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Does SEO Affect Your Creative Freedom?

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SEO isn’t something that most web developers have a deep knowledge of. Sure, it’s common sense that one should use certain keywords, use proper HTML markup tags, and abide by Schema.org best-practices. What about having too many keywords on your page? What about abusing Schema.org markup for an advantage in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)? These are some common issues that not all web devs are well-educated on. This article should help you understand what it is that you don’t know so you.

SEO 101: Keep it Simple Stupid

SEO is a technical affair that can be considered in varying degrees of complexity. For example, an effective mindset for SEO is to simply create really great content. If your website is full of great content it’s likely to earn backlinks from other relevant websites and gain exposure in the SERP, right? Turns out that strategy isn’t wrong but it won’t get you too far either. I’ve seen plenty of websites that have amazing content but aren’t ranked anywhere in the SERP for keywords that they are more than relevant for. To help get a basic understanding of what best SEO practices let’s consider the “pillars” of SEO:

Create Quality Content

Again, having quality content is the first step in any SEO strategy. A lot of SEO revolves around getting other websites to build links to yours. If you don’t have any content worth linking to its likely that you’ll never end up getting any backlinks. Create original, well-written, and unique articles/videos/apps/etc for your website. Don’t create 15 articles on the same topic either. Spend all that effort into creating one really great article that covers an entire topic.

Have Quality Backlinks

This is where boyscouts of SEO are tempted to become burglars. Backlinks are really hard to come by (at least quality ones) and there is a lot of incentive to cut corners. Creating your own websites to create backlinks (PBN Links) is really effective but can get your site penalized. Buying links from other websites can work but chances are you’ll end up getting penalized there as well. After all, if they’re selling to you they’ll probably end up selling to Google at some point—and the jig will be up! Practically speaking, you’ll have to buy some links if you want to compete for valuable keywords. Google might say they want quality content but they really don’t know how the F*&# to spot it without backlinks. Even with all their impressive machine-learning, the only way they can find a hidden gem is through some manual intervention.

Overall Website Experience

Search engines take into account many more factors than just backlinks and content quality. User experience generates many ranking factors that help determine where your website will fall in the SERPs. Dwell Time, Bounce Rate, and Page Speed are all factors that will impact your site’s rankings. These can be regarded as indirect SEO signals but should be given a lot of consideration nonetheless. If your site doesn’t load well, is hard to navigate, or doesn’t offer answers to questions Google is going to rank it lower. Or higher, if you’ve got enough backlinks (unless they feel like not ranking it higher, in which case it could rank lower).

Check out this Video from MOZ SEO for a better breakdown:

General Thoughts

If you’ve made it this far you might have noticed how many conflicting points I’ve brought up. Do this; unless this. Expect this, but be ready for that. SEO isn’t a static set of rules and search engines like Google do whatever the hell they want, whenever they want, and sometimes go back to what they were doing before. They’re very much a false-prophet in the sense that they’ll tell webmasters to abide by a set of rules, reward them for it for 5 years straight, then change the rules such that it penalizes everyone doing things the old way. Some companies spend millions of dollars developing content that caters to Google’s ranking systems only to have the rug pulled out from under them during major algorithm updates. Google’s normal response? “Keep creating quality content.” In other words, Go F#@& yourself, we do whatever we want. My best advice is to keep things above-the-board, develop great content, have quality site structure, and work your ass off to build your own list of subscribers you don’t need anyone to help you speak to. Google’s approach to indexing the web is failing quickly and their attempts to roll out new “SERP features” to stem the bleeding isn’t working. People like privacy and Google’s entire empire is built on knowing everything about your life.

Website Design

3 Tips to Make Your Blog Better Today

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Blogging is one of the most popular forms of online media. The so-called Blogoshpere is comprised of millions of would-be writers clammering about whatever suits them. The majority of blogs are best described as examples of how not to blog. Yes, you read that correctly. Most blogs aren’t worth reading.

Successful blogs are usually characterized (at least when compared to unsuccessful blogs) by the time spent per post. That’s an oversimplification but will work here. Lots of famous entrepreneur’s would have us believe that successful blogging is all about posting frequency. Take Gary Vee for example. He has no shame about posting a <500 word post about how effective <500 word posts can be, if they’re posted often. To be fair, we are talking about and linking to that post.

What fails to reach discussion by these types of personalities is that everything they say is predicated on their fame. The value of the advice in those short blog posts doesn’t come from raw face value. They’re valuable because it’s assumed that someone who “made it” would know the secrets to their own success. Sometimes that comes after the fact.

