Monthly Archives: February 2017

Protect Your Design Work on the Internet

Web designers are faced with a “catch 22” situation. To attract new clients, they must showcase their work and put it on display on the internet. Yet, by doing so, they are more vulnerable to thievery. The possibility of people taking their work and re-publishing it or using it for their own gain without giving the author attribution is a grim reality.

It’s all too easy for internet users to click and save a graphic and insert it into a blog or website without the creator even knowing it is happening.

Many people who re-post graphics are not aware of the illegal nature of their actions. People think that the internet and its images are available to anyone who wants them.

In other cases, people will “steal” designs that don’t have any copyright information stated. They do not realize that an image is copyrighted material once it is published, regardless of the lack of statements surrounding it.

Do you have a team of legal experts ready to prosecute people who steal your work? Unless you have the budget of Amazon.com, this is not a likely scenario. Most freelance web designers do not have thousands of dollars to spend on legal assistance should anyone steal their content, so they must devise ways to protect their work and prevent it from misuse.

Copyright disclaimers – Consider posting a notice of copyright or “all rights reserved” on your website where visitors can see it along with a statement describing the illegal nature of stealing your work. It may not stop every perpetrator, but it will notify those who are unaware of copyright laws about stealing content and also scare others into submission. It’s similar to posting an alarm sign in front of your house to deter thieves from entering. Even if you don’t have an actual alarm system, the thought of possibly getting caught is enough to deter them.

Watermarks – Watermarks are a good deterrent and can prevent people from stealing your images. Designers typically do not like changing the look of their designs with watermarks, but many feel they are the best deterrent to theft. Some resort to a small signature and website logo on the bottom of the design as well.

Take Charge With Licensing

When you post your creative work online, copyright laws help to prevent the copying of your work and control its distribution.

If an individual steals your design and uses it for an ad, it is a direct violation of copyright law. The action is also in question if the individual incorporates the copyrighted work to create a derivative without your permission.

When you use licenses to protect your work, you still own all the copyrights, but you allow people to use your work as you deem acceptable.

The Licenses

1. Attribution

Attribution is the most lenient of the licenses. It allows others to use and distribute your work and create derivatives as long as they give you credit.

2. Attribution NonCommercial

Under this license, people can use and tweak your work and copy it only for non-commercial use provided they give you credit.

3. Attribution-ShareAlike

This license is similar to the open source software license in that any new work created from your original work must be licensed in the same manner. People who use or revamp your work for commercial purposes must credit you and all derivatives will carry the identical license. Wikipedia uses this license.

4. Attribution-NoDerivs

When you opt for the “no derivatives” license, you permit people to redistribute your work as long as they do not change it or modify it in any way. The graphics and images must remain unchanged and the publisher must give you credit.

5. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

This license is similar to the Attribution-ShareAlike; however; it prohibits the use of your work for commercial purposes.

6. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs

For those web designers seeking the most restrictive license, this one is ideal for you. It prohibits the use of your work for commercial purposes. People can download and share your images if they credit you, but they cannot alter them.

 

 

Steps to Optimizing Your Website

The goal of search engine optimization is to have the search engine spiders not only find your site and pages but also specifically rank the page relevance so that it appears at the top of the search engine results. The process of optimization is not a one-time process but requires maintenance, tuning, and continuous testing and monitoring.

Below is a broad four-step process for a strategy for search engine optimization. Use this as your top-level checklist.

Step 1: Target Market Business Analysis

  • Website analysis. Analysis of meta sets/keywords, visible text and code to deter­mine how well you’re positioned for search engines. For example, how much code do you have on a page compared to text?
  • Competitive analysis. Examination of content keywords and present engine rank­ings of competitive websites to determine an effective engine positioning strategy. Pick the top five results in the Google listing results to begin this process. Expand as necessary. Use tools such as Semrush.com and Keywordspy.com.

