Month: August 2016

5 Rules for Creating Killer Infographics

infographics

Visuals play a vital role in how marketing, advertising, and the relay of information work-especially online. Whether it’s a certain color that grabs your attention or hazard symbols that give a warning message, your brain responds. That’s why it should come as no surprise that 90% of the information the brain receives is visual, and that 40% of people respond better to visual information than just plain text.

With the surplus of information on the web you want to find the easiest and most attractive way to communicate with users, which is how the infographic came about. Infographics condense a lot of information and/or ideas into a visually appealing image. Often used in situations with heavy data or statistics, infographics can successfully and quickly illustrate concepts to viewers.

While there are no official rules to creating infographics as it’s largely at the discretion of the designer, there are certain things that make for a successful visual. If nothing else, these are the guiding principles of infographic development.

1.Cater to a specific theme and develop a narrative.

The beginning stages of hashing out an infographic can be a lot like the initial work on an article or blog post. Since an infographic needs to say everything in a clear and concise image, you have to identify upfront what your message is. Try and identify the kind of content you’d be communicating if the end result weren’t an image. Is it a how to? Is it data and facts? A process? What wording should you use? Here’s an example of a well themed infographic:

picture2-infographics 5 Rules for Creating Killer Infographics

The Paleo theme is supported by a simplistic and minimal design that enhances the topic. Once you know what you want to say, you can start working out how you’re going to say it through visuals, and figuring out how to bring that message to life is the fun part. Developing a narrative with flow involves consideration of how the infographic will fit into a larger body of text, or how it will effectively stand alone. Before starting on your graphic, draft out your message to get a clear idea and stick to a focused theme.

2. Carefully develop your headline.

As is true with any piece of content, the headline (or title) of your infographic will be just as important as the graphic itself.  Having a compelling title is what will catch the attention of users to earn clicks and shares, and it should strike a balance between saying too much and not enough.

The most important thing to keep in mind when creating a headline/title for an infographic is not to give everything away. Even if it’s the infographic is full of statistics that will need further context and explanation, saying too much in the title diminishes the intrigue necessary for users to click.

3. Keep the infographic focused and the design simplistic.

Like most things online, infographics are most effective when kept simple. A big part of infographic appeal is taking something complex or text-heavy and making it a simple, condensed piece. Mucking that up with too many visuals will create a visual overload that users find unappealing.

As an artistic component, make use of blank space where necessary. You don’t have to say everything in just one infographic-you can always break up your message into a flowing series of as many infographics as you need. Here’s an example of a few infographics coming together to make a whole:

4_timeline-662x2509 5 Rules for Creating Killer Infographics

While this particular example might be a project that’s bigger than most infographics, it shows how flexible they can be. Your information doesn’t have to be confined to one infographic, so take the extra space if you need it.

4. Make your graphics pretty with visual representations.

Connecting your infographic to the topic requires visual representation. Here’s what I mean:

picture-4-infographics 5 Rules for Creating Killer Infographics

Of the images above, one is a bar chart and one is an infographic. How you dress up and present your information is a critical part of infographic development, especially for data-driven information and statistics. People are attracted to attractive things, so find a way to make your visual appealing while adding to the topic.

5. Promote your infographic and make it shareable. 

It’s unlikely that your infographic will soar to viral heights without putting some effort and consideration into promotion. Exposure, just like articles and press releases, is key to getting more eyes on your infographic. Adding social share buttons to your infographics and developing a strategic posting plan is a good starting point. You can also try and connect with influencers who would be interested in your graphic and open to sharing it across their network.

 

 

is courtesy of https://www.highervisibility.com

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Securing Your CMS: 2016 Best Practices Guide

padlock

Part of what has made the internet more of a necessity than a luxury is how accessible it is for people. So accessible that just about anyone can have their own website, which is why there are over one billion existing websites right now-a number that grows as impressively by the second as it has by the year.

 

 

InternetLiveStats.com’s tracking reveals explosive growth in total number of websites across the web in the past 15 years.

