9 Books Every Aspiring Blogger Should Read

09.22.2015   .   Leave a Comment

Are you looking for new sources of inspiration to propel your blogging passions in the right direction? Today I’m sharing some highly-rated books for new bloggers that any creative business person may benefit from adding to their reading list.

I’ve chosen these books as I’ve either recently read and loved or hope to read in the future. I hope these books for bloggers inspire and help you wherever you’re at in your blogging journey!


books for bloggers

Any books on blogging you’d add to the list?

How to Create a Clean & Cohesive Inspiration Board

09.19.2015   .   Leave a Comment

An inspiration board is the foundation for all design projects at By Stephanie. They were part of the design process when I worked at Martha Stewart, and I’ve adopted the same way of working when coming up with original concepts the client is happy with.

For instance, many of my clients ask for a brand that is simple and classic, and there are any number of ways to execute this through the use of color palettes, font combinations, and other brand elements. This ensures we’re on the same page, sets the look and feel of the brand, and gives me a reference to refer to throughout the timeline of the project.

If you’re a designer or a professional looking to get a start on an upcoming project or a client in the midst of a re-brand, my hope is that you find this post helpful.

how to create a mood board


Create a secret board on Pinterest

Thousands of professionally styled images are ready for your choosing on Pinterest. Whether you’re looking for a floral arrangement full of peonies or a classy pair of heels, you’re bound to find the perfect image on this social media platform.

Before a project begins, I have my clients create a secret board and pin images to it that reflect the tone, style, and color scheme of their ideal brand. In the pin description, I ask them to write a brief note on why they chose that particular image. Their description helps me have a better understanding of their preferences as I scroll through their board and pull from their images.

Take a few days away from the Pinterest board. When you revisit it, edit through the images.

Since I give my clients a one-of-a-kind brand, I suggest my clients avoid pinning any other logos. If you’re in a creative field and need to come up with original concepts, you might consider setting guidelines, too.

The more images posted, the better – no need to get hung up on which photos to pin so long as there are enough we can go through and pair down later. Again, the idea here is to collect inspiration.

how to create a mood board

Find Similarities

Once my client finishes the first step I then review images for similarities. This is the ‘art direction’ phase of creating your brand and I look for common themes that my client is drawn to: in the below you can see a light, feminine, and natural aesthetic is a similarity between pins.

how to create mood board

Note: Even though a client might be drawn to a certain color palette, pattern, or style doesn’t mean that it will be the best fit for attracting their ideal audience. As I’m looking through a client’s board, I keep their interests in mind while measuring them against the interests and preferences of their ideal customer.


Adjustments & Layout

After I’ve looked for similarities, I begin to save the strongest images that reflect the direction of the brand. I open a new Adobe Illustrator document and begin to pull the images together in a template, cropping photos as necessary.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • To develop a color palette I pull flat color blocks into each inspiration board. I often use the eyedropper tool in Illustrator to match colors from the images I’ve used.
  • The related pins section underneath each Pinterest image is helpful for finding images of the same subject matter, color, or style. I will sometimes  go here when I’m in need of other images for the board.
  • I never use a photo just for its color; it’s important that the subject matter and style of each photo matches the theme of the brand.


Here’s a look at the most recent inspiration boards I’ve completed – (stay tuned as these brands will launch in the next few months!)

how to create a mood board

how to create a moodboard

Final Usage

Once the client is happy with the board, I refer to the final product while designing in Illustrator. I measure each design decision against the direction of the board, and I pull elements of the photos into every part of the new brand.


Do you use inspiration boards? If so, how do you go about making them?

10 Classic Flats Every Woman Should Own

09.09.2015   .   Leave a Comment

When it comes to classic flats for women, there are so many timeless styles from which to choose. When there’s lots of walking involved? I’m all about the power flat. Cheap shoes never last and never fit as well as the real deal. So I decided to round up 10 styles that will never go out of style. From simple ballet flats to embroidered smoking slippers, here’s my list of 10 classic flats every woman should own.

stubbs wooten ballet flats

1. Tod’s Driving Moccasin ($425)

2. Tory Burch Reva Flats ($225)

3. Stubbs & Wooten Embroidered Slippers ($555 Similar for $99)

4. Sperry Top-Sider Boat Shoes ($88)

5. J. Crew Metallic Loafers ($158)

6. Kate Spade New York Willa Denim ($198)

7. Jimmy Choo Alina pointy toe flats $550 Similar for $138)

8. J. Crew Ballet Flats ($125)

9. Chloe Scalloped Ballet Flats ($550 Similar for $129.99)

10. Vince Camuto Cap-Toe ($98)

Any other brands or styles you’d add to the list?

SEO Made Easy

09.09.2015   .   Leave a Comment

SEO is one of those topics that has the potential to leave you with 100 questions. You understand the importance of search engine optimization in ranking higher in search engines, but when it comes to getting started you may be alittle unsure or overwhelmed when it comes to implementing best practices on your own. So I’m sharing a few simple ways to get you started enhancing your SEO that may benefit your blog or website today.

