Tuesday, November 21, 2017

20 Best New Portfolio Sites, November 2017

There are basically two kinds of portfolio websites nowadays: those with asymmetrical layouts, and those with background images that change when you hover over the name of a project. At least, that’s kind of how it feels this month.

Now, these are not bad-looking sites by any means. There are just a lot of them. I thought we might be done with the bandwagons for a while; but they’ve come back with a vengeance.

I’ve tried to minimize the number of sites in this month’s lineup that look almost exactly the same. Even so, we’re going to see a lot of minimalism, post-minimalism, and asymmetry. Enjoy!

The Great Agency

The Great Agency (which sometimes also calls itself “Alexander the Great”) could teach us all a thing or two about animation. While not every brand will want to use this much animation, it all feels smooth and fluid; it compliments the rest of the site’s visuals nicely.

Daniel Arsham

On the down-side, Daniel Arsham’s site could be a little confusing at first, with unconventional navigation, and a screen-saver (Remember those?) that pops up a little two fast.

One the other hand, it’s a whole new concept. It’s actually kind of cool to watch the whole page split in two to reveal a bit of the project underneath. Take a look at this one for ideas. And maybe implement them with better usability.

stillcouldbeworse

The oh-so-confidently named stillcouldbeworse brings us a nice little dark website with what might be one of my new favorite navigation patterns. Click on “Projects” to see what I mean.

Okay, it wouldn’t work for site where vertical space is at a premium, but I still think it’s cool. The overall style of the site feels a bit ’90s, but has a clearly modern implementation.

7D8

7D8 has adopted minimalism to the point of near-brutalism. A bit more grey and mono-spaced type, and they’d go right over the edge. As it is, it’s just highly stylized minimalism, and it’s looking good. I’m still not sure about that “four corners” navigation that some sites do; but I’m willing to say that 7D8 makes it work.

Brave New World

Brave New World has a familiar layout, with the addition of some nice parallax effects. And scrolling text on diagonal vectors. It’s actually way better than it sounds, even if it does remind me a little too much of the marquee element of old.

Parametro

Sometimes, I include a site just because they did one cool thing I haven’t seen before. In Parametro’s case, there’s a mind-map-style presentation on the home page. The rest of the site is good—if typical—minimalism. That thing on the home page is just plain cool, though.

Liah Moss

Post-minimalism ain’t so bad when it’s loaded with color! Liah Moss demonstrates this fact by combining artsy minimalism with a touch of the ’80s. The predictable layout is offset quite nicely by good type, and enough bright pastels to… man I’ve already made too many Morticia jokes. Someone’s going to have to come up with something in the comments.

Sophie Hustin

Sophie Hustin is a painter and sculptor with a simple, dark site to show off her wares. It’s a bit presentation-like, but pretty enough to make it onto this list regardless.

Wild

Wild is a digital branding studio that really, really loves their white space. And who can blame them? Empty space on your screen can feel weirdly refreshing, or panic-inducing, depending on what’s actually supposed to be there.

Anyway, there’s also some pleasant type, and an interesting approach to the portfolio

Biscuit Filmworks

Biscuit Filmworks has embraced a portfolio style I’ve seen a lot lately: the list-of-projects-with-changing-background-on-hover. I need to make up a name for that.

What this site does differently is the color scheme. I’m not entirely sure how they managed to make the entire site look a bit like a sepia filter in abstract, but they did.

Lotta Nieminen

Lotta Nieminen’s portfolio has that almost magazine-like aesthetic (and text size), but combines it with an app-like approach to browsing the site. All of her work is featured on the home page. Some of it just happens to be off to the side. It’s an efficient and elegant way of combining three pages into one.

Elegant Seagulls

Elegant Seagulls has one of the more creative post-modern layouts I’ve seen to date. It might feel a bit cluttered at times, but it also feels fresh. And very seagull-obsessed. It’s one of those sites that might not be optimized within an inch of its life, but goshdarnit, it has personality.

