Hi there and welcome back for Week 19 of the 2018 Photography Challenge! This week explores getting a sunburst effect in landscape photography.

Edge Cut Sun

Having an edge cut through the sun looks nice, or having the sun rising over a line or diagonal within the photo. Stop down the aperture to create a starburst.

Achieving the Sunburst Effect

Otherwise known as the starburst technique, sunburst photography aims to define the sun’s “rays” in your photo. Adding the sun’s rays can really compliment any landscape or urban photography. Unlike other techniques, it’s very easy to achieve if you have the right conditions.

It’s important that you have a DSLR camera for this week’s challenge; the main technical component in terms of adjusting your camera settings is to set your F-stop as high as possible.

Reducing your F-stop decreases the diameter of your lens’s aperture, reducing the amount of light that enters the iris of a lens.

To get the sunburst effect, the sun should be half covered by an object or the landscape you’re shooting, which requires a bit of positioning to get that sweet spot. If the sun isn’t partially covered, it’ll be extremely difficult to get that effect without performing editing in Adobe Photoshop.

Photo Challenge 2018: Sunburst Effect in Landscape Photography Photo 5
My first attempt at the sunburst effect against the Renaissance Center

For composition it’s a best practice to have the sun off to the side instead of at the main point of the photo. The sunburst effect is there to compliment the landscape or subject rather than serve as the main subject.

The other consideration you should have when shooting is to adjust your metering. If your photo is overexposed, the sun’s rays won’t be defined, but if it’s underexposed then the rest of your scenery is going to be too dark.

You can also use editing programs such as Luminar that come equipped with a built-in sun rays filter to achieve the sunburst effect if you're unable to capture it naturally.

Mixed Results With My Urban Photography

Photo Challenge 2018: Sunburst Effect in Landscape Photography Photo 2
This is the backend of the Renaissance Center facing out toward the riverfront as I waited for the sun to set.

For this week’s photo challenge I decided to take my camera with me to Detroit and shoot along the river front as a neat mix between landscape and urban photography with the sun’s rays accentuating the Detroit-Canadian Riverfront.

I walked out of my office at the Renaissance Center to shoot, but I made a fatal mistake; the sun was at the literal apex of the horizon, in full view without a way of even capturing it in my lens finder without staring straight into the sky.

Like I mentioned in the previous sub-head, the sun should be half hidden. It would have been better if I captured it at sunrise or sunset, but after some futile efforts (and other cool photo ops like the picture above) I gave up and went back inside to finish my shift.

With the other photos I shot I ended up using the leading lines technique, which lent itself quite well for the urban photography I was performing. In urban settings there are leading lines everywhere, you just have to figure out what you want your composition and positioning to be for your photos!

Photo Challenge 2018: Sunburst Effect in Landscape Photography Photo 4
While I caught the sun at a bad time, the riverwalk in Detroit had some good photo ops!

As my coworkers and I walked back to our cars in the parking lot, I feverishly looked about for the sun, noticing that it was no longer at the apex in the horizon. Luckily for me, I saw that it moved its position to being partially hidden by the towering Renaissance Center!

I broke out my camera, shot a few photos and was able to capture the sunburst effect.

Unfortunately in post-processing the photo I shot was under-exposed, making the Renaissance Center look like a black tower looming in the day sky. Attempts to raise the exposure resulted in blurring the sun’s rays, so I made a few color corrections and called it a day.

From an artist perspective I like the Renaissance Center being underexposed with the sun half-hidden at the tallest point of the tower. It adds a certain position of power or importance to it with nothing but the sky serving as a backdrop. However, from a technical standpoint I made a few mistakes that I’ll take with me into future photo shoots.

2018 Photo Challenge Edits

If you haven’t viewed my video already, here are the edits I made in Adobe Lightroom:

I really didn’t need to do a lot for the photos this week. The only color I had to tweak based on the photo being so underexposed was the blue saturation and luminance for the sky. I also boosted the clarity up to give more definition to the sun’s rays.

More Photography Guides

In the world of analytics, setting benchmarks is important for ensuring that your business is performing up to par with the competition.

Many of us will rely on looking at weekly, monthly and yearly metrics performance, but we need to also be looking at external competitors to tweak our digital strategies to either be on parity or ahead of the curve.

Google Analytics offers users the option to look at benchmarking reports that use anonymous data from other websites to see how your website is performing against the aggregated data of other analytics users.

How to Set Up Your Benchmark Report

To view the benchmark report, you first need to enable the “Benchmarking” box in the “Admin Settings” of your GA account.

After enabling GA to track your data anonymously, you can then go into the “Benchmarking” tab located under the “Audience” Menu on the left side of your screen.

It can be a little confusing to set up your benchmarking report, but it’s quick and easy once you know what filters to include.

Enabling the Right Filters

Setting Benchmarks in Google Analytics Channels Photo

GA’s benchmark filters are broken down into three categories:

Industry Vertical

First, choose what industry you would consider your website to be in. For the purposes of Laz’s Lounge, I would be in the digital marketing/advertising industry. When you select the right category, on the far corner of the screen GA will show how many other web properties are contributing to this benchmark. There are 1,600 categories to choose from, so you can get very specific when setting your benchmarks, but as you get more specific you’ll have a much smaller sample size of websites to compare against your own.

Country/Region

Next, GA offers many countries and country regions to select when comparing other websites in respective areas. I chose the United States for my benchmark, but if I wanted to be more specific I would choose Michigan as the specific region that I want to compare my data to. I don’t find selecting a region helpful for my purposes as a digital marketing and social media blog, but if your company is based in a specific region of the country it’s a good idea to see how you’re stacking up to the competition in your area.

Size by Daily Session

Lastly, you can select your website size by daily sessions; in this category I would fall in 0-99 daily sessions. Selecting the right data to benchmark your site against is crucial so that you aren’t comparing yourself with a size that is substantially larger with more referral and organic traffic in comparison for a more accurate benchmark

Device Benchmarks

The GA benchmarking report also allows you to analyze user devices to evaluate traffic from desktop, mobile and tablets. This is located as a tab under the “Benchmarking” tab on the left side of your screen.

Putting your metrics into context

Setting Benchmarks in Google Analytics Analyzing Metrics and Data Photo

Using the benchmarking report, you can compare yourself to your competition through the following Channels:

Based on the referral traffic your website is receiving, you can track the following metrics:

Using my benchmark report as an example, I’m ahead of the curve when it comes to every metric other than Pages per Session. However, while my organic, social and direct traffic are ahead of the curve, my referral, email, display, email and paid search traffic is drastically behind that of my competition.

The red marks in my report show where I’m behind the competition, whereas the green marks show where I’m ahead.

Areas of Opportunity

If we look at my areas of opportunity for improvement, email leads, paid search and display ads take priority for increased visitors to my website. I just started using Mail Chimp for an email lead management service to gain more subscribers that will receive weekly newsletters with content they may have missed to get them back onto my website.

I also have plans to start devoting a small budget to target low competition keywords in Google Adwords once I complete my recertification in Adwords this month.

Two other considerations for my website benchmark report are to increase my pages per session and boost my referral traffic. I might attribute the lower pages per session to my average session duration being higher than the benchmark, or social media traffic leaving the site after reading a post.

It might be a good idea to include snippits in the middle of my posts to other pages to increase my user flow on the site for more pages visited per session.

As for the referral traffic, my biggest weakness so far has been accumulating relevant backlinks to my website, so it might be worth guest posting once or twice a month to slowly build the number of backlinks through White Hat Techniques.

Where I’m Ahead of the Competition

Looking at this benchmark report, I’m surprised to see how far ahead of the competition I am when it comes to social media, direct and organic traffic.

Recently I’ve invested a significantly larger chunk of time to engaging more on social, which may account for the boost in social referral traffic.

Last month I took steps to optimize my posts to target low competition, long-tail keywords, which seems to be having a positive effect on my organic traffic for my site, alongside optimizing my website theme and load speed for better SEO.

If we look at the devices report I’m also leading the industry, especially for mobile, which I can attribute to the use of responsive design in my website theme alongside optimizing for faster site load speeds, which may also account for my incredibly low bounce rate in GA.

Setting Benchmarks in Google Analytics Devices Photo

Google Analytics Benchmarking Report Recap

What did you think of this walkthrough on using Google Analytics’ Benchmarking Report to see how you stack up with the competition? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my other Google Analytics tip post on removing spam referral traffic from your Analytics Report and excluding internal traffic from skewing your Analytics data.

OTHER RELEVANT POSTS ON GOOGLE TOOLS:

How To Set Up Google My Business Chat

Guide To Removing Referral Spam In Google Analytics

Adding Google Analytics User Permissions

How To Drop A Pin For Your Google My Business Listing In Google Maps

Guide On Passing The Google Analytics Exam

It's Official: Google+ Is Shutting Down After Massive Data Breach

If you’re like me and are constantly looking at analytics reports on ways to improve your website’s performance, you’ve probably noticed a weird influx of web traffic from random referral sources that garner unusually high bounce rates and low times spent per session. This is likely a case of referral spam, which is annoying as it affects the rest of site data. It’s a simple fix and this guide will show you to a few ways on removing referral spam in Google Analytics.

What is Referral Spam?

Referral spam comes from spam bots or programs trafficking your website and having their hits recorded on your Google Analytics account. The easiest way to identify referral spam is by identifying traffic sources that have a 100 percent bounce rate or a 0 percent bounce rate. Another identifier is when there is zero time spent on the site per session duration.

If you choose to visit the source URL’s, be cautious and have a good anti-malware or Ad Block installed on your computer and browser.

The technique behind referral spam involves repeated website requests using a fake referral URL that a spammer is trying to advertise. The spammer may never even visit the afflicted website, which is also known as ghost spam.

Checking your Referral Spam Traffic

Checking Referral Spam Traffic in Google Analytics Photo

Go into your Google Analytics account and under “Acquisition” click the “Referral Traffic” tab on the left side of the screen. Here you can see your referral traffic sources and which ones are hurting your metrics with high bounce rates and low session durations. Write them down in a Word Document and read on for the next step to filter them out of your Google Analytics reports.

Methods in Google Analytics to Remove Referral Spam

Referral Exclusion List in Google Analytics Photo

There are a few different ways to remove referral spam; a lot of articles on the internet suggest using the Referral Exclusion List on Google Analytics, which is the wrong method to use when excluding traffic from a 3rd party.

This tool is used to exclude traffic from 3rd party shopping carts on e-commerce websites. When a customer is redirected to that shopping cart and then comes back to the verification page on the main website, using the Referral Exclusion List prevents them from being counted in a new session as a referral.

You might assume this would prevent that source of traffic from being counted in Google Analytics, but what GA does is connects the returning visit to the previous source and medium. It’s not viewed as referral or direct traffic, but the data is still skewed in GA as that referral traffic is assigned to a different medium/source.

Excluding Known Bots and Spiders

Exclude Known Bots and Spiders in Google Analytics Photo

The first step to take when excluding spam referral traffic is to go into GA and click the “Bot Filtering” button in the “View Settings” tab in your “Admin Settings.” This will exclude all hits from known bots and spiders on the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s International Spiders & Bots List. The only downside to using this option is that it doesn’t exclude bots and spiders that aren’t on this list, calling for other methods for the spam referral traffic that goes undetected.

These kinds of bots shouldn’t be confused with beneficial bots and spiders that crawl your website for Google search indexing; these bots aren’t tracked by the Google Analytics source code, so excluding all bots and spiders from accessing your website is a bad practice if you want to rank in the Google Search Results.

Create A New Filter For Referral Spam

Create New Filter For Referral Spam in Google Analytics Photo

The right way to exclude referral spam is to create a new filter in “View Property” in “Admin Settings”. Here’s how you create a new filter:

  1. Click “Admin Settings” in your GA account
  2. Under “View” click on “Filters”
  3. Add a New Filter and name it “No Spam” or “Referral Spam”
  4. Set the Filter Field to “Custom”
  5. Click the “Exclude” button
  6. Set the Filter Field to “Campaign Source”
  7. Enter the URL’s of your spam referrals. Add a backslash just before the period to separate the URL identifier. For example, in pingl.net, add the backslash www.pingl.\net.
  8. If you have multiple URL’s to add, separate them with a | . For example: pingl\.net | www.partysuppliesnearme\.com
  9. Save your settings

What this does is that the spam traffic is filtered from those specific sources by turning them into a regular expression for spam sites that need to be removed from GA. It will take approximately 24 hours for this filter to take effect in GA.