Step 2: Keyword Research and Development

  • Keyword analysis. From nomination, further identify a targeted list of key­words and phrases. Review competitive lists and other pertinent industry sources. Use your preliminary list to determine an indicative number of recent search engine queries and how many websites are competing for each key­word. Prioritize keywords and phrases, plurals, singulars and misspellings. Please note that Google will try to correct the term when searching, so use this with care.
  • Goals and Objectives. Clearly define your objectives in advance so you can truly measure your ROI from any programs you implement. Start simple, but don’t skip this step. Example: You may decide to increase website traffic from a current baseline of 100 visitors a day to 200 visitors over the next 30 days. Or you may want to improve your current conversion rate of one percent to two in a specified period. You may begin with top-level, aggregate numbers, but you must drill down into specific pages that can improve products, services, and business sales.

Step 3: Content Optimization and Submission

  • Place strategic search phrases on pages. Integrate selected keywords into your website source code and existing content on designated pages. Make sure to apply a sug­gested guideline of one to three keywords/phrases per content page and add more pages to complete the list. Ensure that related words are used as a natural inclu­sion of your keywords. It helps the search engines quickly determine what the page is about. A natural approach to this works best. In the past, 100 to 300 words on a page was recommended. Many tests show that pages with 800 to 2,000 words can outperform shorter ones. In the end, the users, the marketplace, content and links will determine the popularity and ranking numbers.
  • Submit website to directories (limited use). Professional search marketers don’t sub­mit the URL to the major search engines, but it’s possible to do so. A better and faster way is to get links back to your site naturally. Links get your site indexed by the search engines. However, you should submit your URL to directories such as Yahoo! (paid), Business.com (paid) and DMOZ (free). Some may choose to include AdSense (google.com/adsense) scripts on a new site to get their Google Media bot to visit. It will likely get your pages indexed quickly.

Step 4: Continuous Testing and Measuring

  • Test and measure. Analyze search engine rankings and web traffic to determine the effectiveness of the programs you’ve implemented, including assessment of individual keyword performance. Test the results of changes, and keep changes tracked in an Excel spreadsheet, or whatever you’re comfortable with.
  • Maintenance. Ongoing addition and modification of keywords and website con­tent are necessary to continually improve search engine rankings so growth doesn’t stall or decline from neglect. You also want to review your link strategy and ensure that your inbound and outbound links are relevant to your business. A blog can provide you the necessary structure and ease of content addition that you need. Your hosting company can typically help you with the setup/installation of a blog.

Tips to Design Newsletter Layouts

Newsletters still offer the best way to reach your audience directly and increase sales. But if you’ve never managed an email list before this can be an intimidating process.

Once you have a list you’ll need to send out emails that connect with subscribers and offer real value. This means great content and great design all wrapped up in a pretty bow.

  • Single-Column Layouts

Emails need to be designed smaller because email readers like Outlook have more restrictions than web browsers. This means your average newsletter is rarely larger than 600px wide, so it’s best to use a 1-column layout or at most a 2-column layout.

1. Create a header

No question, your newsletter needs a header. It’s the equivalent of a magazine, newspaper or website name. It sits at the very top of your newsletter and should include the newsletter title (if you have one), your company name and your logo.

Fortunately, there are online DIY tools to help you with your headers, such as Stencil or Pixlr. With these programs, you don’t need any graphic design experience to create and save graphics to your computer. Just create your header once, and use it again and again.

2. Let your logo dictate color scheme

Your newsletter needs a color scheme. Because your logo is part of your header, consider using its colors throughout your email newsletter as font colors, borders or other elements. After all, your logo’s colors should already be the color palette for your entire branding.

3. Stick to standard fonts

When selecting fonts for your newsletter, the top priority is legibility. Stick with basic fonts like Times New Roman, Helvetica or Arial. Refrain from using several different fonts in one newsletter: Too many fonts together gives a cluttered, disorganized look that can easily distract the reader. Pick one or, at the most, two fonts for your entire newsletter — and consider sticking with them for each newsletter you create.

4. Use subheadings

Your newsletter should have several different pieces of content that are broken up by subheadings. It should look a lot like a newspaper. The subheadings should be in one of the clear fonts that you selected. The size of the subheadings should be smaller than what’s used in your header, but larger than the text you use for articles.

