Search Engine Marketing - WebSubstance - Web Design and Search Engine Marketing

It’s All About Pictures

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words -- and while things tend to work a little differently on the web, images are still important.

It's true that online text is the meat of what web users interact with. In some ways, photos are just window dressing. But the quality of photos that you put on your website makes a big difference. Even in subliminal ways, readers tend to see these pictures and associate them with a certain level of quality, which influences your thought leadership impression. Pictures tell an important story about what you are trying to convey to your chosen audience and about the character of your business.

With that in mind, it really makes sense for companies to think about the ways that they use images. Your online image strategy shouldn't be limited to trying to work on a shoestring budget. This has led to many companies into the weeds of online marketing, and really diminished the effect of their online  campaigns.

Scraping By with Generic Images

Too many companies make an early decision not to invest in image selection for the web. Their rule is that they will only use free stock images, or ‘whatever is out there’ -- too often, they put the burden on freelance independent contractors, interns or entry-level marketing people to source images, and simply request that they be free of licensing limitations.

What these companies inevitably end up with is either extremely poor quality generic stock photos, or pictures that actually do have licensing requirements attached. That's because there really is no such thing as a large, free repository of high-quality images online. There’s a value attached to pictures – and the Internet has figured that out, even if many top-level business managers haven’t.

The Effects of Poor Image Strategy

One of the first things that companies will notice when they employ this losing strategy is that the images on their site will look bad. They'll have excellent writing with lackluster pictures attached, which makes the whole page look shabby and honestly, boring.

They can also experience quite a bit of turnover. Writers and web designers will become frustrated with this unachievable task -- the task of finding the perfect picture for free. They may drop projects due to the legal liability of trying to comb images from the web and crop them to utilize them on a site. Anyone without their own home studio and an endless cast of characters available for portrait taking is not going to have the ability to turn in excellent images without a budget.

The Solution -- High-Quality Stock Images

There is an easy solution out there -- again, it's one that a lot of companies shy away from because they don't understand the investment. But it is easy -- and it is reasonably priced.

High-quality stock image companies are in business for a reason. They play a vital role in web design -- arguably even more important than some of the other design component of a web site.

Simply put, companies need to sign up for a reputable stock image account. They get a real, valuable archive of pictures, and they get to stop worrying about how to get quality images on a site.

WebSubstance understands the trade-offs between budget and necessary investment. We will help counsel our clients on how much to invest in stock images, which images to choose and when this kind of investment is truly necessary. Let our professionals help to build you a website that works and doesn't lack any of the fundamental features that will help you compete in your field and markets.

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URL: Why Does It Matter for Your Business?

Lots of smart business leaders know that a website URL can have a big impact on customer response.

It's important to have a domain that is easy to spell, that sticks in the viewer's mind, and something that's easy to navigate to. But beyond that, there are other questions about domain name purchases that can get a bit more tricky.

The Traditional Generic Approach
Throughout the early days of the Internet, many companies chose to buy up Internet real estate that matched generic search terms. They wanted top-level domains that were roughly the same as their keywords. A soap company might purchase soap.com. A pencil company might purchase pencils.com. You get the idea.

This idea made sense for a while -- and some people still argue for it. But there are two strikes against the traditional system of picking generic URLs. One is that in these domains are getting harder to come by, because we're not in the early days of the Internet anymore. The second point has to do with specific market research that shows some companies can get further using a branding approach than they can with generic top-level domains.

Taking a Brand Path
A lot of SEO people and marketers would agree that the brand path is more difficult, at first.
Having a branded URL can require a bit more work. At first, the domain is more obscure.
However, what happens is that the branded domain forces the company to build muscle. The company has to supplement its core website with social media campaigns, e-mail marketing and more, all of which ties back toward the brand name. Slowly, over time, this builds more power into the site and people start looking for that brand name everywhere, including on the web.

The Case for Transparency
In a way, branded domain names allow companies to more clearly see who's looking for them, and why. Instead of getting floods of visitors who are just looking for a generic product, they are getting people who made a deliberate choice to see their site and view their products and look at their approach to their industry. All of this is valuable when the company is really making a commitment to building a better web footprint.

