4 Things Your New Website Absolutely Has to Have

4 things your new website has to have by HighleyDesigned

I recently launched my new website, highleydesigned.com. It’s a simple site to give people more information about my business and my services. It includes a recent projects page which is like an online portfolio and most importantly it features my blog!

As I was designing my site and working on layouts and themes I realized there are a million things to consider, but I was most concerned about a handful of important features.

  1. Make Sure Your Contact Information is Easy to Find
    This is one of the biggest reasons people come to your website – because they want to learn more about you or get in touch with you! Too often I visit websites that bury their contact info or the only way to get in touch is through an email contact form.Make yourself approachable! Let people know you are happy to take their calls or it’s easy to set up an appointment etc. I recommend a phone number in your header and full contact info in your footer (phone and address). Your contact page should include all of that along with a map so people can see where you’re located and that’s where you can add your fax number, email address and other additional information.

    An email contact form is great to have because it makes it easy to track who’s contacting you via your website, but if someone wants to send you a long message or add attachments it’s often easier for them to send an email from their own account. For this reason I include an email address on my website, but if you find you’re receiving too much spam you can always remove it.

  2. Make Sure Your Site Features Responsive Design
    Responsive design means your website is mobile friendly. The term responsive highlights your site’s ability to respond to any device. Take Facebook for example – it looks different on mobile, tablet and desktop. Amazon is similar, and like Facebook, it’s become so popular they developed a mobile app to make it even more accessible.Google has announced that with its newest algorithm responsive design will play a major part so it’s important your website is mobile friendly. You don’t have to write html code to make sure your site is mobile friendly. Try using a visual editor to design your site like Duda. Duda offers beautiful responsive websites at a great price.
  3. Make Sure Your Site Offers High Quality Content
    When you have a great website the biggest mistake you can make is to fill it with mediocre content, poor copy writing or generic headlines. If you don’t have someone in-house to do your writing, hire someone with experience. A professional can make your website sound as good as it looks.Pay special attention to your site headlines and make sure to avoid cliches. When it comes to your content make sure you portray yourself or your brand as a voice of authority in your industry. You want people to know your an expert in your field that can be trusted. And when it comes to your blog or your site’s original articles – don’t share something that’s been shared a million times unless you can add a fresh perspective. Remember to be original!
  4. Make Sure to Use High Quality Photos
    The photos on your website speak to your brand’s professionalism and can either say “high quality” or “yikes they actually put that on their website!” This may mean spending money on stock photos or hiring a photographer – either way, you’ll be glad you did.Make sure your photos are bright and look cohesive. For example if you have a page with staff photos make sure they are all taken with the same backdrop, or if your site features products make sure they all have a transparent or white background.

 

 

Content Marketing: It’s Not Just Blogging Anymore

Content Marketing Comes in Many Forms | Learn more via @HighleyDesigned

I recently started hosting a podcast with Lancaster Podcast Studio called Open Chat and my guests this week were local marketing professionals. We had a great talk about digital marketing and social media but the topic we kept coming back to was content marketing – what it is and how to provide value to your online audience. (To listen to the full show click here.)

I think one of the biggest challenges we face as marketers is defining our audience and creating a variety of media for them to consume. With the numerous social media platforms we have to post on, content marketing isn’t just blogging anymore. And Google is getting smarter – you cannot just blog to add keywords to your website – they want to see that you are providing valuable content that’s user friendly.

So regardless of what industry you’re in, if content marketing isn’t just blogging anymore, what is it? Well, content marketing can be a free eBook, a standout visual, a video or tutorial, an infographic or a free download. There are various tools to create this kind of media and most of them are FREE so it’s easy to incorporate video, GIFs and tutorials into your marketing mix. To learn more about free tools for creating video and standout graphics see my previous blog.

Now that you know what content marketing is, let’s talk about adding value. Something is not valuable if it’s been written about and talked about a million times already. If you are going to write or create a video about something that’s yesterday’s news, you better have a fresh perspective to keep your audience interested. Another tip – if you can’t explain a process in a few simple steps then leave it to someone else. Adding value means providing your audience with something that’s fresh, easy to follow, entertaining to watch and useful to learn about.