Create a Custom Segment to Remove Spam Data from GA

Creating Custom Segment in Google Analytics

Beyond adding this filter, you can create a custom segment to view your accurate metrics separate from the spam traffic. Here are the following steps to create a custom segment:

  1. In your Audience Reporting View, click on “Add Segment” and select “New Segment.” You can name this new segment “No Spam” or “Referral Spam.”
  2. Select Advanced Conditions on the left side of the segment options.
  3. Select “Sessions” and “Exclude” in your filter options.
  4. Select “Source” and “Matches Regex”.
  5. In the box next to “Matches Regex,” copy and paste the expression that you created with the filter in your Admin Settings.
  6. Save this segment.

Now you can compare your site metrics with the spam traffic excluded from your reports, as well as have your spam traffic in a separate view in your Google Analytics account. Unfortunately doing this won’t separate previous hits, but it will prevent future hits from appearing in your GA data.

Other Methods to Block Incoming Spam

There are ways to completely block referral spam through website coding efforts, but I won’t dive into the technical aspect of deterring ghost spam through this method. It takes technical know-how and should be left to your website administrator, as it can cause serious issues if performed incorrectly.

If you have a site on WordPress, you can download the Jetpack, Aksimet Anti-Spam and Wordfence plugins to block incoming spam on your website. These aren’t full-proof, but they are effective in deterring spam referral traffic trying to crawl your website.

Guide To Removing Referral Spam in Google Analytics Wrap-Up

If not taken care of, referral traffic will present skewed version of your website performance, reducing credibility as a brand as you identify what traffic you’re bringing to your website and the viewing/conversion behaviors of that traffic.

While we’ve successfully removed ghost spam in your Google Analytics account, it’s important that you’re actively checking your referral traffic to continue getting rid of the referral spam that goes undetected. With one spam site block comes thousands more that slip through the cracks every day.

This article explored removing referral spam in your Google Analytics, but another consideration when adding filters to your data is making sure that your internal traffic isn't skewing your numbers from employees accessing your website.

What did you think of this guide on removing referral spam on your website? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below! If you haven't already, be sure to check out my other Google Analytics tip post on using the Benchmark Reports to compare your site to your competitors!



OTHER RELEVANT POSTS ON GOOGLE TOOLS:

How To Set Up Google My Business Chat

Setting Benchmarks To Compare Your Competition In Google Analytics

Adding Google Analytics User Permissions

How To Drop A Pin For Your Google My Business Listing In Google Maps

Guide On Passing The Google Analytics Exam

It's Official: Google+ Is Shutting Down After Massive Data Breach

In my podcast episode Networking in the Digital Age I mentioned that social media and digital allows us to continue the conversation and to stay relevant after meeting people at networking events or work conferences. While I actively look through my collection of business cards to add people to my social media network, others store them away to gather dust or forget to ask for a person’s business card after conversation, making it difficult to sift through LinkedIn to find a person you have a vague recollection of after meeting. Connecting on LinkedIn is a great way to build your professional community and connections, making the addition of the LinkedIn QR Code feature an exciting prospect for doing away with business cards entirely.

How LinkedIn’s QR Code Works

How LinkedIn's QR Code Works Photo
This is an example of how LinkedIn's QR Code works on mobile devices

Instead of requesting a business card, asking a person to spell their name or making sure that you found the right profile on LinkedIn, users can open the LinkedIn mobile app and scan a QR code to instantly pull up a person’s profile and connect in as little as 20 seconds.

The QR code icon can be found in the search box on the Home tab of LinkedIn; once clicked it allows you to scan someone else’s QR code, which will take you to their profile where you can check out mutual interests, connections and send them a connection request.

Users can also download the QR code as a photo to their mobile device and send it via email or SMS.

Creative Ways to Use Your QR Code

At professional events a few creative ways to make use of the QR code are to put your LinkedIn QR code on event materials, brochures, in your email signature, on your resume or your website.

In the past companies have tried to digitize or replace business cards like BizzCard and SamCard, but with LinkedIn’s popularity it has a great shot at streamlining the process of connecting without the tedium of exchanging business cards and stumbling through LinkedIn to pinpoint the right profile.

One major challenge for the platform lies in business practices outside of the United States, where exchanging business cards is imbibed in the culture and tradition of the professionals abroad.

As I stated in my podcast episode, the world is changing and professionals need to use these readily available digital tools to stay relevant and connected in their industry.

Using the New LinkedIn QR Code to Connect Online from Offline Conversations Recap

What do you think of new LinkedIn’s QR code to connect with professionals instantaneously at networking events? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Hi there, and welcome to another exciting episode of Lounge Talk With Laz. In this week’s episode, we explore the golden rule for engaging with your audience on social media and earned media value. Let's just jump right into it.

Lounge Talk With Laz: Earned Media Value With CDK Global Transcript

So this podcast episode will kind of explore a little bit more of an anecdotal story that I have when it comes to engaging with a brand on social media.

In the past few months I ended up connecting with one of the vendors that General Motors works with in their digital marketing efforts. The vendor's name is CDK Global, and they basically handle a lot of the product creation for General Motors for the CDK platform, whether it comes to CRM integration, or phone analytics or anything that pertains to the dealerships digital marketing and social media and website efforts.

When I first started working at General Motors, I figured it'd be a good idea to follow the various brands from General Motors, whether it's Buick, GMC, Chevrolet, Cadillac. And I figured it would be a good idea to also follow CDK Global considering how closely we work with them as a company. The more that I saw their content though, the more that I really enjoyed and still enjoy what they put out on a daily basis. They have very informative posts, they have employee testimonials and spot lights that are pretty fun, Q&A’s, very laid back, informal to a point and anything that they have, whether it's on Facebook or Instagram or LinkedIn, it's just a mixture of both informative and fun.

It brings some color to their brand. And if I were looking for another job outside of General Motors, I would really think about applying for a position with CDK based on their brand initiatives. They just seem like a really fun place to work for.

Gary Vee's $1.80 Rule For Engagement

Lounge Talk With Laz: Earned Media Value With CDK Global | Ep. 15 Gary Vee $1.80 Rule

As many of you know, I am extremely active on social media. Lately I have been following Gary Vee’s dollar and 80 cent rule where you follow the top hashtag on Twitter or Instagram or LinkedIn, and you comment on the top 10 or five posts; or in the case of getting users to follow you back on social media you like three of their posts and then follow them.

And I try to take this a step further and I try to leave a thoughtful comment on every post that I like or re-share or retweet. This kind of encompasses how I kind of started commenting more CDK’s posts where obviously with the algorithms on many social media platforms, the more you engage with a social media account in their content, the more their content shows in your news feed or at the top of your News Feed.

I kind of started off leaving thoughtful comments on CDK Global strictly on LinkedIn to begin with, and over time, more of their contents are displaying for me. Again I saw how fun and informative it was, and I continued to comment and like and, share and all that.

And then I found out they had a Facebook and then I found out they had an Instagram too. And lately I've been seeing a lot of their content from Instagram, and that's really where the fun is for brand, whether it's their stories and their employees watching the World Cup or something, or doing a beer share, or something like that, or having a scavenger hunt in Detroit with their interns and their new teammates for the company.

I was leaving a lot of comments and feedback and it appears that their social media team kind of took notice; they ended up dropping me a line in my DMs and they just said, “thank you so much for commenting and leaving all your thoughtful comments on our posts, we do really appreciate it. The social media team over here at CDK really appreciates it” and I personally found that to be really cool.

Obviously, I'm pretty engaged in social and that was the first time that I had a relatively large company directly message me, not as a sales pitch or a “hey thanks for connect” automated message but it was actually a genuine comment and they genuinely appreciated me being engaged with them on social and vice versa.

And again, that's how social media should be, where it's just an online community where you interact and engage with like-minded users or other thought leaders in your industry, it shouldn't be about pitching or trying to sell people or showcase your products, or just show yourself off. You know, that's the point of the Golden Rule.

The point of the golden rule is that you should be engaging with your audience and vice versa. This isn't sales, this isn’t strictly marketing; I mean, it's inherent in the name right, social media but I digress.

Social Media Marketing and CDK

Lounge Talk With Laz: Earned Media Value With CDK Global | Ep. 15 Rewarding Followers

I also ended up interacting with the social media coordinator over at CDK on LinkedIn, we ended up connecting and there was a potential collaboration opportunity there where we could have advertised something on CDK’s blog and had a showcase or a Q&A or I'm not sure how the format would have went where as a district digital manager for General Motors, we could've showcased how the DDM program uses CDK products and had kind of a showcase on their blog.

Unfortunately, there's a little bit of transition going on over there at the moment. And so it fell through... but definitely hope that things work out in the near future and that we do have that opportunity again, to collaborate.

And one of the biggest things that I found to be really cool with CDK and their social media initiatives is, again, I comment a lot and I engage a lot with them on social. And they dropped me another line, another DM on Instagram, and they asked if I had a work address or a physical home address that they could send me some CDK swag to, and I was all for that. I'm all on board, and so I gave them my home address and I ended up going out of town for my dealership visits to Colorado and New Mexico last week and I came home and there was package in my room, so I opened it up, and sure enough, it was the CDK swag that they sent, and it wasn’t something super crazy.

It was two CDK cups that I’ll end up showing you guys on social media if you haven't seen it already, this week, I'll probably post it some time in the next couple of days. But along with the cup, they also included a hand written note and it says, "thanks so much for your constant social support. We really appreciate the engagement” and they signed it off as the CDK social team.

And that really stuck with me, it was such a thoughtful gesture and it wasn't anything super big or grandiose. But it shows that the brand itself really enjoys the individuals who engage with them, and even if it's just some small swag, the thoughtfulness goes an extremely long way especially when retaining your brand's customer loyalty.

The Value of Earned Media

Lounge Talk With Laz: Earned Media Value With CDK Global | Ep. 15 Golden Rule For Engagement On Social Media

Obviously, there might have been thought that, just because of how interactive I am on social media and I have my own social media brand and presence that I might re-share this and they might get a little bit more organic engagement or earned media based on my learnings from public relations back in the day. But intentions aside, this really goes a long way and I feel like based on the gesture, and in sending something over to engage audiences, and just, the content mix that CDK has as a brand right now, that's how you should be doing it on social media. I really love and enjoy their content. I would definitely recommend giving them a follow if you're into website organization in digital marketing and just learning from any successful social media endeavors. CDK is definitely doing it right.

I think they're doing a great job at least on the social media front of things and again, maybe it's just because this is the first time that anyone has ever sent me some swag in the mail, but again, the sentiment and the thought’s very appreciated. So yeah, I just wanted to take a moment to kind of share my anecdotal experience with CDK and kind of highlight them as an example of a social media brand doing it right when it comes to engaging with their audience, where they're using the golden rule for engagement or just interacting and going the extra mile to recognize that they're engaged, and that they enjoy that engagement.

And that's all I have for this week's Lounge Talk With Laz. If you haven't already, be sure to drop this video a like, and subscribe to the channel if you haven't already, and I will see you all next week for the latest and greatest in digital marketing and social media news.

What did you think of this week's episode of Lounge Talk With Laz? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below! If you haven't already, be sure to check out last week's podcast episode of how to network in the workplace or next week's podcast episode of how to get an interview when applying for a job.

Equipment That I Use For Podcasting

Here's the microphone, shock mount, mic stand and accessories that I use to record my podcasts every week:

Audio-Technica ATR 2100 Dynamic Mic: https://amzn.to/2GwPLwy

Mic Arm and Wind Screen: https://amzn.to/2Ld9LYF

Pop Filter: https://amzn.to/2Lda0Tz

Sennheiser HD 598 SR Openback Headphones: https://amzn.to/2IzdaPu

Hey there ladies and gentlemen and welcome back to Laz’s Lounge! This post format is going to be a little different as I dive into my personal branding strategy for the month of July and my social media/website performance from June. I often have people curious as to how I’m performing on my website and social media presence, so this kind of update every month will provide some transparency and serve to hold myself accountable as I try to hit my goals and KPI’s for the month. It might also help with your social media and building your personal brand!

Laz’s Lounge Website Metrics

Laz’s Lounge Personal Branding Strategy and KPI’s for July 2018 Website Metrics

June proved to be my best performing month yet as I hit 982 monthly views and 3,467 total views. I’m going to attribute this to the change in my website theme as my headers are being tagged correctly, fueling some of that good ol’ SEO juice! In May I also read a book from Make Traffic Happen that provided some tips on improving your SEO game, which has helped significantly in targeting low competition keywords in my posts.

At the time of writing this post my website ranks for 99 keywords that appear in the first 100 Google Search Results according to Keysearch, a tool that I use to research what main keywords and LSI keywords I want to target in my posts.

In terms of the average session duration per post I’m currently sitting at 1 minute and 52 seconds, which is down by 20 seconds or so compared to May. I’m going to attribute this to more referral traffic coming in from social media, specifically Twitter and Pinterest. My bounce rate is also a little higher than normal at 32 percent, which is concerning based on the way I have my bounce rate set up in Google Analytics.

