Geo-Targeting Can Skyrocket Your Conversion Rates!

As the internet continues to grow at an exponential rate, the average web user is overloaded with a vast amount of information. Website owners only have a few seconds to convince someone that the content on their website is worthwhile reading before the visitor moves on. While there are many methods of engaging your visitors and increasing conversion rates, one that is hardly spoken of but is used by all the big players is ‘Geo-Targeting’.

Geo-Targeting in simple terms refers to targeting a visitor based on their geolocation (country, state or city). It involves dynamically delivering web content so that it is highly related to your visitor’s location. Relevant information is the key in catching a visitor’s attention and improving engagement. People are naturally drawn to events and deals that are happening around them. By Geo Targeting your website’s information, your visitors will feel more comfortable and familiar with the content displayed. This will not only enhance their browsing experience, but it will increase trust, separating you from your competitors.

Common Geo-Targeting Techniques

Geo-Targeted Content

A simple example of geo-targeting web content is dynamically altering phone numbers based on a visitor’s location. Having a phone number right on top of the website is a great way to improve call through rates for your business. However, as this space is prime real estate, it only makes sense to display the relevant phone number to the visitor. Geo-targeting can avoid having to display a long list of phone numbers in your website’s footer or on a separate page altogether.

Geo-Targeted Popups

Displaying popups on your website based on a visitor’s location is a great way to target promotions. Let us take a restaurant business, for example, that has several branches spread around the country. Each branch could be running a different deal. The branch in Los Angeles is offering 10% off all burgers. The branch in San Francisco could be offering half price Tuesdays and so on. Using a single website, the restaurant can display the relevant deal to each of its local audiences in the form a popup.

Geo-Targeted URL Redirects

Global companies often have multiple versions of their website tailored to suit each country with a country level domain (.au, .co.uk, .fr, .my, etc.).  Having a local domain can greatly increase trust and relevance. It also makes it easy for the company to completely tailor the website to suit the local audience. Most of these global companies utilize automatic URL redirection to the local domain based on the visitor’s country. This is called geo redirection and it is the most widely used geo-targeting technique.

Airbnb As An Example

Below are screenshots of Airbnb.com taken from California and Singapore respectively. You will notice the 3 accommodation images when viewed from California are Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and Monterey, all of which are located in California. When Airbnb.com is accessed from Singapore, the images automatically show accommodation in cities from countries neighboring Singapore. This is a perfect example of how a large organization utilizes Geo-Targeting to display relevant information to their visitors.

Airbnb.com Viewed From California

airbnb1

 

Airbnb.com Viewed From Singapore

airbnb2

 

How To Geo Target Your Website?

Geo-targeting is a severely underutilized technique not only because of the complexity but the cost of implementation. First off, in order to obtain a visitor’s geo location accurately and non-intrusively, you will require an IP to location database which converts a visitor’s IP address to a usable location. These databases don’t come cheap and they need to be updated frequently. Implementing such a database and writing code in your website to create rules for delivering content, popups and URL redirects based on location will require an advanced level developer making it unaffordable for most small businesses. Or, you can choose to work with a more cost-effective and simple software solution that doesn’t require the complex IP tracking technology.

Once you’ve installed a system to pull the location of your website visitors, you’ll then be able to examine your traffic and strategize the best ways to geo-target them with special offers, varied verbiage, etc.

Happy geo-targeting!

headshotVarun Ramesh is the founder of Geolify and previously an automation engineer in the mineral processing industry. He is now passionate about ‘automation for websites’ as the internet becomes more intelligent and dynamic in nature.

10 Simple Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas

light bulb imageBrainstorming blog post ideas off the top of your head only goes so far. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to get into your reader’s mind to generate post ideas you know will be helpful and relevant.

Here are ten simple ways to keep your blog post ideation machine cranking:

 

1. Hop on a call with readers.

A quick 10-minute phone call can provide tons of ideas in a short amount of time. Plus, you’ll get the actual language your readers use to articulate what they want to learn and their problems that need solving.

Here are a few questions you can modify for your own business:

  • What are the roadblocks you are facing with [insert your topic] right now?
  • What [insert topic] problems have you or your team researched recently on Google, books, or blogs to learn more about?
  • What are you curious to learn more about with [insert topic] here?

