App StoreMobile optimization has fallen out of popularity a little bit as the new responsive design trend makes the need for a secondary mobile website obsolete. Of course, there are many businesses that have opted to have a specific mobile website, but there is no denying that responsive design is gradually merging mobile and desktop optimization.

What responsive design doesn’t negate is the possible need for an app. There are over 600,000 apps in the Apple App Store alone, and more businesses are deciding to create an app for their products every day.

What many don’t realize is that apps require optimization just like websites. With the huge number of apps out there, you can’t simply get your app approved and expect to see a huge number of people downloading it.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a discussion about ASO (App Store Optimization) stemming from a Techcrunch article claiming ASO is the new SEO. We use apps more every day, relying on them for weather, news, entertainment, shopping, and organization, but I was initially skeptical as to whether ASO will ever achieve some sort of dominance.

Then I started considering my tablet usage throughout each day. I check a number of news sources including CNN and Vice, skim through the more lighthearted Buzzfeed and Cracked, and often browse Reddit. The only one of those activities I don’t do in an app is read news from Vice only because there isn’t one to use and I have checked more than once to see if an app existed (there is one for the iPhone however).

The thing is, I use these apps regularly in the morning and evenings when I’m away from work. For more casual viewers, these apps may not be used enough to justify the space they take up. Most of the apps I acquire either serve a distinct purpose, or allow me quicker access to content I would normally have to open in a web browser. The only type of apps I download without already being familiar with a company are tools.

None of this is to say apps do not have their purpose, or that optimization should be an important part of creating and managing an app, as well as reaching out to the public. However, there are many markets where the apps largely serve to make frequent visitors’ interaction with your content more efficient, and won’t reach as many uninitiated consumers as other markets would.

If you decide an app is an important product you release to the public however, ASO is practically required to keep your app from going nowhere. There are simple steps you can take such as making sure to clearly advertise the app on your website and sharing it on social media, but you can also do keyword research and find out what people are searching for.

While ASO certainly has its place, the debate over whether it will be the “new” SEO seems kind of silly to me. We may reach a point where it is important for every company to have an app, though I don’t think we are quite there. Even then, ASO will only be a small portion of what we do. SEO applies to every business online, and I don’t see it going away any time soon.

When you write about SEO regularly, it is easy to get caught up on the things that are changing and shifting, but we often forget about the old standards of SEO and how they might fit into the new climate.

If you take a look, you will see there aren’t many articles about the importance of quality title tags in the past months or even year, even though it is one of the most powerful elements on a page. Just the title tag alone can tell a search engine your relevance to a topic of search term, distinguish yourself to searchers, and even draw in visitors, all in a single line.

Crafting a great title is deceptively difficult. It would seem creating a single line statement of the purpose of your page should be quick and simple, but crafting one that will make your page alluring to both search engines and customers alike is a complicated trick.

First, you need to match the recommended guidelines, and good luck finding a consistent set. I have seen anywhere from 50 to 70 characters suggested as the maximum you should include in a title, but so long as you are around 60 characters there shouldn’t be much of a concern. Going over risks having the terrible ellipsis trailing your truncated title.

Of course, there is no evidence Google doesn’t see all the text in your title, even when it is obscured by the “…”, but why waste the text? Searchers won’t get the entire topic you are addressing, and the extra 15 characters a search engine sees likely won’t help you. Doing something like trying to stuff keywords in after the ellipsis would actually hurt you.

Once you’ve met the common guidelines, there becomes a problem. Everyone wants a simply formula that will work every time, and one simply doesn’t exist. Every website is different, and making a title tag that is correct for your brand depends on your message and what you want to emphasize.

An amazing amount of information can be coded into 60 characters. You can tell searchers the product of brand name, descriptors, price, and many other aspects of your page simply in one sentence with very careful word choice. For products, you want to fit in as many hard facts about the products as you can in that small space. Search Engine Journal suggests product name, number, size, color, and unique features could all be included in the title, while with blog posts you want to tell searchers what question or topic you will be addressing clearly.

Just because there isn’t a magic formula for titles, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned with them. A weak title tag will get your pages ignored by everyone that sees your listing, while a quality one will stop casual browsers and show them exactly what they were looking for. Stand out and make your titles fantastic.

We designers love free resources, so it is thankful that we love sharing tools we love almost as much as we like using them. There are entire blogs dedicated to covering new and interesting tools, as well as those whose only function is giving visitors free textures and code snippets to use. offers much more than that, but they also do a monthly roundup of the latest and greatest resources out there to help you speed up your work without sacrificing customization. This month’s newest tools cover almost every aspect of development and design from estimating pricing rates for clients to responsive design and wireframing or prototyping.