As is evidenced by the graph above, the internet has seen an explosive growth in the number of websites within the past decade. Why or perhaps more appropriately, how has such a massive growth been possible? In large part because open-source Content Management Systems (CMS) experienced an explosive growth period as well.

A recent security overview by Sucuri reports that over a third of all websites online are powered by four key CMS platforms: WordPress, Joomla, Magento, and Drupal. The popularity of these specific CMS platforms is due to a handful of appealing factors, such as platform accessibility, focus on user experience, platform success in niche markets, etc.

But an unfortunate problem that has developed right alongside these CMS platforms is a serious threat to cyber security. The widespread accessibility of CMS technologies has resulted in as many unskilled webmasters as there are skilled. This leaves websites more susceptible to hackers through gaping vulnerabilities in simple cyber security practices.

Cyber security threats and attacks increased by 194% between March 2015-2016. 

 

Breakdown of infected websites distributed across the most widely wised CMS platforms from Sucuri’s “Website Hacked Trend Report 2016,” Q1.

 

So, why are CMS platforms targeted by hackers?

First, because websites on these platforms are so prevalent. Second, because the open-source framework of these systems requires webmaster responsibility and attention to security precautions.

There’s a lot of monetary incentive for hackers to find and exploit vulnerabilities in these systems since these CMS platforms are so widely used by businesses and for e-commerce purposes. That, on top of already existing hacker culture, is incentive enough for digital perpetrators to regularly target open source CMS systems.

How to Protect Your Website

Though the capabilities and tactics of hackers are constantly evolving, so are the resources and opportunities for cyber security. As more websites on these CMS platforms continue to pop up, it becomes increasingly important to regularly maintain and update the security features of your website(s). If your website exists on WordPress, Joomla, Magento, or Drupal, here’s what you can do.

WordPress: Security Best Practices for 2016

  • Don’t use admin as part of your username or password. Brute force attacks try plugging in an assortment of passwords and phrases exhaustively until the correct one is found. Since admin is part of the default username on WordPress, it’s one of the first phrases tried in brute force cyber attacks. By simply going into the Users section of your WordPress site and making a New User with administrative rights, you can delete the default admin user. This strategy coupled with an uncommon, unique password is an easy way to reduce security risks.
  • Use two-factor authentication. For the little extra authentication hassle is costs you, the security benefits are well worth it. It’s used on notoriously secure websites, like Gmail and Paypal, and you should be using it too. The Google Authenticator is a painless way to add this to your WordPress security practices, and the mobile app is compatible with all smart phones.
  • Limit the number of login attempts, because after fifteen failed attempts it’s probably a red flag. There are WordPress plugins for this and it will also help with brute force attacks.
  • Choose a good hosting company. As a starting point, it’s worth noting that when it comes to hosting companies, you get what you pay for. Be prepared to pay a little extra for hosting companies that boast impressive loading speeds and other such features, and pay attention to whether or not the company uses shared Sharing a server with other sites can be dangerous, because if one website gets hacked, yours may be at risk. An ideal host will have assistance if you get hacked, redundant firewalls, and more.
  • Consider comprehensive security packages. Since WordPress is the most prominent CMS platform and therefore represents a big slice of the hacker pie, it might be worth it to invest in a website security service that protects your site from every angle. Aforementioned security giant Sucuri offers a security stack with a slew of impressive features and has a 30 day money back guarantee.

Joomla: Security Best Practices for 2016

  • Use a secret login key. One of the best ways to secure backend access to your website is to actually hide the login key. KSecure is a Joomla protection extension that shows you how to add a secret key for accessing the admin login page. For example, whereas a normal website would have login access at http://www.example.com/administrator, adding a secret key will tack on an extra word or symbol after /administrator that will reveal the backend login page. If hackers don’t have the key and only type /admin, they’ll be redirected to the home page.
  • Update to the latest version of Joomla and your Joomla extensions. According to Blue Bridge Development, the number one reason Joomla websites get hacked is because their version is outdated. Part of the reason this is such a problem is because not all Joomla extensions have update notifications. You can stay on top of updating by going to Extensions>Manage>Update.
  • Use Joomla security extensions. Speaking of extensions, you can always try using one of the Joomla security extensions. These will be armed with strategies to prevent the most common Joomla security vulnerabilities.
  • Sign up for Joomla’s security notifications. Whenever a new vulnerability or problem is discovered within Joomla, two email notification services notify the list members. You can sign up here.