I downloaded a WordPress Plugin called Scroll Depth that sends signals to Google Analytics as users scroll to the 25, 50, 75 and 100 percent mark in my posts based on how far they’re scrolling to read.

Despite this I’m happy with the major jump in SEO traffic entering my website compared to April, where I was getting 30 users referred to from the Google Search Results. Here are my goals for July in terms of my website performance:

To accomplish this, I plan on writing more posts per week that will include one long-form content, a short tip post for social media or digital marketing, my weekly photo challenge with an accompanying tutorial video, my weekly podcast and a vlog every week. I might also incorporate weekly live videos on my drives home from work into the mix, but we’ll see how that goes.

I’ve also created an email opt-in for newsletters through Mail Chimp, so that might help drive more weekly traffic depending on how many people sign up for my email distribution list.

Facebook Metrics

Laz’s Lounge Personal Branding Strategy and KPI’s for July 2018 Facebook Metrics

Facebook has always given me issues in terms of growth through Page Likes. While I’ve been sitting at 73 likes since I first started my Page, Facebook has produced the most social media referral traffic out of my social media accounts. This month I had 33 clicks on my links, 1,126 reach, 52 likes and a 4.6 percent engagement rate.

The engagement rate dropped significantly compared to May, but I can attribute that to being out of town for work and not sharing/liking my posts to give them a bit more juice. I’ve also been sharing tip photos that don’t lead to an action, which hurts their performance based on Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm.

Organic is always a difficult game to play with Facebook, so I plan on incorporating FB ads to the mix alongside my weekly vlog videos and sprucing up the page to give it a more professional look. This month I plan on taking their Facebook Blueprint course to become more savvy on setting up Facebook ads and campaigns.

Having said that, here are my Facebook metric goals for July:

Twitter Metrics

Laz’s Lounge Personal Branding Strategy and KPI’s for July 2018 Twitter Metrics

This month I did a better job in being more active on Twitter, but I need to step my game up on the platform when it comes to interacting with other users through Twitter Chats. I had 24.3k reach, 192 likes, 18 link clicks and a 1.9 percent engagement rate which are all huge improvements compared to June. I also garnered 83 new followers, which allowed me to break that 1,000 follower threshold after one and a half years of cracking away at it!

The automation system I’ve been using to get more tweets out seems to have been effective alongside tweeting out old content, which isn’t an issue considering the incredibly short shelf life of a tweet. I’ve been tweeting 10+ times a day, which has given my profile significantly more exposure. Here are my Twitter goals and KPI’s for this month:

To accomplish this, I plan on participating in more Twitter Chats each week. Gary Vee also gave a solid tip on the $1.80 rule that I’ve been using more on Instagram, where you like three user’s posts and then follow them if they’re relevant to your brand. I’ve been looking at 4 relevant, high traffic hashtags and liking/retweeting/commenting on the top 5 posts per hashtag, which has garnered more engagement on Twitter. I might also try to incorporate live videos into the mix of things, although I’ll be using Instagram Live instead of Periscope unless I can sync it all up on my phone somehow. I also redesigned my tip photos to be more colorful compared to the dark gray and orange scheme I’m currently using, so that might help with more engagement considering the studies on Instagram for maximum reach.

Instagram Metrics

Laz’s Lounge Personal Branding Strategy and KPI’s for July 2018 Instagram Metrics

Speaking of Instagram, I hit another record month for growth on this platform with 9,909 impressions, 1,677 likes and 132 new followers! Gary Vee’s advice really helped with this alongside sharing content three times a day and resharing other user’s content, which often produces the highest amount of engagement out of all my posts.

Unfortunately through posting multiple times a day I hit Planoly’s scheduling cap mid-month, which forced me to upgrade to a paid plan for unlimited posting. Doing this alongside sharing live videos should continue to produce more engagement and content for all my platforms.

An interesting insight is that my Instagram referral traffic produces the most time spent on my website with 7 minutes on average, which is bonkers considering the additional steps they need to take to get to my site. I was initially going to use Link Tree to make it easier to find the right post depending on where the traffic was directing from, but decided to make an unlinked landing page with my 10 most recent posts to sift through, which might be helping in producing a much higher average time spent on my website.

Here are my Instagram goals for July:

LinkedIn Metrics

Laz’s Lounge Personal Branding Strategy and KPI’s for July 2018 LinkedIn Metrics

This platform produces the third most traffic to my website, but the users on LinkedIn are atypical in what they engage with post-wise. For a professional networking platform you wouldn’t expect them to react to more personal photos, but personal posts by far receive the most engagement. As an example I shared a picture of a peacock begging me for food during my dealer visits in Albuquerque, which received 700 views and 14 likes.

Aggregate news posts about General Motors also receive high levels of engagement like a post I shared about the new 2019 Bronco, which received 900 views and 12 likes.

Overall my metrics for June include 2,901 views and a 1.9 percent engagement rate, which is significantly up compared to May. My plan for the platform is to share more personal posts and aggregate content while sharing content in various LinkedIn Groups. Here are my goals for July:

YouTube Metrics

Laz’s Lounge Personal Branding Strategy and KPI’s for July 2018 YouTube Metrics

With the production of more content I accrued 119 minutes of watch time on my channel and a 2 minute and 46 second average video duration. My Planoly Tip Video had the most views and watch time out of all my content, so that’s a strong signal that I need to produce more tip videos for my viewers alongside my photo challenge editing walkthrough’s and weekly podcasts.

A few other things that might increase watch time will be to upload my live videos to the channel and produce a vlog once a week. I haven’t decided on the content for my vlog, but my first video will be an introductory video for Laz’s Lounge with subsequent ones targeting weekly roundups of my posts or social media/digital marketing news. It might also help to add an introduction overlay to my videos and use better thumbnails to draw more views. Here are my YouTube goals for the month of July:

Pinterest Metrics

Laz’s Lounge Personal Branding Strategy and KPI’s for July 2018 Pinterest Metrics

And finally we’ve reached my last social media platform. In the Make Traffic Happen Facebook Group they swear by Pinterest as one of the leading sources of referral traffic for their websites, which focus on travel content. I decided to give it a try last month and received 4,682 monthly views and 48 monthly engaged users, which isn’t bad, but I only received 3 referred users to my website. This isn’t bad by any means for first starting out on the platform, but I need to devote myself to learning more best practices for the site.

For now I have an automation set up that shares Instagram content to Pinterest so I’m not wasting time scheduling content for the platform. I might need to create more infographic-style content that conforms to the size dimensions of the platform and perform SEO tricks that target the right keywords to drive more traffic or partake in more Pinterest Groups in sharing content.

Here are my Pinterest goals for July:

Things That I Need to Work on for July

While I hit record numbers last month, there are always things that I can do to improve. I finally set up my Mailchimp email automation which is huge, but I need to play with the design to make it more appealing. On the website itself I need to create an About Me Page, a Disclosure Page to be GDPR compliant, as well as a page for writers interested in guest posting (I’ve received quite a few inquiries as of late).

My content mix is good, but I need to stay consistent in creating content and engaging more on social media. I’ve dropped my poetry website for the moment to stay focused on this task, which is unfortunate but the results speak for themselves as I’m not divided between 2 websites and 10 social media accounts.

My Google Analytics and Adwords certifications are set to expire at the end of July, so this is a great opportunity to pick those back up and learn more about Adwords to help at work and implementing search Ads into my digital marketing strategy. The Facebook Blueprint certification will be huge too in getting more traffic going on my FB Page.

Speaking of Google Analytics and bounce rates, another goal is to make sure that my website is optimized for site speed, considering it's now a determining factor when ranking for SEO.

I also need to revamp my Amazon Affiliates strategy to get better ads for my website. One way to do this is to write more product or service reviews to get more mid and low-funnel users clicking through to purchase the products that I’m reviewing. To iterate, these wouldn’t be sponsored reviews, but rather products that I use in my day-to-day strategy that I think would be helpful for my readers.

The keyword is consistency and research for July to really streamline my efforts for the website; if I remain consistent, I’ll produce that snowball effect to get more followers and returning visitors to the website.

Next month I plan on revamping old content to give them some new life and to rank again in the Google algorithm, but I think that I have my plate full heading into July.

Laz’s Lounge Personal Branding Strategy and KPI’s Final Thoughts

I hope you found this post to be helpful and I would leave to hear your thoughts/feedback in the comments section below! Let me know if this guide will help with growing your target audience, enhancing your social media profiles and your online presence! If you haven't already, be sure to check out August's KPI's and Goals! 

 

Hi everyone and welcome back for Week 18 of the 2018 Photography Challenge! This week’s photo prompt includes pictures of New Mexico and Colorado that I shot during my dealership visits.

Photographer's Choice

Capture an image on your own terms; who, what, when, where, why, how... It's all up to you. Caveat: you must tell us your intent.

The challenges for each week are also divided into categories.

The category for this week is...

Wild Card

Consider this a Show-and-Tell for grown-ups. You have freedom do shoot what and how you wish. Let us know if you're trying a new technique, composition, style, subject, working on a specific project, or just exercising your freedom. Have fun!

New Mexico and Colorado Photos

Last week was hectic with my dealership visits. I started out in Denver, Colorado and after two days meeting with the field team I flew out to Albuquerque, New Mexico to begin my trek visiting the dealerships I work with on their digital strategies. I drove nearly 600 miles, hitting Espanola, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Gallup, Farmington and ending in Durango, Colorado for my final visit before heading home.

2018 Photography Challenge: Pictures of New Mexico Navajo Reservation Dunes
These are the dunes that I drove through as I passed into the Navajo Reservation in the evening

A lot of people don’t consider New Mexico to be on their hotspot for places to visit, but there’s some beautiful scenery as you drive through the mountains and dunes throughout the state. Compared to previous challenges, using landscape with natural lines to lead the eye for photos is such a great technique when shooting photos like these. For all of my photos I broke out my trust Pentax 50mm 1.8 F-Stop Prime Lens to accompany my Pentax K-50 DSLR Camera, which performed beautifully.

Driving Through the Navajo Reservation in Gallup and Farmington, NM

2018 Photography Challenge: Pictures of New Mexico Navajo Reservation Trail
This is another photo that I shot as I passed through the Navajo Reservation. I snapped a photo of the road behind me, which used the leading lines technique I talked about in a previous photo challenge!

A majority of the photos that I shot for this week’s challenge come from driving through the Navajo Reservation. To reach Gallup from Albuquerque I drove through I-40 and then veered up I-491. You can take that stretch all the way up through Tohatchi and Newcomb to Shiprock before cutting on I-64 to Farmington, but there’s a hidden passage way after passing Newcomb that lets you cross over to I-371 and avoid most of the highway congestion.

2018 Photography Challenge: Pictures of New Mexico Navajo Reservation
Even though it isn't General Motors, I couldn't resist snapping a photo of my rental car for the week.

This passage way cuts you straight across the Navajo Reservation, which offers a relaxing drive through the middle of nowhere. Most of the scenery involves a lot of dunes before hitting some of the valleys on I-371, but it’s worth trekking through and offered quite a few photo opportunities that I took advantage of! It was great to hit that golden hour and shoot as the sun was setting in the sky, offering the best kind of lighting for landscape photos.

2018 Photography Challenge: Pictures of New Mexico Farmington
Beyond the reservation heading into Farmington, NM is an awesome valley that I shot as the sun was setting. Beautiful!

I didn’t have any difficulties shooting for this week’s challenge, but it’s incredibly windy through that passageway and it can be hard to find a place to park your car off the side of the road. If you aren’t careful and end up getting a flat tire or run out of gas, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble because of how little traffic travels through the reservation.

During my time I also shot various photos at the dealerships I visited, resulting in some pretty cool truck photos! I used different low angle techniques to give the trucks a sense of power and authority based on the way they were posed at the dealerships.

2018 Photography Challenge: Angles Photography Photo 2

Driving Through the Mountains to Durango, Colorado

2018 Photography Challenge: Pictures of Durango, Colorado
You can immediately spot a major difference in flora as you head from New Mexico into Colorado.

The other photo op that I had during my dealer visits was the trek through the mountains on my way up to Durango, CO. I took I-170 to I-140, which passes straight through the mountains that overlook a huge expanse of valley.

It was in the middle of the afternoon, but I feel like this lent itself well to the greens and vibrant blue sky. While New Mexico offers some beautiful blue skies, the change in flora seems to have a very specific line for where it starts and ends when crossing the border. The sands and dunes in New Mexico quickly give way to blossoming trees and river channels cutting through the mountains in the valleys.

2018 Photography Challenge: Pictures of Durango, Colorado
Another angle I shot of the valley in the Colorado mountains.

While shooting into the valley I had a quick chat with a BP engineer who had parked there for lunch (he commented on how I was the most dressed up person he saw shooting photos of the valley, considering I was dressed up for my last dealer visit).