Start a Successful Blog

There are some killer resources out there for learning how to start a blog. We’re not going to cover all the points one should consider when starting a blog. We are going to outline a general roadmap to success by which you’ll at least know how to get started. Managing a successful blog invovles a lot of time, planning, and insight into one’s audience. The toughest part is getting that first round of website traffic. That’s what this article is all about.

Choose a Platform

Are you starting your own website or do you just want to engage online? If you’re launching a business or brand it’s better to register your own domain and host your own blog. If you’re blogging to build your personal credibility and relevancy (as an author) you may want to choose a third party platform such as WordPress.com or Medium. Each has its advantages.

Third Party Hosts

Here’s a short list of the pros and cons of hosting your blog with a third party such as WordPress.com, Blogger.com, or Medium.com. NOTE: Most all of these providers allow for you to use your own domain name for a monthly fee.

Pros:

  • Someone else handles the technical aspects of running your website.
  • Often free to use.
  • Innate exposure to community members.
  • Little to no technical knowledge required to start or maintain.

Cons:

  • Giving another site your traffic.
  • Little control over customization.
  • Hard to integrate call-outs, calls-to-action, or advertising.
  • Waists SEO equity (usually)

Self-Hosted Blogs

If you’re serious about making a living from your blog or website than this is the route you should take. There’s a steeper learning curve, some coding will be required (at some point) and management can get tricky. The benefit is freedom to do whatever the hell you want.

Pros:

  • Complete freedom over content.
  • Can’t get banned from your own website.
  • Retain all SEO equity.
  • Can easily integrate ads, affiliate offers, and profitable code without issue.

Cons:

  • Technical expertise needed
  • Have to manage own backups, updates, and server configurations.
  • Costs more, in most cases.
  • Harder to gain initial traction

Brand Yourself

Never underestimate the power of branding. The same message coming from a website portrayed as an Entrepreneurial authority resonates differently than one portrayed as a Religious authority. Branding is, among other things, a way to ensure all your efforts build on top of one another. Each piece of content you produce as a brand works to establish your credibility and perception to consumers (of your content.)

Branding goes far beyond website design and finding the best logo design companies. Branding is about letting people know what to expect. Brands aren’t unlike celebrities in that sense. Just like one might expect Adam Sandler to tell a joke about current events one might also expect WordPress to advocate for an open web. Don’t get me wrong, professional logos and website design go a long way. After all, professional design speaks to professional opinion.

Effective branding can also be creating different tones and styles of communication for the same message. For example, both teenagers, young adults, and adults may all enjoy the latest smart phone from Samsung. Creating separate marketing materials for each of those demographics is likely to provide more resounding results. Here’s some tips for understanding the do’s and don’ts of branding:

DO be Specific and Prolific: Trying to cater to every interest will leave you exhausted and with little to show. Focus on specific subjects and interests of your audience and take deep dives into them.

DO Express Moral Objections & Thoughts: Chances are your blog isn’t going to be the only one covering your subject. Readers have an opinion and resonate with blogs that have one as well. This is true to such an extent that most major media sites have devolved into little more than opinionated blogs.

DO Consider New & Different Formats: Repsecting a platform’s native content style is important. Don’t post long-form content to Twitter and don’t post 0:30 sound bytes to SoundCloud. You won’t know how your audience responds to Podcasts unless you try them. Try to make an educated guess before trying everything though.

DON’T Get Political Unless You’re Prepared to Stay Political: There’s no quicker way to isolate a segment of your visitors than to take one side of a political issue. Criticizing both sides is an easy out here, if you must weigh in.

DON’T Be Afraid to Be Politically Incorrect: This is probably the most controversial piece of advice we have to offer. Modern media has trained us to be hyper-reactive to issues of political correctness. You shouldn’t consider yourself having carte blanche to offend but don’t get worried about users on 4Chan getting upset about your last press release not neutralizing every gender pronoun.

Be Predictable When it Counts

Connecting to an audience is all about developing rapport. Single-author blogs aren’t likely to post meaningful content every day (or every week for that matter) but can probably swing one each month. Delivering content to your audience in a predictable manner helps them know what to expect. This little tidbit of a reward system goes a long way.

Being un-predictable pays off as well. Finding topics that will surprise your audience can be a powerful tool. This isn’t really something one can teach but certainly correlates strongly with successful blogs. Think to yourself “why is my content better than other blogs’?” By the same token, producing too much content that takes readers off guard can work against you.