Magento: Security Best Practices for 2016

  • Review your server for “development leftovers.” Magento urges its users to ensure there are no accessible log files, publicly visible .git directories, database dumps, or any other unprotected files that could potentially be used in an attack. Over time, these kinds of files tend to accumulate on servers as a result of normal website admin behavior, and it’s important that these “leftovers” are as secure as the rest of the files on the site.
  • Maintain regular backups. Magento’s administrative panel has a built-in backup system in case files are accidentally deleted, hackers penetrate a website store, data disappears, etc. These backups can quickly restore your website back to normal. You can access the backup features through System>Tools>Backups in your admin panel.
  • Add an extra layer of security by using encrypted connections. A URL without an encrypted connection begins with http://… and is open to hackers who can potentially get usernames and passwords to your website. Using an encrypted connection will changed your URL to https://… indicating the website uses a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) that protects information between clients and servers. Through the back end of your website, go to System > Configuration > General > Web > Secure and change the Base URL setting from “http” to “https”, and set “Yes” to using secure frontend URLs and secure Admin URLs.

Drupal: Security Best Practices for 2016

  • Back up your site-both the database and files on the web server, and test them often to make sure they’re working. In the event of a cyber attack and/or site issues, it will make it much easier to restore the website.
  • Use PHP snippets sparingly and carefully. When it comes to coding, an out of place piece of punctuation or letter can break the PHP snippets and cause issues with your website. Even worse, if a hacker gains access to PHP snippets it opens up your entire website. That’s why it’s vitally important to only entrust site developers with PHP access and always test your code blocks inside a temporary page before applying to your website.

 

Final Thoughts

To clarify, these are the best practices for website security across the prominent platforms, not all the practices. Effective website management will combine the best practices in cyber security alongside the routinized smaller methods. There is also significant overlap in the best practices across these four that are worth carrying out regardless of your website platform (i.e. keeping uncommon login and password information, two factor authentication, etc.).

Airtight security practices are what distinguish good sites from great sites and earn user trust. As cyber threats continue to advance, so should your plans and strategies for protecting your website and the information entrusted to it by your users. Make your site safer this year and put security at the top of your priority list.

is courtesy of https://www.highervisibility.com

Refine Your Writing: 10 Easy Tips

refine

After the years we spend learning to write formally for academia, content writing at first seems a little unnatural, mainly because blog writing lends itself to a certain brevity and casualness in both style and tone. What I’ve found is true for me as well as other bloggers is that proofreading and editing can also take on a quick, casual manner, often hinging on sloppy.

When you’re focused on meeting deadlines and cranking out strong content, editing, proofreading, and refining the writing process can get pushed onto the backburner. But part of producing strong, quality content is ensuring that it’s clear of the errors and clumsy wording that tends to seep into writing. Sometimes weeding out those mistakes is simply a matter of getting back to basics, so try refining your writing and editing process with these 10 easy tips.

  1. Ditch the distractions.

Even if you think you’re a good multitasker, you’re not. Nothing sets you up for failure more than flipping between Spotify, Twitter, your word document, and chatting with coworkers while trying to write. When you sit down to write something, be all the way present and eliminate your distractions. Put in headphones and ignore the incoming text messages-they can wait and your writing will require less editing once you finish.

  1. Determine the content format first.

Some writers are gifted enough to sit down and produce something great without a clear plan of action. For those of us who can’t do that, winging it doesn’t always work out well. Before even getting started on a piece of content, decide what the end result is going to look like. Is the piece going to be a list? A guide? A quiz?

