Marketing can make or break a business. In today’s world of social networking, businesses can easily take advantage of interacting with current and future clients through the use of social media. With Twitter now having over two hundred million users (and growing each day), businesses can communicate and promote in 140 characters or less. Your business has the opportunity to offer exclusive deals to your Twitter followers, while driving traffic to your website and getting to interact with your clients. Here are 5 ways to effectively market via Twitter.

The Alternative Title Tag Conundrum

The Scenario

This is not a post about “10 Surefire Ways to Optimize a Title Tag” or “Increase your Title Tag Click-Through-Rate in 3 Simple Steps.” Not to knock any of those blog posts out there, but I feel like the same information is being regurgitated with catchy titles and cool graphics. Instead, this is an example of a situation I experienced, the test I ran, and the result from that test.

Quick…. Do a search for your brand, company name or even your URL. What do you see?

Do you see the nicely written title tag that you crafted or do you see your exact brand/company name?

More often than not, you will see your company’s name.

For example, conduct a Google search for “WebpageFX.” Instead of showing the home page’s title tag (Internet Marketing Services | Internet Marketing Company), Google decides to display “WebpageFX.”

Seems logical, but why????

Google states it has “algorithms that generate alternative titles to make it easier for our users to recognize relevant pages.” Makes sense to me. If I type in a company’s brand name, I already have awareness of that company and my searching intent is probably navigational, that is, with the purpose to get to a specific site.

This sounds good, but with any automated algorithm there can be flaws. So, sit back, relax, and read how this system can sometimes create headaches.

The Preparation

For the purpose of this article, I am going to create a fictitious company and URL that closely matches the actual website this scenario is based off of:

Fictitious Business Name: Steven, John & Jim’s Surf Shop

Fictitious URL: www.stevenjohnandjims.com

Fictitious Title Tag: Discount Surfing Gear & Water Equipment

When conducting a brand search for the company that was similar to this URL, Google screwed up the capitalization of the company name to look like the following:

Original Search Result prior to test

This angered me to no end! If I was a user, I would be a lot less likely to click on a result if the capitalization appeared wrong. So I started researching, researching, and finally… doing more research to find the cause for this.

All of the information out there on the web will lead you to a few possible explanations:

  1. This capitalization inconsistency is located somewhere within the content of my site.
  2. The site is currently registered that way under DMOZ.
  3. There may be an anchor text backlink to your site on the internet that is spelled that way.

I went through and started checking the previous points.

  1. Nope, that type of capitalization was not found anywhere in the source code.
  2. The site was submitted to DMOZ with the correct spelling but has not yet received inclusion.
  3. Aha! I used several tools like Open Site Explorer to find that there was a backlink to the site that included “steven, John, & jim’s Surf Shop”.

The link was legitimate so I easily could have emailed the website owner to change the anchor text to the correct capitalization, but I wanted to run a test. 🙂

The Test

My hypothesis was this:

If I include the brand/company name within the title tag, Google’s ‘Alternative Title Tag algorithm’ could not justify showing the other, incorrect version of the title and would thus include my newly created tag.

I changed the title tag of the page to read like the following: Surfing Gear & Equipment | Steven, John, & Jim’s Surf Shop

I made sure to make it less than 70 characters long, as Google also states it replaces “long or hard-to-read titles with more concise and descriptive alternatives.” I didn’t want to leave anything to chance.

The Results

I checked back in 4 days and voila! The SERP result looked like the following:

SERP Test Result

It seems that by including the brand/company name within the title tag, I have enabled Google to show the better looking title tag that appears in the source code.

Before I took my victory lap around the office, I had to verify the results with another site. This time, instead of messing up the capitalization, Google was confusing the singular and plural version of the company’s name. The alternative title tag with this site would have little impact on the click-through-rate but I still wanted to test my hypothesis again. I used the same 3 steps noted earlier in this post to find that a couple of powerful backlinks were the cause. I changed the title tag to include the brand/company name at the end and voila, again!