Reed

Reed is bold. And when I say bold, I mean they’ve used pretty much every trend you’ll see on the rest of this list: asymmetry, presentation-style navigation and animation, post-minimalism… everything. They went all out.

And yet, it still kind of works. That’s impressive on its own.

Niketo

Niketo is on this list for reasons of style, and style alone. I wish the designer would make his body text a bit bigger, but otherwise, it’s a pleasure to browse through.

a friend of mine

a friend of mine  is an advertising agency that tries to set itself apart immediately by showcasing their humanity. They largely accomplish this with simple, punchy copy in a minimalist layout. Oh, and there’s mild profanity on the home page.

Well, it certainly sets them apart, and quickly sorts out the customers they want from the customers they don’t want, I guess.

North-East Venture

North-East Venture stands out by having one of the more interesting uses of parallax effects that I’ve seen yet. It combines the sensibilities of a classic typography-and-background images, with just enough animation to make it stand out.

Add to that the way they make every portfolio page match the project, and you’ve got a site that’s just plain pretty.

Elodie Fabbri

Elodie Fabbri has a portfolio that is clean, pretty, and rather dependent on slideshows. It’s simple, yet dynamic and eye-catching. Frankly, the only way it could really be better would be to find a JavaScript-free way to implement all of those slideshows.

Sally Bliumis-Dunn

This is probably the first poetry portfolio I’ve ever reviewed. And I love it.

Most writing sites try to market their products with imagery. They might use the book covers, or push the budget and use some concept art. This site completely ditches that strategy, using fantastic typography to show off excerpts of the poetry itself. After all, that’s what everyone is here for.

Tristan Bagot

Tristan Bagot’s one-page portfolio combines modern layout with a retro, pixelated style that seems to match the overall theme of his work. Simple, and digital-focused. Linking right to the live sites is always a risk, but it keeps things simple, too.

Luke Fenech

We’ll finish this list off with Luke Fenech, a designer and art director. Nothing too out of the ordinary, here. It’s clean, it’s pretty. The type is a joy to the eyes. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

How to Outperform Sites Ranking Above You on Search Engines

That latest post took days to develop.

It’s instructive and inspiring and educational and entertaining.

Easily, one of your best yet.

But you come to check your traffic data only to find that you’re ranking 70th in the SERPs.

In other words, you ain’t gettin no traffic anytime soon. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Unless some crazy person is actually clicking seven pages deep on Google. Which they aren’t.

All of that hard work, research, and effort got you almost nothing in return.

Meanwhile, your competitors are ranking in the top ten results, even though their content isn’t as long or thorough.

Why? Because of Google.

But really, the most likely answer is time and links.

Your post is new, so it’s going to take some time.

Knowing this, that doesn’t mean you can sit around and expect it to be on the first page without doing work.

Thinking that your new post will gain thousands of links on its own is foolish.

Outperforming your competitors on search engines isn’t an easy, one-off task. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

In fact, if you implement a few of these tactics, it’s likely that (in time) you will.

Why? Because your competitors are comfortable. They think the rankings won’t ever change.

You, on the other hand, are grinding to get ahead.

Here’s how you can outperform sites ranking above you on search engines.

The Top Two Ranking Factors, Straight From Google

When Google RankBrain was announced in 2015 on Bloomberg, it was made known that RankBrain was the third most important ranking factor.

But that was all they said.

What about the first and second ranking factors?

We got almost nothing for an entire year.

In 2016, we got some clear information (for once) from Google.

In a Q&A with Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, we found out the two most important ranking factors:

Links and content. In no particular order of importance.

But that’s pretty much all we got.

It is something, though. It’s a start. And it was straight from the mouth of a high-level strategist.

It also makes sense when you look at recent studies and data sets.

For example, Backlinko recently analyzed one million search engine results pages and found that the top-ranking content had a significantly larger number of links:

Image Source

The disparity between the #1 position and the #10 position is massive.

Meaning if you’re looking to take over the SERPs, you need links. You simply can’t rank high without them.

And according to Google, it’s one of the top two ranking factors. So ignoring it is not an option.

Don’t believe the data?

I don’t blame you. Healthy skepticism makes the world go round.