The tool that helps estimate service pricing rates is of particular interest to myself, because it is an area that rarely gets much attention from the free tools we pass around. Usually designers leave the business aspects out of the free resource arena.

This tool, however, helps the freelance developers who normally have trouble making cost estimates easily create a PDF with all of the items of your service, their price rate, and the overall estimate. It’s only drawback is it only uses limited forms of currency, so developers with an international client base may have issues with it.

On the actual creation side of things, we often end up investing hours just creating dummy images so that we can design prototypes to present to clients. Lorem Pixel provides a wide range of image categories for you to use as informed placeholders. This isn’t a creative commons photo website, but a way to generate images that illustrate how your site will look when it is finished.

There are also tools that help with predicting the output of systems like Sass, which isn’t always intuitive in its output. SassMe helps visualize Sass color functions immediately, as well as letting you to tweak the colors, while providing the new function for you to easily add to your Sass/SCSS stylesheet.

There will always be a wealth of new tools or brilliant updates to old resources that will keep making our jobs, at the very least, faster. They don’t always make your work necessarily easier however.

You have probably already seen the statistic that states Google accounts for two-thirds of the world’s search queries. So where do the other one-third go? That would be the Yahoo Bing Network. Gregg Hamilton, at Search Engine Watch, jumped from this realization to investigating the pros and cons of the two dominant PPC platforms: AdWords and YBN.

The conclusion seems to be essentially what you’d assume, AdWords is superior. But, YBN has some merit. Though you’ll get less exposure, you’ll also get less competition. And with that, you’ll see a lower cost-per-click. You likely won’t get as much traffic and you’ll see a lower click-through-rate, but if you’re on a budget, YBN may be of interest to you.

Despite everything that has changed in SEO over the years, keywords have always maintained their importance. A good SEO campaign can only be made from a foundation of the right keywords to work from. No matter how great the rest of your strategy is, it will be weakened by the wrong keywords, because they simply don’t have the potential for return that others do.

Selecting the right keywords can be an arduous task though. You have to gather data, and then analyze the massive amounts of information so that projections on returns can be made. Gathering all that data isn’t quick, and that means it is expensive.

Startups with limited budgets or without access to paid SEO tools just don’t have the resources to do the type of expansive data gathering that quality keyword selection requires. Or so it used to be. There are several free tools out there which can often do huge amounts of keyword research for you.

A single one of these tools may not be able to do the heavy lifting that the expensive top of the line programs offer, but by implementing a few of the free tools into your workflow you can cover almost all of the ground one expensive program would.

It will always take time and effort to analyze data for projections on return for specific keywords, but it is worth the effort. With just the three free tools Marc Purtell suggests over at Search Engine Journal, you will find you can more efficiently make informed decisions about your keyword selection, and soon you’ll be on your way to a better SEO campaign.


Did you know you can become “AdWords Certified”? It’s news to many people, but there is actually a licensure exam of sorts to test your expertise and acumen.

Bill McCaffrey went through the process and wrote about his experience at Business2Community. While he doesn’t go into much detail about what exactly the exam covers, your interest may be piqued enough to look into it yourself. Having the title, “AdWords Certified”, after your name may not make much of a difference to you, but having the knowledge that comes with it could enable you to better understand PPC advertising. At the very least, you may be able to ask more informed questions of those who handle your online marketing campaigns.

Despite public perception, web designers and developers know their job is part of a system that relies on multiple people doing their jobs to create a finished product. Web design isn’t just throwing things onto a site in away that looks pleasant and matches the subject matter.

You have to know how to make a website work in a way that users will want to use. Layout, functionality  color palette  and different features are all part of the website as a whole and a single weak part will drag down the entire thing.

That’s why most designers now rely on prototypes and wireframes to work out their designs with clients and coworkers before leaping into a full site design. With prototypes you can lay out potential site maps, application flow, and general makeup of the site without wasting countless hours building the real thing.


While you can do a lot of this type of work on pen and paper if you want, there are tools out there designed strictly to help with this process which will make your clients feel impressed by a simple idea for a webpage and showcase how the site will function.

John Conor at Designmodo collected ten of the latest and best of these tools for wireframing and prototyping. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses, but that means no matter what problem you are having with brainstorming your website, you have a tool made to fit your needs.

300px-Free_Content_Logo.svgContent marketing is becoming more and more of a talking point for SEO services as more people realize they can’t try to trick search engines with pages strictly for the search crawlers and shady link profiles, but many don’t realize this is also changing the standards for content.

Content has always been an important part of an SEO campaign, but it is indisputable that its status is being raised within Google and they are tightening their guidelines. You can’t just stuff keywords into a wall of barely legible text and expect Google to think your page has value. Now your content must be informational, resourceful, and actually captivating.

