Saturday, February 27, 2016

How I Grew My Organic Search Traffic 1465% in 12 Months

 

highway traffic

In this article I share how, by following a specific strategy, I grew my organic search traffic by 1,465 percent within just 12 months. That’s nearly 16 times the amount of traffic I had before.

In terms of the actual data, 12 months ago I had just 52 visitors arriving at my site after clicking through from a search engine. Last month, this had grown to 814 visitors. And it’s likely to just keep on growing…

So what’s the strategy?
In brief, it involves creating and publishing content to my blog on a weekly basis, coupled with sharing it on social media. So nothing too out the ordinary. Yes, basically, blogging. But with a bit of magic sauce thrown in. What’s the magic sauce? Thought you’d never ask…

Firstly, I followed a specific content creation strategy that I’ll share with you shortly.

Secondly, I’ve also been repurposing the content by turning the posts into articles (like this one) for publication on different sites, creating presentations for SlideShare, videos for YouTube, and more.
This helps build up a rounded link profile to support the ranking of my posts in the SERPs (search engine results pages).

Plus, of course, it attracts additional traffic in its own right.

YouTube for example is the world’s second largest search engine. SlideShare is in the top 200 sites worldwide and another source of high quality traffic.

Repurposing also provides more content I can share on social to keep in front of my social audiences and build more authority and credibility.

If you want online visibility, content repurposing is where it’s at.

My Content Creation Strategy
For the posts on my blog, I have developed a five-point content creation strategy to maximize my search visibility.

1. Keyword Research
I don’t do keyword research for every post I create, but it can be helpful for determining what to write about so that you potentially reach the maximum number of people.

For example, I may have a rough idea of the topic I want to write about. Some keyword research will help indicate a particular keyword to focus on, where there’s a higher potential for me to rank and attract traffic.

I’ll use the Yoast WordPress plugin to help optimize the post for the keyword.
But at all times, my No. 1 priority is value for the visitor. I write for the reader, not the search engines. And paradoxically, that helps you rank well.

2. Create Longer Content
Research shows that longer content ranks more highly in the search engines. This could be for a number of reasons, for example:

• Longer content will keep people on the page for a longer period of time, which helps rankings.
• It provides more value and more reasons for other sites to link to and share the content, again helping rankings.

I, therefore, focus on creating posts that are at least 2,000 words. Often they go over 3,000 words and can be up to around 5,000 words.

This isn’t about stretching out a thin topic to breaking point for the sake of reaching a predefined word count.

But it is about:
(a) Writing on a topic that’s meaty enough to reach a high word count naturally; and
(b) Providing lots of value to the visitor by going into the topic in depth, and providing as much helpful information as I can.

3. Use Images
I always add images into the post, and particularly a ‘Featured Image’ that shows at the top and elsewhere on the site.

The latter helps with engagement on social, so means more people click through to the content, they’re more likely to share it, and so on.

The Featured Image is also useful when repurposing the content. For example, it can be re-used as the thumbnail for YouTube video, the cover page for a SlideShare presentation, and as a cover image to use when posting the content to LinkedIn Pulse and elsewhere.

I include other images within the post itself to help break up the text and to provide more value to the reader. For example, I might provide an image of using a site I mention, or a chart that helps visualize some data.

4. Optimize for Opt-Ins
Of course, attracting traffic to your site is of little use unless it has some benefit for your business.
The key is to maximize the number of visitors you are able to convert into leads for your business.
One way to do this is to create content upgrades for your posts. This offers content of additional value, directly relevant to the post in question, in exchange for an e-mail address.

It can be as simple as a PDF version of the information in the post. Or perhaps some additional information that is only available to those who choose to opt-in.

5. Adjust the Meta Description
In WordPress, you can use the Yoast plugin to adjust the meta description for each post. The meta description is what can show for the web page when it’s listed in the SERPs.
Through careful crafting of the text, you can boost the number of people clicking through to your webpage, rather than that of competing sites in the SERPs. This can help your ranking to improve over time and attract more traffic longer term.

The most important factor though is to publish content on a consistent basis. This builds the authority of your site, and means you develop lots of content over time, giving you more rankings across a wide range of related keywords, and more search visibility.