There have been several fires that ravished the area over the last few weeks; he said that those spots would’ve made for great photo ops had they not been blocked off for safety purposes. Despite the valley offering more color than New Mexico, it surprised me to hear that part of Colorado is considered an arid environment.

New Mexico and Colorado Photo Edits

While I’m sharing six photos for this week’s challenge, I’m only going to walk through two of the edits that I performed.

Navajo Reservation, New Mexico Photo

Durango, Colorado Photo

2018 Photography Challenge: Wrap-Up

What did you think of this week’s photos of New Mexico and Colorado? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter to get more of the latest and greatest social media and digital marketing posts! If you haven't already, check out last week's photo challenge on humor photography or next week's photo challenge of the sunburst effect in landscape photography!

 

Photography Equipment that I Use

Here are some links for the vlogging equipment I used in the photo challenge for this week:

White Backdrop Curtain: https://amzn.to/2k1L2ds

Neewer Photography Light Stand: https://amzn.to/2GpKXZS

Neewer Video Photography Lighting Kit: https://amzn.to/2rMYshB

Pentax 50mm Prime Lens: https://amzn.to/2GkrAkB

Pentax  K-50 Camera Body: https://amzn.to/2IjPUJj

With more than one billion monthly active users, Instagram is one of the best platforms to drive traffic to your website. While you can’t directly link URL’s in your posts, a popular method is to include a link in your bio for users to click on that will take them to your website. This can be a pain to update every day based on your posting frequency for new content, which is why using Link Tree is a great way to archive multiple posts or pages for the best user experience as followers search for your content on Instagram.

What is Link Tree?

As the name suggests, Link Tree is a free app that connects to your Instagram profile and creates a custom link that directs traffic to a “link tree.” When users click on the custom link you set in your profile, it directs them to a separate page with your archived links that will then redirect them to the desired page or post.

You can add as many links as you want to Link Tree and customize the headers with whatever custom text you desire. It’s a great solution that will save time in your posting efforts and it makes it easier for users to find a specific post if they’re viewing older content.

Current Best Practice for Instagram Navigation

Using Link Tree to Drive Engagement and Website CTR Photo

The current best practice for directing users to your biois to include a call-to-action in your caption and mentioning your own profile for easier navigation.

The problem with doing this is if you’re linking to specific pages, the content you’re directing readers to won’t be relevant depending on which one of your posts they’re being directed from. Link Tree offers the most robust solution to this as you can link as many URL’s as you want so users can navigate the Link Tree, find the right post and enter your website that way.

Other Link Tree Features

Link Tree offers a free and paid plan. In the free plan you have access to a few custom themes, you can add an unlimited number of links to your Link Tree and you can see the number of times each link has been clicked.

The paid plan offers the following features:

Downside to Using Link Tree

Driving Website Traffic Through Link Tree Photo

While this app has plenty of benefits, the main issue stems from overloading your users with too many actions to view their desired content. The best practice for digital marketing is to drive users to your desired action in as few clicks as possible.

Instagram already forces users to click the mention you leave in your caption to direct them to your profile, click the link in your profile and then get them to your desired page. My goal is to drive users to read my content, but other actions include following on social media, signing up for emails, or purchasing products.

By the time users get to that point for conversion from Instagram they’ve already clicked through several links to get to your site. Using Link Tree adds an additional step to this process as users have to navigate that Link Tree to find the post or page they were looking for.

Best Alternative to Link Tree

If you have the capability, the better practice compared to using Link Tree is to create your own custom landing page that’s unlinked to your website navigation. It’s simple to do this method on WordPress or Squarespace. At the time of writing this post I created a separate page with my 5-10 latest articles as a better solution compared to Link Tree, which has garnered an average session duration of 7 minutes from my Instagram referral traffic. 

Making a Custom Landing Page Instead of Using Link Tree

What did you think of this post? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Hi there and welcome back to Week 17 of the 52 Photo Challenge! This week’s theme explores photography humor.

Humor

Laughter is the best medicine. Make us laugh
The challenges for each week are also divided into categories.
The category for this week is...

Creative

When this category comes up, you really have room to express yourself. You can interpret the assignment literally or figuratively. Unlike the other categories, the idea of this category is to let your artistic impression shine.

How To Add Humor To Your Photos

Humor in Photography Photo Example

The biggest challenge with shooting humorous photos is that we all have different ideas of what constitutes as funny. There isn't a composition rule to follow, but shooting subjects from below can add a bit of humor to your photo. Using wide angle lenses up close can also distort faces, which can lend a modicum of humor to your image.

Being two-dimensional also allows for a bit more creativity in the way your subjects are positioned, whether it's making them look like they're throwing the sun or kissing a statue. Adding props can spark some humor, or using juxtaposition as a contrast between two different subjects like a great dane standing next to a pomeranian dog.

Accidental funny is another route to take in the case of photo bombs where the unexpected can lend some humor to a photo. There's many different routes to take, which is where a little creativity goes a long way!

Photography Humor Prompt

2018 Photography Challenge Humor Photography Header Photo

Unlike previous posts, this photo challenge doesn’t have any techniques or technical know-how behind the scenes. This week proved quite challenging in trying to come up with something humorous to shoot. I tried to take photos of the African Dwarf Frogs in my fish tank because they’re incredibly uncoordinated when they swim and pose in the most awkward positions. Unfortunately they were uncooperative for this week’s shoot and I couldn’t get a clear photo that didn’t make them look majestic.

My next shot involved one of my dogs; he’s quite expressive and has the goofiest faces when begging for treats or wanting to go outside. He wasn’t cooperative either and every photo I shot turned out blurry.

Always quick to the rescue my cat proved to be the star of this photo challenge. I had a helping hand to feed him treats while I snapped a few photos and I accidentally caught him in between facial expressions as he was about to take the treat from my assistant’s hand.

He looks revolted at what my assistant is trying to feed him, which I found to be funny in comparison to how he normally looks, or he looks like he’s about to bite the hand that feeds him, which is also funny in a poetic sort of way. It isn’t quite what I was looking for in this week’s challenge, but it’ll do in a pinch.

Humor Photography Edits

If you haven’t check out the video already, below are the edits I made for this week’s photo:

Photography Humor Recap

What did you think of this week’s challenge? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below and be sure to share on social media if you think anyone else would be interested in following the weekly photography challenge! If you haven't already, check out last week's prompt on Rembrandt Portrait Lighting and next week's photos of New Mexico and Colorado.

 

Photography Equipment that I Use

Here are some links for the vlogging equipment I used in the photo challenge for this week:

White Backdrop Curtain: https://amzn.to/2k1L2ds

Neewer Photography Light Stand: https://amzn.to/2GpKXZS

Neewer Video Photography Lighting Kit: https://amzn.to/2rMYshB

Pentax 50mm Prime Lens: https://amzn.to/2GkrAkB

Pentax  K-50 Camera Body: https://amzn.to/2IjPUJj

Hi there and welcome to another exciting episode of Lounge Talk with Laz! In this week’s episode we’ll be discussing a follow-up to my previous podcast episode regarding how to network in the workplace. Let's just jump right into it.

So, just to kind of recap on the previous podcast episode for Episode 12, I talked about the importance for networking in the digital age, in the professional world, especially for graduates trying to get their feet wet in their industry of choice.

Trying to get a job is as much about who you know compared to what you know in my mind; 30 percent of it is knowing the right people, 30 is the skills that you have, another 20 is name recognition on your resume and the final 20 percent is sheer luck. I kind of dogged on passing business cards around at events and socializing as much as possible as a traditional method at business events and place lot of emphasis towards networking in the digital realm, whether it's on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, but after working at General Motors and kind of taking notice of how people interact with one another in the Renaissance Center, I have a different mentality in terms of networking and kind of what that means.

It's All About How You Present Yourself

Lounge Talk With Laz: How to Network in the Workplace silo effect photo

I actually got the chance to sit down and talk with one of my colleagues the other day, and we discussed the mentality going into interacting with other people within our workplace on the floor. Something that stuck with me in that conversation involved the way that my colleague presents himself on the floor, whether it's just trying to say hello to anybody who's passing by and just kind of lightening the mood, or even just kind of leaving a mark when interacting with people that he doesn't know on other floors going up and down elevators every day. Within the past week, I've been trying to say hello to everyone and anyone, whether I know them or don't even know them, and some people, they'll respond back and say hello back and they'll smile and make eye contact.

And when I'm passing by other people I will say hello and they'll completely ignore me. Like I'm kind of not even worth their time. And it's really interesting to see that dichotomy within the workplace, whether it's on the floor or just with other people in the Ren Cen, whether it's on different floors, or other parts of the Ren Cen not even in my own tower. This all kind of circles back to getting a job and it's not always about what you know, but who you know.

I've always thought that our floor was pretty tight-knit in terms of everyone who interacts with another in the various regions for the district digital manager program. But after this week, it's really strange to see the dichotomy again between people who will return your pleasantries versus who just look the other direction, don’t say anything and is too buried in their phones or just kinda walking through and they don't even want to interact with you.

Making The Effort To Engage With Others

Lounge Talk With Laz: How to Network in the Workplace how you present yourself photo

All it takes is two seconds to look up, make eye contact to say hello and continue on your merry way to whatever it was that you were proceeding toward or whatever you were doing.

And I started to keeping tabs as to who said hello back and who actually didn't respond back when I would say Hello. And I would say it was about a 50-50 split. Sometimes I understand that maybe I don't talk loud enough and they might not have heard me, but we were within maybe one foot to two foot interchange crossing paths, so it was kind of hard to believe that they didn't hear me and they just continued walking by and I found that to be really interesting to observe and this would happen all the time to when I'd be working in sales associate positions like Gordon Food Service or Bath and Body Works.

Where you tried to say it to somebody, just make pleasantries, smile and have that positive engagement, and they would just completely ignore you and continue walking straight by you and not even give you the time of day beyond just giving a very bad impression. It also is one of the easiest ways in a workplace to create silos. In my position, we're kind of divided up between various regions and brands, so interaction with employees or fellow co-workers isn't as cohesive as you think would be with 110 other district digital managers on the floor as a result.

It's kind of up to you to wander into various other regions to talk to other DDM’s, kind of hear what their process is and get feedback to strengthen your own processes and how you're interacting with dealerships and clients, or just whatever you're trying to do for the month be on the floor, even if you're trying to kind of transition either laterally or move up within the company. It's always good to talk to people if you're on different floor, if you're going up and down elevators, take a glance at their name tag to see who they are, just kind of spark conversation and hear about what they do in their position every day.

It'll allow you to put a face to a name, make small talk, get to know somebody else. And when it comes time to move laterally or vertically within the company, maybe they’ll have some input or weigh in as to your bid for position on their floor or just somewhere in the company. Maybe their word will hold weight, who knows, but not making eye contact, not talking to other people or replying back, and saying hello back is a sure fire way to kind of, again, silo yourself off and just never make new connections within the workplace. This also ties into digital networking. I always make a habit of whenever I see my coworker’s posts or just any posts in general, I'm kind of a more social person than other people based on my branding initiatives and all the work I'm putting into the website, but I always try to reply back in the comments.

Networking and Engaging on Social Media

Lounge Talk With Laz: How to Network in the Workplace connecting on social media photo

I'll always leave thoughtful comments on social media posts, and sometimes I just never get any engagement back. I would say that out of the posts that I comment on, maybe 50 percent of the users will reply back and the other half won’t. Or if they do reply back, it'll be within the span of a week or two. And the engagement just isn't there or it's not the same and it just leaves a bad impression when you don't even talk to your fellow co-worker in the workplace. And if you're connected on LinkedIn or Facebook or Instagram and you leave that thoughtful comment or you're trying to engage and interact and they don't even respond back or even give you the time of day, it just leaves a bad impression or a bad taste in your mouth. And it promotes that soloing in the workplace and it's kind of counter-productive to the company culture, where we're all kind of one team and yet we're all kind of pursuing our jobs in this individualistic culture outlook, so to speak.

So my key takeaways from all of this in my rambling here in this podcast would be to just interact with people, be genuine, make those connections, and if you have the opportunity to follow up on social media and to strengthen that connection, whether it's outside of the workplace or after hours on social media, where you're just leaving thoughtful comments or just getting some insight into how a person is in their personal life. We have this kind of dichotomy between our personal lives in their work lives and getting the knows someone beyond what we portray in our work lives is a good way to build and strength that relationship and that connection. And that's all the time I have stayed here next week for another exciting episode of the latest and greatest in digital marketing and social media news.

If you haven't already, be sure to check out next week's episode of Lounge Talk With Laz where I explore earned media value and the golden rule for engagement.

