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.

 

 

How to Create Quality Video Content for Social Media

Learn to create quality video content for social media via HighleyDesigned

One of the things I can’t stress enough when it comes to social media is quality vs quantity. It’s better to focus on one or two platforms you can master, than waste your time trying to gain followers on every single social network. That said, choose the platform(s) that already have a large following and make it your goal to expand them! One of the best ways to grow your audience is with engaging content, and if you read my latest blog I talked all about content marketing and its various forms. Today I want to focus on video.

Whether you’re using Facebook, Twitter, IG or you’re already broadcasting on Periscope, the key to great video content is knowing your audience. Does your audience follow you for information? Do they follow you because you make them laugh? Or do they follow you for your expert tips and DIY ideas? Take what you’re already good at doing and expand it! Learn to create videos with content you’ve already covered. It’s easy!

If you’ve written an awesome blog about something, break it down into three main talking points. Then, write yourself some notes. You can do a quick Periscope broadcast explaining your post and reviewing your key points or you can make an edited video for Facebook! If you can keep it to 10 seconds or less, create a short video featuring a key point for Instagram. If you’re not a talker or you get camera shy, play around with different video apps like Legend and Filmora and create a step by step tutorial with visuals and graphics.

Another way to create engaging video content is to give your audience a “sneak peak” or “behind the scenes” tour. Show them what a day in the studio is like or take a short video of your staff, or even your kiddos if you work from home. Trust me… it may seem lame at first but people LOVE to see the “real” you! And people love pets and babies, no matter what they say!

The biggest thing holding you back from creating video content is you! Whether your budget is big or small you can take quality videos with your cell phone or using the free apps I mentioned. If you have a tiny budget, start small and make your videos personal. If you have money to spend, by all means hire someone professional to highlight your brand! Video is here to stay so find a way to start using it for your business. The sooner you do the sooner you’ll see an increase in your engagement across all platforms!

Here’s a short video I created with Legend to promote the podcast I host each week with Lancaster Podcast Studio. It doesn’t have sound but it’s perfect for IG or Facebook! When people see something moving or realize an image is actually a video they stop scrolling for a moment and watch! Enjoy!

 

3 Tips to Be More Productive Working from Home

3 Tips to be MORE productive working from home via HighleyDesigned.

Most people think working from home is a breeze. No schedule, no rules, no boss to check in on you and no annoying coworkers… But the truth is, as great as it can be to set your own schedule and get your creative juices flowing, working from home can be hard. It requires a ton of self motivation, organization and planning! I’ve been working from home running my freelance marketing business for nearly two years now and I’ve learned a lot about what works for me so I thought I’d pass along some tips this week.

  1. Plan Plan Plan. 
    When you’re managing numerous projects and accounts, planning is essential. Whether you use a detailed spreadsheet or a good old fashioned to-do list, make sure you have a plan for the week. Set realistic expectations of what you can complete each day and plan for unexpected things to pop up. Don’t fill your schedule to the brim so that an impromptu phone call throws you for a loop – give yourself some wiggle room. If you know it’s going to be really nice out one day, plan to finish early so you can enjoy the park!

    I use an Excel spreadsheet to manage all of my tasks and keep track of deadlines. A color system lets me know if things are HOT, WARM or COLD, and I work from red to blue. The goal is to keep all of my tasks in the blue – meaning I have plenty of time to finish them. Occasionally I’ll have a day full of red tasks that need to be done asap, but if I manage my time effectively, that’s not often, saving me time and stress.

  2. Develop a Routine.
    As nice as it is to “wing it” sometimes, working from home is a commitment that requires routine. If you’re not a morning person, that’s fine. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty because you enjoy your sleep. Maybe you do your best work from 4pm-11pm, find what works for you and stick to it! If you work from home so that you can take care of your kids, you’ll probably need to work around nap time or school pick-up etc. When you find what works for you, make it a habit!

    My daughter is 9 months old and requires a lot of attention, so my mornings are typically dedicated to her and keeping our home in one piece. I can count on getting back to emails and responding to any “red hot” tasks when she takes her morning nap. In the afternoon, I do the rest of my work. Not only does a routine help keep me organized, it helps me set boundaries so I can decide what I can commit to or decide if I’m too busy. As a freelancer it’s easy to take on a ton of projects so it’s always important to think ahead so you don’t bite off more than you can chew.

  3. Take Time for YOU.
    It’s easy to get lost in a project when you’re working from home. I know I’ve had those sweatpants and crusty t-shirt kind of days when I can’t seem to pull myself away from the computer until I finish ONE more thing! But the truth is, nothing good comes from overworking yourself (or wearing sweatpants all day.) If this sounds like you, put the laptop down, take a shower and eat a good meal! You can’t produce your best work if you’re not feeling good about yourself. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable while you work from home, but I find getting myself together in the morning, eating breakfast and just taking time to be human is a huge benefit to my work life.

 

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