By following this strategy and combining it with content repurposing and social media, you create the type of website that is almost pre-programmed to attract increasing amounts of traffic over time.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tools You Need to Succeed as a Content Writer

 

Writing, Blogging
Content is the path towards success in today’s digital world, putting pressure on content writers and bloggers to regularly produce top-notch work. Even for the most prolific and experienced writers, writing is a talent that can always be improved upon. The following 50 tools can help writers of all skill levels generate, write, edit, and publish the high-quality content needed to stand out among fierce competition.


Ideas Generators

Most writers are all too familiar with writer’s block. No matter how hard you try, there are times you just don’t have any idea what to write about or how to get started on a specific topic. If you’re stalled when putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys), here are a few tools to get you out of the slump.

1. Portent’s Content Idea Generator
Just like the name says, this is a great tool that produces content ideas. You just enter a keyword and the generator does the rest. While it may offer some ridiculous combinations, it won’t take long to come across a word or phrase that inspires you.
https://www.portent.com/tools/title-maker

2. Plot Generator
Plot Generator is an outside-the-box brainstorming tool that’s fantasy oriented. It breaks away from traditional content strategies and uses genres like science fiction and fantasy to help content writers develop a different perspective and generate new ideas when constructing a plot. You never know, maybe your next post will be “Haunting Algorithms by Google.”
http://www.plot-generator.org.uk/

3. Reference.com
One of the biggest errors a content writer can make is misusing a word or phrase. With the help of reference.com, you can double check the meaning of terms you’re unfamiliar with to not only enhance your knowledge, but ensure your readers take you seriously as well.
http://www.reference.com/

4. Quora
You can gain insight from other writers and experts in different fields using Quora. When you visit Quora, you can ask questions about anything from movies to politics or SEO to any other query that comes to your mind. Millions of answers are shared, edited, and organized by its users. In their own words, “Quora is built by people like you who write answers to share their knowledge.”
https://www.quora.com/

5. Buzzsumo
Buzzsumo provides the latest buzz on what’s hot and what’s not in any industry. It’s ideal for finding up-to-date and trending information on topics you’re interested in writing about.
http://buzzsumo.com/

6. Encylopedia.com
This site is a reliable source that aggregates information from more than 100 trusted resources, including encyclopedias, dictionaries, and thesauruses with facts, definitions, biographies, synonyms, pronunciation keys, word origins, and abbreviations.
http://www.encyclopedia.com/

7. Fact-Index
If it’s hard facts and stats you’re looking for, Fact-Index is just the thing for you. It has a bank of statistics and factual information you can peruse.
http://www.fact-index.com/

8. Brainy Quote
Whether it’s a new post about a Google Update or a spring cleaning guide for your website, Brainy Quote has the right quote to add a little extra inspiration to your post.
http://www.brainyquote.com/

9. Ubersuggest
Ubersuggest is the ideal tool for searching keywords. It not only gives you the perfect suggestion for suitable keywords, it also filters results thoroughly from Google Suggestions and gives you comprehensive insight into the hottest trends.
http://www.ubersuggest.org/

10. Feedly
Feedly is “a single place for all the knowledge you rely on to think, learn and stay ahead.” It allows users to aggregate, customize, and organize content from their favorite sites in one place. It’s also a great platform for discovering new, interesting, and useful content.
https://feedly.com/i/welcome

11. Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator
Just enter a few nouns into the boxes and you will get a list of topics. Some ideas are guaranteed to be hilarious, but it will help you discover creative and fresh topics for your content strategy.
http://www.hubspot.com/blog-topic-generator


Headline and Title Generating Tools

No post is complete without an impressive and catchy headline or title. A good title is like a display window of your content. If your readers are tempted by the headline, they’ll make the effort to read (or at least skim) the article.