With all of that in mind, think about the various social platforms your brand is using. After you write a great blog you can repurpose that content over time to each of your social platforms as a different form of media. For example, I recently blogged about working from home. I then created a graphic for Instagram and shared a link to the article on Facebook and Twitter. Before writing this blog I decided I’d take that content a step further and create a video to share my 3 favorite tips for work from home success.

The key to content marketing success is simple:

A. Define Your Audience
B. Keep Your Content Fresh
C. Use a Variety of Media – Blogging, Video, Graphics, Downloads, GIFs, etc.
D. Focus on Quality, Not Quantity

If you’re a work from home entrepreneur, blogger or freelancer, enjoy my video! And be sure to checkout the Open Chat podcast – It’s available each Wednesday on iTunes and Stitcher.

 

 

FREE Tools for Creating Social Media Graphics and Videos

FREE Social Media Tools for creating standout visuals and videos! Learn more via @HighleyDesigned

One of the things I have the most fun doing as a social media manager is creating graphics and videos! Most of the apps I use are absolutely FREE, so I figured I’d pass along the savings and share some of my secrets.

Canva

If you use PostPlanner you are probably already familiar with Canva, but if not that’s okay. For newbies, PostPlanner is an awesome tool for finding viral content to share on your social networks and it has an integrated Canva app so you don’t even have to leave the PostPlanner website to create a custom graphic. If you’re not using PostPlanner, simply visit Canva.com to get started. You can create a free account and all features are free but some designs contain special elements (fonts, backgrounds, layouts) that do cost extra. The good news – the extras are all $1 a piece so the most I’ve ever paid for a not-free graphic is about $3. And most that aren’t free use only 1 or 2 paid elements so you’re looking at $1 or $2 for an awesome, professional custom graphic.

What sets Canva apart from other apps is that they have pre-designed templates for almost any social media site! This includes templates designed to the right dimensions for posts, ads, cover photos, you name it. This is a huge time saver for me! I use Canva for custom Facebook and Twitter posts, blog graphics, ads, and even full page flyers and more. I typically use InDesign if I have a big project that requires lots of detail but what’s awesome about Canva is you can download your designs as JPGs, PNGs or PDFs. So, if I need to create a simple flyer to print copies of and I don’t have lots of time, I can create something with Canva and download it as a high quality PDF. See below, a flyer I recently created for a client of mine.

Beautifully designed flyer using Canva free elements!

Not only could I download a JPG for online use, with Canva you can download high quality PDFs for print!

 

PicMonkey

PicMonkey is very similar to Canva but it does not include all of the pre-designed templates. PicMonkey is great if you want to edit or add effects to an existing photo or use their awesome overlays and themes to create something original. I like PicMonkey for creating custom images that feature quotes and original photos. The site is really easy to use and that’s part of what makes it so great! You can download JPGs and PNGs but no PDF feature (at least not yet!). Also similar to Canva, PicMonkey does have a “Royal” plan which allows you to use any premium features for a low monthly price of about $4. So if you are using sites like these a lot the cost is comparable.

Legend

Legend is an awesome app for creating short GIFs and Videos. Simply take a quote or expression, select a photo and then choose from tons of awesome animations that bring it to life! This is an app for mobile only so it’s great for making videos that stand out on Instagram. You can download your animation as a GIF or Video so keep in mind you can now upload GIFs to Facebook and Twitter but for IG you need to download your animation as a video.

Filmora

Filmora is an awesome app for desktop that allows you to create professional looking amateur videos! You can create a full video or use photos and simply add background music or text overlay. I am not a filmmaker but video is such a big part of social media, and apps like this allow you to compete with the big guys that do have a budget to hire the professionals. Filmora allows you to create standout video shorts for Facebook and I find them especially effective as ads! Have you tried a video ad yet? What are you waiting for? Video isn’t a luxury anymore, it’s everywhere and with the tools at your fingertips it’s time to dive in or be left behind.

The only downside to Filmora is that it isn’t free, but for just $29.99 you can download the software and start making your own videos! Below is a simple video ad I created for Facebook using Legend and Filmora. It performed really well and I spent about 50 cents per page like during the campaign which is awesome! Enjoy and have fun creating custom graphics and videos this week. For more tips be sure to subscribe or like my Facebook page! 

 

 

Everyday SEO Part II: Alt Tags that Rock!