At WebSubstance, we understand that the slow branding approach can provide a much better foundation for a company. We work with our clients to develop a long term digital strategy and help them find the best way forward in web design and development -- and that includes the domain choices that they make, as well as the site structure, and the core elements as well. We take a comprehensive approach to helping our clients to succeed on the Internet, and bring state-of-the-art marketing practices to their brands, in order to drive better conversion and visibility over time.

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Landing Page Responsive Design: What If Your Visitor is Using a Smartphone?

With so much business going on over the Internet, companies are rushing to expand and upgrade their websites. But not enough of them are realizing that responsive design is a very important element, and that it has to be applied in practical ways.

Even company websites that do cater to smartphone users might not do it efficiently or effectively.
For example, one of the most important places to have smartphone-friendly design on the website is on the landing page.

Extensive research has found that high numbers of smartphone users are likely to leave a site if the landing page doesn't seem responsive. If they don't see a menu, if they can't click into other parts of the site, or if they have to scroll too much to find key information, they're probably leaving, and not coming back.

With that in mind, here are some specific responsive design elements that companies are now putting into their landing pages, to keep first-time smartphone visitors engaged and coming back.

No-Border Lists

A lot of the practice of making a landing page smart phone friendly involves using the small available space to your advantage. That's why a lot of companies are doing away with the drop-down list boxes that dominated the desktop age, and instead going with borderless lists on one side, usually the left side, of the screen. Getting rid of the need to table a list gives designers a little more space to work with -- and each pixel is important when it comes to smartphone UX design.

Expressive Graphics

On desktops, you have room to tell a whole story on the landing page. But with responsive design in play, that task gets a lot harder.
Many companies are going with a simpler approach, based on the old saying that “a picture is worth 1000 words.” In many cases, we’re talking about creating a simple line drawing cartoon or a vector graphic that shows the value proposition of a product or service. Sometimes the company uses a speech balloon attributed to a cartoon character to try to get some message out without taking up too much space.
These in-page graphics are another way that companies shrink the landing page footprint to make it easier for smartphone users to navigate.

Usable Forms

Web forms are one of the most sophisticated forms of visitor engagement and lead generation that you can find online. But making them fit a responsive landing page can require some unique design principles.
The web form has to fit the small screen of a smartphone, but it also has to be readable. It doesn't take much to make a web form too large to be rendered well on a smartphone screen.

One of the best fixes for this is simple -- companies will take an entire form on a desktop site and split it into consecutive forms of one to three fields per piece. This way, the smartphone user starts out filling out the first few fields, maybe ‘name’ and ‘e-mail,’ and goes to a subsequent screen for more detail, for example, demographics like age and gender and location. Another option, if that’s feasible, is to make smartphone form much simpler and shorter to grab only the essential information.

Responsive Icons

Responsive icons are a huge issue in landing page design for smartphones.

Icon design works differently in a responsive design environment. Icons have to be simple, often with specific small numbers of line contours. For example, a “home” icon, rather than an elaborately drawn house, will be something as simple as a square and a triangle.

All of this design work builds landing pages that will attract and retain smartphone users. Ask WebSubstance about how to create a company website that works for everyone, and for every device. We’ve designers, engineers and consultants who specialize in user experience for smartphone devices. You'll see your brand visibility and customer engagement follow

 

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Is Bounce Rate Bothering You?

What is a bounce rate, and why should you worry about it?

The bounce rate is one of those very important metrics for your website performance. A bounce is a single-page session on your site. In Google Analytics, a bounce is calculated when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without clicking to or visiting any other page. Bounce rate calculated as the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page.

So it is no-brainer, if you see a high bounce rate in your Analytics, you have reasons to be worried. It simply means visitors coming to your site are not taking any interest in your website, your business or your value prop. Usually a bounce rate higher than 30% is not good.

So you what can do? Let’s try to understand the possible reasons for a bounce. It can be one or combination of many in the following list

  • Website content is not well written or not clear enough to convey the business service or product, making it difficult for a new visitor to figure it out in a reasonable time.
  • Website design and navigation are not good enough for a visitor to stay interested in browsing the site.
  • You might have the best design and copy, but your site downloads quite slow; your visitor is impatient, and she or he will bounce.

Serious businesses always pay attention to lower the bounce rates. They want eyes on the page, not just page views. In fact, in many cases, time spent on the page has become more important than the raw number of page views that you get.

Let’s talk about the copy and content factor for the bounce rate.

Create Clean Text for Visitors, and Make It Make Sense!