12. Title-Generator
True to its name, Title-Generator generates more than 700 headlines, titles, and ideas for content writing. Enter your desired keyword, and take your pick.
http://www.title-generator.com/index.php/best-online-title-generator.html?qs=Meeting+International+Standards&page=1

13. Seopressor
This is a free title generator that’s about as simple as they come. You enter your keyword, choose from the descriptors available, and Seoppressor comes up with dozens of titles.
http://seopressor.com/blog-title-generator/

14. Impactbnd
An excellent tool to help you generate some insightful and persuasive titles. It generates titles when you fill in the blank, and it also has a section where you can doodle if your writer’s block is particularly bad.
http://www.impactbnd.com/

15. Upworthy Generator
Upworthy Generator is a not your average brainstorming tool — it generates titles for viral posts. It isn’t related to Upworthy, the viral content site, rather it suggests Upworthy-style titles at random.
http://www.upworthygenerator.com/

16. Title Generator by TweakYourBiz
Tweak Your Biz is a business community with resources for business professionals, researchers and content writers. Read about what’s going on in the business world and beyond, and use the title generator to discover a number of worthy titles for your content.
http://tweakyourbiz.com/tools/title-generator/

17. CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
CoSchedule Headline Analyzer makes it easy for you to analyze your headline. It scores the grammar, structure, and readability of your headline on a scale of 0 to 100 to give you a fair idea of how impressive the headline is. It also takes into account your use of emotional and power words.
http://coschedule.com/headline-analyzer


Writing Tools

Even if you have an attractive title and amazing ideas, they don’t mean anything if your post is poorly executed. Make sure you’re writing something worth reading with help from the following tools.

18. ProWritingAid
This software helps turn good writing into great writing by telling you how to improve your writing. The best feature of this tool is that it analyzes your writing and notes overused words, sentence length, writing style, plagiarism, clich├ęs, redundancies, “sticky” sentences, and consistency issues.
https://prowritingaid.com/

19. FreeMind
Freemind is a basically a mind-map software written in java. It helps you organize and reorganize your ideas.
http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page#Screenshots

20. Creativity Portal’s Imagination Prompt
This tool is the nemesis of blogger’s block thanks to its variety of prompts, like “What are you feeling right now?” and “What’s one skill you’ve wanted but don’t have?” You can shape these prompts to fit the topic at hand or simply use them as an exercise to get writing.
http://www.creativity-portal.com/prompts/imagination.prompt.html

21. Evernote
The free version of Evernote is very helpful in a number of ways. It allows you make to-do lists, research, and write complete portions of articles. The best part is that it is mobile friendly and all your data syncs easily among the mobile, desktop and web apps.
https://evernote.com/?var=2

22. Mou
Mou is the ideal application for writing in Markdown, full of keyboard shortcuts, live previews, and custom CSS.
http://25.io/mou/

23. Clipboard Cleaner 1.1
This is the perfect tool to use when you want to remove all formatting. For Web writers, it is a godsend as it makes moving the text easier. While not free, the service costs just a dollar.
http://www.macworld.com/product/1177637/clipboard-cleaner.html

24. FreeArticleSpinner
Sometimes you’re just not impressed with your own use of words. Simply insert your writing into the article spinner and you will get an alternate version of your text. Choose the words and phrases that you want to use and continue with your writing.
http://free-article-spinner.com/

25. Byword
Byword makes writing with Markdown a more enjoyable experience and allows you to easily export your content to HTML, PDF, and rich text. The app also syncs to iCloud and Dropbox.
http://bywordapp.com/

26. Quabel
Quabel is a diversion-free composition tool that lets you set goals and measure your progress and performance. It automatically creates a backup copy of your work as you type along.
https://quabel.com/

27.Written? Kitten!
If you intend to write a long post, this tool is perfect for you. Written? Kitten! It is very simple but extremely helpful. When you reach the word limit you’ve set, an image of a kitten appears, helping you keep track of the number of words you’ve written.
http://writtenkitten.co/

28. Scrivener
Scrivener organizes your documents, files, and folders, keeping all your writing in one place and making it easy for you to manage your works.
https://www.writersstore.com/scrivener/

29. Draft
This tool marks all the changes that have been made to a document whether by you or your editor. It also allows you to share your writing in a variety of presentations.
http://docs.withdraft.com/

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Keyword Strategies to Raise Your Rankings

 

Image courtesy of (Stuart Miles)/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 

Keyword research and strategies have always been an integral part of SEO. This is how search engines determine relevance, content schemes are driven, and how individuals will ultimately find your site.

Much in the way that search engines (and the Internet overall) are highly dynamic and always in flux, your keyword strategy should be the same. As various engines continue to refine search experiences, user expectations, search queries, query length and methods of searching, keyword strategies can become antiquated in a flash.

