The Evolution of a Logo: My Process of Branding Myself

If you have a brand, and especially if you’re a graphic designer, having a logo is important. Logos help establish your identity, and if you’re a designer, it’s another way to show your talents. When designing a logo, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Is it timeless? Will it still work a year from now? 5 years from now?

  • Is it scalable? Is it easy to see at small (as small as a favicon) and large sizes?

  • Is it versatile? Does it work for digital and print material?

  • What does it represent? Does the logo embody what I want it to? What does it say about me as a designer?

I’ll take you through the process of creating a logo to brand myself with, and I’ll show you some of my previous logos and then explain what did and didn’t work with them, based on the four questions above.

My First Logo

When I designed my first logo back in my sophomore year of college, I had very basic knowledge of graphic design. The logo was simple and clean, but it was fairly boring. I knew how to use the pen tool to make basic lines, and I knew how to make shapes. I had also recently learned how to design banners, which clearly I was very excited about.
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The biggest problem with my first logo is that it was the first idea I had, whereas now I know the importance of sketching out ideas, setting goals for your design, and clearly defining what you want your logo to represent. When I designed this logo, I just wanted something that looked good. However, the goal of graphic design is not just to make things look good. Design is about form and function, it’s about usability, and it’s about solving problems. Having a pretty logo with no meaning offered no representation of who I was as a designer. So, let’s consult the questions:

  • Is it timeless? There’s no guarantee that banners would be trendy in the future, or that I would like banners in the future, or that I would like teal in the future.

  • Is it scalable? Scaling this down would make it hard to read, both because of the size of my name and the thin stroke of the letters in the logo.

  • Is it versatile? The logo is too detailed and complex to work with other images, and it would only look good standing alone.

  • What does it represent? I like shapes and lines. And banners.

Logo #2

As I began taking graphic design classes, I found myself learning a ton of new skills. I could make things look 3D! I could cut out parts of an image! I could divide a shape into different parts! I learned about the pathfinder tool and my world changed! It was a very exciting time for a young designer such as myself. However, my abundance of new knowledge and skills meant that my next logo was a little too eccentric.
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This logo looked cool, but it had a bit too much going on. Some of the shadows and angles were not aligned or positioned property. Plus, it didn’t pass the four questions:

  • Is it timeless? The specific colors and 3D look of this logo could become outdated or out of style over time.

  • Is it scalable? Somewhat, but the lines in the design would get lost as size decreases.

  • Is it versatile? The logo only looked good on a dark gray background, and changing the colors made the logo look very different, so the colors needed to remain the same always. This meant the logo always had to be on a dark background. Short answer: No, not versatile.

  • What does it represent? The logo gives off a fun, playful vibe. While some of my work does have that style, the logo somewhat limits its portrayal of my capabilities and discredits more professional, serious work I design.

Current Logo

To reach my current logo, I put a lot of time and effort into creating the best possible design. I sketched out countless ideas, playing around with different ways I could align my initials and create interesting shapes and lines. I wanted to convey professionalism and position myself as a successful motion, UI/UX, and identity designer. Thus, I wanted my logo to be simple, bold, and easy to read, while still looking visually interesting.
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I chose this design as my current logo because it looks sleek, professional, and clean. My initials combine to form a shape that looks like a mouse pointing towards my name, which brings the eye to my name. This logo is extremely effective alone (without my name next to it), making it ideal for marketing materials and branding. It passes all four questions, as well.

  • Is it timeless? Yes. The simplicity of the logo means it can adapt to different mediums, no matter what the future has in store.

  • Is it scalable? Yes. The logo is still easy to comprehend when it is as small as a favicon, and its boldness means it looks strong and powerful when sized larger.

  • Is it versatile? Definitely. Again, the simple lines and design of this logo means it can work for any product, whether that’s a 3D video, a business card, or printed on a pen. The shape is what makes the logo recognizable, which means I can change the logo’s color based on the product and not lose recognition.