SEO Made Easy | By Stephanie

( Grab a free frenchie phone wallpaper here )

Many may consider SEO a quick solution to their site’s lack of traffic but most know a consistent, long-term strategy is needed. With the ever-changing landscape of SEO it’s important to have a basic understanding of how Google operates before devoting too much time or money into enhancing your search engine optimization.

Content Trumps SEO

Content is a central component to SEO; great content generates traffic on its own and organic traffic is best for creating natural back-links, which enhances SEO rankings. So when creating content experiment and don’t be afraid to experiment with new ideas or way of thinking for your niche. If you’re generating great content that your audience finds helpful, your traffic will increase along with your website’s search ranking.

Google stresses content in their SEO starter guide:

“Even though this guide’s title contains the words ‘search engine,’ we’d like to say that you should base your optimization decisions first and foremost on what’s best for the visitor’s of your site. They’re the main consumers of your content and are using search engines to find your work. Focusing too hard on specific tweaks to gain ranking in the organic results of search engines may not deliver the desired results.”


SEO Defined

There’s alot of conflicting information out there about search engine optimization, but it’s important to define exactly what that acronym stands for. Search Engine Optimization refers to the strategies and techniques that are used to improve your site’s ranking on Google. When you enter a subject in Google’s search bar and hit Enter, Google crawls and indexes pages to see which websites are the most relevant. Many websites attempt to build in keywords and implement other techniques in order for Google to find their site relevant and give them a high ranking, and this is called SEO.

Google emphasizes content in their SEO starter guide:

“Even though this guide’s title contains the words ‘search engine,’ we’d like to say that you should base your optimization decisions first and foremost on what’s best for the visitor’s of your site. They’re the main consumers of your content and are using search engines to find your work. Focusing too hard on specific tweaks to gain ranking in the organic results of search engines may not deliver the desired results.”



What You Should Do to Enhance Your SEO

If you’re looking to get traction with your blog or website and get your content in front of more people, here are some simple ways to improve your SEO today:

Submit Content To Google

seo made simple

1. Submit Your Content to Google

As the owner of a website, Google allows you to submit your content to increase your visibility in their rankings. To submit your website, click here.

2. Sign into Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools monitors your site’s performance in Google searches. Here’s Google’s description of this tool:

Webmaster Tools is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google Search results. You don’t have to sign up for Webmaster Tools for your site to be included in Google’s search results, but doing so can help you understand how Google views your site and optimize its performance in search results.”

If you have a Google account, you already have a Google Webmaster Tools account. Simply visit this link and verify your website.

3. Add Your Sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools

Providing Google with your sitemap allows the search engine to better navigate, index, and crawl your site.

From your home screen, click on your domain name to access your Site Dashboard. In the left-hand panel, click Crawl > Sitemaps. In the right-hand corner of the screen, click Add/Test Sitemap.


Focus On Long-Tail Keywords In Your Blog Post Title

Gone are the days of stuffing your site full of keywords to increase your pagerank; in fact your website will get penalized:

“Keyword stuffing” refers to the practice of loading a website with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group, or out of context (not as natural prose). Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking.” (source)

Long-tail keywords are the easiest solution to this problem. A long-tail keyword is a specific phrase most searched by a search engine user. You would probably search for ‘How to Contour Your Face With [Brand Name] Product ‘ before searching for ‘[Brand Name] Product.’  People tend to have a pretty good idea of what they’re looking for before they search for something in Google, and it’s usually something fairly specific.

Not only is it helpful to have a solid idea of what you’re writing about at the outset, but you’re more likely to include that same phrase or group of words throughout your post when you determine the title at the beginning.

How do you know which long-tail keywords to use?

If you already have the idea for your post, that’s great. Just open Google Adwords Keyword Planner which is displayed below. This helpful tool can help you understand which phrases have low competition, which means you could potentially rank higher in search results. Take time experimenting and adding as many keywords as you like to see what options turn up. These would be terms you think someone might be searching for to find your post.

Using the example of above of ‘How to Contour Your Face With [Brand Name] Product,’ here’s a look at what I found:

seo made easy

The “avg. monthly searches” refers to how many times people searched for that exact phrase on Google. Although I don’t use the Keyword Planner for ads, “Competition” can be a good indicator of how many posts you’ll be competing against for one of the top spots in a search engine ranking (“low” or “medium” are good). The less popular, the greater the possibility that your posts might rank higher in Google.

Choose Relevant Topics

Another way of creating SEO-friendly content is to chose revelant topics. If there is suddenly a very popular search engine request – Google seeks out content that contains relevant terms and ranks them higher.

It’s important to stay on top of the latest news and topics in your industry even if it doesn’t mean a post should happen. You can even check out popular search engine queries by using Google Trends. Not only will relevant posts position you in your industry, but your SEO will benefit from it, too.

There you have it! SEO is a continuous work in progress and this post is really the tip of the  iceberg but my hope is this gives you a foundation to start creating content that is optimized for Google without all the frustration and confusion.

What SEO topics do you struggle with?