Typically, I prefer including the brand/company name in the title tag to help build awareness in the SERP anyway so this was the icing on the cake to encourage me to do it more often. Of course, the results for experiments like this may vary, but if you find yourself in a similar situation to the one I was in, test out this method and let me know your findings!

Introducing: The Best of Design Instruct eBooks

Design Instruct has always been about learning. Whether you’re a student in a design course, a professional looking for some inspiration, or a self-taught enthusiast, Design Instruct was always meant to serve as a stepping stone to doing great things.

We wanted to be that place that you go to when your creative juices start to run a bit dry. We wanted to be that place where you find some brand new techniques that artists are discovering every day. We wanted to be that place where new ideas and creativity were always exhibited. We wanted to be the catalyst for some awe-inspiring work!

Suffice it to say that we love the creative arts. Whether it’s designing t-shirts, posters, graphics, photography, and everything else under the sun, we love all of it. Design Instruct comes from a place of passion and respect for what creative professionals do on a daily basis and we hope that it shows in what we’ve published so far.

The eBooks that we’ve put together symbolizes the last 2 years of Design Instruct. We looked back on what we’ve been able to achieve and what we haven’t yet and the one aspect of Design Instruct we knew were very proud of was our tutorials. In the eBooks, you’ll find some of the most beautiful, most loved, and the best techniques that we’ve published all in an easy to read, easy to follow package.

The eBooks are provided in various formats for use on the most popular eBook readers, tablet computers, and other mobile devices so now you can take your tutorials anywhere and learn anywhere.

The covers were designed by two of Design Instruct’s contributors, Miguel Cardona and David Peña. We think they’re just great! A bonus cover was also designed by Zena Santos whose work never fails to impress.

In the eBooks, you’ll also find some interview questions that shine some light on what makes Design Instruct contributors tick. Including what their best projects were; what they’re working on now; and we asked them about whose work they admire.

All in all, we think we’ve put together a really nice package that not only pays tribute to the last two years of Design Instruct but also serves as a milestone as we move forward in the years to come.

Cheers!

Sincerely,

The Design Instruct Team

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The Best of Design Instruct: Volume 1

Are you ready to re-visit some of our most exciting Photoshop tutorials? In this volume, we’ve compiled 15 amazing Photoshop tutorials in one convenient eBook. This is what Design Instruct has always been about. We had some of the most talented and unique artists share their knowledge with you in easy-to-follow, step-by-step directions. Now you can read along on your tablet or eBook reader as you work!

Tyler Denis shows us how to create various text effects. Michael Vincent Manalo teaches us his own brand of photomanipulation. Eric Vasquez exhibits his eye for composition!

Artists featured in Volume 1 are: Tyler Denis, Sebastiano Guerriero, Eric Vasquez, Santhosh Koneru, Nikola Lazarevic, Michael Vincent Manalo, and Sekani Solomon.

Enjoy!

Price: $5.99 USD

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The Best of Design Instruct Volume 2

The second half of ‘The best of Design Instruct’ contains more of what you love. This edition contains tutorials that the Design Instruct team is particularly fond of. They’re not just beautiful tutorials; they’re also some of the most interesting and most loved tutorials we’ve published! Zena Santos shows us her experimental workflows for her illustrations. Miguel Cardona shares his secrets to creating amazing digital ink and watercolor portraits. Matt Fox shows us how to digitally color comic book art.

Artists featured in Volume 2 are: Miguel Cardona,Tahgasa Bertram aka Sweaty Eskimo, Hyungho Lee aka Tim Lee, Michael Ostermann, Edmar Cisneros, Matt Fox, Heinritzh Sales, Mia Camara Singson, Zena Santos, and David Pena (cover artist).

Enjoy!

Price: $5.99 USD

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The Best of Design Instruct Bundle

If you want both volumes of The Best of Design Instruct, then this is the ticket!

This is what Design Instruct was always meant to be: amazing tutorials, great artists, and beautiful work. Now in easy to follow eBook formats.