Today users don’t just have desktops and sub-par mobile browsers to conduct searches — mobile has transformed into high-powered, omnipresent computers that have dethroned desktops as the preferred search platform. Moreover, voice search has altered the online investigation landscape in a way that is irreversible. As these newer modalities continue to proliferate modern society and more contemporary approaches are developed, business owners and marketers must evolve keyword strategies to fit with the times.

Let’s take a look at how you can mature your keyword blueprint for the dawning of a new digital era.

Take the Long Way
It’s no secret that long-tailed keywords have become more prominent and powerful over the years thanks to the advent of the aforementioned mobile features. As mobile use continues to increase, these terms and phrases will only become more valuable. According to a Blue Nile Research study published in 2015, the firm noted that:

“Blue Nile’s research shows an exact 50-50 split between users who search in fragments (e.g. “swollen ankle”) and those who search in more fully formed terms (e.g. “causes of swollen ankle during sleep”). When it came to questions vs. statements, 27 percent of respondents phrased their query in the form of a question, with “How” being the most commonly used prefix.”

This same study showed that 50 percent of search queries contained four words or more. In regard to voice search, Greg Sterling of Search Engine Land noted in his SMX West presentation the average voice search query is five to six words in length. This means that effectively targeting single
keywords is simply not as powerful as it once was. Does that mean that this strategy is now useless? No. It is just losing potency as long-tailed keywords grow in frequency.

The bottom line is that users want answers when they search and know that the more specific a query is, the higher the chances are of them finding the resolution they seek. Armed with this information, website owners and marketers must shift their focus from targeting specific keywords to answering questions, and to do that you must venture beyond Google’s keyword tool.

Employ the Right Tools
While Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends are still outstanding resources, there are a bevy of other alternatives to explore. With the idea that you must now seek to answer direct questions as opposed to simply targeting keywords, a new tool called Answer the Public is just what the SEO doctor ordered.

This U.K.-based tool (different countries can be chosen from the dropdown) is a highly unique way of identifying terms and phrases to add to your arsenal. After entering a keyword like “shoes,” Answer the Public returns a slew of questions related to your term in the form of a wheel organized by queries that begin with “where,” “who,” “what,” “when,” “why,” “which,” “how,” and “are.” There is also a second wheel formatted by prepositions “like,” “for,” “with,” “without,” “versus” and several others.

This is an invaluable tool because the results displayed introduce potential problems that your audience is encountering that you can then create content to solve. The drawback to this tool, however, is that no search volume data is provided, but this can easily be obtained from other tools like InstaKeywords.

InstaKeywords allows users to conduct basic and in-depth research on long-tailed keywords. Search the phrase you want to know more about and the tool will return various long-tailed phrases, cost-per-click information, local and global search volume and the previous month’s numbers.

Gather Right from the Well
No matter if you have a dedicated team, or it is just you, customer service is your eyes and ears. These folks have more intimate insights about your customer base than possibly any other team within the organization. The main issue is that there is often a large detachment between customer service and marketing, so these insights rarely make their way past support.

A great way to refine your keyword strategy is to consult with these folks directly. Anyone who is answering phones, running live chat conversations, or answering e-mails can give you feedback on the most common questions and concerns customers have, opinions about products, and what issues people have on the website.

Each answer you receive will assist you in bolstering your keyword list and creating valuable content to assist customers and rank in the Google SERPs. Alternatively, you could also frequent popular forums, communities and review sites within your industry to gain similar insights.

Search algorithms and behaviors are constantly changing as the surrounding technology continues to evolve. In today’s world, keyword targeting alone won’t cut it; you must be addressing direct problems with direct answers. Long-tailed keywords are the future of search as mobile ubiquity carries forth. Be sure to give searchers and potential customers what they want by creating valuable content that answers their concerns and you are likely to see your site rise in rankings.

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Can the New Social Platforms Aid Your Business?


Image courtesy of (jscreationzs)/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Social media channels, social media channels everywhere.
It seems every month or so we have more news of new social channels that are picking up steam. Some turn out to be flops, but others end up showing some strong potential.

In the latest social media news, there seems to be an uptick when it comes to live-streaming channels, connecting users with each other in new ways.

What is this live-stream fad? And is it a fad or something your business can use?
I am going to take a look at the latest channels, as well as help you learn just when you should dive into a new channel, no matter what it is.


