List of the Best Free Online Resources for Small Business Owners

There is plenty of free tools you can use to make your online presence building faster, better and easier. Don’t believe that every small business has to start off with custom solutions and trailblaze their strategy – that approach is virtually impossible and way too ambitious! (I am not even mentioning how big of a waste of time that is too). How about making use of the existing resources prepared by professionals and shared online freely?

If you want more free resources including document templates and checklists to support your small business online presence, subscribe to my free Library of Resources. 

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How to Source Stock Photos Legally? Photo Licenses Explained

You know the visual side of your blog, website and social media matter. So you either take photography crash course or you start searching for stock photography websites. However, there is plenty of issues regarding online image sourcing and how to do it legally.

The misconceptions stop people from accessing the incredible number of 100% free public domain photos or have them using images found on Google Search (a hint: this gets you into serious trouble). When building a strong online presence, make sure you not only create visually stunning channels but also avoid the holes in the bumpy road of copyright.

The four most common online photo sourcing mistakes:

  • Using images found on social media and crediting image source as said social media. Despite people thinking Pinterest to be a free image repository, the platform does not hold the copyright to any content published on it. You have to dig deeper to find the author.
  • Using images found on Google Search result pages. Similarly to Pinterest, Google does not own the rights to any image indexed – Google simply pulls the images together in response to your keyword search.
  • Not understanding different licenses or copyright. People do not realise they do not hold the copyright to the photos of them commissioned from a photographer or that most Creative Commons licenses require attribution. This causes issues in form of sharing uncredited photos or adjusting images with a photo filter when the author prohibited it.
  • Taking without asking. Many people use content created by others unknowingly taking crediting the author (so-called ‘hat tip’ or ‘shout out’) is enough of a payment. More and more content creators require their written permissions to republish their content.

What is copyright?

Copyright is, as explained in Wikipedia, ‘a legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution.’ By creating a photo or a song you automatically become the copyright holder (copyright protects the intellectual property) unless other legal circumstances apply. The only licenses which indicate the original copyright holder waived their rights to their creation are Creative Commons Zero (CC0) or Public Domain license.

Understanding different photo licenses

When talking about stock photography licensing and free/paid availability of the photos, we can distinguish three different models of licensing:

  • Paid
  • Free but Attribution Required
  • Free/Public Domain

-> Paid licenses

There are two dominant models of paid image licensing used by the biggest stock photography providers: Rights Managed (RM) and Royalty-Free (RF).

Rights Managed license, or RM, in photography and the stock photo industry, refers to a ‘copyright license which, if purchased by a user, allows the one-time use of the photo as specified by the license. If the user wants to use the photo for other uses an additional license needs to be purchased’ (Source: Wikipedia). It’s an old model of licensing calculating licence charge on the basis of specific use, medium, period of time, print run, placement, size of content, territory selected and so on. Sites such as Getty Images uses this particular type of license.

Royalty Free license, or RF, refers to ‘the right to use copyright material or intellectual property without the need to pay royalties or license fees for each use or per volume sold, or some time period of use or sales’ (Source: Wikipedia). This particular license is used by Shutterstock, which offers all images as Royalty-Free split into different subscription-based models.

Exclusive and non-exclusive licenses

There are also two extensions of RM and RF licenses – exclusive and non-exclusive. The exclusive one ‘means that during the period that exclusive rights are granted, you agree that rights to use that image will not be sold to anyone else‘ (Source). Based on that, license exclusivity is pretty expensive and can only be applied to RM images. RF images can be licensed on non-exclusive basis since the royalty-free license gives the buyer freedom of use by default. Stock photography is primarily non-exclusive (although Getty Images allows exclusivity upon additional fee payment), while commissioned projects tend to be exclusive.

-> Free but Attribution Required

Creative Commons (CC) is a fairly recent development in the copyright licensing world – it was created in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig, Hal Abelson, and Eric Eldred with the support of Center for the Public Domain based in the US. Some criticise its ‘justice movement’ aspirations and blame CC for the increase in copyright infringement cases.

CC enables content creators to license their images under one of the seven available license types, communication what rights are reserved by the copyright holder and which are waived for the benefit of potential users. Creative Commons licenses mean the photos are used on unpaid basis but six out of seven of them require the content to be attributed, which means providing author credits. Thanks to living in a digitized world it usually comes down to clearly stating the name of the author and adding a link to the original image source (attribution formats are usually provided on the site from which you download the image, for example, Freepik generates HTML attribution you can copy and paste into your blog post).

Licenses are written to conform with international copyright treaties and have been adapted to the local law of over 50 different countries. Thanks to this pretty much anybody can generate a legally binding licence via the official website. For more detailed information, visit their FAQ section.

Each license is ‘built’ by the original creators through choosing from these set conditions (Source: Creative Commons):

  • Attribution (by) – All CC licenses require that others who use your work in any way must give you credit the way you request, but not in a way that suggests you endorse them or their use. If they want to use your work without giving you credit or for endorsement purposes, they must get your permission first.
  • ShareAlike (sa) – You let others copy, distribute, display, perform, and modify your work, as long as they distribute any modified work on the same terms. If they want to distribute modified works under other terms, they must get your permission first.
  • NonCommercial (nc) – You let others copy, distribute, display, perform, and (unless you have chosen NoDerivatives) modify and use your work for any purpose other than commercially unless they get your permission first.
  • NoDerivatives (nd) – You let others copy, distribute, display and perform only original copies of your work. If they want to modify your work, they must get your permission first.