  1. Add editing and proofreading into your workflow.

Adding editing and proofreading into your workflow is a great idea for content teams. It adds accountability and checks and balances into the writing process: you write something, another edits it, you take the feedback and tweak it again, etc. The more eyes you can get on your writing, the better. Though it may sound like a time suck, adding it to the team process eventually becomes a quick and routinized process.

  1. Learn to spot your common mistakes.

Most people tend to make the same mistakes in their writing. For example, I use the phrase “baring that in mind” excessively, as well as weak wording such as “really” in place of more deliberate words. But because I know that, I’m usually able to catch myself as I’m typing it. Read over some of the writing you’ve done and try to identify common mistakes you make. By simple being aware of them, you’re less likely to make them.

  1. Create an editing checklist.

One way to streamline the editing process is by making yourself checklist (this is also helpful for reposting content). A simple list of reminders creates fewer editing tasks for you to memorize and a visual of what needs double checking. It can include “have a coworker read” or “cut excess wording,” or whatever editing and proofreading tasks you need to be reminded of.

  1. Try using an editing tool.

If you create tons of content and don’t necessarily have time to fine tune your editing and proofreading process, there are plenty of tools out there to help. Investing in a software or service that catches technical details, readability, word choice, and more can be a hassle-free way of refining your writing. Plus, there are plenty such tools available for free.

  1. Read it out loud.

This is one of the oldest hacks in the book, and though it seems juvenile, it’s surprisingly helpful. I mutter nearly every piece of writing out loud to myself before publishing it, and I’m always amazed at how many mistakes I catch by hearing how it sounds out loud. Hearing your writing allows you to understand how it will relay to readers while also exposing any awkward wording that needs correcting.

  1. Take a break and come back to it later.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away from your writing for a while-especially if it’s a longer piece. When you’re working on something and spend a lot of time staring at it, things start to look jumbled and your focus shifts to just getting the words out. Walk away from the screen for a while and come back with fresh eyes.

  1. Change the font/size.

I like to do this after the aforementioned break. After a while, your writing can start to look too familiar to catch mistakes. To make yourself more aware of what you’re looking at, upping the font size and changing the font can reveal errors in your writing you might otherwise miss.

  1. Get feedback from better writers.

One of the things I’ve found most helpful in refining my own writing is getting feedback from writers who have far more experience and are much more talented than me. Learning from those whose writing you admire is an excellent way to push yourself towards new goals. Many successful bloggers and writers are happy and willing to share what they’ve learned and give feedback, so try reaching out to them.

is courtesy of https://www.highervisibility.com

How to Entice Clicks for a Higher CTR

clicks

There’s a tendency to regard site rank on search engines as the single most important factor of SEO. After all, if your website is ranked among the top, doesn’t the rest just take care of itself?

But what tends to get overlooked is how other SEO components can play an even more significant role in site performance; for example, your click through rate (CTR). As you likely already know, CTR is a ratio showing how often people who see your ad actually end up clicking it, and it’s very telling of how successful your keywords are.

What many people fail to acknowledge is that your CTR can earn you the traffic of a top ranking spot. In fact, many websites get far more traffic than sites they’re outranked by because a solid headline impression attracted more clicks than competing websites and ads.

With the recent changes being made to AdWords, specifically the keyword function, now more than ever is the time to freshen up your understanding of CTR and acknowledge the impact it has on site performance. Check out these tips and learn how to entice clicks that will drive your site’s CTR.

  1. Use emotion-triggering words in your headlines.

This is probably one of the easiest ways to entice clicks. Users are compelled to click on headlines that employ powerful, emotional words. By generating some kind of reaction-anger, positivity, shock-you compel users to click while also distinguishing yourself from other headlines and links.

  1. Gain exposure through social media ads.

If there were ever a click-happy atmosphere, it’s the social media sphere. First of all, social media ads are all pretty cost effective. For a cheap price, you can generate tons of clicks and exposure. This is a big deal for brands looking to broaden their target audience, because social media ads can be specific on who they display to and how they display.