Is the Live-Stream Movement Vital to Social Media or Just a Fad?
The first order of business is discussing this live-stream movement.
Live-streaming has long been a way to connect people with each other for events such as big games (Super Bowl, World Series) and concerts.

However, it is picking up steam in the social media world and businesses are starting to see if it is something that can benefit them.

Social Media Examiner takes a look at live-streaming for business, showing that it is more than just a fad.

It is a great way to connect with your clients when it comes to events, hosting live interviews, going “behind the scenes,” and more.

Regular users use these channels to connect with larger groups and create awesome communities. While this particular channel might not be for your business, things such as Twitch have brought gamers together to watch each other play through various games.

Again, unless you’re in the gaming world, Twitch isn’t something your business can use. However, there are some new, awesome live-stream channels out there and I want to take a look at them for you.

3 Awesome Live-stream Social Channels

What are the latest and greatest social channels? How can you use them and just how do you know whether or not to use them?

Let’s take a look.

1. What is Periscope and What is all the Buzz About?

Periscope is one of those channels that people weren’t and aren’t too sure about. Some, including Ryan Hanley, felt it was just a fad and would fade away.

However, delving deeper into the channel shows that it is actually incredibly worthwhile and something that will immensely benefit social channels.

This app is great because you can use it on your phone instead of being tied down to your computer. This means you can live stream no matter where you are.

You can use this app to maximize your social media strategy by incorporating it for great events and promotion.

In fact, Cas McCullough from Social Media Examiner shares some excellent ways you can use Periscope to benefit your business. These include showing live product demos, sharing industry news and connecting with influencers in your industry.
Periscope could be a great benefit to a number of companies, no matter what the company does or sells.

2. Meerkat – Is It Exactly Like Periscope, And Which is Better?
Another major up and comer in the social media live-stream world is Meerkat.

It was a huge hit the past summer when it came to the music festival South by Southwest where thousands of music fans could stream concerts they couldn’t attend.

Meerkat provided them with the ability to watch shows and feel as if they were at SXSW without leaving their homes.

Since then, the social media channel has only grown, with more than 40,000 new users after SXSW ended. It is still growing incredibly, making people take notice.

It became a stand-out social channel simply due to the timing of its release, giving people something they craved without even realizing they were craving it.

Since it is similar to Periscope, you might be wondering which one to use. Really, it comes down to which one you think will suit your business.

A great way to find out is to look at both in-depth and read reviews from others within your industry.
Once you’ve chosen which one will be the best for you, simply learn how to use a streaming social channel to benefit your business. Kristi Hines from Social Media Examiner takes an in-depth look at both channels and gives a great rundown on how to use them.

3. Blab to Your Group Via a New Social Channel.
Are you looking to host live videoconferences in an easy manner? Then Blab might just be the channel for you.

While it has the live streaming capabilities of Periscope and Meerkat, Blab offers a unique take on it for businesses.

This can allow for easy meetings, but it is also an incredible way to host a virtual conference that you can invite your clients to. This means no one has to travel, and you can end up with even more participants.

It is currently in the beta stages, which means that there are still kinks and creases to smooth out, but it is well on its way to social media success.

I joined one recently and loved the exposure! I actually got to talk to Mark Traphagan (an esteemed SEO advisor, from Stone Temple) like we were in the same room. It was a fan girl moment, yes. And I know—I’m a major nerd. (Unfortunately, my camera wasn’t working at the time…)

image1

Always be sure to watch a few Blab videos before you start so that you can see just how to use it. And once you’re ready, there are already some excellent tips out there to use it well.

Another great thing about this particular program is that you can have it on both your desktop and mobile. If you aren’t entirely sure going strictly mobile will work for you via Periscope or Meerkat, then Blab is a great program to look into.

There Are Many New Social Channels Out There – Which Do You Use?
“Goodness, that’s a lot of new social media channels. Which do I choose?”
Glad you asked!

Choosing to use a new social media channel can be daunting, and when you get into it, you might realize the channel isn’t for you.

What are you to do? Should you just dive into any new channel before researching and learn to swim right away?

It is always best to first make sure the channel will really benefit you, and I want to help you learn how to figure that out easily.

