and a Fix for Each appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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