Learn how to optimize your website's images with descriptive Alt Tags. Everyday SEO via Highley Designed.

The images and photos on your blog or website can be helpful or or hurtful to your site’s overall Google ranking. The goal is for them to be helpful! Things to keep in mind include photo size which can effect your site’s load time and whether or not your images are optimized with the appropriate Alt Tags/Text and Titles.

So what are Alt Tags and why are they important? Well, they’re not really tags, they are more like descriptions. According to Yoast, the SEO experts, “Alt tags and title tags strengthen the message towards search engine spiders and improve the accessibility of your website.”

So let’s break it down. This is a complete HTML image tag:

<img src="image.jpg" alt="image description" title="image tooltip"/>

 

If you’re using a visual website builder, HTML is the text “behind the scenes” that tells your server what to display. Most website builders have options for viewing and editing the HTML directly, but to add your Alt Tags and Titles you shouldn’t need to. In fact, if you’re using WordPress, adding your Alt Tags is easy. After uploading your photo simply click “edit” and you’ll see these options.

Learn how to add Alt Tags and Titles that will boost your website's SEO via HighleyDesigned.

If you’re using another platform you will have similar options. I suggest finding your image options or settings where you should be able to add the same things – Captions, Alt Tags/Text and Tool Tips. The Alt Tag/Text is what appears by default when you Pin an image to Pinterest. If you enter something in the Tool Tips field that text will appear when someone hovers over the photo on your website.

Now that you know how it works, let’s talk about what your Alt Text should include. Just like it’s important for your site Title and page Titles to include keywords and phrases, your Alt Tags should do the same. Alt Tags should be a full sentence or phrase that describes what the photo is all about or why it’s on your site. Yoast also recommends that “If your image is an image of a specific product, include both the full product name and the products product ID in the alt tag, so it can be easily found.”

Now that you know how to optimize your images, go back and edit the photos on your site that don’t have custom Alt Text and be sure to add it to any of your new photos and images in the future. SEO is always changing but this is a tried and true method to make your website more Google-friendly.

Stay tuned for more SEO tips and be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the latest in social media marketing and web design.

 

 

Turn One Blog Post into Five Social Media Posts!

Create five social media posts from just one blog post via @HighleyDesigned

Lots of people have great blogs but can’t effectively use their content for social media. I’ve found that visual content speaks across all platforms so I want to share today how you can turn one blog post into five or more social media posts!

I LOVE creating visual posts because they are guaranteed to drive engagement. A simple way to create your own graphics is with Canva. Choose from a ton of FREE layouts or pay $1 for additional features.

Fist, choose a blog that’s full of great content and tips. Next, take a sentence from your latest blog and make a quote graphic! Not only can you post the link but now you can share your graphic.

Create countless social media posts from one blog post! Learn how via @HighleyDesigned.

Want to make one blog post go even further? Create a graphic with a tip or statistic from the blog. Here’s an example:

Create countless social media posts from one blog post! Learn how via @HighleyDesigned.

You can turn one blog post into countless social media posts by pulling it apart and creating original visuals. These are especially great for Instagram and Pinterest! Canva also has a feature to help you create infographics which are awesome for showing a step by step process.

Now that you’ve created three new, original posts you can repeat the process! Pick another quote, or tip and create two more original graphics. If blog on a weekly or bi-weekly basis you can create a ton of original social media posts that will direct people to your website without having to post the link over and over again.

Happy Posting!

Increase Your Search Ranking Without Spending a Dime: Everyday SEO

Learn how to increase your search ranking without spending a dime! Learn everyday SEO tips from HighleyDesigned.

You spent hours creating a website (or you hired someone to do it) and it looks beautiful, but for some reason you’re not seeing the traffic you expected. That’s where SEO comes into play. Search Engine Optimization done right will not only get your website on the first page of Google, it will keep it there.

Big SEO firms will charge you a ton of money each month just to send you a report with your Google analytics (that you could have printed on your own). Most won’t take the time to explain what happens behind the scenes or walk you through ways to improve your SEO on your own. Luckily, I’ve had the privilege to work with a local SEO guru who has taught me a thing or two that anyone can implement to improve their search rankings. These strategies are current and proven to work – I’ve seen myself how an average website went to the first page of Google into the top slot within 2 months.