  1. Create a sense of urgency with countdown timers.

Also along the lines of social media is the idea of using a countdown timer to create a compelling sense of urgency. Marking the end of a sale or special brand event with a countdown timer has shown to significantly boost ad performance and draw more traffic.

  1. Use ad extensions to show reviews.

Review extensions do a lot to help ads by creating visible social trust. The overwhelming majority of online users claim that online reviews influence their buying decisions, so putting a positive review as a built in component of your ad is bound to draw clicks.

  1. Display location symbols.

Location symbols give ads a sense of legitimacy that draws user attention. It seems subtle, but when there’s a list of ads and only one has a location symbol, that’s the one that will likely stick out. Getting noticed is half the battle of getting clicks, and symbols are one extra detail that will drive that attention.

is courtesy of https://www.highervisibility.com

Keyword Management: Tools You Should Know About

keywordstock

The change in Google Keyword Planner caused a stir among users in early July. As you may or may not have heard, Google has blocked access to the Keyword Planner tool for those without an active AdWords account. Not such a big deal for those with active accounts, but definitely annoying for those relying on the tool without an account.

Given Google’s propensity for digital domination and the time we spend trying to perform better on the search engine, it can be frustrating when access to their tools becomes limited. But there are, in fact, a number of tools out there that can help with keyword management and your SEO strategy as a whole. Here are a few of the keyword management tools you should know about.

Top Tier Tools

I’ve referenced Ahrefs before because its range of tools is broad and hugely successful for many users. Ahrefs boasts the biggest and most accurate database of backlinks and as such delivers highly detailed and specific data. The keyword component of Ahrefs is reportedly highly accurate and offers a scoring system. Ahrefs has a free trial that will get you access to their keyword tool.

The SEO powerhouse has Keyword Explorer, which gives you everything you’ll ever need to know about prioritizing and targeting keywords. Through a clean and user-friendly interface, the Moz keyword tool has metrics, suggestions, volume estimates, and more. Access to Keyword Explorer is paid, and the number of keyword reports depends on purchased plans.

OnPage is another great tool I’ve previously mentioned. It allows you consistently track your keyword rankings and better understand how it’s affecting your website traffic. OnPage updates right alongside the search engines at a constant rate, so their keyword monitoring function will keep you on top of what’s working and what’s not. OnPage has a free plan that offers monitoring of up to 5 keywords, with several paid plan options as well.

The nice thing about SEMrush is that it gives you a lot of room for exploration. The main features of this keyword research tool include phrase matches and related keywords, long-tail keyword exploration, and search volume estimates. SEMrush would be an ideal tool for people working across multinational and multilingual digital environments. Accessibility varies depending on the plan purchased. Although there isn’t a free option, both monthly and annual plans are available.

Lower Tier Tools

Google might dominate the search engine world, but there are still people who cater their optimization efforts towards other search engines, such as Bing. And, even if you’re not optimizing on Bing, their keyword tool can still be used to find related keywords. It’s free to use, and the only thing you need to make sure of is that your website is verified in Bing’s Webmaster Tools.

This tool might be older than the hills, but it’s incredibly simple and easy to use. It pulls keyword ideas and search volumes and is completely free to use.

is courtesy of https://www.highervisibility.com

5 Golden Tips for Social Media Engagement

engagement

Among the most important tasks of digital marketers is bringing their brands to life. Part of that task involves being personable and relatable-someone users can identify and engage with comfortably. Sounds obvious, right? Well, despite knowing that, many still struggle to cultivate an engaging social media presence. This is problematic, because if social media is a key outlet and your presence on platforms is failing to engage users, the content and/or services you have to offer will likely be underutilized.

Aside from mastering the art of being charming in 140 character tweet, there’s more to curating an effective social media presence that inspires engagement. By balancing more analytic aspects of social media engagement with an anecdotal presence (and in addition to a polished management practices), you can learn the ins and outs of social media engagement. Check out these tips and see what works for your brand.