The biggest question for most is what type of content they need. If they’ve done any research, they might come to you with a list of types of content like infographics and webinars they “need” according to “the internet”, but more likely you will just get asked the broad question of what type of content will be needed. Once you know their business, you can probably make some good guesses, but making a wide statement for what type of content works is a farce.

While blog posts are always a good place to start with creating content, infographics or ebooks will only help relevant areas. A nursing home probably won’t be able to find a relevant infographic, because that way of delivering information doesn’t work well for portraying the complex and focused care they will be giving loved ones. Similarly, videos don’t make much sense for a photographer to have, and tutorials don’t have much place in a medical website.

Most importantly, the content has to be quality, and it has to fit your companies needs. Even if you are delivering daily blog posts and guest blogs, they won’t have any effect if they aren’t worth reading. The best way to know what type of content you need to be making is trying to think like your competitors and customers. If you can make users happy with your website, you are already well on your way to making Google happy with your content.

Speaking of your competitors, you can do competitive analysis to find out what is working for them. I don’t mean scoping out their site and seeing what they have that you don’t. Instead you can use a number of sites and tools to see what is doing well on their site compared to yours, which will give you a good indication what type of content you should be making. Josh McCoy collected a few of those for you to get the jump on your competition.

I believe pretty much every web designer that hasn’t been living under a rock knows what responsive web design (RWD) is, but for the few that might be unaware, responsive design is a technique that allows websites to have flexible layouts that change depending on the screen size of the device accessing the site.

I’ve already discussed the pros and cons of responsive design at length, but there is much more to know about the technique than simply what it is good and bad for. There is so much to know, in fact, that it can fill ten whole infographics, like the ones compiled by Jacob Gube at Design Instruct.

Of course, there is an infographic devoted entirely to simply stating the beneficial aspects of RWD, and the obvious infographic focused on explaining exactly what responsive design is in clear visuals. But, other infographics contain basic tips for RWD I haven’t heard elsewhere, or the numbers on how many people are moving to mobile devices and how our use of the web is impacting how people interact with web pages.

Enjoy the infographic showing you what exactly responsive design is below, and you can see the rest at Design Instruct.

Responsive Web Design Infographic

Everyone gets distracted, or sometimes just a little lazy. When you work online, it is easy to switch tabs in the middle of a project to check your email, and end up completely off track looking at blogs or news. Having a job where you are constantly at a computer offers endless distractions that are constantly refreshing to keep you interested.

This type of distraction can be completely innocent, but it can also become a habit keeping you from getting important work done. There are ways to keep yourself from sliding off course, however. Between tools and lifestyle changes, you can increase your productivity and still be able to get away from your work when you really need to.

Richard Kirk collected five different tools you can use to keep yourself from getting distracted. One, called StayFocused, simply blocks websites you know you visit too much during the day until you are off the clock. Reddit addicts and those that can’t seem to get themselves away from Facebook until the day is over, though that could get in the way of your social marketing.

A similar conundrum is the time killed keeping up with industry news. Every SEO needs to be checking blogs and SEO news sites practically daily to keep up to date with any Google algorithm changes or big announcements, but it can also lead to lots of dead time or reading non-relevant news. Pocket helps you store articles you will want to read later so that you can come back to them when you aren’t supposed to be working. It’s great for train rides or hanging out on the couch at night.

Another option is stripping down your word processor with WriteMonkey, which will help keep you focused while trying to create content like blog posts. Minimizing distracting elements on your screen will help you keep you focused on making your content as good as it can be. If that doesn’t work, you can always download one of the many timers online to set short breaks for yourself, with a reminder when you need to get back to the grind.

Of course, all the tools in the world won’t help if the problem is internal. Most procrastination is caused by us just being lazy. I know this because I suffer from laziness as much as anyone out there. But there are simple ways to get you out of the lazy rut.

I’ve always been a big proponent of music as a motivator and a tool to help focus. Many agree, and refer to the increase in productivity while listening to music as the Mozart effect, though the legitimacy of such an effect has been questioned. Some say it distracts them while working, but in my experience turning on relaxing or more passive music while working will help you keep your mind where it needs to be.

Most also need to make changes in their habits, like using email as a means to constantly be switching tabs and getting away from their project at hand. Kirk suggests limiting your email time with a “surgery hours” model limiting you to checking your mail three times a day. There are times when you may need to respond to an email more urgently, but you can set those types of emails to alert you on your phone if you need to see them immediately. Otherwise, clients will understand a small delay, as long as you respond within a few hours.

The final tip is one you’e heard all your life. Sleeping well is essential to making you feel clear headed and ready to take on every day. Keeping a regular sleep schedule and not letting yourself stay up until two in the morning will keep that groggy feeling we’re all familiar with at bay.