4 Ways To Leverage Visual Design to Build Your Audience

These days, when I think of audience building, I tend to think of content marketing.

More specifically, I think of writing-based content. I think of blog posts. I think of emails. I think of well-written social posts, in-depth guides, and compelling copy.

What I don’t typically think of is design, but that has started to change over the last few months.

Why?

The same reason any of us change our marketing strategies. We see something working like gangbusters and we hop on that bandwagon like an East Coast, Steph Curry fan.

Today, I’m going to take you through 4 insanely profitable, visual design-based bandwagons that absolute deserve your fanship.

Let’s get started.


1. Design-Focused Link Bait Gets Results


What is link bait?

It’s content designed to grab backlinks.

Sure, we hope that people will backlink to ALL our content, but link bait is created very intentionally with link building as the #1 goal.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a trend happening where more and more websites are producing painfully long, incredibly in-depth content around niche topics. The idea is that if you produce the most in-depth, authoritative resource on a topic, lots of people will want to link to your content.

And guess what?

It works super well!

... until EVERYONE is producing long, in-depth content on the same topics. At that point, you are in a bit of pickle, because this type of content is fairly expensive to produce and if a bunch of your competitors are doing it as well, you can’t always be sure that the ROI will be positive.

For example, this 5,000 word case study I helped put together on local SEO has received under 40 shares.

Why? Because a lot of people are writing in-depth content on SEO. It’s a saturated market.

One of the keys to marketing is copying what other people are doing well while innovating something new that takes it to the next level.

And visual link bait is that next level.

The best part is that the content doesn’t even need to be in-depth. In fact, it can be relatively superficial as long as it looks amazing.

For example:

This content from ConcertHotels.com is actually incredibly simple. It’s literally just a list of 80 popular artists and their lowest + highest notes recorded in the studio.

That’s it.

From a data perspective, this is a brief, 4-column spreadsheet.

But when you introduce a visually appealing design and make it interactive, it becomes insanely ridiculous link bait.

How successful?

This page has received more than 2,600 backlinks from nearly 700 domains, as well as 78,000 Facebook shares!

All that from a simple piece of design work.

In another example, Freelancers Union grabbed email subscribers directly with this well-designed piece called The World’s Longest Invoice.

On the one hand, this page is brilliant because it’s hitting on a key pain point its target audience is experiencing: unpaid invoices.

On the other hand, it is nothing more than a visually stunning page that allows freelancers to sign-in and add their unpaid invoices, the sum of which is displayed at the top of the page.

That’s it.

And yet this page has generated over 2,000 shares and nearly 1,000 backlinks.

As more and more websites publishing longer and longer content, it might be time to re-evaluate and invest in shorter, design-focused content that will get big time results.


2. Utilize Design To Create A Distinct Brand


Just like in-depth written content, the overall practice of blogging and content marketing continues to become more commonplace.

So commonplace, in fact, that 2 million new blog posts and 150,000 new websites hit the web every single day. And while high quality content will ultimately be the driving force behind a successful brand, there is a new method I’ve seen emerging for separating oneself from the pack.

Over the last year, I’ve seen several brands emerge by utilizing a unique design throughout their website and brand.

This sounds super vague, so let me clarify.

When you look at a typical blog or webpage, what do you normally see?

Look at the page you're currently on, for example.

It looks great. It’s clean. It’s modern. There’s nothing wrong with it.

That said, from a design standpoint, there is nothing unique about what I’m seeing. There is nothing that would make me think, “Oh yeah, this is Wishpond” right away.

Now take a look at a sight like KlientBoost, which recently rode it’s content marketing to $100k monthly recurring revenue. They have chosen to embrace an almost whimsical design theme, and it shows everywhere you go on their site.

From dancing figurines in their blog posts:

To bubbly clouds and astronauts on their homepage:

When you land on KlientBoost’s site, there is an immediate recognition thanks to the consistent design.

Now yes, they do invest in creating some fantastic content, but as I mentioned earlier, they aren’t the only ones doing that. There are a lot of other sites writing similar content, and yet KlientBoost has used a unique design theme to differentiate themselves and really create a recognizable brand.


3. Visual Advertising On Social Media


It’s time to beat a dead horse.

There is marketing that EVERYONE is doing that no longer really works that well, and then there is newer marketing that hasn’t had 500 guides written about it and is bringing in insane profits for the people willing to pioneer and test it themselves.

As an opportunist, I like to ride the backend of the latter - wait for the first early adopters to confirm a marketing channel’s viability and then hop on that train before it becomes a bandwagon.

And this is exactly why I am VERY intrigued by Instagram right now. The platform has recently begun offering a variety of new ways to advertise, and as Yotpo's guide to Instagram advertising details, there are some very compelling reasons to test it out.

Ad recall from Instagram sponsored ads is 2.8x higher than other networks.
Consumers are 58x more likely to engage with branded content on Instagram than Facebook and 120x more likely compared to Twitter.
Instagram has Facebook’s targeting capabilities without the saturation.

Simply put, engagement with brands on Instagram is insanely high right now - a statement that can’t be said of other networks.

But ultimately, none of that matters unless the actual ROI is there, and oh... is it ever there.

Case studies for paid ads are just beginning to pop up, so now is the time to start testing this out for you business. Ads are incredibly synergistic with normal Instagram content curation, so if you have had any success with organic Instagram marketing in the past, paid ads are a must-test.

But don’t limit yourself to Instagram. Visual media makes for fantastic advertising on a number of platforms. Facebook video ads can be incredibly effective for the right businesses, and that’s just the beginning.

The main thing is to remember that while other people are writing longer and longer content, you might be able to undercut all that work with a bit of well-focused design.


4. Use Gifs Instead of Images


This is, in my opinion, one of the easiest ways to make your content and landing pages better.

Gifs offer the convenience of images with the effectiveness of video.

Listen, I don’t really ever want to click on a video in order learn something you should be able to immediately tell me via copy or a simple image. I don’t have time for that, and according to conversion experts, your customers don’t either.

That said, sometimes you need to communicate something that can’t be concisely explained via copy or is too complex for an image.

This is why gifs can be so powerful.

For example, a client I was working with recently wanted to display how its mobile landing page builder worked. There were some key features we wanted to highlight, but we were having trouble expressing them via images or copy.

Instead, we used a gif:

This allows the reader to immediately view something more advanced, at their own pace, without needing to make an extra click. It is also less intrusive than an auto-play video, because there is no sound and since it is short and looping, there is no need for the reader to click back to the beginning.

Gifs can also be used to enhance blog content, either for humor’s sake:

Or to demonstrate your offer:


Conclusion


Simply put, visual design is like audience building magic. When you see something that looks amazing, you take note.

The first thing I notice when I hit the Wishpond blog feed is how awesome the header images look:

With the exponentially increasing popularity of visual social platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, the market is right for your design chops to be put on display.

Test out some of the strategies I’ve outlined today:

  • Identify a pain point and address it with a visually stunning linkbait post.
  • Implement a consistent design theme to set your brand apart from the crowd.
  • Test out some image or video- based advertising on Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook.
  • Try out some GIFS in place of images or videos and see what happens.

Visual marketing is the perfect combination of creativity and analytics, so feel free to have some fun with it...

... just as long as you are tracking EVERYTHING.

About the Author:


Jacob McMillen is a website copywriter, content strategist, and career coach. He enjoys laughing at his own jokes and pretending to think in his spare time. Download his free list of 20 Proven Strategies For Tripling Your Email List In Under A Year.