2. Send a survey asking what folks want to learn.

Using a tool like SurveyMonkey, ask your readers the same list of open-ended questions in the above phone call example. You could create this as an automated email to new people who sign up for your blog digest update or as a one-time send to the existing readers on your opt-in subscriber list.

3. Research Google autosuggest results.

Open an “incognito window” in your web browser and do a Google search of topics you are interested in writing about. When you do, Google will autosuggest keyword phrases people are already searching for. These are perfect for modifying into blog post titles.

For example, let’s say you are a winery who is interested in generating more blog post ideas. When you type in “how to wine” into Google here’s the autosuggest results you see:

autosuggest screenshot

You could write a post called “The Beginner’s Guide to Wine Tasting in Napa” or use the direct phrase for a piece about “How to Wine Taste in Napa.” By using what people are actually typing into Google, you will increase your chances of ranking in the search results.

4. Peruse what people are saying on social media.

Twitter, Facebook, and other social media channels are a goldmine of information. Do a search of your target topics and see what people are saying about their problems, needs and wants. From there, turn those into blog post ideas.

5. Browse Amazon book reviews.

Find the top 3-5 books on Amazon that cover your blog post topics and/or you know your readers love. Look at the written reviews and keep your eyes peeled for a) what people learned and b) what they are still interested in learning about the topic. You can write a short, informative post to fill in their knowledge gap.

6. Study what’s working for similar bloggers.

This isn’t about stealing or copying, it’s about seeing what readers of other blogs in your industry are responding to, then putting your own spin on it with your own unique voice and language.

7. Discover keyword volume using Google.

The Google Keyword Planner gives you the volume of searches for keywords and phrases and can also be used to generate new keyword ideas.

For example, our team is focused on the “customer journey” which gets an average of 880 searches a month. After plugging “customer journey” to get new keyword ideas, here are the results:

keyword volume

Posts that could be created from this list are “Everything You Need to Know About Customer Journey Mapping” or “How to Understand the Customer Decision Journey”.

Get the idea? Transform the keywords in clickable, irresistible blog post titles.

8. Check out questions people are asking on Quora.

Quora is a popular question-and-answer website. And there is a lot of questions on Quora. One estimate says there has been nearly 11 million questions asked and that number is growing daily. Similar to the other strategies in this article, search for your blog topics and take note of the questions people are asking and repurpose them into blog posts.

9. Read the table of contents in industry books.

Take a “look inside” books about your topic on Amazon, specifically at the table of contents. Chapter titles are meant to draw people in and can spark inspiration for your own post ideas.

10. Share what your company is learning.

People love learning from companies they like. What are some insights your team has learned recently? What’s a strategy you’ve implemented that’s been successful? Share it with your readers.

 

Brian Sun headshotBrian Sun runs the blog at Autopilot, a marketing automation platform that helps small business owners automate the customer journey, visually. Check out Autopilot’s most popular blog post, 7 Lead Nurturing Secrets to Turn Strangers into Customers.

Massively Expand Your Audience with Guest Posts

photo credit: typewriter via photopin (license)

photo credit: typewriter via photopin (license)

You’ve written a great blog post. It’s timely, poignant and well written. Most of all, it is stuffed with valuable information for your audience. What if I were to tell you that you should share that post with another blog and publish it as a guest post? You would probably call me crazy and ignore my advice.

When you work really hard on a piece of content it is easy to be possessive. “I want my best post to draw traffic to MY blog, and my blog alone!” But posts like this can do even more for your blog and business on another blog. It can expand your audience in ways that your blog alone can’t.

Why Submit a Guest Post? 

Guest posting on established blogs and outlets is a great way to spread your influence among their already established audience. If your content speaks universally or even to a niche of their audience, you’re likely to get some eyes on that post you maybe never would have been able to reach before.

Guest posts can also help with search results. If a guest post of yours gets viewed enough, it can show up highly in searches for your company or name. This means more of the top results are related to your business, and there is less opportunity for your competitors to move up in the rankings. If the article is timely and the outlet is well-respected, you’ll even get listed in the all important “News” list of Google search.