If you have a popular automotive blog it might benefit you to publish an insightful article about parallels between the aviation industry. You may start to lose readers if every post starts doing the same though. Don’t be a one-trick pony. Starting a successful blog is no easy feat. Developing the ability to balance what readers know they want to read with what they don’t yet know what they want to read is an art. The sooner you get started the sooner you’ll become an artist!

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Website Design

Design Trends to Expect in 2019

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Website Design Code Laptop

The internet business community is now entering a new business cycle. 2018 was a year of growth. We have seen numerous positive changes in the online business community. We are seeing radical changes left and right. Governments attempted to regulate the internet community as a whole all in the name of general welfare and the common good, but numerous businessmen and online business conglomerates launched boycotts and protests reminding governments the effect of an internet-less world.

Industry Pioneers

As a result, the brilliant website designers and website owners created ways and means to make a website not solely under a jurisdiction of a single government entity.  Security features of websites also became tougher to protect websites from government intrusion and criminals. Website design also remained free and virtually unregulated for the year 20182 – and the only regulatory mechanism is the market which boycotts or promotes a good website. Attempts from some sectors were made to regulate website design again all in the name of the common good – protect local employment and non-transfer of intellectual property – but all attempts were futile. Let’s take a look at the design trends to expect in 2019.

Responsive and Adaptive Website Design

Many website design firms have reminded readers that responsive and adaptive website design allows building websites that are optimized for screens of all sizes – small mobile devices, tablets, and large desktop monitors.  The trend will continue because the technology cannot be stopped. Improvement in communications technology including mobile phones is not subject to regulation, and this causes a surge in the demand for responsive website design. Simply put, a responsive website design means that the design is flexible in desktop, smartphone and tablet screens.  An adaptive website design is what we need to remain competitive next years as more and more people are using smartphones and tablets for their everyday needs.

Parallax Screening

According to many website designers we’ve spoken with, parallax is a technique achieved with multiple layers of a website that are scrolling at different speeds creating an illusion of a 3D effect.  Parallax screening is a way for website designers to reach the all-important target audience for their customers. If you look closely, parallax screening is part of responsive website design. Through parallax screening, the customer can get to scroll and view the numerous contents from different websites using his tablet or smartphone.

Minimalism is Re-emphasized

There are always downsides for technology but the same are remedied by the market. Because of the arrival of numerous cameras, the photography industry is said to be diluted. The so-called “old guards” of photography are complaining about the surge of new amateur photographers using all sorts of picture-taking devices made in China. Well, at the end of the day, the best photographers – whether they are new or old- are the ones hired by the clients.  The same is true in website design. With the emergence of hundreds of photo-editing devices and increased memory systems, the design community is sto aid be diluted and one website designer even went on to claim that designing can now be done by kids. However, the market fixed the defects and minimalism is back. In fact, only professionals and those with lengthy experience in website design can create a truly minimalist website taking into consideration all factors.

Designed Typography will take Center Stage 

Typography is becoming an integral part of web design ideas and projects and the use of custom fonts will be an essential creative asset, contributing to the overall identity of a website as much as other important elements such as colors or artwork. If 2018 was the year when color scheme took center stage, 2019 will be a battle for font styles. Designers and website developers are busy looking and creating the perfect fonts to catch the attention of the target clientele.

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Inspiration

5 Health Tips Every Web Designer Needs to Hear

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Health Illustrations Website Development

Health isn’t often a leading topic among conversations between website developers. Tech and health don’t always mesh—sometimes they do—though health has a way of affecting every aspect of our lives. If you feel bad you won’t tackle problems as well and your designs will reflect your mood. Sure, every professional would like to think they’re above such influence but the truth is we’re just a bunch of animals. This article is all about sharing some valuable health tips to help keep your website design company up-and-running by helping you be the best version of your self.

Good Health is Not Easy

Feeling good is only easy for those among us that do it by default. For those whose first response is fatigue, negativity, or chronic illness there’s an uphill battle ahead. Making a conscious effort to take steps to improve one’s health is the only way by which anything meaningful will ever be accomplished. No one’s going to do it for you. We’re no doctors here at DesignOra but we all have an interest in performing our best on the job. Taking steps to ensure our health is as good as it can help us maintain our edge when it comes to landing new clients, nailing our projects, and coming up with creative solutions to difficult problems. After all, no one’s going to redefine their design approach when they feel like shit.

Couple Exercising

Exercise Every Day

Exercise continues to be the simplest and most substantiated benefit for human health. Our ancestors passed the time by running dozens of miles, hunting fierce predators, and rarely sitting down for a break. In fact, sitting at a desk (or even standing at a desk) isn’t what the human body and mind have evolved to accel at. Being in a moving environment not only helps signal our bodies to release the hormones we need to feel good but it also helps modulate our immune system. Our brains do better when given dynamic situations to navigate and draw relevance from. If a new concept is learned within the context of something easy to remember chances are you’ll learn it more completely. Crawl before you walk and walk before you run. No need to start powerlifting on day one. Walking 15-30 minutes each day is a great first step.