  1. Use scheduling tools.

There’s nothing more tedious than having to manually push content every time you create something new. When you’re reposting and publishing while also trying to engage with your audience, something is likely to suffer.

That’s why tools like CoSchedule or Sprout Social can be so helpful. Such tools allow you to create custom messages for your posts so and/or manage interactions with other people from a clean, user-friendly platform.

  1. Get personal.

Speaking of custom messaging, being personal and unique when posting content is key to encouraging user engagement. Nothing says “spam” like a social media account that cranks out content with a comment, description, or any indication as to what the piece is about or why someone would want to click on it.

Be enticing and personal in every post, and look for ways to drive clicks. Framing your posts with a question, a quote, or some other text will drive the engagement you’re looking for. You might even take the Larry Kim route and use emojis to lure clicks and engagement!

  1. Use compelling language.

Also along the lines of creating personal and custom messages for your social media posts is the importance of word selection. As you’ve likely noticed based on the kind of content and posts you click on, there are certain words that jump out to people and compel them to click and engage.

Go back and look at which headlines and posts have drawn the most engagement, and see if there are specific adjectives or verbs that helped you achieve those interactions. As a principle of psychology, the human brain is wired to respond to captivating words, such as “free” or “amazing.”

  1. Pay attention to data.

One of the best ways to assess and strategize future performance is by looking at past performance. At the very least, spending some time looking at Google analytics can show you what has or has not worked and potentially offer some guide posts for the type of content engaging users the most.

Try finding a common ground in your most successful posts. Was it the wording you used? The content format? Then look at what hasn’t worked in the past, and try and identify why.

  1. Handle the hard stuff.

You might be surprised at how addressing negative user engagement can inspire positive user engagement. When user interaction turns sour, one of the worst things you can do is ignore it. Every form of engagement matters!

Use the negative attention to draw positive attention, and showcase your brand’s ability to problem solve. It will show that there’s a person behind the social profile who cares about their audience and is invested in bringing the brand to life.

is courtesy of https://www.highervisibility.com

Why People Think Link Building is Dead (And Why It’s Not)

chain links

Many brands and site owners are dropping the practice of link building for more appealing and complex SEO tactics. But as alluring and effective as the world of paid search, content marketing, and other SEO practices can be, link building still remains a fundamental way to improve the ranking of your website. So, if link building is still such an integral part of optimization, why are people shying away from it?

One major reason people turn away from link building is for fear of penalties. Thanks to black hat/spam link building scams, the practice has earned a reputation as being somewhat of an inauthentic, fraudulent tactic. Coupled with big brands that have received link building penalties, and link building starts to look like a fast track to getting on Google’s bad side.

Another reason people are rejecting the practice is the belief that link building simply doesn’t work. Because link building (when done correctly) doesn’t return instant results in a site’s ranking, it gets written off as an ineffective SEO method. The average site owner doesn’t have time to waste on practices deemed outdated and unsuccessful, so they opt for PPC or SMM and ditch link building altogether.

Despite these commonly held opinions of link building, the practice still plays a crucial role in SEO and can make the difference necessary to boost your site ranking. In fact, a recent report clarified that links back to your website are among the most important ranking determinants to date.

In case that study isn’t evidence enough, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google (Andrey Lipattsev) confirmed the holy trinity of site ranking signals: RankBrain, Content, and Links (in an unspecified order). Links are part of the backbone of the internet, and effective link building should remain a part of your SEO strategy for the foreseeable future.

It’s important to remember that there is a right way and a wrong way to link build. Trying to get a surplus of low quality links is a good way to end up on Google’s penalty list and take your site ranking more than a couple steps back. There’s no high quality way to automate link building, so when building a healthy network of link signals, keep these tips in mind:

  • Create worthwhile, helpful, high quality content that is worthy of a link on another site.
  • Engage with other sites actively and participate in discussions, comments, and forums-be a regular!
  • Use link building in conjunction with your other SEO practices. Don’t just rely on any one practice.

is courtesy of https://www.highervisibility.com