Follow The Rules

Every website accepting guest posts has a different process. Some have a less structured system that requires you to reach out to and establish relationships with their bloggers and editors much like you would when pitching a news story. Others that accept guest posts on a regular basis may have a strict policy. If this is the case, be sure to follow their instructions to a tee. You don’t want your post to be ignored simply because you didn’t format it correctly.

In addition, many guest post outlets will have content calendars that help guide their themes every month. Don’t try to shoehorn your topic into one of their themes, instead find the theme that fits your topic best. Your post can wait (unless it has a specific news angle) so it doesn’t need to be published right away.

Speak to Their Audience

Ideally, when identifying guest post outlets, you’ll want to find outlets with audiences that are close to yours. By finding these outlets, you won’t have to spend as much time adjusting the content to speak to their audience, and more of their readers are likely to begin to follow your blog.

But this doesn’t mean you must stick to blogs that only cover your subject matter. You can expand beyond your immediate industry, but be sure to make your post relevant to the audience of the blog on which you’re guest posting. If you’re going after a marketing blog, be sure to approach your subject with a marketing angle.

Share, Share, Share

Once your new guest post is live, you must be willing to share all across your social channels. Get your audience to embrace your post and the outlet. The publisher will do the same.

In addition, be sure to follow up with the publisher once your post is live. You’ll want to get information on how many shares and views your post got. That way, you can use these stats as support for your guest post pitches in the future.

Ready to start guest blogging? At Duct Tape Marketing, we publish guest posts weekly. If you are interested in reaching a small business marketing audience, you can apply to guest blog here: http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog/contact-duct-tape-marketing/

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

How to Use Infographics Effectively

Because of the constant bombardment of information we experience on a daily basis, the average human being now has a shorter attention span than a goldfish! In the digital era, marketers have to change and adapt their strategies in order to get their messages heard amongst the many other competing voices. Because humans are wired to respond more positively to visuals than text, infographics tend to get far more shares than traditional text-based content.

Additionally, infographics allow you to create an emotive story around a seemingly meaningless sea of data, allowing people to swiftly understand the key points without having to do any of the tedious reading. While anyone can pay to commission an infographic, there are certain factors you need to consider if you want your infographic to become a viral success!

Choosing the right topic

It’s important to remember that your infographic should never be a tout for your company; instead you should aim to tackle a contentious issue in your industry or cover a hot topic that you know will encourage sharing. In other words, aim to provide genuine value to people instead of simply promoting yourself. With resources such as Google Trends, Twitter hashtags, and numerous RSS aggregators, you’re sure to be able to find a topic that people will love to see encapsulated in a stunning infographic.

Content creation

When researching the facts for your infographic, always use reputable sources and ensure that they are airtight – particularly if your infographic is about a contentious issue – someone is bound to want to point out the flaws in your argument! You may wish to incorporate some quotes from industry specialists to serve as proof elements for your argument. Also, a few interesting lesser-known facts and quirky anecdotes may help to provide some light entertainment for readers.

When organizing your content, thinking visually is crucial. It’s important to remember that not every fact and statistic will make a good visualization, and conversely, not every great visualization will fit within the narrative of your infographic. In order for the infographic to work, the visuals must support the content and help to drive the narrative home. Never be tempted to sacrifice substance for style! As with any form of content marketing, well-researched, high-quality content is the cornerstone of an effective infographic.

Design

You may wish to design an infographic to match the branding of your company, and this may be a good idea if you are creating the piece for company presentations or other internal purposes. However, you should always avoid “over branding” the piece – in most cases you only need to include your company’s logo and website discretely in the footer.

In the design phase, less is more; if you’re used to creating long-winded text content, you may feel reluctant to omit certain pieces of data, even if they aren’t propelling the narrative forward. However, leaving in extraneous elements will only serve to clutter the infographic and confuse people. Always design from a holistic perspective and be prepared to sacrifice elements that aren’t contributing to the clarity and argument of the infographic.

Promotion

You may wish to create a specific landing page for your infographic, or you can simply post it as part of a blog post. Either way, you should make sure that the page has complete social media functionality so that people can share with ease. Additionally, it helps to include the HTML embed code directly beneath the infographic so people can post it on their websites with ease – this is particularly useful for bloggers within your niche who may wish to incorporate your infographic into their own unique content.