Equipment That I Use For Podcasting

Here's the microphone, shock mount, mic stand and accessories that I use to record my podcasts every week:

Audio-Technica ATR 2100 Dynamic Mic: https://amzn.to/2GwPLwy

Mic Arm and Wind Screen: https://amzn.to/2Ld9LYF

Pop Filter: https://amzn.to/2Lda0Tz

Sennheiser HD 598 SR Openback Headphones: https://amzn.to/2IzdaPu

In a news briefing Instagram outlined to a group of reporters in its new San Francisco office what its news feed algorithm looks for when displaying content to its 800 million active users.

Before its update in 2016 to ditch the reverse chronological feed, users were missing 70 percent of all posts and 50 percent of their friends’ posts. After updating the algorithm, Instagram reported that users are now seeing 90 percent of their friends’ posts while spending an increasing amount of time on the app.

Factors that Determine Instagram Content in Newsfeeds

Instagram Provides Insight Into How Its Algorithm Works

The Facebook-owned platform relies on machine learning to display content based on personalization and how you interact with various accounts to provide a unique experience for every user. There are six main factors that determine what you see in your Instagram feed:

  1. Interest: Like Facebook, content is shown to users based on the algorithm determining whether you’ll engage with the post or if it will matter to you.
  2. Relationship: This is based on how close you are to the account and how much you like or comment on that user’s posts. It’s clear that intimacy and relationships are determining factors in Instagram’s newsfeed updates as 85 percent of Direct Messages go to the same three friends.
  3. Recency: Timeliness is a key factor with more priority being placed on newer content compared to posts with older upload dates. The recency factor stems from many user complaints about seeing content from the same user in their newsfeed despite some posts being days or weeks old.
  4. Frequency: Instagram will show you the best posts since you last visited the platform
  5. Following: If you follow a significant amount of people, a wider variety of content will be displayed and you may see less posts from specific accounts
  6. Time Spent on Platform: This ties in with frequency; if you’re spending more time on the platform, Instagram will dig deeper into its catalog compared to just showing you the best content since your last visit.

Image Recognition Tools the Future of Instagram?

Instagram Provides Insight Into How Its Algorithm Image Recognition Tools Photo

One interesting spin is that Facebook utilizes image-recognition to determine the relevance of an image compared to what a user is searching for or actively engaging with. These image-recognition tools would be perfect for Instagram to pull specific objects within still images and may eventually be tied in with its Explore Feature, which pulls content from topic-specific channels.

Instead of relying on hashtags to find new content, using image-recognition would be a great addition to the platform by providing users with content they’ll be more likely to engage with. The current hashtag system is flawed in that any user can post any hashtag and have their content display in those search results, even if the image or video in question has no relevance to the hashtags they’re using.

This change would cause marketers to evaluate their digital strategy and produce different content compared to just text-based images, although it’s a popular practice to overlay text and quotes over transparent stock photos.

Instagram Dispells Myths Surrounding the Platform

Instagram Provides Insight Into How Its Algorithm Works Myths about the platform photo

Alongside these updates, Instagram dispelled certain myths and misconceptions that surround the platform:

  1. Instagram has no plans at this time to allow users the option to set their feed to display in reverse-chronological order.
  2. Instagram doesn’t hide posts in your feed and you’ll see all the content from the users you follow if you keep scrolling
  3. Feed ranking doesn’t favor photos or videos, but rather displays content based on user intent and engagement, so if you don’t watch many videos you’ll see fewer of them in your newsfeed
  4. The algorithm doesn’t factor in stories or live videos when determining what account content is displayed to users in their newsfeeds
  5. There’s no preferential treatment between personal or business accounts; you’ll receive the same amount of engagement or reach through either type of account
  6. Shadowbanning isn’t real; users can post as frequently as they want or use any hashtag without fear of having their content hidden from newsfeeds, although Instagram will intersperse your content with other content so it isn’t clogging up user’s newsfeeds.

Instagram to Follow Facebook's Footsteps for Paid Ads?

This first whiteboard session to reporters will go a long way with educating users on how Instagram’s algorithm actually works. One foreseeable problem in the future is the number of users migrating to the platform, as more accounts will result in more competition in vying for reach and engagement amongst followers.

Organic reach has been on the decline since Facebook organically displays posts in the news feeds of one percent of page followers. In reality, Facebook uses one percent of page followers as a form of A/B split testing; the more engagement a post receives, the more likely the post is to be shown at the top of a user’s newsfeed, and Instagram may implement  something similar in the future.

While users were upset with their newsfeeds being determined  by an algorithm instead of reverse-chronological order, time spent on the platform for users above the age of 25 increased from 21 minutes to 24 minutes, which is a significant boost when considering the number of monthly active users the platform has.

Stories also have a hand in increasing the amount of time users spend on the platform as users under the age of 25 spend on average more than 32 minutes a day on Instagram. With 20 new features being added to Instagram Stories, many users creating new stories as the platform continues to stand ahead of competitors like Snapchat with the functionality and creativity it offers.

Like Facebook, paid ads may be the price to pay in the future to get an adequate amount of reach, although a workaround is for Instagram to encourage its users to post excess content in their stories to make room for meaningful posts and engagement in overpopulated newsfeeds.

This should come as no surprise, but with Facebook’s move away from organic reach it’s more important than ever that businesses allocate funds to promote their posts as other platforms will follow a similar model in the future. Fostering conversations and getting post engagement is important, but as Facebook focuses its efforts on family, friends and groups first Business Pages must look toward paid promotion on increasingly “pay-to-play” platforms.

What do you think of Instagram’s algorithm changes or the future of the platform as more users spend an increasing amount of time on the platform? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment’s section below!

 

Rembrandt portrait lighting is a lighting pattern with a triangle of light cast on the shadowed portion of your subject's face. Learn more with our latest guide for using Rembrandt Portrait Lighting for your photo compositions in 2020.

What is Rembrandt Portrait Lighting?

2018 Photography Challenge: Rembrandt Portrait Lighting

Named after the famous Dutch painter, Rembrandt lighting is a portrait lighting pattern on the shadow side of the face while highlighting the other side. One distinct characteristic of Rembrandt Portrait Lighting is the triangle of light on the check cast in shadow, often found in low key photography.

Using the Rembrandt technique in your portrait photography adds a dramatic flair to your photo without being overly harsh. It’s one of the six basic lighting techniques that many portrait photographers use when shooting and it adds a slimming effect to most subjects, especially those with round faces. It's also often used by beginner photographers looking to gain more experience with low key lighting. 

How to do Rembrandt Lighting

It’s simple to achieve this effect in your photos. Although studio lighting is preferred, you can also achieve this effect with any single light source, whether that’s through natural sunlight or the flash feature on your phone.

This might sound complicated, but Rembrandt didn’t have electricity when painting his portraits, so don’t be discouraged!

Your light source should be placed at an angle of 45 degrees to the front of your subject above eye level. The face of your subject should be turned away from the main light source.

2018 Photography Challenge: Rembrandt Portrait Lighting Triangle Lighting

One problem that may arise is that your light source may be illuminating too much of your subject’s face if you’re using an extraneous source like a window. To correct this, cover up the bottom of the light source to get the amount of lighting just right.

You can also a secondary source of light on the opposite side, in which case your supplement lighting should be at half the intensity as your main source.

Another thing to watch out for is making sure you’re capturing the light in at least one of your subject’s eyes to bring life to the photo and add that dramatic flair.

The most important aspect to tweak in Rembrandt Lighting is that your inverted triangle of light doesn’t go below the nose of your subject. Some people’s facial features or noses don’t lend well to Rembrandt Lighting, so play with the positioning of your lighting and if it isn’t working, don’t be afraid to try something else.

Achieving Rembrandt Lighting in my Portrait Photo

2018 Photography Challenge: Rembrandt Portrait Lighting Header Photo

This week’s challenge proved to be quite difficult. I’m more suited to nature photography and have never shot a subject for portrait photography. Setting up my equipment wasn’t much of a challenge and I used a white curtain backdrop, a stand with clips to affix the curtain in place, one studio light with a stand and my usual photography equipment.

With my Pentax K-50 and SMC Pentax-M 50mm F4 Macro Lens in hand, I took quite a few photos in my efforts to get the desired effect with my subject.

Two considerations that hindered the proper shadowing in my photo included a TV casting light on the shaded half of my subject’s face and I shot at night, casting a harsh light that required quite a bit of post editing to correct.

The Rembrandt inverted light triangle is casted below my subject’s nose, which isn’t what I wanted for this week’s photo challenge.

My positioning of my subject wasn’t adequate at first and I realized that I needed to have their face slightly angled to compensate for where my lighting was.

I’m not entirely pleased with how the photo turned out this week, but it was a great learning experience that I will carry with me in my journey to becoming a more well-rounded photographer.

Post-Editing Effects for Rembrandt Lighting

This is where I really screwed up. I performed my color correction first in Adobe Lightroom, removing all the saturation from the photo. Below are my color correction edits:

I then popped the photo into Adobe Photoshop to make the background a dark gray/black. Because I performed the color edits first, the desaturation made it hell to quick select my subject from the background and perform the background adjustments in a separate levels layer.

The curtain backdrop also ruined any thoughts of making the background a dark gray as the wrinkles and creases were unsightly and difficult to remove, so I opted for a black background instead. I needed backdrop paper instead of a curtain, which is more suited for producing vlogs.

Because the background was adjusted to be black, my subject’s hair outline was completely messed up. Their hair was also parted in various sections so when I quick selected their frame, the white of the curtain was still showing so I had to use the brush tool to fill those white sections in without removing too much of their hair or making it obvious that editing was done.

Luckily the sheen of their hair provided some contrast/definition against the black background, but it looks a little too stark compared to the rest of the subject’s face.

It was a rough process, but the other problem that arose was my subject’s face almost looking pock-marked from my desaturation adjustments, the black background blending in, their hair on the right side of their face and the harsh lighting. My macro lens probably didn’t help either considering how much detail it can pick up as it’s typically used for capturing fine details from small objects and insects.

I quick selected their body again, made another layer and added a blur effect to their face to remove the wrinkles and pock-marks. I also used the healing patch tool for further correction edits.

The before and after for the photo are night and day, but smoothness of my subject’s face conflicts with the sharpness brought about by her hair outline/contrast. I debated using the brush tool again to fill in her hair, but without the outline it looked like a head floating in the black void, so I called it a day before going overboard with more edits.

Again, I’m not entirely happy with how the photo turned out, but that’s the entire point of this challenge, to grow as a photographer, step outside of my comfort zone and try out new techniques and ideas for shooting photos.

Rembrandt Portrait Lighting Wrap up

What did you think of this week’s photography challenge? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! If you use Rembrandt Portrait Lighting Techniques in your photos I would love to hear your insights/feedback on how to successfully reproduce it! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out last week’s photography challenge where I explored Rule of Space or next week's humor photography challenge.

 

Photography Equipment that I Use

Here are some links for the vlogging equipment I used in the photo challenge for this week:

White Backdrop Curtain: https://amzn.to/2k1L2ds

Neewer Photography Light Stand: https://amzn.to/2GpKXZS

Neewer Video Photography Lighting Kit: https://amzn.to/2rMYshB

Pentax 50mm Prime Lens: https://amzn.to/2GkrAkB

Pentax  K-50 Camera Body: https://amzn.to/2IjPUJj

For those of you who took programming courses in high school, the If/Then statement might be one of the first things that you think of when reminiscing on what you learned in class. While the If/Then statement refers to programming or geometry, we use If/Then statements in our every day lives. “If I wake up late, then I won’t be able to eat breakfast before heading to work” or “If I work out, then I’ll lose weight.” Taking these If/Then statements to a new digital level is an extensive automation app called If This Then That (IFTTT) where users can make IFTTT recipes to save time on their weekly social media calendars.

What does IFTTT do?

Using IFTTT Recipes to Save Time On your Social Media Calendar Photo 1

IFTTT serves as an easy way to automate tasks that might be repetitive or unable to cross-communicate. Users are guided to make “recipes” where a certain event in one device or service triggers an action with another device or service. As of 2018 IFTTT has more than 550 partner services and 11 million users run more than 1 billion applets per month. For my purposes I use IFTTT to cross post onto other social media platforms. As an example, if I post on Facebook, then the same post will be shared on LinkedIn. If I post on Instagram, then that post is shared on Pinterest. It saves a lot of time with my weekly social media calendar, especially when I can have posts shared on platforms I don’t spend much time on or resharing repurposed content on platforms like Twitter that have extremely short shelf lives for posts to gain more exposure.   Beyond social media here are a few more examples of this app in action:

How IFTTT Recipes Work

Using IFTTT Recipes to Save Time On your Social Media Calendar Recipe Photo

In IFTTT everything works through applets that users can either find in the “Discover” tab or through browsing in a search bar. Users can create their own applets if their business has a partnership with IFTTT, but there are hundreds of applets available for free to choose from. IFTTT applets can use JavaScript, advanced filters and other tools to create new interactions, but for users that want pre-created applets it’s as simple as using the “Turn on” button to activate the applet after allowing for permissions/access on the appropriate service or device. Once you’ve chosen your applet you can then manage it in the “My Applets” tab and track activity to see when your applets are being ran.

