If you’re a blogger and/or business owner I’m not telling anything you don’t know: life is busy.

As a full-time content creator, author, and entrepreneur, my journey creating online content has been quite the ride, which still sees me writing 25-30 blog posts a month for various channels.

Producing so much content is a challenge, but I love to write and see the benefit to my business that comes with publishing content people all over the world want to read.

For a long time, the challenge of producing all that content was made more onerous because I used to design everything for the articles myself, using clunky design programs and the same old stock photos.

It was slow, tedious, and never produced the quality of work I set out for.

Then I found Canva…

How Canva’s helped my business

Starting in 2016, I found Canva and committed myself to designing better visuals for my blog posts. 

The result?

In my view, there’s no coincidence that the improvement in the quality of the graphics included in my blog posts has marked an increase in traffic to them.

In January 2016, we reached a record for visitors to the blog, with over 3,000 monthly hits, and broke that record again in April, with over 10,000 monthly hits.

What you’ll notice in the graph below is this dramatic improvement in growth:

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Screenshot from SEMrush

It’s been rewarding to commit myself to this level of quality in my content and see the signs of that improvement in analytics. Canva has certainly been one of my top tools in creating the visual side of my content that’s seen it’s all-time visitor high.

Use the free Canva templates

You’ll come across Canva blog post templates at the end this article. Clicking on these will open the template in your own Canva account, for you to customize and use in your next offline marketing campaign.

To know which ones are customizable Canva templates, look for the “Edit this design in Canva” caption on the right.

What it Takes to Become a Canva Hero

Believe me, I know how daunting it can be to have to wrap your head around a new tool or piece of software. The effort required to become good at it may seem little worth the reward.

With Canva, the reward is definitely worth the [minimal] effort required to become a pro.

Prior to Canva, my design forays were limited to creating signatures to sell in forums when I was 16 years old, using an old version of Adobe Photoshop.

Since then, I’ve used random apps to piece together graphics. I was always good at “hacking”, but I never found one tool that let me do exactly what I wanted with images, till Canva.

I believe I’m a “good” (not great, but good) designer today because of all the practice I’ve had creating hundreds of images in Canva.

My journey from Canva zero to hero was a progressive one, but the improvement is palpable. Let me give you a design timeline so you can see just how much my skills progressed.

May 2015

Here’s what my design looked like a week after I started out, after playing around in Canva. These were two blog headers (one for my site, one for an Inbound.org piece). Apologies if I burn your eyes a bit.

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July 2015

By the time I made these two, I’d put together over 40 Canva designs for blogs, social media posts, and guest authored posts. I had the input of my COO, a college-educated graphic designer, on what to tailor as far as cleaning up the background and lowering the “noise.”

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ExpressWriters post banner

September 2015

By now, I’m creating multiple Canva designs every week for every blog post that goes out, and to build the new Instagram account I started for Express Writers in August. I’ve created over 100 Canva designs total by now.

I’m getting more shares on average on my blogs, and my Instagram image quotes get about 200% more interaction than my other (blog promotional) IG posts are getting.

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ExpressWriters-SEO-of-2015-QA-with-Jeff-Deutsch

December 2015

I start branching out and use Canva to create 15 gift-wrapped images based on 5 free resources I’m giving away (5 Free Days of Christmas Giveaways campaign). Over 75 people opt-in to the campaign within the month and take grab the giveaway. Here’s one image from the campaign:

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Also, the first iteration graphic of our current #wordfun campaign launches (titled #wordplay):

TODAY

Check out what #wordfun looks like today. Yes, I’m the same designer of the December 2015 #wordplay and May 2016 #wordfun (facepalm).

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And, we’ve now defined a color template and ongoing look for our blog images:

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Julia McCoy blog post header Google

What all this means for me

Looking at my Canva account now, I’m surprised to find I have no less than 13 templates, used to create about 50 images weekly (two of the templates alone produce 10-12 promotional graphics/week just for our Twitter chat #ContentWritingChat and at least 5 blog images a week)

I continue to use Canva for a wide variety of image purposes.

I published a bestseller that went live on Amazon in April this year (So You Think You Can Write? The Definitive Guide to Successful Online Writing), and I’ve used Canva to create book banner ads that I’ve placed in my blog footers as well as a #soyouthinkyoucanwrite social contest.

Here’s an example of the book banner ad:

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And a #soyouthinkyoucan campaign visual:

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These images have definitely resulted in several book purchases and conversions.

I’ve also used Canva to create our company and individual team Twitter/Facebook backgrounds, featuring quotes by famous authors (like the one for @ExpWriters on Twitter).

Is it just me?

I do occasionally pull in my team members to help me create these. Right now this is just one other person, our social media manager who runs #ContentWritingChat, who helps me create blog images and who runs our recently launched hashtag ventures.

Lesson learned: How I keep my brand colors similar without restricting artistry

To end my Canva story, I’m going to touch on a major lesson I’ve learned over the past year: How to balance brand consistency with artistic independence.

If you have a brand, you absolutely need brand guidelines and colors that are visible in your foundational images, like blog headers, etc. (Another facepalm when I think back to my creations of last year).

Our blog, #wordfun, and various hashtag visual projects are all color coded from the same palette, derived from our logo.

However, it’s important to know when to deviate from your guidelines when the opportunity calls for it. Deviating from your brand guidelines occasionally and strategically can end up leading to more shares and engagement.

This worked perfectly for us when we hired a custom illustrator that drew a Canva background for us, like the one in this featured blog’s image:

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These handmade, custom illustrations have seen almost 100% more shares than a more typical blog post. So, it’s important to deviate from you brand guidelines when the situation calls for it or when you’re inspired to create something unique.

Access My Templates!

I’m making a few of my templates available to the general public, per the request of awesome team at Canva. I hope you enjoy them! Click the links to follow through and access the public Canva template I created.

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  •     My book banner ad Template: I rather like how these came out. Simple, but classic! I’ve inserted them in some of our top-ranking blogs and linked to my Amazon book. You might want to change the font and color elements to match your book colors and fonts, which I’ve done. Remember to crop the image after you download it as needed.
Holiday Template
  •     My “gift giveaway” holiday Template: Comprised of a simple bow I pulled in from Canva’s elements and placed on top of an uploaded front page from our free PDF ebook. Very classy, not overloaded, simple and beautiful. We had over 100 subscribers who saw this image and entered their email last December. (Keep in mind the bow element does cost to download, but it’s worth it for the awesome real “gift” visual results you get.)
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  •     My Twitter profile header quote templates: I’ve developed various background images that match beautifully-worded quotes by famous authors, from Mark Twain to Ray Bradbury. They’re branded with our logo, but you can certainly remove that and tailor these images as you’d like.

Editor’s note: Canva’s Top Blog Graphics

We’ve looked through the Canva library and dug out 10 of the best blog graphic layouts you can use to start growing your blog today. To make them your own, just click on them and customize them in your Canva account.

Julia McCoy is a writer and entrepreneur. At 20, she dropped out of nursing school and quit McDonalds to teach herself online writing and start Express Writers. Today, her content agency has over 70 writers and thousands of worldwide clients. Julia hosts The Write Podcast and #ContentWritingChat, and is a bestselling author of So You Think You Can Write?