Northern Virginia - WebSubstance - Web Design and Search Engine Marketing

Telling a Relatable Story

In the online marketing world, it's tough for companies to stand out. In many industries, competitors are elbow to elbow -- not only on the street, but also on the Internet, where millions of users type in the same keywords to look for product or service providers.

How Do You Beat These Online Marketing Blues?

In the earlier days, companies used strategies like keyword stuffing and detailed SEO page ranking implementations. They prayed their pay-per-click advertising that would pick up more web traffic than their competitors.

These days, more companies are investing in bigger, better and more professional websites to present a better face to their audiences. This can help a business to gain market share in its local community and reach out to a more distributed audience around the world.

Who Are You?

One of the big questions that anyone asks when they research a company online is 'who's behind this company? Where did it come from?' Of course, they're looking for what it's selling, as well -- which is why it's a good idea to have specific product pages and other technical information available to easily access on the site for these experienced shoppers. But beyond that, people want to have a sense of they are buying from, and what the company stands for.

Too many businesses shrug off this responsibility and talk to customers from behind a rather anonymous web portal. It's better, however, to see this as an opportunity to really get your message out and distinguish yourself from a flood of other businesses in your industry.

Building the Narrative

Some of the smartest online marketers know that personal narratives drive engagement and, ultimately, acquisition.

Think about a doctor who posts his or her bio on the provider website. Why would you do this? Why not just show what you're selling, explain treatment, and be done with it?

The reason is because the doctor's own personality and personal profile and philosophy of care are tied to what he or she is selling. You're not just selling a service -- you're selling that person's experience and skill and authority … and his or her bedside manner. Think about it -- what do people say when they pass on business recommendations through word-of-mouth? Do they talk about the products and services -- or do they talk more about the business owner?

So the next time you see a developed personal bio on a doctor's website, or you see a lot of really specific company history on a retailer's website, keep in mind this is a deliberate strategy that works out in that business's favor.

Want to Tell a Better Story for Your Business?

WebSubstance can help. We've extensive experience helping clients to innovate on the web. We can craft your business story that your prospects will love to read and share with others. Building relatable narratives for readers is a smart way to convert them as customers.  

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Outreach with Business Cards – It’s Not Just A 20th Century Thing

With all the focus on social media and other digital resources today, some individuals and companies fail to keep in mind the time-tested utility of business cards.

While some types of printed materials like brochures and other literature are being phased out, people are still carrying business cards. The reason has to do with the very specific ways that we network and move within our two different digital and physical worlds.

The Real-World Networking Puzzle

Think about how people actually exchange information in the field. You walk up to someone -- maybe you're at a trade convention, or a government meeting, or some kind of demo at a local business. There's a crowd milling around. There's a lot going on. And you want to reach a specific person and introduce yourself.

In these kinds of situations, the business card is as important as the handshake. Digital tools haven't replace the handshake as an efficient way to introduce yourself -- and they haven’t replaced business cards either.

Why is that? It's because of some relatively subtle and specific types of body language that we’re all comfortable with. Most of us smart phone carriers are still not comfortable using our devices to try to get people's contact information when we’re out and about. We don't take time to take out the iPhone, type in someone's name and phone number and company information, while we’re in a crowd we’re trying to do something else in a physical environment, unless there’s no other option. Mostly, we prefer paper. In terms of easy digital swapping, we’re not quite there yet. Maybe someday, they'll make a new feature where you just rub your smartphones together and the digital business card comes from one to another, but we’re nowhere near that point.

Taking a physical business card is an activity that only takes a second. But it conveys all that critical information -- not just your name and phone number, but your job title and what you do, and who you work for and where you're located.

You could argue that business cards often make their way directly into the trash can, and in some cases you'd be right. But they're still the most effective way to exchange information when you're not behind the keyboard.

Looking at Networking and First Impressions

At Websubstance, we can help you make sure that your marketing impressions are complementary across both the digital and physical worlds. Just like you design your business card for maximum readability and impact, your website project has to be engineered in the same way. You want readers to be comfortable, and you want them to be able to access the right information quickly. You want your web project to look well-put-together, so that it gives the impression of a company with money and resources.

Let us help to achieve all of this on your website, so that you look good on the street and on the web as well.

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Is There A Buzz?


The Internet is like a beehive -- activity coalesces around shared goals and interests. Build a site that appeals to common interests, and you'll build organic readership that's going to trump anything that your SEO team can dream up.

Traditional Search Engine Optimization

As the Internet has evolved, companies have tried all kinds of things to get their sites better rankings and more page views. They scramble to adapt to Google algorithm changes like Panda and Penguin. They fill workshops full of people building the perfect 500-word page with tags, meta-descriptions and more. But not as many of them focus on the core issue of developing a site that people really want to use.

The Long-Form Content Battle

Now, a lot more companies, especially the big dogs with lots of analytical and marketing firepower, are starting to go with a different approach. They're building out editorial newsrooms and using new content methods to show real narratives, and really tell a story for their audiences. They're also cutting closer to the common interests of readers with skilled commentators, experienced testimony, and other forms of writing that show they are really relevant to what's happening today.