I didn’t at first either. But do a simple Google search for a desired keyword, and you’ll instantly see that it’s very true.

Searching for “SEO Guide” on Google will return this as the first result:

The next few results are from Kissmetrics and Search Engine Land:

So, let’s put this to the test. Open up Moz’s Open Site Explorer and toss the links in.

Start with the first post by Moz. Here’s what the backlink profile looks like:

Yes, that’s real. This post has over 23 freaking thousand links pointing to it.

That’s more than most people will get on their entire site in their entire career. By far.

Now plug in the second result from Kissmetrics and here’s what you see:

The results are pretty clear.

Both sites have incredibly high domain authorities and page authorities.

They’ve both been around for years and years.

The content is pretty similar. It’s in-depth, informative, and optimized for the user experience.

But one is outranking the other, and the most likely reason (according to Google) is simply that it has more links.

23,000 more. Meaning Google is being told over 23,000 more times how relevant and informative that content is.

So, what about content?

It’s the same thing. It’s about the numbers. Word count matters:

Image Source

The longer the content, the higher chance it has to rank.

But not in the way that you think.

You know, the college essays where you inserted block quotes to add 500 words (yes, admit it, you did it too).

Yeah, that doesn’t work.

Word count for the sake of word count isn’t going to get you higher rankings.

That tactic died with keyword stuffing and will never return.

Long-form content wins on search engines because it’s designed to solve the entire user problem in one go.

Meaning that the content is designed to answer all questions, provide solutions, and then show the user how to fix it.

If your content accomplishes this, people won’t bounce back to Google to click on the next result.

To sum it up, links and content quality are the top two ranking factors.

If you want to outperform sites above you, focus on these two factors over anything else.

It’s just like a workout plan.

Want to lose weight? Don’t waste time doing isolation bicep curls.

Take the most effective route and target the top ways to accomplish your goal.

Here’s how to get more links and write better content to outrank your competitors.

Campaign For Better Links

Now that you know how important links are for rankings, you need more of them.

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But not just any backlinks. Directory links won’t do it. Paying for low-level, spammy links from the dude who cold emailed you is a recipe for disaster.

Most people get caught up in the total quantity and forget to focus on quality too.

Quantity isn’t enough. Let me explain:

When a website (like a directory) links over and over to thousands of sites, Google starts to notice that these links are easy to acquire.

So Google puts less importance on them. Why? They’re easy to get!

So stop buying links. Stop spamming forums and Pinterest (what even is Pinterest??).

Backlinko data agrees with this notion, too:

Image Source

The graph above essentially says that the top-ranking content has links from diverse websites.

Meaning you need many websites to link to you, not just one spamming your link over and over.

But that’s not all. You need links from high DA sites:

Image Source

So the real recipe is:

Total amount of links + large amount of diverse sites + all high DA = rankings boost.

Take that, Gordon Ramsay!

Now that you know, how do you do it?

There are a few proven ways to get more high-quality links on your site.

One of the best is by creating round-up style content. This is content that mentions multiple popular influencers in your niche.

For example, check out this post from Bill Widmer that took the opinions of 30+ experts on their favorite marketing channels:

(That cool dude is me, by the way, in case you were wondering.)

But the point is, these types of posts get links.

I’ll prove it to you.

Here’s the backlink profile for this exact blog post:

Nearly 70 links to a single post that was recently uploaded. Pretty impressive.

And not just any links. Notice the top linking sites? They were all mentioned influencers in his post.

Getting the input of trusted influencers and showcasing them in your post is one of the best ways to get great links.

People are more likely to share it when you mention and show them in an informative light.

Write Better Content More Often

Getting the highest-quality links isn’t enough.

Remember that another top ranking factor is content.

Quality and frequency play a huge role in content that drives rankings.

According to HubSpot, companies that post more blog posts more often get more traffic:

Image Source

And that’s not all. The more you blog, the more inbound leads you get:

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Why? Because you’re effectively giving yourself more chances to rank higher on Google.

And when you rank higher on Google, you get more traffic.