In Part 1 of Everyday SEO tips, I’m going to share some tips for writing better page titles that will improve your search rankings with keywords. But first, let’s talk about keywords.

Keywords: Words that best describe your products and services; words that people will use when searching for your business or services; words that if used correctly will improve your search ranking.

I suggest choosing your top 4 -6 keywords to incorporate into your page title. Then the goal is to create a keyword phrase, incorporating your business name and basic info. To string it all together, the vertical dash is going to be your best friend. (It looks like this | and can be found between the backspace and the enter keys on your keyboard). After your title is written simply copy and past this into the site title/page title section of your website. I use Dudamobile for web design and their website builder makes this entire process so easy! If you don’t use a visual editor simply paste the title into the appropriate section of your header HTML.

Below is an example of a great site title (this is used on the site home page). The company is my hubby’s family’s septic business and they have been on the first page of Google since we implemented Anthony Associates Moveisity program in December. You can create something similar for your own company, regardless of your industry. If you’d like to learn more be sure to follow me on Facebook and be sure to check back for Part 2 where I’ll be sharing how to optimize your photos and alt tags for SEO purposes.

Page Title Example: 

Septic Tank Services Lancaster Pa | John Kline | 717-898-2333 | Septic Cleaning | Pumping | Inspections | Lancaster Lebanon York and Dauphin County Pennsylvania | Waste Removal | Frequent Pumping Discounts

*With Dudamobile this site title will appear for each page unless you go into the SEO settings for each individual page and create additional titles. I suggest creating additional titles that better describe your other pages – services, FAQ etc. However, a title like this one would be fine for your About or Contact pages as well.

Have an awesome weekend and remember, SEO takes time. It takes a few days for any changes to your site to be cached (recognized by Google) and after the changes are recognized it takes time for your site to move up the ranks. But be patient – if you’re doing the right things and your site has great content you will see results!

 

~ Rachel

 

 

 

 

 

New Instagram Features for Social Media Managers!

Sweet New IG Features for Social Media Managers by HighleyDesigned

Instagram has finally introduced an awesome feature for social media managers! I mean, it’s about time you can switch accounts without logging out and logging back in… (Both Facebook and Twitter have had the feature for years.) That’s right – account switching is here.

Whether you have a bunch of IG accounts you manage or you simply want to be able to switch between your personal and business accounts more easily, here’s how you do it. And as of now you can add up to 5 accounts… Bummer if you have more, but at least it’s a helpful step!

Step 1. Login to one of your Instagram accounts and click on your profile at the bottom right.

Step 1 - Login to your IG account and click on your profile at the bottom right

Step 2. Click on the “options” dots at the top right.

2016-02-08 19.46.01

Step 3. Scroll all the way down and click “Add account.”

New IG Features for Social Media Managers!

Step 4. Simply login to your next account and repeat the process to add additional accounts.

New IG features for Social Media Managers!

Step 5. Toggle between accounts by holding the profile image at the bottom right – a menu will pop-up and you’ll see a check next to the account you’re currently using.

New IG Features for Social Media Managers!

Now that your accounts are added you can post pictures and manage your accounts more easily! For more tips and tutorials be sure to follow me on Facebook and keep posting great content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Use Hashtags (for Beginners!)

How to Use Hashtags for Beginners - Blog by HighleyDesigned

Lots of my clients admit that they don’t understand hashtags. These are small business owners who know the value of social media but aren’t sure how to use platforms like Instagram or Twitter. Many of them are just getting used to Facebook! If this is you, or if you’ve just never understood this whole hashtag thing, here it is in layman’s terms. #hashtagsfordummies #kiddingbutnotkidding

What is the point of hashtags?
When someone uses a hashtag in front of a word or a phrase, that phrase is categorized. You’ll notice on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram you can click on a word or phrase that has a hashtag in front of it and you’ll see a list of all the posts, people and photos that use the same hashtag. This is an awesome way to get your social media posts noticed. Why? Let’s pretend you’re a salon owner. Most people around the world aren’t on Instagram searching for “Sally’s Salon, Lancaster PA” (totally made that up), but people are on Instagram searching for “Modern Salon” or “Highlights” or “Blowout” etc. When you upload a photo of a great hair cut and style and you add those hashtags after your caption, your photo will now show up when people search those words or phrases! The same is true for Facebook and Twitter but hashtags are used in different amounts on each platform (I’ll get to that).