5. Stack content

If you’re using a newsletter template through an email service provider like VerticalResponse, you’ll be able to add content easily. For a layout that looks good to readers and scrolls smoothly on mobile devices, stack your content.

6. Use pictures

A well-designed email is a good balance of text and images. When a recipient opens your email, images instantly grab his or her attention. By adding a few pictures, you pull in your reader and enhance the effectiveness of your message at the same time.

When you create your next newsletter, add pictures that are easy to snap with your digital camera. For example, take a picture of an employee that you plan to highlight or grab a shot of your newest product to include in the next edition.

Increase Your Website’s Conversion Rate

Getting traffic to your website is great, but if that traffic doesn’t convert, it’s almost useless. This article will outline  strategies for getting your visitors to take action, whether that’s filling out a form, handing over their email address or making a purchase.

1. Include as few fields as possible.

When asking for information in an email opt-in form, ask for as little information as necessary. Here’s an example of how using one additional form field decreased conversions by 11 percent.

2. Add a guarantee.

Include a no-questions-asked refund policy on all purchases. This reduces risk, and increased sales will usually more than make up for any returns.

3. Use tangible action verbs.

When testing out different calls to action, try using action language that spurs visitors to take action (for example, “grab yours,” “reserve your seat”)

4. Use testimonials.

Testimonials reduce risk and provide social proof. Use them on product landing pages as well as on your email opt-in landing page.

5. Clearly state the benefits of your product or service.

Listing the features of your product is important, but it’s even more important to tell potential customers exactly how your product will help them or solve their problem.

6. Pay careful attention to your headline.

Your headline is perhaps the single most important element of your landing page. Brainstorm at least 10 possibilities before choosing the strongest one.

7. Keep conversion elements above the fold.

Opt-in boxes and other conversion elements should be above the fold for optimal results.

8. Use video to humanize your brand.

Include a simple video on landing pages to show there’s a real person behind your brand.

9. Create dedicated landing pages for pay-per-click ads.

If you’re using AdWords or another form of PPC ads, be sure to send these visitors to a dedicated landing page (not your home page!).

10. Include subscriber or social-media follower counts.

Just like testimonials, including social proof helps reduce risk and increase conversions.

11. Incorporate strong calls to action (CTAs) into every piece of content on your site.

Let your readers know exactly what you want them to do next, whether that’s click a button, read a blog post or fill out a form.

12. Recommend related products.

Include links to related content or products to keep visitors engaged and on your site.

13. Include stock numbers.

If you have a tangible product, include the number of remaining stock with your product descriptions (for example: “Order now … only 3 left in stock”).

14. Lose the hype.

Most consumers are too savvy to fall for hype-based copywriting. Lose the hype, and focus instead on writing clear, compelling copy that helps your visitors make a purchase decision.

15. Test variations of your CTA button.

Your “buy now” or “order now” button may perform quite differently depending on where it’s placed, what color it is and how big it is. Test out several variations to see which ones perform best.

16. Tell visitors exactly what they’re going to get.

Provide visitors with absolutely everything they need to know about your product: What are the features and benefits? What does it look like? What are the possible uses? Who will benefit most from it? How will it be delivered?

17. Include a clear value proposition.

Tell potential buyers what’s special about your product. How is it different and better than every other, similar product on the market?

18. Give your visitors tunnel vision.

When creating a landing page, remove anything that could potentially distract your visitors, such as a navigation bar and other CTAs. Your landing page should be 100 percent about getting your visitors to take one, specific action.

19. Include a privacy statement on opt-in forms.

Your privacy policy can have a huge impact on your email conversions. In one experiment, changing the wording just slightly resulted in a 19 percent increase in conversions.

20. Get your visitors excited.

Use emotionally-charged language and amazing storytelling to get your visitors eager and excited to try your product.

Bonus tip: Remember that the key to a highly converting website is to test, test, test. What works for one website, audience or niche may not work for another, making it difficult to offer a one-size-fits-all strategy for achieving optimal conversions. Figure out what works best for your business, and then run with it.