3 Ways to Know Which Channel to Dive Into

How can you know which channel is right for you to dive into? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Do You Know Who Your Audience is and Where They Are?
A major thing many marketers seem to overlook is marketing to their audience. It seems very straightforward and basic but oftentimes is ignored.

In an interview with SHIFT Marketing, Tamsen Webster points out that knowing your audience, where they’re at, and how to market to them is integral when it comes to new channels.
For example, if you’re a company that markets to new moms with healthy, safe, all-natural products, you aren’t going to want to use Twitch.

However, Periscope or Meerkat might be perfect to help you demonstrate the safety of your products, taking people behind the scenes in a real-world, real-life, candid demonstration.
This basically means you shouldn’t be playing Call of Duty when moms are actually feeling the call of doody.

2. Can You Stay True to Your Brand?
When you use a new social channel, you need to make sure that you can use it well while also staying true to your brand.
If you’re unable to keep cohesion in your message with the same voice you use across all channels, then the new channel might not be a good fit.

However, don’t worry when you start out. Play around with it a bit to see how well you can stay true to yourself while reaching out in a completely new way. It is possible.

3. What Content Types are Missing in Your Strategy?
As you approach a new social media channel, you need to take a look at what content types you’re missing.

The great thing with something like Periscope, Meerkat, or Blab is that it is such a new approach to social media that you are likely missing a content format like it.
These channels give every business a unique chance to have something new and stand out amongst the typical social media crowd.

In the End, Don’t “Surf” Through Channels
It can be easy to create a social channel on each and every new platform to test it out. But if you end up not using it, you’ll have a blank, boring channel that could reflect poorly on you.
Instead don’t channel surf but do adequate research into each one you want to use. If you realize it isn’t something that will work for your brand, skip it and move on to the next.

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

8 Simple Tips to Be a Great Visual Storyteller With Your Content

 

writing in note pad
Did you know how important visual storytelling is for today’s companies? Here are a few statistics to chew on:
  • 90 percent of the information received by the brain on a daily basis is visual.
  • The brain process visual information 60,000 times faster than text-based information.
  • 40 percent of people respond to visual content better than text-only content.
  • Posts with videos embedded in them attract three times as many inbound links as text-only posts.
People like visual content better than text-only content and, as such, smart marketers everywhere are focusing with renewed effort on visual marketing.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, it’s likely that you are at least fleetingly familiar with the booming importance of visual content and, if you want to grow your traffic and increase your engagement, views and shares, one of the primary things you should be focusing on is visual storytelling.

Many marketers, however, are confused about how to get started with visual storytelling or, if they’re already doing it, how to take their visuals to the next level.

Fortunately, we have some tips. Read on to learn more.

8 Tips For Becoming a World-Class Visual Storyteller


1. Know your mission. It’s impossible to know which path you should take if you don’t know where you want to end up. Because of this, you need to define a motive before you start making your visual content. For example, if you want to inspire your audiences, you’re likely going to craft different visuals than you would if you wanted to pitch a new product or raise awareness about your newest charitable partnership. By knowing where you want to take your viewers before you pull out of the station, you increase the chances that you’ll actually get there. In order to apply this to your visual content pursuits, sit down and plot out your content beforehand. Do you want it to be inspiring? Sales-y? Informational? How are you going to convey that message? What’s the best platform for your goal of choice – video, infographic, meme? Once you’ve created the content, consider taking it one step further by surveying your audience and consulting your analytics to determine if your visual content fulfilled the goal.

2. Make sure the story can stand on its own. Part of being a great visual storyteller is ensuring that your stories can stand on their own two feet. For example, if someone visits your site having never encountered your content before, they should be able to view a video, check out an infographic, consult an image and understand immediately the purpose of the content. The reason for this is the value of your visual content immediately declines if someone needs a five-step map or a whole host of other content to interpret it. When you take into account the high share rate of visual content (700 YouTube videos shared each minute, for example) it becomes evident that, in order to be effective and fulfill its purpose, visual content needs to be able to go viral without the help of lengthy, text-based explanations or accompaniments.