So let’s recap… Hashtags have a point because they help to categorize your posts, videos and photos by relevant topics, events and phrases. When your posts get categorized they get noticed!

When should I use hashtags?
You can use hashtags within a sentence if the wording is appropriate, or in a cluster at the end of a caption.

Example 1. Tune in tonight for #ViralChat at 9pm.
Example 2. Wow! Things are finally organized around the office. #organization #beforeandafter #springcleaning

The major social platforms for hashtags are Instagram and Twitter. You can also use hashtags on Facebook, but because Facebook uses a different algorithm altogether so hashtags are less relevant. If you’re posting about a big event or a trending topic on Facebook, use a hashtag, but don’t worry about using hashtags each time you post like you should for IG and Twitter.

If you are watching a popular show on TV or a live event like the GOP Debate, using a hashtag is a great way to have your opinion heard by others. It may even lead to a conversation or a networking opportunity. Twitter chats are another awesome way to make connections and most chats will have their own hashtag, for example Post Planner’s “Viral Chat” uses #viralchat. If someone searches for “ViralChat” they’ll be able to see all of the questions and answers that have been posted with the chat’s hashtag.

How many hashtags should I use?
I’ve done a lot of reading about this and with trial and error I’ve found that for Instagram 11 is the magic number. Photos with 11 or more hashtags receive the most engagement. It’s also important to pay attention to what time of day you’re posting and how long your captions are. You will find that your audience is more active sometimes vs others.

For Twitter I recommend sticking to 1-4 hashtags. You only have 140 characters to work with so it’s important to keep tweets short and sweet. If you can keep your tweets to 100-120 characters others can quote your tweet and still have space to add a comment!

Hashtags aren’t as important on Facebook so I recommend only using them when you’re talking about a major brand, event or have perfect use for a hashtag phrase. For example, “Is anyone else excited for the women’s all around competition? #Rio2016.”

Now that you know why, when and how to use hashtags, go tweet, post and plan away! And remember, social media is a lot of trial and error – you’ll find what works best for your brand or business!

~Rachel

 

 

 

What We Can All Learn From Hess Toy Truck’s Holiday Marketing Campaign

We can all learn from Hess Toy Truck's holiday marketing campaign!

Every year my nephews beg for the new Hess Toy Truck for Christmas. They see the commercials on TV and can tell me exactly what the newest truck is capable of; what kind of gadgets it has and how many lights or sirens it comes with.

This year, I was unable to purchase the trucks at a local Hess gas station because here in the Northeast, all of the Hess stations have turned to Speedway stations. That said, I had to go online to order the trucks.

Hess has done a remarkable job of making the transition from in-store to online purchasing easy and I was impressed with their marketing strategy this year for a handful of reasons. What they did isn’t rocket science, but they executed a highly successful campaign we can all learn a thing or two from.

  1. They started marketing early. 
    By Thanksgiving I began seeing commercials on all kid and friendly – family TV stations. I also heard the jingle on the radio. My nephews were already getting psyched for this year’s toy and could tell me it was a red fire truck that came with a little fire rescue vehicle.
  2. They knew their audience.
    Hess carefully selected their audience – kids and parents. I didn’t see the commercials on MTV when I was watching Teen Mom or The Challenge, (my guilty pleasure is trashy reality TV…) but I did see the commercials on Fox News Channel, ABC Family etc. The commercial had a catchy jingle both kids and parents would end up humming all day long (the get this out of my head kind of jingle), and it featured happy kids playing with the trucks, making all 4-10 year old boys jealous.
  3. They made it easy.
    I do almost all of my holiday shopping online, but a lot of people still prefer to do things the good old fashioned way. The Hess Toy Truck commercial clearly outlined the only way to purchase this year was to go to HessToyTruck.com. (Notice they kept the URL simple too.) By keeping it simple and giving clear instructions they made even the “I’m nervous to shop online” customer the confidence to go online and order. The website was easy to use when you got there and you didn’t have to click around or search to find your product, you simply added the truck to your cart and went through the checkout process.
  4. They had great follow up.
    As soon as I ordered my trucks I got an email confirmation and various follow up emails about the shipping status. The trucks came in just a few days time and the shipping was free which was great. One of the biggest things marketers forget about is follow up. When’s the last time you sent someone an email just to see how they liked your eBook or if they had given any thought to your proposal? Or sent an email to remind people to follow you on Twitter, FB or Instagram?
  5. They went social.
    The thing that impressed me most with Hess Toy Truck was the email I got (timed perfectly) on Christmas Eve. It simply said:
    Hess Toy Truck can teach us all a lesson or two about holiday marketing!
    Not only did they send a friendly follow up email, they asked customers to use hashtag #2015HessToyTruck. This is a brilliant idea! A trending hashtag is an awesome marketing strategy and Hess will have photos to share for days if only a fraction of customers actually upload photos and use the hashtag. The point is, they went out of their way to ask. They sent a simple email, gave clear instructions and made it easy for customers to join in on the holiday action.