IFTTT’s Competitors

While IFTTT’s focus is on users looking to get more out of their services or to automate simple tasks that are time consuming, other apps currently exist that aim to do the same thing as IFTTT. Zapier is a freemium service that connects apps and triggers actions between them. With more than 750 apps to choose from, Zapier also allows some users to connect multiple steps, a functionality that currently doesn’t exist with IFTTT, although these complex automations require users to purchase a monthly subscription ranging between $20-$250 a month. Microsoft Flow connects 195 services and is more focused on business productivity than IFTTT or Zapier. While it’s free, more advanced functionality requires a monthly subscription that costs between $5 to $15 a month.

Things that IFTTT could do better

I love IFTTT for its simplicity, cutting down the number of potential posts I need to schedule by half through its automation. Having said that, its focus on simplicity isn’t always the greatest depending on what you’re trying to do. More packaged applets with multiple services would be great to have; instead of only having Facebook automatically post to Twitter and needing another applet to automatically post to LinkedIn, it would be great to offer an applet that would auto post to multiple platforms. There are also a few broken applets that don’t work well, or certain applets don’t act in the ways that you would expect them to. One of my applets would only auto post Facebook photos and not linked posts. Another applet would break up Facebook posts into multiple tweets instead of a single tweet that cut off the caption after the character limit was reached. I haven’t delved into more advanced workflow options, but a common gripe among users is that it doesn’t allow for more advanced functionality like Zapier with multiple steps.

Applets that I use for social media

Using IFTTT Recipes to Save Time On your Social Media Calendar Applets I Use

In terms of the applets that I’m currently running, a lot of them help to automate my process on Twitter and Tumblr. A tweet’s shelf life is roughly 10-15 minutes, allowing users to tweet 10-15 times a day without annoying their followers and getting more exposure on their accounts. I’ve also abandoned Tumblr as a platform to drive traffic to my website, so having an automation system in place for that platform is an easy and lazy way to post content for the negligible follower base I’ve accumulated there. Below is what I’m rocking in IFTTT:

Drawbacks of using IFTTT for social media cross-posting

Using IFTTT Recipes to Save Time On your Social Media Calendar Pros and Cons

When cross posting there are some drawbacks that you should be aware of. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, each social media platform is unique in the ways you should be reaching your target audience. Twitter relies on sparing hashtags for maximum exposure and quantity over quality (which is why I’ve automated things to post on my behalf as much as possible throughout the day). Instagram is incredibly visual but doesn’t allow you to directly link outside of the platform through posts. Pinterest relies on boards and pins to curate content. LinkedIn is primarily focused on professional posts, so certain things posted on Instagram and Twitter might not resonate with your audience in the same way. Hashtags on Facebook will reduce overall engagement on posts. Beyond tiny nuances to maximize reach, there are different peak times to post on each individual social media platform. There are different size dimensions that should be adhered to for visual content. Caption lengths vary wildly from platform to platform. Having everything automated removes any ability to tweak your messaging to get as much as engagement as possible with your posts, which is the main reason I have a majority of my automation occurring for Twitter where these nuances won’t matter as much for my content. Instagram and Pinterest go hand in hand well, although both have strange size dimensions for their posts that make it a pain to optimize for without dumping time resizing the same photo several times. LinkedIn and Facebook play well together but the peak traffic times are different. Before automating everything I would be aware of these pitfalls and weigh the pros and cons. I personally haven’t witnessed a significant decrease in engagement or referral traffic to my website through the automation applets I listed above, but this won’t hold true for everyone.

IFTTT Wrap Up

Do you use any automation in your social media content strategy? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below with the applets that you’re running!

 

Hey there and welcome back for Week 15 of the 2018 Photo Challenge! This week’s prompt is Rule of Space:

Your subject should be facing the frame, walking into the frame, this keeps your subject "in" the frame and engaging with it. Give your subject room to move.

The challenges for each week are also divided into categories.

The category for this week is...

Composition

Composition refers to the way the various elements in a scene are arranged within the frame. Challenges will focus on setting up the shot and developing our personal composition styles; styles which can become our trademark. Developing your Composition will allow you to set the stage to generate a reaction from your audience.

What is Rule of Space?

Using the rule of space in your photos is a simple technique that creates a sense of motion or activity in your photos through negative space. It’s a way to add visual space in front of the direction of your subject, whether leading the viewer’s attention through the subject’s gaze or the direction they’re moving in. A good practice is to couple Rule of Space with Rule of Thirds or Rule of Balance to achieve the desire effect of leading your viewer’s eyes in a certain direction of the image.

Rule of Space in this Week’s Photography Challenge

Photography Challenge 2018: Rule of Space

For this week’s photo challenge I wanted to perform some bird photography. Part of this decision stemmed from laziness and being pressed for time, but I also have a robin’s nest in the awning on my porch that allowed for some good photos!

It took about 20 minutes to get the subject in frame; birds are more fidgety than you would imagine and often fly off right as you’re about to click the shutter to snap a photo.

The robin I took a photo of is also incredibly protective of her nest; the moment I try to open the front door she swoops in and caws in motherly fury, which I used to my advantage in getting her to come close enough for a photo.

A drawback of this method was that I had to shoot behind my glass door, causing some of my photos to be blurrier than I wanted them to be. Luckily I was able to capture her while standing on the rocks in our landscaping, making it look more of a wildlife photo than it really is.

Rule of Space Photo Edits

The edits that I performed for this week’s challenge were on the selective color editing side. I’ve really enjoyed using that technique to make my subjects stand out more and I reduced the greens of the background while enhancing the orange belly of the robin. I also had to increase the exposure and highlights in the photo because I shot in an overcast, rainy day. Here are the edits I made if you didn’t check out the video above:

 

Photo Challenge 2018: Rule of Space Wrap-Up

What did you think of this week’s photos? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below and be sure to share this post on social media if any of your followers would be interested in viewing these photos! Stick around for next week’s photo challenge where we’ll explore portrait lighting! If you haven’t, be sure to check out last week’s photo prompt on diptych and triptych photography.

 

Macro Photography Gear That I Use:

Here are some links for the photography equipment I used in the photo challenge for this week:

White Backdrop Curtain: https://amzn.to/2k1L2ds

Neewer Photography Light Stand: https://amzn.to/2GpKXZS

Neewer Video Photography Lighting Kit: https://amzn.to/2rMYshB

Pentax 50mm Prime Lens: https://amzn.to/2GkrAkB

Pentax  K-50 Camera Body: https://amzn.to/2IjPUJj

Pentax 50mm Macro Lens: https://amzn.to/2Iwb2YV

In the past few weeks you may have viewed numerous headlines noting that Reddit overtook Facebook as the 3rd most viewed website in the United States. This is true according to the Alexa Traffic Ranks, which often differs in reporting from that of Google Analytics, but it fails to tell the full story of website traffic.

How Alexa Rankings Are Tracked

When looking at Google Analytics, Google has all the data it collects from actual websites as far as we know. On the other hand, Alexa captures information from web surfers with the Alexa toolbar voluntarily installed, representing a significantly smaller part of total web traffic.

The Alexa toolbar only works for Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, leaving out a myriad of other browsers. In fact, Alexa has no toolbar functionality for any mobile browser, leaving out all mobile traffic. To put that in perspective, among all Facebook users 68 percent access it on their mobile devices.

Alexa also doesn’t resample for the total population and is often biased to over-indexing websites that Alexa-toolbar installers would normally visit.

Alexa Weighed Against comScore

Even when looking at other sources such as Nielsen or comScore, Facebook’s total reach in major countries amounts to 70-80 percent of online visitors, whereas Reddit is less than 20 percent for reach alone.

Using comScore, a preferred measurement service for online companies that provides marketing data and services, has Facebook ranked at the #4 spot in the United States with 208,916 unique visitors while Reddit sits at #41 with 69,596 unique visitors.

ComScore requires websites to add tags on every page in the site coding and its reports are often close to that of Google Analytics, making it a much more trustworthy source of information compared to Alexa.

This is compared to the Alexa Report where Facebook is averaging 4.07 daily views per visitor and Reddit has 9.71 daily views per visitor.

Facebook Still Outranks Reddit

Based on this information Reddit hasn’t overtaken Facebook in reach and Alexa isn’t a great source of information when website analytics are involved, although it is implementing similar features that Reddit currently offers such as a Downvote Button for comments and the Explore Feature as a way for users to catch up on current events while browsing the platform.

 

Looking for a guide on how to shoot diptych and triptych photography? Read more as we explore the different types of triptych photography available, whether you're creating a zoom, time lapse or succession triptych.

What is Triptych Photography?

Photo Challenge 2018: Diptych and Triptych Photography Example

The concept of Triptych can be broken down in two ways: photos that use the triptych technique are either split into sections through a single photo or are used to show succession and tell a story with separate photos in different frames alongside one another. Below are a few ways to use diptychs and triptychs for photographic storytelling:

Zoom

A zoom triptych shows the focus between elements of a single image and cuts out all unnecessary space in between the frames.

Time lapse

Photo Challenge 2018: Diptych and Triptych Photography Time Lapse Example

Time lapse triptychs display a lapse in time or an activity, whether it’s the time of day, age progression, or changes in scenery taking place over a span of time.

Succession

Photo Challenge 2018: Diptych and Triptych Photography Succession Example

This type of triptych can illustrate a change in frame over the span of seconds and can be used to show changes in facial expressions or subject poses with multiple photos.

Using Time Lapse Triptych

I struggled to come up with a solid idea when deciding on what I wanted to do that would use the concept of triptychs in my photography. Initially I thought about holding off until Monday where I could walk around Detroit during my lunch break to do some shooting and split up the scenery into three different frames.

After mulling it over I decided to go with a time lapse to tell a story. I was about to head to the nature trail again to see if I could find something in various states of bloom, but after walking into the backyard I realized that the flowers emulated that idea (I also felt like being a homebody).

Photo Challenge 2018: Diptych and Triptych Photography Part 2

The plant in my backyard had flowers beginning to bud, flowers that were in full bloom and ones that were dead. This conveyed a story of age progression from a state of flourish to that of decay, from start to finish. I’m extremely pleased with how the photos turned out, especially because it was an overcast day with more rain in this week’s forecast.

Photo Challenge 2018: Diptych and Triptych Photography Part 3

For shooting I broke out my SMC Pentax-M 50mm F4 Macro Lens again and it went a lot smoother than previous shoots. Having it set to AV priority really helped with not having to constantly tweak settings and the exposure to get the right amount of lighting in the photo.


One challenge was the wind forcing the stems of the flowers to bob up and down. This typically isn’t a problem with other lenses or shooting from further distances, but it makes a significant impact when trying to perform macro photography due to the magnification of your subject. If you’re zoomed in by quite a bit, it’s difficult to hold the body of your camera still without a tripod, let alone having your subject slowly bobbing in and out of focus, resulting in a decent amount of blur if you aren’t careful.

Triptych Technical Editing Work

When it comes to color correction I didn’t do a whole lot. I’m really taking a liking to performing selective color editing and reducing the saturation/vibrance of the background to give more focus and emphasis on the main subjects in my photos.

Instead of having a lighter green I toned it down to make the background a darker shade and to make the tone of the flower pop in a visual sense. It was a bit of a struggle to make sure that all the photos were consistent in color correction; the only one that I feel I didn’t get quite right is the yellow center of the flower, but it isn’t a significant deviation to draw much attention to the difference. If you didn’t check out the editing video, below are the edits I made in Adobe Lightroom:

First Photo:

Second Photo:

Third Photo:

More Photography Guides

Looking for a resource on leading lines in photography for your photo compositions? Read below for different ways to set up your composition and avoiding two common mistakes when leading lines.

Leading Lines in Photography

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Bridge Example

As the name suggests, leading lines refers to a composition technique that directs the attention of the viewer through lines that lead them to the main subject in an image.

Roadways come to mind when thinking of leading lines; there isn’t much difference between the two, only that roadways and paths direct our attention toward a vanishing point compared to a line where the focus is to lead our attention toward our main subject.

Here are a few man-made objects that can serve as leading line in photography:

If you’re in a nature setting, you can use rivers, shorelines, trees, cliffs and rocks to great effect alongside incorporating various angles that compliment leading lines. 