List-of-creative-commons-licenses-and-their-requirements-768x321

Source: Creative Commons license page on Wikipedia

-> Free/Public Domain

Public domain work (also referred to as CC0 as it’s the last of the seven Creative Commons licenses) is free for use by anyone for any purpose without restriction under copyright law. ‘Public domain is the purest form of open/free since no one owns or controls the material in any way’ (Source: Creative Commons Wiki). Work can be licensed under public domain by the creator or fall under the public domain license after the original copyright had expired. The latter is often filed under Public Domain Mark, a tool announced in 2010 by Creative Commons used for ‘works that are no longer restricted by copyright to be marked as such in a standard and simple way, making them easily discoverable and available to others’ (Source: Creative Commons).

Personal use vs commercial use for bloggers

Contrary to the popular belief, most bloggers are not non-commercial users. Once their websites start featuring ads, they fall into the commercial category. In general, despite a lot of confusion about non-commercial and commercial uses (Creative Commons even commissioned a research ‘Defining “Non-commercial -A Study of How the Online Population Understands “Noncommercial Use” September 2009’ ), I suggest individual bloggers who want to monetize their blogs steer clear of non-commercially labelled photos.

How to check an image for copyright?

If the website you used does not explicitly state who is the copyright owner, you can check the copyright statement and other details by looking at image EXIF (Exchangeable Image Format) metadata. There are two ways to do it.

#1 Check copyright notice in image properties. This is not the best way when the image is not downloaded from its original source as the metadata could have been manipulated and resaved.

Download the image to your computer and right click on it. Select ‘Properties’ and go to ‘Details’ tab. You can see in the screenshot below that the copyright field is filled and attributed.

How-to-check-if-an-image-is-copyrighted-by-Aneta-Pawlik-768x492

 

#2 Check EXIF info in CameraSummary

CameraSummary is a free online tool, which extracts EXIF data of an image. You can upload the image straight from the desktop. To protect the privacy of its users, CameraSummary deletes the files from its server after 10 minutes.

How-to-check-if-an-image-is-copyrighted-by-Aneta-Pawlik-768x492


Five reasons you should help this gal out and share this article:

  1. You loved it and just like everything else you love, you want to share it.
  2. You now know how to avoid copyright breach and want to thank me.
  3. I am a blogger and there is no better way to be recognised than to have my content shared on social media.

The Ultimate Guide to Writing SEO and User-Friendly Blog Articles [FREE CHECKLIST]

Updated: 23/09/2018

A blog with useful quality content can significantly improve your website’s search visibility.

How? Read on.

Why writing good quality content matters for SEO

There is a lot of confusion about how good content fits into a healthy SEO strategy. They come from the simple fact: a lot of people just don’t keep up to date with the way Google has developed since it came into existence. And boy, did it trailblaze the art of search!

When Larry Page and Sergey Brin started crafting their search algorithm in 1996 – at first known as “BackRub” – they relied on a very basic ranking signal namely counting the number of backlinks (the number of links leading to a website) which is known as PageRank (yeah, you got it – it was named after Larry Page!). A ranking signal is an element of a website that a search engine evaluates to judge where the website should show up on the search engine results page (SERP).  The innovative approach of Google founders to search algorithms – judging page’s value based on how many people referenced that page thus indicating it’s been useful to them – is the basis of Google’s philosophy – the websites built to be useful to users are considered more valuable.

Fast forward to now, where Google has developed secret AI techniques (known as RankBrain) and a worldwide network of human search quality raters that evaluate pages that filter to your browser. Even stronger and louder than before, Google has repeatedly stated that what they are looking for is delivering content that is useful to search engine users.

How does one judge the usefulness of an article? According to MOZ, an SEO authority (I recommend their awesome Beginner’s Guide to SEO, which I strongly encourage you to dive into, including the rewritten chapters), the key three website ranking signals today are:

1) Links to your page

2) Page content

3) RankBrain evaluation

So as you can see what Google is looking at is: how many people liked your post and subsequently referenced and shared it; how good is your content based on how many people clicked through to it on search engine results page, how long they stayed and whether the content answered their questions based on the behaviour after they have visited your page; and finally what the final score of the Google algorithm scan looks like. 

All of these point to the quality of what you have written. 

In this guide, I will walk you through a solid step-by-step process for writing articles that are user-friendly and respectively strengthen your SEO efforts. Make sure you grab this useful checklist for writing really good content that will provide real quality to your readers.

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Save Interesting Content Online with These Content Research Tools [ 2018 Update ]

Updated: 11/09/2018

Curating content, finding inspiration, saving long reads for later, saving quotes, which will be used for your inspiring quotes, making lists of useful articles, picking up research stats here and there – add all that together and you might faint at the amount of time you spend doing online content research. 

What is ‘content research’?

Content research means exploring relevant topic areas to curate informed, comprehensive and up to date content for your blog, social media, video, website and so on. Whenever you are reading articles, watching informative videos or saving Instagram posts to replicate later, you are in fact conducting content research. 

I will share with you this tiny tidbit of information: content research does not have to take hours and hours on end. In fact, content research can be really pleasant! I wrote this short guide to my favourite free tools, which will help you easily save interesting content, that you can later use for your social media or blog article. Read the list, try them out, thank me later.

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