It’s both books at a slightly lower price.

Price: $9.99 USD

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How to Write Your Marketing Plan?

How to write your marketing plan?A marketing plan is the basic foundation towards the success of a product or service whether it’s offline or online. Various methods can be used to come up with this type of plan. The use of marketing software and templates are the methods popularly used by individuals in coming up with marketing plans. However, your choice will depend on your situation and how comfortable you are in using it. Below are some of the steps you can follow in order to come up with a well written marketing plan.

    • Choose the approach you are going to use in writing your marketing plan. If you don’t have the selected approach or method with you, you can either download it from our reliable site or buy it directly from the stores. After this, you can download a sample marketing plan online which will give you detailed instructions on how well you can link your sections in order to come up with a well written marketing plan.

 

    • The next step is to get started in writing your marketing plan. This point can prove to be a challenge to an individual, especially if you don’t have the strategies to help in the writing. However, you can gather information based on your company and its environs in terms of competition, trends, statistics, etc. which will help in the process of writing your marketing plan throughout. When your resource is internally based, you will be prompted to gather information based on your own business, depending on the size of your company. These can be in the form of pricing, strategies and income statements. On the other hand, you can also use the knowledge of your employees which will lead you to an understanding of external resources.  External resources can include information based on existing articles, research or industry news. Even though you will be prompted to make a printing of the resources, what matters most is the information you will get.

 

    • The third step is where you finalize your marketing plan.  Writing marketing plans can bring about feelings of exasperation, but upon completion of the writing, these feelings are replaced with feelings of elation as the burden lessens. To achieve this, try setting aside other priorities and focusing more on writing the actual marketing plan. Failing to do so can cause the writing of your marketing plan to continually be pushed back with possibly no completion. Make a schedule you are likely to follow by setting viable due dates on your calendar while keeping other plans (i.e. meetings) in mind. Such a schedule will ensure you finish writing your marketing plan in a timely manner.

 

  • Run thorough tests on your written marketing plan ensuring all mistakes are rooted out. You can use the written marketing plan to execute all other marketing related programs through the year. It is not advisable to keep your written marketing plan in your drawer; rather, you should refer to it now and then in order to help you execute other marketing plan programs.

 

Biggest Marketing Mistakes:

  • Not developing a marketing plan.
  • Not planning a marketing plan.
  • Not targeting a specific audience – you need to know who you are selling to!
  • Not developing a clear and consistent marketing message.
  • Believing your product will sell itself – every product has to create its own reputation and brand awareness in the market before sales can occur.
  • Not clearly defining the product benefits – why is your product superior to others like it?
  • Not using wide marketing techniques from offline to online – use all types of marketing techniques from the Internet and TV to radio and leaflets.
  • Not having a back-end revenue program.
  • Not having plans/ideas on how you can grow in the future – it’s a fast moving world. You need to update your products; otherwise your competitors will overtake you with ease.
  • Not upselling your products to your existing clients – if your products do have the latest updates, than you need to voice this to your current clients.
  • Not hiring a marketing firm that will get you the best results – this is probably the hardest bit. Every company out there will tell you they will do the best job, but choosing the right company is difficult. Do your research on the company, ask them to show you their portfolio of the work they have done. This is necessary because you want to be spending money in all the right areas.

Photo By zaraki.kenpachi

Tree Bark: Texture Pack

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  • File format: JPG
  • Size: 1987x3000px
  • Licensing: Commercial and personal work under Design Instruct Downloadable Freebie Files
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Create a Vintage Steam Locomotive Poster in Photoshop

Preview

Click the image to see the final result in full size.

Tutorial Resources

Step 1: Create the Poster’s Background

In Photoshop, create a new 800x1200px document. Fill the default Background layer with black (#000000).

Create the Poster's Background

 

Create a new layer (Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + N) and fill it with a beige color (#e0d3b1).