  • What does it represent? This logo represents usability and clear, comprehensible design, which is what I focus on most in my work. With the move towards mobile devices and smaller technology, making designs usable and understandable is crucial, and this concept is demonstrated in my logo.

Branding yourself visually takes a lot of time, but once you decide on a logo and style for yourself and your brand, you’re going to look a lot more legitimate and well-established. To learn more about branding yourself, check out my blog post with 5 steps to build your brand online.

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lisadzera

10 Ways To Create Powerful Infographics & Data Visualizations

Using graphs and charts to display complex data in ways that make it easy to understand is not a new concept. From the creation of the pie chart in the early 1800s to early instances of visualizing information, such as Charles Minard mapping Napolean’s invasion of Russia, presenting data using visuals has always been around. With the rise of computers and technology, data scientists and statisticians are finding innovative and powerful ways to interpret data and draw conclusions. However, without visualizing that data and making it easy to digest, any important findings from the results will not be widely understood. Most people do not want to look at rows and rows of numbers and attempt to understand the conclusion of that data. If you have important statistics and facts to show, using data visualization is essential to promoting widespread understanding of that information. Effective infographics provide a clear, comprehensible way to understand complex information. Here are 10 tips for creating your own infographics and data visualizations.
 

1. Tell a story.

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Remember that you’re not just throwing data onto a page. You’re using visuals to guide a viewer through the topic, and it should flow linearly to make the information easy to understand. You don’t want your audience confused about what to read and what the data actually means. Breaking the information up into parts, clearly defining sections, and telling a story with your information is essential. In my Seattle Seahawks infographic, I told the story of the Seahawks’ journey to the Super Bowl, but I also created separate sections to communicate background information about the team and their history. By breaking up that information into different sections, there was a clear hierarchy and linear flow to the infographic, which made it easy to read and understand.
 

2. Design differently for digital vs. print.

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If you’re designing for digital devices, like in my Wabi Sabi UI design, then your data should be interactive. Viewers should be able to click, tap, zoom, scroll, and more. Of course, these features should be used only when they help increase understanding. For example, if you’re making a data visualization about an oil spill, have a timeline the user can drag to see the progression of the spill over time. Additionally, digital designs should be more minimalistic and utilize white space. Print designs are one size, so you can design it knowing how the user will ultimately view it. For digital designs, however, they could be on a huge computer display or on a tiny phone screen. Thus, keeping designs simpler and using white space to your advantage will ensure that all viewers can clearly see your infographics, regardless of the device they’re viewing it on. Also, when designing digital infographics, keep the horizontal width less than 735 pixels (to ensure it works on mobile devices) and the height less than 5000 pixels (after that, people get tired of scrolling).
 

3. Use visuals to aid understanding.

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Don’t just put in images and icons because you have empty space. For every visual you add, you should have a clearly defined reason for doing so. In this spread for the Pretty in Plastic magazine, the visuals help explain the different types of plastic surgeries being described. Rather than thinking about the medical terms abstractly, the viewer can clearly see what is being done in each type of surgery. Thus, the visuals aid understanding in addition to breaking up the text.
 

4. Visualize the hook.

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Charts and graphs are interesting, but they’re not going to be what draws in your audience. Use a large visual to attract people’s attention. This should be the “hook” of your infographic: the most important takeaway. For my infographic about making pancakes, I used a large illustration of well-made pancakes to pull people in. You can use other visual aids to reinforce and draw attention to your hook. In the pancake infographic, I used typography in the title to tie in the large illustration. I designed the word “pancakes” in the same style as the illustration and made it appear like the word was written in syrup. Initially, the viewer sees beautiful pancakes and the word “pancakes” written in a fun, interesting way—how could they resist reading more?
 