There are numerous infographic submission sites that will be happy to host your infographic and if you’re lucky you could even have it featured on Mashable. However, to get your infographic to go viral you’re probably going to have to do a lot of hustling. Promoting using social media is highly recommended, but don’t forget to leverage your personal network. If you know someone who has a large following online, persuading them to share your infographic can result in huge amounts of exposure, expanding your audience and bringing you new business!

infographics, infographic, mammoth

 

Mammoth Logo

 

Jack Knopfler is the Lead Content Editor at Mammoth Infographics. He has a background in digital marketing and has helped clients in a range industries to improve their presence online.

Quick Fixes to Polish Your Online Presence

You want to go to dinner, but your regular pizza place is packed. You turn to Google. You want to order flowers for your mom for Mother’s day. You turn to Google. You have a new candidate coming in to interview this afternoon. You turn to Google. You heard someone say that they recommend an auto mechanic. You turn to Google. Every day, people are turning to Google to find things that they need, be it a product or service.

Have you ever Googled yourself? Or your business?

If not, you should stop for a second and go check yourself out. What you see is essentially your online presence, your virtual resume. This is what people see when they are looking for your product or service, you or your business.

Yes, you might think that your Facebook page and website show the epitome of what you are, but do they show up when you are Googled? If not, it’s not lending as much as you thought to your online presence.

What will show up when you are Googled are the networks that you are the most active on, if they are public. For example, this is what it looks like when I Google myself:

kala google

We’ve got my Twitter and my LinkedIn at the top, followed by images. There are also things on here like past jobs and blog posts that I have written.

What does it say when you Google yourself or your business?

Now, how do you get this Google search to be a little more of what you want people to see? Here are some quick tips to polish your online presence:

  1. Consistent profile picture – My “Google myself” example is the perfect example of what not to do with your profile pictures. To present a polished and consistent front, it’s important that all of your public social profiles (from Pinterest and Instagram to LinkedIn and G+) to your author pic on the blog should be consistent. A nice, professional photo of your face, sized correctly, has proven to enhance interactions and connections. People love putting a face to a name, and this is your chance to do that.
  2. To stick with the theme of consistency, if you’re a business – ensure that your logo, company name, and website are consistent across all your platforms. There is nothing more confusing than having different versions of your company name or logo on various sites.
  3. For your business to show up in Google, make sure you register with Google My Business, and that this information (hours, contact info, etc.) is consistent with the information found on your website.
  4. Next, what do your profiles, blogs, and websites say about you or your business when someone does find them and click through? Ensure that your voice is consistent, your contact info is easily accessible, and that visitors know what you and your company are about when they get there.
  5. Content, Content, Content – The more content produced across your various platforms, the more Google is going to pull your website, social media, or blog up to the top. Google loves fresh information. My Twitter and LinkedIn are at the top of my Google search because a) my Facebook has privacy settings and b) I update them both a ton. At Duct Tape, we produce a ton of content. When you search “Duct Tape Marketing” you gain access to all of our sites and platforms, and even a link to Amazon to purchase the Duct Tape Marketing book. Pretty good, right? 

duct tape google

 

If you’re active online, your online presence can be overwhelming. There are online ads, SEO efforts, massive websites and dozens of social media platforms, but what do people see when they search you? These quick things to check should help your audience start turning more of the results you’d like them to see when they look you up.

IMG_2750Kala Linck is the Community and Content Manager at Duct Tape Marketing. You can find her blogging her travels, praying for summer or tweeting about marketing, coffee and cats @tadasunshine.

How to Systematically Create an Annual Editorial Calendar

I talk about content, well, all of the  time. I know many of you are sick of reading about it, but I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. In fact, high-quality content that addresses the needs, concerns and questions of your ideal clients is pretty much the price of admission these days.

It’s not enough to create and optimize web pages and call that content either. You must commit to producing content much like a publisher of a magazine and you must do it strategically.

Content is Strategy

Waking up on Monday and deciding what to write about on your blog is not a content strategy. Content is such an essential element in the marketing puzzle you must plan your content like you might your promotional calendar or budget for the year.

Taking a strategic view of content means you must understand the body of work you need to create over time to turn your content efforts into an asset that will serve your business long-term.

