Northern Virginia - WebSubstance - Web Design and Search Engine Marketing

2018 Digital Planning for Local Businesses in Northern Virginia

The end of the year is a busy time for any company -- and that's definitely true down by the nation's capital in Northern Virginia, where the Christmas season supercharges the usual flood of consumer traffic and ramps up activity in preparation for the new year.

With that in mind, how do local businesses gear up for their digital planning strategies for the year ahead?

Here are some solid ways to make sure that your business is ready for 2018 with good investments in marketing technology and strategic use of data resources.

Audience Targeting for 2018

As technologies evolve, audience targeting changes. Businesses are getting many more new tools and resources to figure out who their customers are, and how targeting works. There is a more granular ability to create classifications and constructs that help marketers to go out and do their jobs well. In 2018, sale is going to be backed by more automation -- from Salesforce to open source projects that take business data and give it to the people who make things happen. Make sure your business is on the vanguard of the local community's effort to enhance this type of targeting in 2018. Consider a Plan for New Upgrades

Considering a plan to move workloads to the cloud? What about a move toward container virtualization? There is also the idea of machine learning and artificial intelligence automation on the rise. What all of these things have in common is that businesses thrive from taking deliberate steps, and sometimes fail by taking giant leaps of faith.

When you want to do an important upgrade, do the research first. Make sure you have a plan for data. Make sure you know how you will train all levels of staff. Make sure you have looked in detail at subscription pricing and everything else. This is a huge component of digital planning -- because how you use any tool depends on how you prepare to use it.

Evaluating Web Footprints

Another great big part of digital planning for 2018 is figuring out how you will reach customers where they are -- and increasingly, that's online. Visitors have to always be vigilant in planning and re-planning their interfaces for laptop and desktop computers, as well as smart phones. That's why we talk so much about responsive design and why it's important.

In general, companies can get more bang for their buck with marketing online than they can through a lot of traditional media formats. But again, good planning increases that return on investment. You'll want to know exactly how new investments in your website are going to pay off.

WebSubstance is a premier Northern Virginia marketing company that is dedicated to helping client businesses in the area to really compete in today's high-tech digital world. We specialize in the modern-day marketing technology and know how to provide all of the marketing consulting and IT support to help a business upgrade its web presence and make sure that it has a competitive model in place. Talk to us early in the new year to get started moving forward and set goals to achieve in 2018.

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Glitzy, But Not Trashy -- Balancing Page Sophistication and Load Performance

Companies want their websites to be attractive and engaging to web users. They often feel that adding a lot of neat visual features and other extras is going to help accomplish this goal. But in reality, there is a careful balancing act to be achieved here. Too much of this stuff can clutter a website and need to underlying crashes or slow load times, so that a large significant portion of an audience either isn't able to access the site, or becomes irritated or distracted and leaves.

Here are some critical things to think about when contemplating overall web design.

Evaluating Video

Want to have a high-powered video as part of your sales pitch on a landing page? Make sure that it can load well on a variety of browsers, and on a mobile screen. You'll also want to evaluate questions about bandwidth.

One way to solve some of these problems is by hosting the video on a separate site. YouTube is probably the most common choice. Instead of posting a video on your web server, you can simply embed a YouTube video on your webpage. This gives the customer easy access, but it also ensures that they will be able to easily load the video on YouTube's robust infrastructure.

Multilayer Forms, Big Graphics and Other Extras

It's also important to evaluate any other extras that you put onto a website.

Remember the early days of the Internet? While experimenting with what worked for web users, webmasters got carried away with some pretty funky designs. For instance, a lot of webmasters thought it would be great to play music in the background as part of a landing page -- it's easy to code a song into a webpage in HTML, but you almost never see that anymore. Why is that? It's because, in the vast majority of cases, it became an annoying nuisance for users to deal with. They had trouble turning a song off, or they couldn't load it right, or it got in the way.

That's how it is with many other parts of today's websites, whether it's multilayer forms, extensive CSS coding, or big banner graphics and slideshows that slow download times or crash a page.

Get the Content Front and Center

What you want to do in web design is get the most important content right in front of the audience. You don’t want them to have to do a lot of work to get where they want to go.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is with smart menus. Make a landing page simple and spare, and lay it out so that people can easily navigate the rest of the site. Hide some of those glitzy extras so that people can click into them if they want, but they're not confronted with them right away. Make sure that the signposts along the way are clear and easy to understand -- and you get a lot more enduring web traffic and visibility for your business.

Let’s forget, many a times, “Less is More”!

Talk to WebSubstance about how to set up your online footprint with most logical design, information architecture and content. We help our client companies to stand out in the crowd and get results they can depend on in a competitive and ever-changing online and e-commerce world.

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What do you do about SEO when Google algorithms have changed?

Over the last few years, many business owners have been pretty confused about how to tackle online marketing -- and we’re not surprised. The average business owner faces a real uphill battle in understanding how quickly changing Google algorithms have affected page ranking and visibility for online efforts.

History of Google Changes

Google's algorithm changes started early on with updates like Cassandra and Dominic early in 2003, but didn't get a lot of media attention until much later. When Google instituted the Panda algorithm in February of 2011, lots of marketers and others noticed. In fact, the set of animal and bird named updates that went on through 2011 through 2014 have been some of the most famous changes that Google has made -- some of them characterized as ‘crackdowns’ on prior marketing practices.

Within that time range, Google acted to enforce algorithm updates discouraging:

thin content

high ad-to-content ratios

keyword stuffing

improper back-linking

In addition, Google promoted positive efforts such as the use of rich media, data and profile integration, the promotion of recent content, website security, and indexing systems.

The SEO Revolution

In a very general sense, Google told businesses that they couldn't expect to get good rankings just by throwing keywords everywhere in text and metadata. Along the timeline of changes that Google put in place, one big thing that was stressed was the need for organic SEO or keyword and linking use that makes sense to the reader, not just to a web crawler. Trying to game the system with keyword use became known as a ‘black hat tactic’ that was considered off-bounds by Google and the rest of the conscientious online marketing world.

Toward a Diverse and Mobile-Friendly Future

Another big change was a move toward mobile-friendly web design.

When you ask what you can do to boost results in a new Google environment, a major part of that is making your website responses mobile-friendly. Another major plank in the platform is to create thoughtful, authentically profound content in your industries or markets, to organically attract readers and make your site more of a real resource for the community.

That's the take away for a lot of marketers -- adding good content and mobile functionality to a site. Of course, there is more to it than that, but that really gets to addressing some of these Google changes in a nutshell. Google wants to see businesses that are dedicated to really offering Web users something they can use, whether it's a relatable narrative, a data-rich virtual tour of a business, or other valuable resources that don't include clickbait, ad-heavy landing pages and empty, dense paragraphs of text filled with random keywords.

Want to know more about what works with modern day SEO? Talk to WebSubstance. We help our clients to conquer the new landscape of Internet and SEO environments. Go to market with a state-of-the-art web footprint and let a professional firm guide you toward the results that you need to increase market share and boost up your top-line.

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