How Does It Work?

One example of investing in long-form content is to gauge the interests of the customer base and develop them. Let's take an easy example and look at an auto site. Someone selling auto parts or auto insurance, or anything car-related, can put up a set of carefully keyworded pages for each manufacturer and model type, hoping to garner high Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page) rankings. Or, they can take a reporter and go to a show room and have that person actually talk to dealerships and report on what he or she sees.

With the first approach, page rankings can get temporarily pumped up, and the company might get some accidental traffic with people typing hasty Google searches. With this second approach, this site starts to build an actual readership. Other company people can jump in to optimize social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc. to start building out, to get more and more people interested in what the site has to say. It's important to know that social media is a great amplifier here -- it's no coincidence that more companies are taking a strong narrative approach now that they have social media departments that can post or tweet out anything that happens on their core web site.

How Do I Build a Good Site and Get Buzz?

Getting interest around your site starts with a creative approach, but it also necessitates good design work. At WebSubstance, we have experience getting a range of clients quality, high-design web projects that are “actionable” -- sites that the company can build on with social media expansion and everything else discussed above. Build your site work on a firm foundation by going with the company with a reputation for excellence in web design and coding, along with extra services like photography and site optimization. We’ll be your partners in constructing something useful and exciting on the web.

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Are Your Logos 'Responsive?'


Lots of us have got the memo about responsive web design and making sure controls are user-friendly, but not as many sites have great text. Top-level logos can benefit from some extra TLC, like stretching them into creative shapes, etc. That really draws the reader’s eye and makes a site stand out in the herd. Get this and more from WebSubstance…

When it comes to web design, it's often the little details that allow a site to stand head and shoulders above the competition.

By now, with the global Internet acting as a major e-commerce hub for more than a decade, most businesses have mastered the art of the 500-word page, and the basics of how to create a web menu. Likewise, with mobile commerce making up so much of the online landscape, companies are now migrating from the traditional HTML designs of laptop and desktop days, to dual-use sites that can present a project well on either a computer screen, or a smaller smart phone or mobile device.

Responsive Controls

Experts talk a lot about ‘responsive design,’ the need to make sure that all users have a good time on your site. Responsive design basically means making sites accessible for both computer and mobile device users. It means eliminating all of that crazy up-and-down and side-to side-scrolling, and creating controls that make sense when they're populated on a smartphone.

But in all that, you don't hear a lot about the role of text. Pieces of text need to be ‘responsive’ in an entirely different way. They need to create a response in the reader. And with so much clutter on the Internet, that's getting harder and harder over time.

Creating Great Logos

Logos and other short bits of text need to be built right to get attention.

So many companies are simply typing in page content, and maybe clicking on a headline 1 or headline 2 format for more important titles and headers. The text really isn't reaching out to readers. It doesn't have the great typography and layout that draws people in and makes the company look impressive online.

Creating great logos means making an eye-catching bit of text that doesn't conform to the standard fonts that you see all over the web -- Times New Roman, etc. How do you do this? You basically have to break out of the box, take each letter and make it an art form. This long list of examples at Awward will give you a good set of starter examples on real, innovative logo design -- for example, in many of these, specific letters are made into objects. In others, letters are tweaked, curved or stretched in a way that's different and catches the eye.

At WebSubstance, we understand that every element of your web site needs to be great. You don't just need responsive design and overall functions – you need style. That means every word and every image has to evoke a feeling in a reader. You don't just want to plunk down content, even if you have the best HTML/CSS design. Let WebSubstance help you with your web projects. Our experienced technicians and creative people will give you that one-two punch: a site that users can easily navigate, with straightforward controls and icons, but that also has a lot of curb appeal. Don't settle for less. Go with a firm that understands the real values of professional web design.

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5 Reasons to go with a Professional Web Design Firm


A lot of companies realize that the constraints on their own time and resources, it makes sense to hire a professional web design firm to create a new web project, rather than making their own staffers build one of these projects from scratch. However, some are still on the fence, in terms of whether to invest that money in professional services are not. Here are some of the biggest reasons that companies decide to go with a qualified, professional outside web design company.

Getting Things Done Quickly

Yes, a company could task its own IT department and creative department with a web site project, but they'll be needing to pull people from other jobs and delegate work accordingly. This can take a good bit of time. A professional web design firm is ready to go on day one, to put a business plan into action.

They’re Go-Getters

The best professional web design firms are good at what they do, and they do it all the time. They’re proactive about getting started on a project. They can reach out to start whipping up a new web site, using effective dialogue with clients, and a clear and upfront approach. This takes a lot of time and effort out of managing a web site project or upgrade.

Up to Date on Technologies

Got HTML 5? Chances are none of the people at your company are super-experts on the latest web design formats. They probably don't spend their spare time reading books on HTML 5 or Cascading Style Sheets. But that's precisely what the professional web design Companies do - so that when they build your site, they're not taking time scanning dictionaries for the latest syntax, or trying to figure out how to create consistent color schemes.