In my view, this means applying the same kind of keyword, competitive and linking research that most associate with SEO to your editorial approach. And that’s the point really – in order for your content to pay dividends it must help drive traffic, shares, influence and conversion.

Finding Your Themes

The first step is to start making a list of your most important themes. I generally try to find three core themes and about nine supplemental themes. (Nice tidy 12 monthly themes.) Your core themes are the kinds of things that might be found on your homepage or even in the title attribute of your home page. Or, perhaps the main navigational elements of your site.

Your supplemental themes round out the list and while not as important, certainly make fodder for your ongoing blogging efforts.

Start with brainstorming. Lock yourself away and start thinking about the kinds of things people ask about the most, where you make your most money, or where you see the greatest opportunities in your industry. This is often enough to create a good start to your list. Obviously, if you have a team, get them involved – they may actually know better than you. (Industry jargon that means nothing to the prospect must be left out here.)

Now take that list to the Google Keyword Planner and see if you can find themes that have significant volume. You must balance key terms with being too generic though. A term like “marketing” wouldn’t make sense as a theme, even for a marketing consultant, but a term like “referral marketing tactics” might.

From this work, you should have developed a pretty solid dozen or so candidates for your monthly themes. I also like to take the terms to the Google search page and see what they suggest as related searches and who shows up on page one for these terms now.

BuzzSumo

Researching Topics

Now that I have my terms I want to get more specific ideas for actual topics I might map to each month.

For this task, I lean pretty heavily on a tool called BuzzSumo. There are other tools that can be useful, such as Topsy, but BuzzSumo does so many things I find myself sticking to it.

The basic thing BuzzSumo does is show you the most shared content for any term you put into its search box. (Note this can be a URL as well if, for example, you want to see most shared content on a competitors site.)

I use it to uncover actual highly shared blog posts around each of my themes so I can get some solid ideas for my own content and see what types of things get shared the most by others. You do have to use a little creativity here – for example a plumber that does bathroom plumbing might also search some common problems related to bathroom plumbing to find good ideas.

I might also employ a site like Quora to see the kinds of questions people are asking about my themes. Answering questions is always a good idea for a blog post.

Going Beyond

Now that I have a good start to the actual topics related to my themes, I want to start figuring out who else writes about my themes, who else like to share this kind of content and what sites are seen as influential in the space.

Again, BuzzSumo is a pretty great power tool. With the higher paid plans, you can discover a list of influential bloggers related to the topics you are interested in. I generally follow and list these folks on Twitter and even subscribe to some of their blogs in Feedly so I can start sharing their content. Eventually, I may try to develop the kind of relationship where I could ask one or more of these folks if I could submit guest content or if they would like to do so for my site.

You can also narrow your topic search to include only guest posts. It’s pretty good bet that a person likes to write guest posts or a site likes to take guest posts if they show up on this search.

This is indeed a way to get more content to fill your plan but it’s also the strategic part of building links to your site and gaining exposure for your content outside of your own efforts.

I further use BuzzSumo’s info to show me who is linking to and sharing content related to my topics and often create more lists to look for more strategic relationships beyond what people might call the “usual suspects in thought leadership land.”

Editorial Calendar

Now Document

By this point, I have a pretty good amount of content identified to fill in my plan so it’s time to turn to a tool to document a plan and calendar. You can use any spreadsheet really (Smartsheet, Google Sheets, Excel) to document your themes across twelve months and then simply add the elements of your platform – blog, podcast, guest posts, eBooks, etc. Then you set your goals for how much content you want in each element each month. (I wrote a post a while back called 10 Ways to Use One Piece of Content – you should read this post as well if today’s idea appeals to you.)

For a specific view of each month, you might want to add an editorial calendar as a spreadsheet or by using a WordPress plugin. It’s pretty amazing how simply documenting a plan seems to help get more done by keeping the focus on the future rather than scrambling to create the present. (I realize that’s not a very Zen idea, but it’s the reality of business.)

You know you need content, so stop fighting it and start making a plan that allows you to better delegate, build and amplify your content asset.

 

How to Use Your Content Platforms to Gain Valuable Customer Insights

Audience data 240x180You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on industry research or surveying your audience — most small businesses already have plenty of data collection tools right at their fingertips! The savviest businesses utilize their content to gain invaluable insights into their customer and potential customer base to understand what they want most- here’s how you can too!