5. Show the big picture.

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When looking at specific groups of data, it’s helpful to take a step back and communicate the main conclusions and big picture to your audience. Visuals can help do this. For example, in the water conservation infographic I created for the UNC Environmental Finance Center, I used a visual of a house to show that there are ways to conserve water in every room in your house. Rather than just listing ways to save water, connecting these methods to a larger visual (the house) allows the viewer to understand that water conservation can be achieved many ways and contributes to an overall lifestyle of conservation, not just one small change. Visuals on the side also help show how a small leak can add up over time. Adding numbers about how many gallons of water one would save per month helps the viewer understand the big picture.
 

6. Use a variety of charts/graphs.

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This spread in the Pretty in Plastic magazine has a lot of information and complicated data. Thus, it was crucial to use a wide variety of different data viz techniques to ensure that there was visual interest and that the viewer wasn’t confused or overwhelmed. Using a range of charts/graphs shouldn’t be too difficult, either, because most data has an optimal way to be displayed; it’s unlikely that all your data would be perfect for pie charts. Use color, size, and layout to differentiate among the data viz techniques and ensure that the infographic isn’t overwhelming. In the example above, because all the graphs used similar colors, and nothing was too overpowering, the page did not look crowded or overcomplicated.

 

7. You don’t HAVE to use graphs.

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Many people hear “infographic” or “data visualization” and automatically think they need bar, pie, and line graphs. But you can visually represent a complex topic without using graphs, especially if your data is qualitative, not quantitative. In my infographic about white tigers, I used smaller illustrations to show what each block of text was about. Since the main illustration was very detailed, I kept the other illustrations simple as to not compete. You don’t want to use infographics only when the data clearly calls for one; challenge yourself to find ways to use visuals to aid understanding, even if it’s not initially obvious how to do so.
 

8. Use colors effectively.

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Colors are an important resource that designers can use to aid understanding; they do a lot more than make things look pretty. Consider this infographic I designed for the UNC Environmental Finance Center. Throughout the bottom half of the infographic, small, medium, and large systems are referred to. By using consistent colors for these three systems throughout the piece, it helps the viewer understand which system is being referred to, simplifying the data and making viewers rely less on the text.

 

9. Avoid large blocks of text.

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Large blocks of text are difficult to read, and most people aren’t going to read them. Even if there is text you cannot put into a chart/graph/etc., you can still display the text in a way that breaks it up and into easily digestible parts. In this spread from the Pretty in Plastic magazine, a timeline breaks up the text on the right page. Even using bullet points (as on the left page) breaks up text and increases the chance that people will actually read what you write.

10. Animate it!

If you have so much information that there’s no way you can display it all on one page… don’t display it all on one page! There are other ways you can display infographics, and an animated infographic is a great way to do so. I was part of a team that created a motion graphic for UNC Healthcare. We used graphs and visual aids to communicate complicated information. This particular motion graphic ended up winning first place in the animated infographic category of the National SSND Design Contest. Think of outside-the-box ways to present your information and ways you can make your designs more innovative and engaging!

5 Steps To Building Your Brand Online

So, you had an idea. You want to sell a product, offer your expertise in an area, or post content online about something you’re passionate about. But where do you go from there?

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1. Think about it.

  • Who are you? Write it out.

  • How do you want to represent yourself?

  • What are your goals?

  • What do you want to be known for?

  • How can you represent these abstract concepts in a concrete way?

Once you’ve thought about how you want to be perceived, ask yourself what you can do to ensure that your brand is translated to others. This includes visuals, content, marketing methods, and general business practices. Your brand should reflect who you are, and you should remain true to yourself.

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2. Create a website & visuals.

  • Purchase a domain name.

  • Develop a website that reinforces your personal brand.

  • Design a logo and color scheme that reflects who you are.

  • Use those visuals in your business card, resume, and cover letter.

People like visuals, and visuals are a key way to communicate your brand. If you love kids and want to open a fun after-school program for toddlers, your website shouldn’t be black Times New Roman on a white background. The design of your website, business cards, and other assets help establish your identity. You’ll also look a lot more legitimate and well-established, which will help you gain attention and business.