Next time you want to promote a new product, an eBook or idea think about Hess Toy Truck and keep things simple. Start early, know your audience, make downloading or purchasing easy and remember to follow up in a social way!

 

 

3 Tips to Grow Your Twitter Following

3 Tips to Grow Your Twitter Following via HighleyDesigned

My clients often ask me – “What should I be tweeting about? I’m not sure what to say and I’m afraid I’ll sound silly.” If you’re brand new to Twitter it’s easy to feel this way but you don’t have to be shy – Twitter isn’t like Facebook – you can say whatever is on your mind, ask a question or “share” (RT) a favorite quote. With Twitter, the more often you tweet the better. You don’t need to think of one profound statement or article to share each day – you can share many!

My best advice to anyone that’s brand new to Twitter is to learn from others. Take a look at what other people are tweeting or talking about and get some ideas of what you want your Twitter “voice” to sound like. If you’re a public speaker and you want to grow your audience and connect with other like minded women, look at the Twitter profiles of your biggest influencers like Oprah, MORE Magazine, Kim Garst etc. Even the president has a Twitter account these days. Take note of what others are tweeting about and how they are sharing information. Chances are if they have hundreds of fans and you find their content fun and interesting, they’re doing something right.

Now it’s your turn. Once you get used to tweeting regularly, sharing your blog posts and links to your website it’s time to start thinking bigger. If you’ve established a posting schedule and have great content it’s time to start expanding your audience. After all, there’s no point in sharing if no one is following! Here are some proven ways to grow your Twitter following without spending a dime. Trust me, they work!

  1. Tweet Regularly and Often and Interact with Others
    Not only should you tweet at least 4-10 times per day, you need to start interacting with others. Try to RT at least twice a day and thank people for sharing your content or liking a tweet. Use any interaction as a way to introduce yourself and if you want to learn more about someone send a DM and ask to connect on FB or LinkedIn.

    I’m not a fan of “salesey” DMs but with Unfollowers.com you can schedule automated DMs to go out to new followers and start a conversation with potential clients, customers or influencers. You can also auto schedule tweets to be sent to new followers, people who add you to lists etc. This is a great tool if you don’t have time to be on your phone throughout the day.

  2. Use Hashtags
    Hashtags are so important on Twitter. Not only do hashtags allow you to find out what’s trending and see what people are talking about, they allow other users to find YOUR content. For each tweet try to use at least one hashtag, and no more than four.

    When you’re trying to decide on what hashtags to use consider what’s trending, who you want to see your tweets, and what “category” you’d put your content into. For example, if you’re an educator you may use: #ChildhoodEDU #TedTalks #Homework #ParentingTips. Think about who the info is helping – parents. Who you want to reach – people that listen to Ted Talks. And the category you’re talking about – Childhood Education or Homework.

  3.  Participate in Twitter Chats
    Twitter chats are an awesome way to meet other people and gain followers. Usually hosted by a top influencer or organization, a Twitter chat will be scheduled to start at a certain time and that person or organization will tweet questions that anyone participating can answer. To be part of the chat use the specified hashtag and all of your answers will be categorized and searchable. You don’t have to answer every single question but if you have a great answer don’t be shy – share it! A chat is also an amazing way to interact with others. RT great answers that you agree with or reply to someone’s answer to say you love it / disagree etc. Your goal is to show off your expertise and find others that you can do business with, connect with or learn from.