Investing in quality text is one of the best ways to make sure people stay on your site to see what your business has to offer.

Breaking Down Text

Another key rule is to avoid the temptation to hammer web readers with long, dense paragraphs of text. Even if you have something technical or detailed to say, it's imperative to keep sentences and paragraphs short. It helps both ways, for human and search engines. You’ll get less bounce from human, and search engines will look at your site more favorably as they also prefer structured content.

Hide the Hook

Of course, it's also important to really have something to say to people. At the end of the day, you need to be reinforcing real ideas and concepts that appeal to your customers.

How can you take care of all these?

You don’t need to. Let WebSubstance take care of your bounce issue and website copy. We have extensive experience helping clients to get their messages heard on the web correctly and in an engaging way. Along with web2 standard design and UX, illustrations and high-quality photos, we provide complete copy services for your main business sites, blogs and social media. And that will have a great impact on your sites bounce rate. Ask WebSubstance about how our teams can make it easy for you to build or revise a web site that’s really inviting, not just a “wall of text.”

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Mobile Site Optimization Guide

We live online, or should we say, we live mobile.

Our smartphone has become our go-to-assistant for a lot of our daily tasks: texting, emailing, calling or social networking.

When your business invests in mobile, it is investing in reaching a big audience -- with so many Americans and others around the world now carrying smartphones, mobile-first and responsive design is something that companies can't afford to ignore.

When you create a better mobile system for your company, you’re automatically boosting customer loyalty and building incentives for customer engagement. You'll see interest in your company soar as so many people who are searching on smartphones are able to better interact with your business online.

Mobile Moments – Some Statistics
Google loves to call it “Mobile Moments”, means, we just don’t go mobile, we live mobile. According to its recent studies, an average American checks her/his mobile device 150 times a day! Out of that more than 80% of time, s/he is wants to do something (take some action on a website) or buy something.  74% of the people say they will come back to a site which offers good mobile experience. A case study shows that companies who don’t have a mobile-friendly site experience 37% increase in bounce rate, 33% drop in customer interactions and 27% drop in organic ranking. These numbers are alarming and cannot be ignored. So the message is clear – “Go big on mobile and tap into new opportunity for your business.”

Winning on Mobile – A Customized Three-Step Plan for Your Business
At WebSubstance, we know how to renovate a business site to make it mobile-first and responsive, and create the kind of attraction and interest that your business deserves.

First, it's important to create a great mobile experience for customers. As with other kinds of interface and customer experience designs, you have to see things through the customer’s eyes. You have to guide them through your website in an easy, transparent way, and show them just the best parts of your business, without giving them any frustrating road blocks or obstacles. When you design a great, easy and engaging mobile experience, you're going to reap a harvest of new activity and interest online.

You'll also need some custom design recommendations that will help your mobile site achieve your business goals. WebSubstance can offer specific suggestions and recommendations, such as changes to text and image layout, the use of responsive icons, and the re-ordering of landing pages or other web pages to help create a better journey for customers. Responsive icons are one of the big features that can enhance a customer's mobile experience -- by making controls intuitive and simple, you are cutting down on the workloads for your site visitors, and helping them to access your business more easily and more quickly.

With that in mind, it's also important to have adequate site support. Your mobile site needs to load at a decent speed -- it's not just a question of designing the best interface, but also making sure that even customers with older phones will be able to navigate your site easily.

There are several strategies you can pursue to make sure your site is fast enough. You can test the site on a range of devices, to make sure that last year's smartphones can still browse your site well. You can minimize big downloads, so that pages load more quickly. You can also change the order of page loads and otherwise shuffle the layout of your site in order to meet responsive design benchmarks.

WebSubstance is willing and ready to help you with these changes to your business model online to make you more mobile-friendly. Let us help you to craft a mobile footprint that is competitive, to help your business achieve a winning reputation in the world of iPhone and Android platforms that we live in now.

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Local Business Marketing - How to Measure the Success

In the old days of marketing, the craft of reaching out to customers was largely intuitive. Marketers and salespeople had to design the best creative campaigns that they could, and then just see how well they worked. From there, you have the drama of AMC’s hit classic TV show “Mad Men” and everything else that goes along with this kind of blind marketing.

It's a lot different today -- with so many new technologies and digital advances, marketers now have the ability to work from known metrics and outcomes, to design more effective marketing campaigns and sales funnels. Digital marketing performance is accurately measurable and that makes it even more exciting.