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3. Blog.

  • Create a blog on your website.

  • Put all your blog posts on LinkedIn.

  • In every post, link to others sites and other pages within your site.

  • Write about things you’re passionate about.

  • Include visuals, such as infographics, photos, charts, etc.

Blogging is extremely useful for boosting your search engine optimization (SEO). Blogs give websites 434% more indexed pages. And you don’t necessarily have to write articles; you can take photos, write poetry, post videos, design graphics, etc. Do whatever comes naturally to you.

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4. Use social media effectively.

  • Post about your blog & other updates.

  • Use Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Google Plus, Instagram, etc.

  • Posting on Google Plus is an effective and easy way to boost your SEO.

Social media is an excellent resource for you to use to increase your branding. Posting your blog on other sites (with unique descriptions for each medium) increases the amount of links to your post, which indexes it higher on search engines. Tailor what you post to each form of social media. For example, if you post an article about 5 tips for UI design, tweet one of the tips with a link to the rest. If you’re posting it on Facebook, write a short description of the blog post. And make sure you post on Google Plus! That will do wonders for your ranking on Google.

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5. Reinforce your brand.

  • Send your blog posts to websites that accept article submissions.

  • Comment on other blogs/websites with links to related posts you’ve written.

  • Continue to blog, and don’t forget to link to pages within your site.

While your branding should be intentional and well thought out, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that it’s genuine to who you are. Create and share content about things you’re passionate about, be honest with who you are, and be open and vulnerable with your writing. Good SEO, an awesome logo, and an interactive website won’t help you out if your content is dry and uninspiring. So, whether you have an established brand or you’re just starting out, remember that the most important thing (as cheesy as it sounds) is to just be yourself.

UI vs. UX Design: What’s The Difference?

Learning the difference between UI and UX design can initially be very confusing. Designers will tell you that UI is part of UX, but UX is not “experienced” from UI only. But what does that mean? Which one is more important? How do you use them together effectively? Rahul Varshney, co-creator of Foster.fm, explains, “User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are some of the most confused and misused terms in our field. A UI without UX is like a painter slapping paint onto canvas without thought; while UX without UI is like the frame of a sculpture with no paper mache on it. A great product experience starts with UX followed by UI. Both are essential for the product’s success.

“Something that looks great but is difficult to use is exemplary of great UI and poor UX. Something very usable that looks terrible is exemplary of great UX and poor UI.” –Helga Moreno

What is UX Design?

User Experience Design is the overall “feel” that a user gets from your product. It’s their entire experience. UX designers succeed if users have a positive and satisfying experience using their product. For example, if you open up an app on your phone and it’s confusing and complicated, and you feel frustrated after using it, that’s an example of bad UX design. On the other hand, if an app is simple and seamless, and you quickly and easily accomplished what you opened the app to do, that’s good UX. Remember that even though UX design is about how the user feels, good UX design doesn’t mean that after every interaction, the user is laughing and smiling because the interface was just so fun and easy to use. People expect apps to be simple and easy to use. So (unfortunately), UX design is not usually noticed unless it’s bad. It’s kind of like how people get annoyed if you forget to wish them a happy birthday, but when you remember, they just say “thanks!” and move on.
 

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So, how do you construct this perfect user experience? It’s a whole lot more than just design. UX relies on research and data to determine what users prefer. Usability is influenced by visual aspects such as where buttons are, how a menu is formatted, and how you navigate through a product.

“UX designers are concerned with how the user experiences the product. They want the user to come away from the app feeling good.”
Matt Powers, web designer at Blue Soda Promo

Here’s an example of UX design: Most apps go to a loading screen (known as a splash screen) when you first open them. This splash screen usually is colorful and prominently features the app logo. And, it usually features some sort of animation. Why? Because when something is loading and a user sees a circle turning or a bar filling up, they can easily see that their app is indeed loading. If a loading screen is a static page, the user may wonder if the app is frozen, or they may get impatient waiting. If an app says it’s 90% loaded after a minute, the user is a lot more likely to wait than if they’ve been waiting a minute and have no idea what percent of the app is loaded yet. Little things like that contribute to the overall user experience.