Create the Poster's Background

Step 2: Create a Frame Border for the Train

Create a selection using the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) (see the image below as a reference).

Set your Foreground color to a dark tan (#b2a37c) and your Background color to white (#ffffff). Create a new layer. Hold down Option/Alt (so the resultant effect is stronger), then go to Filter > Render > Clouds.

Create a Frame Border for the Train

Create a Frame Border for the Train

Change the Blend Mode of the layer to Multiply and set its Opacity to 55%.

Go to Layer > Layer Style > Stroke and give the layer a stroke effect using the following settings:

Here is how our frame border should look:

Step 3: Isolate the Train

Download the Old train CPR_2026_5 image and open it up in Photoshop. Zoom in as needed, and then use the Pen Tool (P) to trace carefully around the train.

Once you have traced around the train with the Pen Tool (P), Control-click/right-click on the path, then choose Make Selection from the menu that appears.

Go to Select > Inverse (Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + I) to invert your selection, then just press delete to remove the background.

Step 4: Place the Train into the Scene

In the Layers Panel, Cmd-click/Ctrl-click on the train’s layer to make a selection around the train. Copy (Cmd/Ctrl + C) the selection, switch to the main Photoshop document, and paste (Cmd/Ctrl + V) the train in our design.

Place the Train into the Scene

Convert train to a smart object so that we can perform nondestructive transforms on it; do so by Control-clicking/right-clicking on its layer and then choosing Convert to Smart Object.

Use Edit > Free Transform (Cmd/Ctrl + T) to adjust the size of the train (make it a bit smaller).

Step 5: Mask the Train

To hide a few unwanted parts of the train that spills out of the frame border, we will use a mask. To start, with the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M), create a selection like the one shown below:

Mask the Train

To mask the areas outside the rectangular selection, go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection.

Mask the Train

Here is the result of our layer mask:

Mask the Train

Step 6: Aging the Train

In this step, we will slightly alter the surface of the train to make it more harmonious with other design elements in the poster.

Duplicate the train layer by clicking on its layer and then pressing Cmd/Ctrl + J. Change the Blend Mode of the duplicate layer to Color Dodge and reduce the layer’s Opacity to 50%. Apply Filter > Other > High Pass with Radius at 5px.

Aging the Train

As you can see in the image below, the train is now a little less saturated:

Aging the Train

Step 7: Create Some Steam

Reset your Foreground color and Background color to black and white (press D on the keyboard). Create a new layer above the train layers. Use Filter > Render > Clouds on the new layer.

Create Some Steam

Go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All. Switch your Foreground color to white (#ffffff). Use the Brush Tool (B) with a very soft brush (0% Hardness) to paint and reveal steam around the train. Paint on the layer mask using different brush sizes (press [ to reduce the brush size, and ] to increase the brush size) as well as different opacities to create natural variations.

Create Some Steam

Create a new layer above the steam layer and, with a soft brush, dub a few white spots over the steam.

Create Some Steam

Then, change the Blend Mode of the layer to Overlay and set the Opacity to 60%.

Step 8: Create the Poster’s Title

Use the Horizontal Type Tool (T) to write "Steam Power" onto the canvas using the Franchise font; a muted red text color (#b3251b) is a good complementary color to use.

Create the Poster's Title

We will now create a nice drop shadow effect for our text. To start, in the Layers Panel, Cmd-click/Ctrl-click on the text layer’s thumbnail to load a selection around the letters.

Create the Poster's Title

Hide the visibility of the text layer temporarily. Create a new layer below the text layer.

Create the Poster's Title

On the new layer, fill the selection with a dark gray color (#38383b).

Turn your text layer back on. Switch to the Move Tool (V) and then use your arrow keys to nudge the dark gray drop shadow about 7px to the right and 5px down.

Cmd-click/Ctrl-click on the text layer’s thumbnail (or go to Select > Reselect) to reload the selection around the letters. Nudge the selection 3px to the right and 2px down; we only want to move the selection, so if you still have the Move Tool activated, switch to the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M). Make sure you are on the gray drop shadow layer, then hit Delete to remove a small section of the drop shadow around the edge of the text layer.