Google Analytics

To get a good baseline for who your audience is, use your website’s Google Analytics data. On the left sidebar, click audience, then explore the demographics, interests, and geo sections. The location, age, gender, industry and topical interests of your website traffic is all displayed in these section. The interests section of your audience report contains particularly insightful gems. Affinity Categories relates to the other lifestyle interests they have, while In-Market Segments shows you their product and purchase based interests. Other Categories hones in on the most specific topics of interest or activities.

Blog Topics

Which blog posts get the most shares, views, or impressions on your blog and across your social networks? It’s important to distribute your blogs across a wide variety of platforms to get a feel for as many different segments of your audience as possible, as well as to get a better sense of the piece’s success. Sharing your blogs widely across the web also brings more traffic back to you site, and continues to feed into what your insights.

Downloaded Resources

You should make a few helpful pdf downloads available on your website. Not only is this a great way to capture emails, but it’s also a useful tool to see where your audience’s interests lie, or what problems are currently affecting them. Make sure all your resources relate to your business in some way- it wouldn’t be particularly helpful to learn what someone’s favorite color is or where they would most like to vacation.

Emailed Content

Whether you use a full on CRM like Salesforce or a simpler service like MailChimp- take note of what content your readers are clicking on. When sending them blog updates, industry news, or new services offered- note where their interests lie. Deliver more, similar content to see if you can hone in on the specific topics they care most about. Optimize your newsletters for key learnings.

Quizzes

People love quizzes, especially on social media. It’s also a genius way to learn more about your audience than any other technique. An easy tactic to start is a quiz themed to “What ___ Are You?”. Make sure you come up with questions that will help you in your your quest to understand your audience, such as “do you like to attack and solve problems, or do you seek the advice of others?”.

Facebook Insights

Immediately upon logging into Facebook, navigate to the left side menu and select Insights. You’ll find your Facebook audience demographics under the People category. Be sure to also note the section for when your fans are online to see what types of content you should be sharing to this audience. Lunch hour readers prefer entertainment, while morning browsers are primed for news. Long reads are best for the evening and weekend. For many brands, their Facebook audience consists of different groups, using Facebook at different times. Optimize your Facebook posts for greatest potential to collect the most audience data possible.

Twitter Analytics

Every user can now access their Twitter analytics. Similar to Facebook, Twitter’s Analytics lets you see basic audience demographic information (do you see any differences between your Facebook and Twitter audiences?) as well as an overview of your tweet performance. Twitter add-on Followerwonk assesses the bios of your followers to provide you with insights on their interests and how they describe themselves. You can see who else your followers tend to follow, what they tweet about and Followerwonk points you in the direction of new groups to go after (moms who love DIY or dads who like soccer).

LinkedIn Audience

When viewing your company page, select Analytics. You’ll see a concise listing of your posts’ performance as well as audience demographics. LinkedIn shares what level of professional attainment your followers are: entry-level employee through owner or VPs. You can also select Industry and Job Function from the audience data drop down menus. It’s highly advisable to appropriately tailor your content to appeal to the right level of reader: decision maker or someone who might suggest your company to the decision maker.

 

pro pic 150Diana Mackie is a small business writer, specializing in marketing and content. Diana writes for AllBusiness, Huffington Post, Social Media Today, Duct Tape Marketing and many other publications. She is currently the Chief Content Officer at Funding Gates. Diana attended Fordham University and now lives in New York City.

 

5 Ways to Produce Eye-Catching Content Without a Designer

photo credit: kaboompics

photo credit: kaboompics

There’s nothing like great content. I create it for work. I create it for fun. Crazy? Perhaps. Especially since creating good, visually appealing content is a huge challenge faced by many.

There is no rule that says you have to hire a pricey graphic designer in order to generate beautiful, design-rich content.  Of course, design specialists are a great resource to have on a team – but, for many earlier-stage businesses, increased costs and headcount may not be ideal.