Image Source

If sites are ranking above you on search engines and you don’t have enough links to overtake them, post more often.

It’s one of the easiest ways to generate more traffic to compensate for a lower ranking.

The more often you post, the more indexed pages you have.

The more indexed pages, the more traffic.

Once you develop content, you can campaign for links to boost that content.

You can outperform sites with multiple approaches. It doesn’t always have to be outranking them for a single post.

Would you rather outrank them for one post or write five new ones that get more total traffic?

The answer is clear: more traffic.

Create Content for the User Experience

Google has one goal in mind when it comes to their search engine (besides profit):

Creating the fastest, best user experience possible.

This is evident by conducting any Google search and seeing how quickly they deliver results:

They even tell you about it.

It’s a subtle brag.

But it tells us some instant data on how much they care about delivering content fast and effectively.

It’s their top priority because if they don’t, people will jump ship to Bing or Yahoo, or Ask Jeeves (wait, does that still exist?).

This has larger implications than just result delivery speed though.

When Google delivers results, they still want users to be satisfied.

If someone searches for “seo” and doesn’t click, but instead modifies their search for “seo guide,” Google takes note.

They understand that “seo” search results weren’t what they were looking for.

Similarly, if someone finds your post on Google but bounces fast and clicks on the next, Google notices.

They notice that your content isn’t solving user problems. And if it’s not, you can kiss those rankings goodbye.

So, what does this mean for SEOs and optimizing content?

It means you’ve gotta stop worrying about how search engines view your content and start caring about the user experience.

That means putting real emotion into your writing to trigger a response.

Or telling a story that people can’t resist reading.

Keywords are great, but stuffing “seo guide best 2017 content” into your title makes you look stupid.

Trust me – I’ve been there.

A searcher and reader are going to take one look at that title and never come back.

A great way to optimize your content for a real user is by taking advantage of Google’s free data mining.

It’s easy.

What’s the next blog post you want to write about?

For example, let’s say it’s about content marketing.

Conduct a simple Google search for that basic term and scroll to the bottom of the page:

You’ve got instant, real keywords that people are searching.

You could easily compile several of these into a single long-form piece of content that is a one-stop-shop when it comes to solving a problem.

For example, write a content marketing strategy guide and include examples and types of content marketing.

Now you’ve effectively hit three real searches with a single post. That’s relevancy.

If you want to outrank the sites above you, you’ve gotta improve your content.

It has to be tailored to fit the user, not the search engine.

Search engines are getting smarter and more realistic. Rankings will follow if you focus on real people.

Conclusion

When you’ve written a new blog post, you can’t risk it slipping into the oblivion of the SERPs.

Anything beyond the first page isn’t going to get you any noticeable traffic.

And you can’t just expect a post to generate traffic and links on its own.

You’ve gotta put in the work to get real results.

If you want to outrank your competition, you need better links, real keywords, and better content.

Plain and simple:

You need to produce better content for the end user than the person above you.

Once you’ve done that, campaign for links.

The more high-quality links you land, the better shot you’ve got at ranking higher.

Outperforming sites ranking above you in the SERPs will drive more traffic to your site fast.

About Kissmetrics

Kissmetrics combines behavioral analytics with email automation. Our software tracks actions of your users across multiple devices allowing you to analyze, segment and engage your customers with automatic, behavior-based emails in one place. We call it Customer Engagement Automation. Get, keep and grow more customers with Kissmetrics.

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About the Author: Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.

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What’s New in WordPress 4.9 “Tipton”

With everyone getting excited (on a positive or negative note, depending on who you’re taking to) over Gutenberg launching in WordPress 5.0, it’s easy to forget that WordPress had another major version update that went live in the past week.

WordPress 4.9 officially launched in November, 2017 after a slight delay from the original anticipated launch. Announced on the official WordPress website, developers are calling the update “Tipton” in honor of jazz musician William (“Bill”) Tipton—this jazz-inspired naming mechanism is a long-held tradition when it comes to major WordPress updates.