 

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What is UI Design?

User Interface Design is more visual. It’s how a user interacts with your interface and is a part of UX design. UI design is comprised of the visual aspects of a design, including the colors, buttons, images, etc. With the demand for digital products only increasing, UI design is the future of graphic design. Some UI roles require coding knowledge or proficiency, while others have a separate team of developers. Knowing coding as a designer definitely won’t hurt, though.

“If the UX designer is looking at a website from 40,000 feet, the UI designer is looking at it with a microscope.”
John T. Jones, digital marketing manager for USA Financial

UI designers create tangible elements that comprise an app or website. They want to optimize the layout and determine which assets appear where. Especially now, digital design is essential to establishing a website’s identity and legitimacy. If your website or app is unattractive, you lose a significant amount of credibility, which is going to hurt you.

How do UI and UX design work together?

UI design is one aspect of UX design. Larger companies separate these roles, while smaller companies often combine them. Either way, they’re both crucial. You don’t want an elegant interface that’s difficult to use. And you don’t want an app that’s easy to use but is boring and unappealing. When UI and UX combine together perfectly, the result is a clean, simple, stunning product that is both easy to use and engaging to the user.
 

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So…how can I learn UI/UX design?

Because these fields are very new, there are very few college programs specifically tailored for UI and UX design. If you’re interested in UI design, you can enroll in a graphic design, interactive design, or visual design program and apply those concepts. A background in visual design, computer science, or psychology/sociology can help you with a career in UX design. Learning about emotional intelligence will also be helpful. For a more specific, immersive experience, look into UI/UX bootcamps or courses, especially if you live in a major metropolitan city. There are also online courses or tutorials you can try. No matter what route you take, pursuing a career in UI/UX is a great career move, as these skills are in extremely high demand.
 

Rebranding Mental Illness

Rethink: Psychiatric Illness is an organization at UNC Chapel Hill that aims to create networks and end the stigma related to mental illnesses. They are committed to changing the way we think and talk about mental illness, and they accomplish this by organizing events aimed at fostering understanding among students and raising awareness about the current challenges in our mental health system. Their biggest project is a student-led sensitization training held several times a year, where students learn the basics about mental illnesses, the resources available at UNC, and how to be an affirming friend and peer.
 

Rethink is an important and influential organization with a community-based approach. They aim to make all members feel welcome and comfortable. Rethink is innovative, modern, and filled with intelligent people. Thus, when they contacted me about redesigning their logo, I was immediately interested.
 

Rethink’s past logos did not quite portray the message they wanted to send. They included brains, lightbulbs, and question marks. They wanted to move past those: brains were too cliché, lightbulbs gave the wrong implication (i.e. that ending mental illness is as simple as turning on a lightbulb), and question marks implied that people with mental illness were just confused. Other mental health organizations use puzzle pieces and gears; but again, that implies that people with mental health issues are broken and need to be “fixed” or “put back together.” While mental health should be addressed, people who are struggling should not feel like they are broken or incomplete. We needed to move past their previous logos (below) and portray what Rethink was about now.
 

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Rethink’s leadership team explained to me that they wanted to communicate concepts such as “homegrown” and “familial” to describe Rethink. We decided that using a head would be the best way to represent mental illness, but that the ideas of community and support could be represented using multiple heads. That led me to the idea of overlapping heads to show a sharing of ideas and connection among individuals. For colors, I went with a teal blue color combined with a deep purple. Using cool colors is calming, and the contrast of the dark purple with the soft blue allows for easy readability. I noticed that when the two heads overlapped, they formed a shape that looked like a lightbulb, so I added that element into a few sketches, just in case the Rethink team wanted to move in that direction instead.
 