Many of these performance metrics are called Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. How do local businesses use these to achieve success in their communities?

Business leaders will look at things like sales and direct revenues, but they’ll also get a glance at specific types of lead generation, and find out more about how web campaigns work, using specific bits of data gleaned through digital systems.

For example, a company can use a web form to get submission details from a prospective customer. That allows them to see more about that customer, before a deal is ever made. It enhances the sales funnel, and makes the salesforce more informed and gives them a better edge toward conversion.

Looking At Online Engagement and Participation

The engagement side has a lot to do with what companies offer online. Marketers can log in and assess metrics like the click through rate (CTR), which is how many people clicked into the site, and the bounce rate, which represents how many people quickly dropped out of the site, instead of doing deeper reading.

These items are important for Google rankings, but they're also valuable business intelligence -- without them, how do you know if people are really interested in what's on your website?

Even e-mail marketing has its own metrics. Using things like phase marketing and A/B testing, e-mail campaign managers can see how these messages are reaching customers. They can tweak things like the rate of message delivery, time of day, and even the phrasing or structure of e-mails to make them more effective.

Platforms like Google Analytics can be effective here. Google Analytics can help to provide detail on practical metrics including page views and session lengths for users. By digging into this data, companies can get a much better idea of how well they're reaching their audiences.

Technical Marketing: A Life-Saver in the Digital Age

Too many companies don't invest in these types of “scientific” marketing, but in the end, they need to do so to grow their customer base and better understand their current customers. They may have a website, but no clear call to action, so that people just read, and can never take any kind of step forward. They might have valuable industry information and great landing pages online, but no lead generation forms, so that they never collect the business information about the site visitors that they can use to follow through.

When you pay attention to such KPIs and add these things to a website, you get exponentially marketing improvements -- without a whole lot of cost. WebSubstance can help companies to take their online game up a few notches, by engaging in precise, metrics-based marketing, instead of just trusting in the power of creativity. Talk to us about how to add both science and art to a web footprint, to get the best of both worlds, and really drive customer interest.

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PPC for Local Business – Why Is It So Effective?


While many businesses take advantage of a diverse online marketing approach, some of them ignore some of the biggest opportunities for multi-channel web marketing.

One of the most basic examples is relying heavily on SEO and organic search marketing without including pay per click marketing or PPC. PPC can really augment the results that you get with search engine optimization, especially in today's new world where the results of keyword-based SEO are so limited.

So why do businesses benefit from PPC? One of the most basic ideas is that PPC can help when a business isn't able to get itself on page 1, or even page 2, of a Google SERP result. When that business doesn't have a presence at the top of Google results, PPC can get that business on the front page in another way.

Resulting from recent changes to Google algorithms, there are now 11 PPC slots available on a Google page. Getting some of the best positions can really increase visibility and add to a more vibrant readership. Yes, it's paid search, but it can work hand-in-hand with SEO to get more people visiting your site.

Another great benefit that companies can get relates to new Google tools and opportunities for specialized marketing. For example, you may not have heard about something called a “callout extension” – but this short-form type of PPC shows up in Google results below the URL. Savvy marketers can craft it to include any kind of message that’s meant to jump out to a given sets of users.

Using callout extensions, rich media and more can really help companies to broaden their market visibility online. One prominent example is in local markets. Experts recommend getting zip codes into callout extensions, and using these and other tools to remind shoppers that a small business is actually in a given community, not ‘out there somewhere on the web.’ The idea is that through combining SEO and PPC, the businesses is doing more of that key “shouting out” to web users about its best features and what it has to offer.

WebSubstance takes an integrated approach in search engine marketing (SEM) solution for a local business. We can help companies to build great SEO programs and ROI driven pay per click campaigns. We know how to work with existing Google standards and algorithms to accommodate more visibility, and to improve a company’s standing on the web. Ask us about how to craft a comprehensive SEM approach that includes Web marketing through SEO and PPC, as well as innovative visuals and design for a great website or landing pages that will actually keep people attracted to your business when they get there. We help to create and maintain great online footprints from top to bottom, and we’ll be with you every step of the way.

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Contact Us

WebSubstance
21800 Town Center Plaza, #266A-281
Sterling, VA 20164
(703) 470-0808
Jenny Le - President
contact.info@WebSubstance.com