Set the Blend Mode of the drop shadow layer to Soft Light.

Here is a preview of our progress so far:

Step 9: Add More Text to the Design

Using Goudy Bookletter 1911, type some city names towards the bottom of the canvas.

With the Custom Shape Tool (U), insert red (#b3251b) stars between the city names.

Type word "via" using the Ballpark Weiner font below the train station names. Use a medium gray text color (#aa9090) and a font size of about 42px.

Step 10: Create a Trendy Ribbon

Switch to the Rectangle Tool (U). In the Options Bar, make sure that the tool is set to Shape Layers. Create a red (#b3251b) vector rectangle under the text we added in the previous step.

Place a horizontal guide (View > New Guide) in the middle of the rectangle to help us make the proper adjustments to the red rectangle. In the Layers Panel, select the vector mask of the red rectangle shape layer by clicking on it (it is the thumbnail preview on the right of the link icon).

Click-and-hold on the Pen Tool in the Tools Panel to find the Add Anchor Point Tool. Use the Add Anchor Point Tool to create an anchor point on the left side of the rectangle, using the horizontal guide we created to aid in the creation of the anchor point.

Create a Trendy Ribbon

Switch to the Convert Point Tool by, again, clicking-and-holding the Pen Tool button in the Tools Panel to find the tool. Click once on the anchor point we just created to delete the Bezier curve handles.

Create a Trendy Ribbon

Next, use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select the anchor point, and then pull the anchor point to the right.

Go to Layer > Layer Style > Stroke and use the following settings:

Duplicate the ribbon layer. Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal to change the orientation of the duplicate layer. Use the Move Tool (V) to position the ribbons as shown below:

With the Rectangle Tool, create a diagonal rectangle as shown below, and fill it with a very dark gray (almost black) color (#1f1a0d). You could draw the dark gray rectangle horizontally, then use Free Transform to rotate it.

Using the Direct Selection Tool, adjust the anchor points of the dark gray rectangle using the image below as a reference:

After adjusting the anchor points of the dark gray rectangle, move its layer below the ribbon layers.

Let’s add text on the ribbon. For the font, choose ChunkFive with the text color set to white, and font size set to 45px. Also, increase the Vertically scale option (found in the Character Panel) to 120%.

Here is our ribbon completed:

Step 11: Create the Poster’s Border Using a Layer Mask

In the Layers Panel, select all the layers except the black background. Then go to Layer > Group Layers (Cmd/Ctrl + G) to place all the selected layers into a layer group.

With the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M), create a selection that is slightly smaller than the canvas.

Create the Poster's Border Using a Layer Mask

Be sure that the layer group is selected in the Layers Panel, and then go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection. The black default Background layer we created in the first step now shows through the borders of the canvas.

Create the Poster's Border Using a Layer Mask

Step 12: Add a Paper Texture

Download and open up a paper texture (such as this Vintage Page texture) in Photoshop. Using the Magic Wand Tool (W), click on the white background to select the white background of the paper texture.

Add a Paper Texture

Invert the selection (Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + I) to select just the paper texture.

Add a Paper Texture

Copy and paste the paper texture into our design and scale it with Free Transform (Cmd/Ctrl + T) to fit the canvas.

Go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate to remove the colors of the paper texture.

Add a Paper Texture

Change the paper texture layer’s Blend Mode to Multiply.

Add a Paper Texture

We are finished!

Tutorial Summary

I hope you enjoyed this Photoshop tutorial! To summarize, we created a vintage-inspired poster using an old train photo, paper textures, basic shapes, layer styles, layer masks, blend modes, Photoshop filters and more. We used some trendy design techniques such as creating a cool drop shadow on the poster’s headline text and a ribbon banner. Thanks for reading this tutorial and I hope you have learned some useful tips and tricks.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them in the comments section below.

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