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After seeing the initial drafts, the Rethink leadership team liked the text used in the top row of logos and liked the bottom center design with the head outlines overlapping. The overlapping heads represented community, and having outlines meant one head was not “on top,” which would imply that some people are more important than others. After making a few more edits, I created the final logo in blue, purple, and white to give the team color options.
 


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Working with Rethink gave me an opportunity to think critically about how to represent the complicated topic of mental illness in a logo. I was challenged to create a logo that represented community and support and moved away from traditional mental health logos that rely on brains, puzzle pieces, gears, and lightbulbs. I also enjoyed the conversation as we discussed what we wanted the logo to communicate and the importance of what certain designs would imply about mental illness.

5 Simple Ways to Boost SEO Using Content Marketing

Your website can have the best, most interesting and engaging content on the entire Internet, but if no one sees it, what’s the point? Especially if you’re not an internationally known website, it can be difficult to obtain wide viewership on your posts. Luckily, you can use SEO (search engine optimization) to boost your content’s ranking on search engines and make it more likely that people will see it. Content marketing, creating and spreading content to increase traffic, is a great (and relatively simple) way to boost SEO. 93% of marketers use content marketing as part of their strategy.

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The tips below are just a starting point. For more in-depth research on boosting your SEO, check out some more complex guides that offer even more ways to change your website to improve its SEO.

 

1. Think about your keywords.

Organic search is responsible for 64% of web traffic. That means that your keywords (what people search for) are crucial. Keywords can be a great way to boost your SEO, but you need to think critically about them. If you open an ice cream shop in Seattle, keywords like “ice cream” and “Seattle” won’t get you as much traffic as more specific keywords. If you sell lactose-free ice cream, then “lactose-free ice cream Seattle” should be one of your keywords. It’s more specific, so it’ll get searched less, but when people do search for that, you’re going to be much more likely to appear on Google than you would if someone just searched “ice cream Seattle.” To find analytics on your keywords, Google Adwords offers a free “keyword tool” that shows the search volume and competition for any keyword. You can also use tools such as KeywordSpy, which shows what keywords your competitors are using and how effective they are.

 

2. Use links.

The more times other people link to your content, the more reliable it seems in the eyes of Google. Think of it as a celebrity endorsement: if a popular website links to your blog, then your credibility gets a huge boost. Internal links are also a great way to boost your ranking: link to other pages on your site to boost your ranking. This is one reason Wikipedia does so well; every page has countless links to other Wikipedia pages. Also, note that sharing a page on social media counts as a link back to your site.

 

3. Post your content multiple ways.

In addition to posting on your website, you should also post on various forms of social media, which increases the audience. Also, don’t forget about Google+. Obviously Google will index your content higher if it’s shared on Google+, so make sure you post on Google+ as well. LinkedIn is also hugely important. As shown in the chart below, LinkedIn generates more leads for B2B companies than Facebook, Twitter or blogs individually.

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4. Use social media sharing buttons.

This one is really, really simple: to make it easy for your viewers to share your content, add social media sharing buttons on the top and bottom of all your posts. This gives people a simple, quick way to share your post, which will drive more traffic to your site and ultimately help boost your SEO.

 

5. Consistently add content.

Create posts on a blog to drive traffic to your site, and post consistently. Blogs give websites 434% more indexed pages. And B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those who don’t. At the same time, though, don’t write content just to have content. Everything you post should have a purpose and should be something you’re interested in and passionate about, because that yields the best content. Interesting content is one of the top 3 reasons people connect with brands on social media. And, as shown in the chart below, make sure you’re using a variety of tactics for your content: videos, infographics, podcasts, etc. Articles with images get 94% more views.

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These tips will give you a good start on content marketing and boosting your SEO. For more stats about content marketing, check out these 50 awesome stats about SEO and content marketing. Good luck!