WordPress 4.9 will be the second major WordPress release of the year, following WordPress version 4.8 “Evans”. Evans promised to be user-centered, and WordPress adds on to this promise thanks to brand new features in Tipton.

Focused on customization, code enhancements, and widget improvements, here’s what you need to know about WordPress 4.9 Tipton:

Enhanced Customization Options

In the name of customization workflow improvements, WordPress 4.9 includes the ability to draft and schedule site design optimizations.

Draft, Schedule, and Share Design Customizations

In previous versions of WordPress, the only built-in way to check on website changes was to publish them to the live version of your site. While not a huge deal when dealing with little tweaks, it certainly wasn’t ideal for making major changes that weren’t ready to be shared just yet.

This new feature in WordPress 4.9 Tipton is just like post revisions, but for theme changes. You can apply changes and store them, then schedule them to go live at a predetermined time and date.

This feature also allows you to share a preview of your changes with anyone—without the need to login. Just copy the preview link and share it with any registered user.

New Theme Browsing Experience

The WordPress 4.9 update also gives users an easier way to preview and change themes directly from the WordPress customizer.

Under ‘Themes’, there are two options:

  • Installed Themes
  • WordPress.org Themes

If you click on the former, you will be given a preview of your installed themes. If you click on the latter, you will be able to browse and search for WordPress.org themes and directly install them from the customizer.

Protect Your Work

Designers that collaborate on a project know how crappy it can feel when a co-designer changes their work without consulting them first. The new WordPress 4.9 update is similar to the Post Locking feature. The design lock feature secures your draft so that no one can change or erase your hard work without going through you first.

Furthermore, if something takes you away from your desk and you forgot to save your design changes, this new version update includes an added security feature where you’ll be asked if you want to save those unsaved changes.

Widget Improvements

Tipton also introduces new widget improvements, including the new Gallery widget. For reference, WordPress 4.8 introduced new media widgets that included rich text, audio, image, and video.

This new widget adds new functionality to that previous update. This new widget can be added to the sidebar, footer, or anywhere you put widgets on your site. To use the new Gallery widget, drag it where you want it to show up and use the ‘Add Images’ button to select images from your media library. Note that this gallery, as with other WordPress widgets, has limited functionality compared with custom coding.

Another widget improvement is the ability to add media to the text widget. The text widget in WordPress 4.8 came with plain text and HTML tabs, but if you wanted to add an image, you still had to use HTML code. WordPress fixed this in the latest version update. This new function also allows you to create a gallery within the text widget.

WordPress 4.9 Tipton now also allows shortcode in text widgets.

New Code Editing

The third major aspect of changes in WordPress 4.9 regards code editing. WordPress code editors used to look and function like plain text boxes but have now been given an upgrade.

Code Syntax Error Highlighter

What’s worse than writing a long code that doesn’t run when you try it out? Not being able to find what’s wrong in that code! It’s frustrating to think that the only reason why your site won’t run correctly is because you missed a semicolon somewhere.

CodeMirror, a syntax checking editor that is focused on editing code, was added to WordPress 4.9. Its features include:

  • Syntax highlighting
  • Live error checking
  • Autocomplete

CodeMirror will be used to edit:

  • Custom CSS in the WordPress Customizer
  • Editing theme or plugin code from the dashboard editor
  • The custom HTML widget

With the new code highlighter feature, users will be able to pinpoint errors quickly. However, early reviews are showing that some users don’t like this feature. The good news if you find yourself among this group? You can simply disable the feature if you don’t like it.

Safety Precautions

Another interesting aspect of the 4.9 Tipton update is that WordPress now warns users that try to edit their theme or plugins directly. WordPress will also warn users that try to edit their themes or plugins for errors before saving (to avoid white screen of death).

What’s New in WordPress 4.9 Tipton

The last of WordPress’ major updates for 2017, these new changes highlight WordPress’ promise to continually provide a user-centered experience.

Don’t forget that unless you’re on a managed WordPress hosting service, you will have to manually initiate the update.

If you’re ready to test WordPress 4.9 Tipton, don’t forget to backup your files before updating.

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