Sleepy Old Lady

How we actually feel when we’re tired.

Get Quality Sleep

Pushing the boundary of one’s wakefulness to finish up a last-minute revision on a project already past its deadline is a common part of web design. Staying up all night (and waking up first thing in the morning) is considered a rite of passage for most but it takes its toll. Sleep deprivation is one of the strongest correlating factors with all major disease (right after exercise!) If you’re not getting enough sleep you’re doing yourself a disservice. Putting in 8 horizontal hours each night isn’t guaranteed to cover your ass though. Quality is as important as quantity when it comes to sleep and if you’re sleeping poorly it doesn’t matter how long you’re down for. I recently helped redesign a website that features lots of mattress reviews. My first impression was to be mesmerized by how many different types of mattresses there are out there. My second impression was that one can buy a quality mattress without taking out a loan these days. Not only can you visit their website to get a nice example of modern website design but also get some quality mattress recommendations!

Clean Natural food in Bowls

Whatever you eat, make sure it’s as clean and natural as possible

Eat Good Food

Fad diets aren’t something that you should pay attention to. Anyone offering you a way to lose X pounds in X days is blowing smoke up your ass and deserves to be force-fed a tub of butter. Assessing your overall nutrition is something that can make a difference though. If you eat fast food, frozen food, preserved food, or just about any food ordered from chain takeouts there’s a big chance that you’re not getting the nutrition you need. Hiring a nutritionist to help you build a customized dietary plan is a great idea but not affordable for everyone out there. Instead, I like to follow a few simple rules:

  1. Eat organic when possible
  2. Cook your own food
  3. Balance your macros (carbs, fats, protein)

That’s not too hard, right? There’s an infinite degree of complexity one can introduce to their diet but these simple guidelines can make a world of difference. Cutting out processed foods, eating whole foods (things you buy in the grain, produce, and meat section at the grocery store) can have a tremendous impact on your cognitive and physical health.

Guy Balancing on Tightrope

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Live a Balanced Lifestyle

There’s not much scientific language to frame this one with. Just imagine I’m putting on my Zen-Master robe as I write. Web development, software engineering, and any discipline that involves nuanced problem solving take a lot of mental effort. In our fields, there are strong incentives to devote oneself to seeing the world primarily from the mental perspective. It’s easy to forget to assess situations based on the physical sensations you feel or your emotional perception when you have to think all day. It’s a force of habit; akin to muscle memory (mind memory?!) Recognizing that one needs to have physical and emotional experiences each day to support their mental ones is easier said than done. The first tip I can offer is to consider your exercise a physical task. Don’t spend your whole time at the gym thinking about your deadline or how late your client is on paying their last bill. Focus on how the fibers of your muscles feel, how the air feels in your lungs, and how the ground feels beneath your feet. Check out, and give yourself permission to do so.

Weird Smiling Picture

Funny or Creepy? We couldn’t decide…

Laughter is Good Medicine

Laughter might not cure cancer but it damn sure helps lower the risk of chronic health issues. The human immune system is comprised of (among many other things) receptors for a class of compounds known as Enkephalins. Among them are the feel-good compounds we call Endorphins that get released when we laugh, exercise, have sex or do some types of drugs. These compounds are our bodies’ way of signaling to us that we’re doing something good! Chronic and regular release of these compounds has been shown to have a modulatory effect on the human immune system so much so that synthetic mimetics are used to treat a varying number of diseases. Common drugs used to treat opioid addiction (opioids are very similar to endorphins) are often used as general immune-boosting therapies for patients with conditions unresponsive to conventional care. Laughing and feeling good is one of the two best ways to help ensure your body stays in tip-top shape!

Final Thoughts

We aren’t doctors and aren’t giving medical advise (our lawyer would be happy that we’ve said that!) This article is only meant to help bring some attention to how important health is in everything we do. That includes website development! By taking effective steps towards feeling better you will, without doubt, end up being a better designer. There is no scenario in which you are healthier in which you don’t become more capable—even if it makes you realize you hate web design. I mean, let’s be honest; sometimes at 2am, I feel like I’m torturing myself on purpose. One email. Could. Stop. It. All. Clients. Hate. SHIT. Seriously though, live a healthy life and you’ll find that happiness might not be far behind!

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