3. Relate your visuals to your product. If you’re a tech company, it’s likely that a visual of a moony-eyed couple romping on a beach at sunset isn’t going to make audiences associate the visual with your brand statement or mission. Therefore, in order for your visual storytelling to be effective, your visuals need to feature something that directly relates to your product. Think about TOMs shoes for a movement, a company that donates a pair of shoes to impoverished individuals across the world for every pair of shoe purchased by consumers. Now consider how the brand uses visual storytelling on its website and in its advertisements to both prominently display its message and underscore its philanthropic efforts.

In order to apply this to your company, consider featuring your product in a live setting, being used by customers or alongside related products. Visuals like these help audiences instantly understand what your company does and why it matters.

4. Make the most of your fans. Creating constant, interesting content is a big demand. It’s one of the reasons guest posting is so valuable to bloggers and fan-generated content is so valuable to visual storytellers. By incorporating user-generated content in your marketing campaigns, ads, websites and publications, you do two very important things at once: you create visual content that can go viral easily, thus sharing your brand across the Web and promoting increased user interaction; and you also create a library of customer reviews and feedback, which help would-be customers make purchasing decisions related to your product and company.

For a great example of a company that won at visual storytelling by using user-generated content, check out Starbucks. During the company’s 2014 White Cup Contest, the brand invited users to doodle on their coffee cups, take a snap of the artwork and submit it to Starbucks via social media. This campaign did two things for the brand: it drew huge awareness to the coffee giant and also created some seriously beautiful coffee cup art that went viral around the Web.

5. Showcase your history. One of the most important steps in mastering the art of successful visual storytelling is using images to tell your company story. A picture is worth 1,000 words, after all, and customers want to know how you got where you are. For this reason, it can be amazingly effective to use visual storytelling to showcase your brand’s history or to honor your company roots. To do this well, take a hint from Apple, which released a compelling visual tribute to the late, great Steve Jobs after his death.

[Insert : <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/dInYmYI7Q20″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>]

Although Apple was already a hugely recognizable brand, there is no doubt that this video helped expand the brand’s reach while also driving recognition of the Apple’s many products. By using beautiful, compelling visual content to tell their story, Apple underscored their brand mission, made existing users proud to know the company and offered a comprehensive, bite-sized tidbit of knowledge and inspiration for customers who might encounter the brand for the first time through the video.

6. Cater to your community. In 2014, the BBC launched an Instagram video news feed known as Instafax. The service caters to a busy community of news junkies that doesn’t have the time to interact with news in the traditional sense. The platform displays short, 15-second clips of daily news in a beautiful, image-dense format, which is ideal for quick scanning, bite-sized catch-ups, sharing and social media interaction. The inception of Instafax makes it obvious that the BBC has done its customer research: by providing a drop-in platform for busy people who want to stay informed, the BBC has created a community where people who are too busy to watch the daily news can still pop in, interact, share and watch. In order to apply this to your company, think about which visual formats will work best for your readers and then focus on those. Convenience is everything and readers will reward you for catering to their needs.

7. Tell a story. Is it too obvious to say that visual storytelling should tell a story? We think not and one of the brands that is killing this right now is Nasty Gal. The clothing brand is dedicated to providing edgy, unique, vintage threads to Millennials far and wide, and when you visit its image-dense blog, it’s clear that the company has got it down. From the #girlboss hashtag that accompanies many of the blog’s photos to the way their models are styled, the brand has done a great job at creating a climate for unique self-expression and style. By creating well-rounded visual content that caters to their readers’ interests and preferences, Nasty Gal is, in a way, telling its reader’s stories for them while also helping them find their own voices.

8. Be yourself. Even the best visual content isn’t worth much if it doesn’t reflect your unique style, vision and passions. Therefore, part of being a successful visual content star is staying true to your visions and passions. Don’t commit yourself to creating visual content that you hate – by sticking with the forms you prefer (infographics, for example) and dedicating yourself to providing real value for your clients and, finally, by being authentic and original, you stand to draw customers who are genuinely attracted to your brand and interested in hearing what you have to say as a company.
In order to succeed at visual storytelling, it’s imperative to follow these eight tips while also leaving some room for building on what works. Visual storytelling doesn’t work the same way for everyone and, as such, it’s imperative to allow your brand to explore, be original and test different formats and platforms. Over time, you’ll find what works for you.

When done correctly, visual storytelling is a fantastic way to promote brand recognition and further your readership while also creating content you love and your readers find valuable.

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