Luckily, a universe of tools exist that enable quick content creation for even the non-designers among us – whether it’s as simple as a quick meme or as elaborate as an ebook. Slim, bootstrapping teams could wear a designer hat and produce the rich content quickly and inexpensively by enlisting some of these fantastic content-producing tools:

Capture the moment with Skitch

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 7.32.16 PMSkitch is a great app that helps brands tell a visual story – and it’s free! Grab a quick screenshot on your device and mark it up with arrows, boxes, text and more. Skitch lets you mark up images, digital assets, PDFs, and other files with arrows, callout boxes, text, and more.

I find that at least once a day I use Skitch’s “Screen Snap” function to grab all or part of my screen for use in content. I don’t need to plug my captured image into another program for further cropping and other editing since the all-in-one features of Skitch enable me to do so right in their app. A great time saver and useful tool for supporting your talking points with a rich visual design.

Skitch is owned by Evernote but does not require an Evernote account to start using. Try it out and screengrab to your heart’s content.

Don’t use any old font, use Dafont

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 7.32.42 PMSick of using Times and Ariel in your creative. Aren’t we all? Luckily, resources like Google Fonts, Font Squirrel and more offer a wealth of wonderfully designed, open-source fonts to add a little character to your characters.

I like Dafont for its abundance of options that range from general purpose to highly specialized. Each font is well-tagged so the site’s great search function could pull up just what you’re looking for. Simply download, install and use a desired font in graphics, presentations, ebooks and more – just make sure to check for any attribution requirements.

Pound out a quick infographic with Piktochart

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 7.33.07 PMThere’s nothing like a good infographic to capture an audience and teach them something new. When it’s simple to create in just minutes and free, it’s all the more reason to inject them into a content strategy.

Piktochart is quick and simple for anyone to create professional-looking infographics, reports, banners, and presentations. An intuitive interface and simple drag-and-drop features help a designer-less team fake it until they make it.

Get instant access and “start creating in 30 seconds,” as the site’s homepage describes. Start yours from scratch, choose from customizable free templates or step up to Pro for some more options.

Along with the vast library of templates, you can find over four thousand graphics to really spruce things up, or get more custom and create your very own images. When generating visual creations to represent your brand, avoid a clunky MS Paint design and make them look professionally mastered at low commitment.

Become an author with Guides.co

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 7.33.14 PMHave what it takes to write an informative eBook but lack the design skill to bring into fruition? Guide.co offers the perfect solution.

We’ve all experienced the power of eBooks, in educating an audience, adding credibility and thought leadership status to a brand and capturing more qualified leads. But the more comprehensive the piece of content the more time and budget it consumes.

Guides.co provides a useful, plug-and-lay model to take on the burden creating an attractive body for your killer copy. Like Piktochart, Guides.co offers multiple templates to kick off your design – and easy-to-use customizing features help to guide your guide to fit your brand.

Guides.co even goes the extra mile and hosts your content on their site for the world to discover!

Get interactive and think ThingLink

ThingLink adds a totally new form to social media that brings life to your content. The tool makes interactive visual graphics easy to make and void of the premium price tag.

The site integrates with others like YouTube, SoundCloud, and Vimeo to pull in sounds and videos to add to your graphic.

Register for free or get a few other advantages with a membership – but you might not need to spend the extra cash. The tools basic features enable users to design quite rich, interactive videos and images to incorporate into a content marketing strategy.

Even better, once completed, ThingLink lets you tag your piece and share with your social network along with their own community. Interact with other creative ThingLink users for ideas, inspiration and feedback.

Go forth and design

Designing is not easy. Supplementing the talent of an experienced designer will save costs but could indeed reduce the effectiveness of a content strategy. However, since more basic content is better than no content at all, getting your engine running with intuitive and affordable tools is key.  Helpful apps that enable the everyday entrepreneur or busy marketing generalist to design without breaking the bank or eating up your time is lifesaving.

Have any questions about improving your content strategy? Contact me! 

VinceVince is a passionate digital marketing specialist with a track record of evangelizing technology to modernize business development and brand building in the startup through enterprise levels. Skilled in strategic data-driven campaign management, Vince focuses on demand generation programs that influence growth, including marketing automation, social media, digital advertising, search engine optimization, blogging, public relations, video and event marketing.? Vince is a well-established Twitter influencer under @vince_tech and Founder of Boom Digital, a boutique digital marketing agency specializing in supporting the growth of early-stage startup companies through social media, content marketing, and design.