Two common mistakes to avoid when leading lines

There are two ways that you can go wrong when you use leading lines in your composition to direct focus to your main subject. The first is not having a subject to lead focus to (seems explanatory, right?). It’s important to have purpose when setting up your composition. Not having any subject to direct attention to detracts from the technique for leading lines in your photos.

The second mistake is to not placing emphasis on specific lines. There are many different lines that lead that we can make use of in any photo shoot. It’s all about finding the right one and avoiding others that might serve only to distract your viewer.

Different ways to set up your composition

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Pond

There are many ways to set up your composition when leading lines. You can position a strong line that leads from the foreground to the background, creating depth and perspective.

Another method is to place your subject at the center of your line convergence to add more emphasis and important to that subject.

Instead of converging, you can set your subject at the end of your lines to give a sort of visual journey from start to finish. You can even perform a circular composition to keep the viewer’s focus within the frame.

Different types of lines that lead in your photos

Additionally, you can make use of different kinds of lines to produce various results in your composition.

Horizontal Lines

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Horizontal Line Example

These are great for shooting nature and relaxing photos, especially if you can achieve the sunburst effect as the sun sets on the horizon behind an object or the natural landscape.

Vertical Lines

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Vertical Line Example

These kinds of lines produce a more authoritative effect for your subject in the photo.

Diagonal Lines

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Diagonal Line Example

Winding pathways are an example of this as they draw the attention of a reader through a photo. Again, you can place your subject at the end of the line to produce more of a natural flow.

Curved Lines

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Curved Line Example

Waves of a beachhead are a good example of curved lines and can be used to great effect in nature photos. I made great use of this in my photos of New Mexico and Colorado during my dealership visits in July. 

Converging Lines

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Converging Line Example

Again, these lines produce a sense of importance because the focus a viewer’s attention to a single point in the photograph.

Intersecting Lines

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Intersecting Line Example

You should be careful when using intersecting lines in your composition. They can be used to great effect but can also serve to confuse or distract the viewer.

Using Leading Lines in Photography Challenge

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Bridge 2

For this week’s challenge I decided to hit up the nature trails and see what I could find. There wasn’t anything crazy that caught my eye, but I shot a few photos during my walk that I’m happy with.

I didn’t account for the tree density causing an almost overcast effect despite it being bright and sunny during golden hour, or that the nature trail was directly within the woods. One of my biggest challenges didn’t have anything to do with camera settings or composition, but rather the 100,000 mosquitos that took every opportunity to swarm me the minute I stopped walking to shoot.

This forced me to set up my shoot quickly and continue walking or risk getting eaten alive. It didn’t matter much as I now have 40 mosquito bites on my arms alone, but I was aiming to hit a bridge juncture in the nature trail for a better demonstration of leading lines in my photo.

After spending nearly an hour walking I finally stumbled across the bridge that I wanted. This is where I really got eaten alive as I laid down flat on the gravel to get the angle I wanted for the bridge. It turned out great, but my arms still haven’t forgiven me for spending three minutes setting up and attempting to hold still as a dozen mosquitos landed on me.

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Header

Leading Lines Photo Edits

Although I shot multiple photos, I’m sticking with just the edits for the bridge (I consider it to be the best shot that I took). Here are my edits:

As you can see I didn’t do much for this shot. I wanted to saturate the photo just a smidge to provide more depth and color. I also played with the clarity as I normally do in all my photos.

One thing that I want to mention regarding the other photos that I shot is performing color selection and reducing the saturation to make other aspects of the subject stand out. My intent was to draw more attention to the subject or viewing points in the photos, but I’ll leave that up for your interpretation!

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Selective Color Editing Photo

More Photography Guides

Passion projects are creative side projects that we undertake outside of what’s required from school, work or our daily routines. Whether it’s learning how to play the violin, writing novels, shooting photos, creating apps or performing 30 random acts of kindness, all it takes is some inspiration and a bit of dedication to start working toward a passion project.

Why Should I Start A Passion Project?

Other than for self-fulfillment and gratification, passion projects serve as one of the greatest ways to further your professional development. In the academic world it’s not enough to partake in hobbies and get good grades to be considered for an elite program at a prestigious university.

According to DistinguishMe, a program that helps students distinguish themselves through independent passion projects, admissions officers look for the following criteria when evaluating students:

GPA and SAT scores are still the two most important factors that are taken into consideration, but it’s nearly impossible to stand out based on scores and numbers alone due to the oversaturated candidate pool.

Based on reports from the U.S. News and Report and National Center for Education Statistics, the number of total applications to elite colleges has risen by 71 percent while total student body growth grew by only 9 percent from 2003 to 2013.

While I’m referencing students looking to get accepted into their program of choice, this can also be applied to the work force and further professional development.

CNN reported that the unemployment rate dropped below 4 percent in April 2018 for the first time since 2000. This is fantastic news, but if you’re looking to get hired in a highly competitive field you need to stand out in the sea of other candidates with similar education and backgrounds.

Standing Out from the Competition

Why Passion Projects Make You Stand Out From The Competition Photo

A lot of emphasis is placed on where you went to college and the competency of the programs that they offer, but getting a degree alone isn’t enough to guarantee you a job outside of college. After a year from graduating recruiters stop placing emphasis on your GPA or academic achievements in favor of work experience.

Most graduates will have 2-3 internships or relevant jobs in their portfolio, so what happens if candidates from similar academic backgrounds and positions apply to the same place? What makes one candidate stand out from other competitors?

Other than how well they conduct themselves in the interview process and how they present themselves, passion projects are the best way to stand out in that sea of competition.

Passion projects show that a candidate has gone above and beyond that of what’s required in daily job function. We do them in our spare time, they help to diversify our skill set and to form new connections with people that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

This website is arguably one of the main reasons why I was hired at General Motors. Plenty of candidates had backgrounds in digital marketing, but how many had several certifications, performed a significant amount of volunteer work and actively wrote posts on a website they built themselves? How many cultivated their personal brand on social media, created their own design work, regularly recorded podcasts or videos showcasing their knowledge as an expert in their field?

I’ve mentioned that I made this blog as part of a class requirement, but I took it several steps further by incorporating it as part of my daily routine to stand out and showcase myself as an exceptional candidate.

Avoiding Stagnation In your Industry

If you’re using a passion project to further your professional development it should be relevant to your industry, at least to some degree.

As a district digital manager I strategize with my clients on how to promote their business and increase leads coming into the physical storefront through digital efforts. In this position I’m a strategist and consultant with no hand in the actual implementation of the action plans that we create.

To stay relevant and on top of my game, I use this blog to further my knowledge and continue being an asset to my clients.

While it isn’t largely known how much effort I place into this website, a lot of people are impressed at what I’ve created thus far on a weekly basis. I do content curation, perform search engine optimization (SEO) for my posts, design the creative to accompany pieces, interact and expand my social media community daily, record podcasts, shoot and edit photos, tweak the interface of my website, and bid on keywords in Google Adwords and Facebook Ads.

I’ve gained a plethora of knowledge on the implementation side of the digital marketing house so I can readily answer questions or let my dealers know what’s possible in the digital realm.

What started as a passion project when I searched for work after graduation quickly turned into a side-job that offers the possibility of passive income through the growth of a solid reader base. I now have more than 30 pieces that rank in the top 100 search results on Google, which is an amazing feat in the span of eight months and little digital marketing knowledge.

I’m now considered a knowledge expert on my floor of district digital mangers and when the time comes to start applying for another position within GM, I’ll have this website and social media presence to showcase how I stand out from everyone else on the floor.

Showing Personality to Future Employers

Aside from showing that you know what you’re doing, starting a passion project is another way to display your personality to future employers. With my website it’s easy to catch a glimpse at what my branding is all about. I strive to be that knowledge expert, but I would consider my branding to be clean, professional with a hint of quirkiness and openness as an individual.

I have fun with my work, but my planning schedule also shows that I’m organized, I check for quality assurance with minimal mistakes and that I think outside of the box through my creative initiatives and new ideas for podcast episodes or new content every week.

Depending on your passion project an interviewer will be able to see what you’re all about before the interview process even starts and if you would make a good fit for the company.

What Should My Passion Project Be?

Why Passion Projects Make You Stand Out From The Competition Question to Consider

The first step to finding your passion project is to ask yourself as many questions as possible regarding why you want to do it. A few examples might be:

After you ask these kinds of questions, narrow your list down to five questions and start searching for answers. Go online or search for articles to learn more about your interest, participate in online forums, find mentors or current knowledge experts to talk to, or even ask a company or organization if you can conduct an informational interview with their staff!

Find a Problem Worth Solving

After you ask these kinds of questions and narrow down your interest to a few passion project ideas that get you excited, the next step is to jot down 7-10 reasons as to why you should do this passion project. You should also see if you can find a problem that’s worth solving through the creation of your passion project. DistinguishMe highlights four main parts in writing your problem statement:

What Steps Do I Take to Get Started?

This is the step where passion projects either die or never come to fruition, where we ask ourselves “How do I do X?” and “I’ll do Y to get there.”

I’ll reference a conversation that I had with one of my peers as an example. He wants to start a podcast, but he never set out to do it because he got caught up on the “Y” part of the equation. When we start a passion project, we often think that we need to have everything set up perfectly from the beginning or we shouldn’t bother starting. It’s an “All or Nothing” equation that will kill a passion project as fast as it starts.

He wanted to set up and design a website, purchase all the necessary podcasting equipment, build a new computer to effectively run recording programs, figure out where to post the podcast, what kind of content he should talk about, etc…

Don’t Get Caught Up In Prep Work

Why Passion Projects Make You Stand Out From The Competition Avoiding Prep Work Photo

Everything doesn’t need to be perfect when you first start. This website is a far cry from what it was when I first started. Hell, I was using a WordPress.com premade blog template with little customization options and no ownership to get my feet wet.

Over the course of a year I migrated my domain host and registered my own domain name. I changed my website theme more than four times in my search for the right one. I upped my blog posts from once a week to writing four times a week; this includes writing less than 500 words to now writing more than 6,000 words each week.

For the blog posts I started designing my own photos and creative. I slowly started branching out from no social media presence to getting more than 40,000 impressions every month with 2,000 combined followers.

I began recording podcasts weekly with less than 15 minutes of talk time per episode six months into my blogging venture; this is the same with the photography prompts I take part in every week. Now I want to start vlogging at least twice a month on top of all the other content creation I’m doing outside of work.

If I tried getting this all set up and ready to go through an official “launch,” I would have burned myself out or stopped before I even started. It’s like riding a bike, where you test the waters with training wheels before taking them off, or like jogging where you start at half a mile and slowly build yourself up every day.

I reference this in my podcast episode regarding motivation vs. discipline; you don’t get into Olympic form to train, but rather you train to get into Olympic form. If your goal is to run a marathon, you wouldn’t start running 10 miles on the first day.

Think of it this way: “what does X do?” A writer writes. A jogger jogs. If your goal is to start a blog, then you should start writing first and worry about everything else as you get more acclimated to consistently writing. If you want to get into podcasting, grab a microphone, download some free software and start recording every week. Don’t worry about targeting your audience or producing this stunning website platform; if there’s no consistent content being produced, you won’t have any chance at cultivating an audience who will want to check out your occasional post.

How Can I Make This Part of My Daily Routine?

Why Passion Projects Make You Stand Out From The Competition Investing Time Photo

As far as consistency goes, your passion project should be something that you do daily. Start doing it for 30 minutes a day. Develop that consistency and habit for a month before branching out to implement other aspects of your action plan.

A writer isn’t always judged by the quality of their content, but rather how many days they show up to write. Do it daily and penetrate the noise through consistency.

With my clients, our number one goal right now is to establish that routine before branching out to other digital marketing initiatives. We’re focused on website optimization, getting offers up at the beginning of the month and giving consumers a friendly user-experience before venturing off to social media strategy, SEO, SEM, reputation and lead management. Start off small and cultivate that habit so you don’t drop the ball when you start branching out.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

There are platforms out there that you can start with such as Medium or WordPress.com to start showcasing your passion project to your online audience. YouTube is another great option for visual content.

Outside of this website I also write poetry and short stories. I started posting on Deviantart for two years before publishing my work on my own poetry platform.

Don’t Get Discouraged

Why Passion Projects Make You Stand Out From The Competition Effort vs. Results

Getting discouraged at the lack of results is another killer of passion projects. I touched on this in my blog post about why a blog isn’t successful, but if you’re putting in a lot of effort but aren’t getting the results that you were expecting, your passion will waver, your consistency will falter and it’ll cause you to go into a negative feedback loop where you ultimately abandon your passion project.

This happens all the time with bloggers, where they feverishly write post after post but only garner the attention of 100-200 readers. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and if you continue to put in effort, maintain consistency and tweak processes you will start seeing more results.