Focusing on Core Operations

Giving your web project to an outside firm allows you to keep your team concentrated on your business objectives. Whether it's selling more products or deploying people to service operations, this is where you want your attention, not on outside advertising and other kinds of distractions.

Strategic Partnerships

Most anybody who has created a startup from scratch will tell you that it’s easier to do with a partner. The same goes for more established companies looking to make big changes -- partnerships help them to do this more efficiently, but they also give the company more visibility. People start to recognize how a firm works within its community. It's an opportunity to do some ‘soft branding’ by getting to know another company, promoting its services, and having it promote yours in return.

Working with WebSubstance

At WebSubstance, we will help you every step of the way, to design a great site that looks good, and works good, too. We specialize in taking on all aspects of web creation, offering extras like photography and more, to really allow you to shift off the burden of building, and give you peace of mind about results. Talk to us about how to get the new web results that you need.

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A Few Reasons to Update Your Portrait


Some companies invest in professional portrait services or other photography services, and that's a good idea. Not having this kind of photography on a web site can create a poor impression. But there's another issue: companies can end up using these images long past their expiration dates.

Here are some of the best reasons for having professional and up-to-date images on your site.

Changes in Your Image

Simply put, people change their appearances over time. Taking a look at old portraits, you might notice that you're wearing different and possibly outdated clothing. Any improvements you made to hairstyles or other aspects of how you look won't be reflected in the old pictures. And at the end of the day, these pictures probably just don’t look like you.

Having updated pictures does a few things for your site -- it gives a more consistent impression of who you are now, and it can also make you look more professional online.

Changes in Photography Trends

Photography equipment and technique also has changed quickly over the last few decades. Even ten years ago, the technology that was used wasn’t consistent with what's being done today.

Old portraits can often look washed out, poorly lit, or otherwise less attractive for a web site. It’s a combination of when the pictures were taken, and how they were taken. But it’s fixable.

Want Better Than the Originals?

Getting the best photos on a page takes thought. Maybe the originals are okay, but you want something that really wows the crowds. Are your pictures and profile images enough? Are they welcoming and accommodating? Do they look attractive and professional?

It's also a good idea to look at other visual aspects like skin-tone and eye tone.. Getting the right photo retouch in post processing will give you the right skin tone, and make your eyes sparkle like diamonds in the sky. 

Working with WebSubstance

At WebSubstance, part of what we offer is professional photography services that bring professionalism to a site. We can help you to update old pictures or create a brand-new photo archive for landing pages and more. We work closely with our clients, using techniques in postproduction to optimize photos and make them look natural and friendly, as well as modern. We take the time to review your portraits and get your feedback, to get you just the right results.

Photography is one of the extras that we bring to the table as a web design company. When you get a brand-new web site, you don't just want average photography, you want what's good. Let us help you build your site visually to create a better impression.

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Does Your ‘Platform’ Make a Difference in Web Design?


When it's time to create a web site, there are lots of decisions to be made. These days, companies and other site creators have a lot of options for creating smoothly styled and user-friendly sites.

User-friendly Web Site Creation

Different strategies offer easy ways to do web design. Planners want intuitive controls on the back end, a logical relationship between the back end and the front end, and transparent ways to monitor the site for traffic and more.

Basically, companies want web surfers to be able to go in and access all parts of the site without having to scroll around or click around in confusion. They want an “intuitive” site that is welcoming and accommodating, even for people who have not grown up around computers. But all of this takes detailed work and dedication. These kinds of web sites don’t write themselves. They rely on professional design objectives and experienced webmasters doing in-depth work to create a good site, the way an architect designs a livable and comfortable home.

Creating the Right Impression

Another issue with web design is the visual impression that a site will make. This is another aspect of the industry where there's fierce competition in terms of offering customers what they want. With new technologies for consistent page creation, web designers are able to really put together sites that look professional and that make a client look good.

Using Web Platforms

Finding the right programming environment for a web site can be challenging. This is where companies often have a hard time figuring out the path toward creating those results that they need.

Skilled vendors, on the other hand, have worked with a variety of ‘platforms.’ They know how to choose the ones that will make the most sense for a particular project, and even more important, how to tailor the chosen resource toward the client’s needs and objectives.

Working with WebSubstance -- Getting Targeted Results

At WebSubstance, our expert designers know how to use a given platform to get the best result. We will help you look through design schematics and listen to your ideas about what you need, not just for landing pages that shine, but for actual site functionality that you can use to keep in touch with customers, streamline sales processes and much more. That’s why we ask about a client’s “three to five year plan” in terms of goals, to match those with what we design.

We understand why platforms offer the tools that they do, and how companies can use them to get superior web sites built. We’ll also help with extras like strategic content writing and other kinds of planning for a site. Let us help to create the best web impressions for reaching an audience and growing a business over time.

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Corporate Photography

Contact Us

21800 Town Center Plaza, #266A-281
Sterling, VA 20164
(703) 470-0808
Jenny Le - President