I’ve been blogging for almost a year now; May of 2018  was the first time that I started seeing a significant bump in traffic as Google finally started indexing my posts for specific keywords. Before that point I considered quitting four times. Consistency wavered and that just caused a further decrease in traffic.

Instead of giving up entirely I started churning out four posts a week. I made a point to engage more on social media to gain more followers and engagement. I redesigned my entire website theme and bought a book on how to optimize your posts for SEO.

Stick with it and you won’t be disappointed.

Other Considerations for Getting Started

Outside of starting for 30 minutes a day, here are some other things you should do to get the ball rolling on your passion project:

Recap on Starting a Passion Project

Passion projects aren’t an easy undertaking at first, but they’re highly rewarding once you start seeing results. Here’s a recap on what we talked about in this piece:

I hope this guide was helpful in starting your passion project! What are you interested in doing for your passion project? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below and be sure to share this on social media if you think any of your followers would benefit from reading this!

Equipment That I Use For My Podcast and Photography Challenges:

Here are some links for the photography equipment I used in the photo challenge for this week:

White Backdrop Curtain: https://amzn.to/2k1L2ds

Neewer Photography Light Stand: https://amzn.to/2GpKXZS

Neewer Video Photography Lighting Kit: https://amzn.to/2rMYshB

Pentax 50mm Prime Lens: https://amzn.to/2GkrAkB

Pentax  K-50 Camera Body: https://amzn.to/2IjPUJj

Pentax 50mm Macro Lens: https://amzn.to/2Iwb2YV

Here's the microphone, shock mount, mic stand and accessories that I use to record my podcasts every week:

Audio-Technica ATR 2100 Dynamic Mic: https://amzn.to/2GwPLwy

Mic Arm and Wind Screen: https://amzn.to/2Ld9LYF

Pop Filter: https://amzn.to/2Lda0Tz

Sennheiser HD 598 SR Openback Headphones: https://amzn.to/2IzdaPu

WordPress runs more than 30 percent of the internet and holds 50-60 percent of the global content management system market, making it one of the best options when starting a blog or website. It’s versatile, user-friendly, mobile-responsive and fits all shapes and sizes, whether you’re just entering the digital world or are a seasoned veteran building WordPress websites for clients or for your business. If you’re debating on using WordPress or aren’t sold on its functionality compared to other CMS’s, this post highlights the benefits of WordPress, why you should be using it and how to set it up on your own site.

Responsive design

Top 5 Benefits Of WordPress For Building Your Website Responsive Design Photo

As of February 2017, mobile devices accounted for 49.7 of internet browsing and website traffic worldwide, causing many developers to begin designing website from a mobile-first perspective. This number will continue to grow, but most modern websites are designed to be responsive, or to change depending on the viewing experience of the user.

Before responsive design was implemented, developers would create three versions of a website for desktop, mobile and tablet viewing experiences. Certain elements of a website that look great on desktop will look cluttered or broken on a device with a smaller screen resolution, but making three separate designs for every element and landing page increases the workload exponentially. For a short stint I did this for a few clients; it drove me crazy seeing how great the site looked on desktop only to have my work rendered meaningless when I switched to a mobile or tablet viewing experience.

Instead of designing three separate website pages, responsive design focuses on making sure the mobile version of your site looks great and resizes to match for desktop and tablet. WordPress has an endless supply of free and paid themes that utilize responsive design, which ensures that every user visiting your website is given a user-friendly experience from an aesthetic standpoint. Even if the theme that you choose doesn’t use responsive design there are also various plugins such as Jetpack that will display a different version of your site to mobile users.

Mobile-friendly experience

Top 5 Benefits Of WordPress For Building Your Website Mobile-Friendly Design Photo

Piggybacking off responsive design, most themes on WordPress provide a mobile-friendly experience to users browsing your site on their smartphones. Your site should load quickly and be lightweight in terms of page elements like photos and coding delivery, considering smartphones are vastly underpowered compared to their desktop counterparts. Google has started ranking sites based on how quickly a site loads on mobile with the expectation of a three second load time on a 3g network. Users expect a site to load within two seconds and will bounce from your site if it takes longer than five seconds to load on their phones, making mobile load times a major priority in considering the theme and design of your website. You can check out how you stack up with the competition by using the Google Analytics Benchmark Report.

Versatility and design options

Top 5 Benefits Of WordPress For Building Your WordPress Themes and Customization Photo

Whether you’re starting a blog or want to create a fully functional e-commerce site, WordPress has a myriad of options to choose from to suit your unique needs. There are more than 11,000 different themes to choose from, leaving it entirely up to you on finding the right theme for your business. While some themes use page designers like Divi to arrange the elements on your page, there are plugins such as Elementor that allow you to create a fantastic-looking static homepage or landing page from scratch instead of relying on the layout of your theme.

This site uses the paid Elegant theme and I can literally do anything I want, whether it’s adjusting font sizes, website colors, widgets in the sidebar, rotators on the homepage or creating landing pages with the Divi builder.

No coding experience required with plugins

A common fear shared among people who have never touched a website before is trying to code in HTML, Javascript or CSS to get their site to do what they want it to do. WordPress allows users to install plugins that fulfill a myriad of needs, whether you want to make pop-up opt-in forms to gain subscribers, add social media share icons to articles, optimize image file sizes, search engine optimization guidelines, design landing pages or track website traffic. There are more than 50,000 plugins in the official directory and new ones are being added daily. While it’s a best practice to not use a bunch of different plugins, they’re available for whatever need you have in less than three clicks. WordPress also automatically redirects web pages from HTTP to HTTPS if you have a SSL Certificate installed, saving a lot of time and frustration as opposed to updating your pages manually.

Easy to use content management system

The biggest draw to using WordPress is its intuitive content management system. All you need to do is click a button to create a new post, add a title and write! It’s reminiscent of Microsoft Word but with more functionality, but anyone can boot up the CMS, write their post, spruce it up with images or video and hit the publish button to have it go live. If you’re more tech savvy, you can adjust coding elements in the CMS, create meta descriptions and tags, perform front-end design work or do some on-page search engine optimization.

How to create your site with WordPress

Creating your website through WordPress is surprisingly simply. The first step is to choose your domain host. A domain host is like renting space on a computer to hold your website; your host assigns an address for your site and stores your files to your domain name so that other users can find your website when searching on the web.

What web host should I use?

There are various web hosts that are available. If you’re just starting out I wouldn’t worry about spending a lot of money on a more expensive domain host. WP Beginner is highly praised but prices are pretty high; I personally would recommend Blue Host, Host Gator or SiteGround to start with.

My website is hosted through SiteGround and prices start at $48 a year for sites that get less than 10,000 monthly visitors. When signing up you have the option of transferring over your current platform to WordPress. SiteGround will does this at no charge, although they’ll inform you if your site will transfer cleanly depending on the previous platform you were using.

If you’re just now creating a website, they’ll ask which content management platform you would like to use and get an account set up in the C-panel along with the credentials needed to sign into the backend of your WordPress site.

Other things you should install for your website on SiteGround

You’re going to need a domain name for your site, which is separate from the domain host. SiteGround offers this service for $15 a year, but you can sign up with any other domain name provider. I would also recommend purchasing an SSL certificate, especially if you’re planning on building an e-commerce website.

An SSL certificate basically encrypts customer information so it isn’t visible or accessible when browsing a site. It also sets up an HTTPS connection instead of an HTTP connection, which is vital if you plan on ranking in Google. If you don’t have an SSL certificate, your site will be penalized by Google and your customer’s information isn’t safe from prying eyes.

In the C-Panel I would also install Cloudflare, which is a CDN that provides content delivery services, DDoS mitigation and internet security for your website. Cloudflare will help boost the delivery speed of your website and help you to provide a more user-friendly experience and a better ranking on Google.

If you have any questions or get lost, I would highly suggest reach out to SiteGround’s customer support. They’re quick to respond and are fantastic when it comes to guiding you through any issues that you might be having.

Choosing your theme on WordPress

Top 5 Benefits Of WordPress For Building Your WordPress Theme Choices Photo

After setting up your domain name and domain host, the next step is figuring out what WordPress theme is the right one for you! Search around and see what appeals to you, but make sure that your theme is mobile-responsive, looks clean, is customizable and that it tags your headers properly (I made that mistake on my previous theme and it hurt my organic reach for eight months).

Additional Plugins

Top 5 Benefits Of WordPress For Building Your WordPress Plugins Photo

The final step after choosing your theme and playing with the design is adding your plugins! Here are a few recommendations that I’m currently using on this site:

Akismet Anti-Spam

Used by millions, Akismet is quite possibly the best way in the world to protect your blog from spam. It keeps your site protected even while you sleep.

Cloudflare

Like I mentioned earlier, this speeds up and protects your WordPress site.

Elementor

While my site now uses Divi, I previously relied on Elementor as my go-to frontend drag and drop page builder. You can use it on any theme, page or design.

EWWW Image Optimizer

This plugin reduces file sizes for images within WordPress, which is incredibly important to make your page load as quickly as possible. If your images are too large, your site will load slowly and cause your bounce rate to skyrocket.

Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights

If you’re going to be tracking your website analytics, you’ll want to be using Google Analytics, but the beauty of MonsterInsights is that it pulls important information from Google Analytics and displays it right on WordPress’s backend in an easily digestible, one-page format. Make sure that you're actively removing spam referral traffic in your Google Analytics reports for a more accurate representation of how you're website is performing.

Google Tag Manager

If you’re just starting out making your website you might not do much with Google Tag Manager, but it allows you to insert tags without performing hardcoding to track things such as conversion rates, site analytics, remarketing or testing on a site.

Jetpack by WordPress.com

There’s a lot of love and hate with Jetpack, as it performs many of the same functions as the other plugins I’ve highlighted so far. It will automatically optimize your website design for mobile if your theme isn’t mobile-responsive; it offers website analytics tracking like MonsterInsights; it reduces file and image sizes for faster load times; and it helps filter and protect against spam. If you’re using these other plugins it might not be necessary to have, but I still like having it on my site considering how robust of a plugin it is.

Lock User Account

This plugin is primarily for guest posters and making sure that they can’t access your website backend via the account login once you add them as a contributor.

SG Optimizer

This plugin is automatically loaded once you sign up with SiteGround, but it helps with various performance optimizations.

Table of Contents Plus

If you’re doing a lot of blog posting, this plugin is neat in that it creates a table of contents like in Wikipedia articles to help with easier user navigation for lengthier pieces. It can also output a sitemap listing all pages and categories.

W3 Total Cache

Another performance plugin, W3 Total Cache improves the speed and user experience of your site with browser, page, object and database caching as well as minifying and content delivery network (CDN) to WordPress. It’s a little similar to EWWW Image Optimizer, but it’s focused on caching content on your site for faster retrieval.

Wordfence Security

If there is one plugin that you should have, Wordfence Security is the best anti-virus, firewall and malware scanner plugin to have for your site. It acts as another line of defense so your site doesn’t get hacked into and will alert you if there is suspicious activity occurring.

WP Scroll Depth

This plugin is cool if you’re trying to get a better understanding of bounce rate on your site. It will send scrolling events to Google Analytics and let you know at what part of your web page a user bounces, whether it’s at the 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% mark. Bloggers usually have a 70-80 percent bounce rate, which isn’t helpful if a user’s average sessions spans for several minutes, so it’s important to know how far down a reader got on your page before bouncing from the site.

Yoast SEO

For anyone looking to get into search engine optimization, Yoast SEO is a light-weight plugin that includes on-page content analysis, XML sitemaps and other features to get you started on ranking in Google organically.

Things to consider when installing plugins

A few words of caution when looking into adding plugins to your site. Having too many plugins installed will start to bog down your site speed, so try to avoid adding unnecessary plugins when you can if your theme offers a similar feature or you can add a bit of coding to your theme template to achieve the same effect.

Some plugins might not be compatible with your theme and can cause a few issues, so be cautious when it comes to downloading plugins without doing research. The other thing is that plugins are routinely updated, while others might be outdated and no longer receive support. I would avoid these plugins as it offers an easy, exploitable way for hackers to find a way into your backend or tamper with your site. In that same vein, make sure that you’re constantly updating your themes and plugins (WordPress will alert you when new versions are available to update).

Benefits of WordPress Wrap-Up

That’s it! If you’ve followed this guide you should have a fully functional website running through WordPress. I hope you found this to be helpful and be sure to share this on social media if you think it’ll be beneficial for anyone looking into starting a website of their own as a passion project. 

Next week I plan on discussing how to recycle blog posts into content you can share on social media and build your following, so stay tuned! In the meantime, I would highly recommend taking a look at #GetSocialSmart: How to Hone your Social Media Strategy by Katie Lance, as it really helped in my content curation and social media strategy.

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