Sterling VA - 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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What Do You Do?

It's a question that individual people ask each other at dinner parties, on the street or in any kind of informal meeting. But it's also something that web visitors ask companies every time they go online and eventually end up on a landing page.

People want to know what your business is about. From the very first mouse click they want to get a rough idea of products and services, as well as the philosophy of the business. They don't want to see a cryptic business name and some vague images -- they want real information so they can get about the business of making shopping choices.

Companies that understand this principle are well-positioned to do business on the Internet – which is the primary channel of business today. They invest in storytelling and narrative that makes a difference and set their websites up for success.

Don't Wait for "About Us"

One big trend that you'll see in web design today is that most landing pages have a concise and transparent summary of what a business is all about. It's essentially an elevator pitch, boiled down to its essentials and placed in a prominent spot where web-surfing eyes can see it.

The old strategy of doing a more elaborate presentation on an 'about us' page is pretty much dead. Companies have woken up to the idea that people aren't going to do a series of page navigations just to get to a basic description of a business. They're going to expect that upfront, so that they can choose how to navigate the site based on that information.

Smart Menus

Smart web design also extends to menu options. Instead of just tabs that say 'services' or 'products,' many companies are putting much more detailed labels on menu tabs in order to guide customers in a better way. Another related strategy is to actually put product images and specs in small, accessible boxes on the landing page -- that way there is another single-click strategy in place where companies can direct visitors straight to product information, or even to a shopping cart.

You'll see a lot of these trends in website content and design from the smart businesses on the internet. Some of these stuff might cost money, but other similar methods can be done on a shoestring budget.

At WebSubstance, we help our clients put together comprehensive web strategies that work. We understand how to get your message out to people quickly, and how to make your web footprint a more effective ambassador for your business. Ask us about everything related to your company website to get a new and improved outreach strategy in place and drive leads and profit. Let an established, professional agency of Northern Virginia help you touch up your website, and you'll see the positive differences soon!

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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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Three Useful Types of Audience Targeting

Is your business doing a good job of reaching out to specific customers, or just putting out a generic message on the web, hoping that people show up?

The idea of tailoring a message to a customer is extremely important today, as businesses do a lot more with valuable business intelligence that they get through cloud services with other vendor options. Businesses of all sizes will want to be profiling and targeting their customers, because it can save a lot of time and effort, and generally improve conversion and profit.

Here are some ways to take advantage of your valuable data to get better results on the web.

Target by Customer Status

One of the most fundamental kinds of audience targeting is targeting a customer according to their relationship with the business. Bigger companies have big, fancy customer relationship management (CRM) platforms that help them to do this -- but that's not specifically necessary. Even a very simple database can easily keep track of whether a particular customer has bought from the business before -- and that makes a big difference. You're going to want to send a different message to a returning customer than you would to a new one, making this one of the most common ways to define customer audience.

Target by Role

Both B2B and B2C companies also tend to target by role. If it's a retailer, they may target customers by their age and demographics, or whether they are the head of the household or not. Just this simple key factor can make a lot of difference in efficient messaging in how you reach your customers.

For a B2B company, businesses will often target customers by their job roles. There is a lot of talk about gatekeepers, and how to get to the right decision makers involved with business messaging. Again, a CRM platform can help with this, but you can also ‘go DIY’ and keep track of people's job roles by hand, or with other electronic tools. In fact, LinkedIn provides options for such role targeting for B2B marketing.

Target by Positive Interest

Another type of audience targeting is as old as business itself -- companies want to identify customers according to their hobbies and what they like, to try to sell them the right products. What’s brand-new, though, is the flood of data that businesses now have about customers, due to the big data revolution and the digital age. Your in-house business data can be a treasure trove of information that can help you to sell better and sell more -- but somebody has to do the research and make that happen.

At WebSubstance, we understand the importance of audience targeting. We know that the research that goes on behind the scenes helps to make web sites and marketing campaigns even better. Let us work with your company to perfect the art of audience targeting, bringing in higher ROI for your marketing.

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Content Marketing for Local Business

At WebSubstance, we've often talked about how valuable good content marketing can be. We know that we want to inject excellent content into the structure of a corporate website. But how does this work?
Here are some of the aspects of creating great content that local businesses can use to compete in today's digital world.

Brainstorm Before Jumping In

Too many content projects start with a hastily written list of topics and a green light for a race to the finish line. We're not suggesting that writers need handholding -- but there should be some creative process serving the creation of valuable content. It shouldn't just be a keyword and a knee-jerk reaction. Planning is important, and that's why writers need to do a bit of research and understand what's needed for a particular client.

Go Companywide

It's also important to have content writers and creators connected to your local business as a whole. This might look different in any given company -- writers may be interviewing suppliers. They may be talking to internal department managers. They may even be talking to customers. All of this collaboration is useful when it comes to creating a vibrant content platform.

Get Sharing

It's also important to have a sharing program for content. For example, many companies now link content to Facebook either with short-form social media blurbs, or with an actual link to a blog post. This is just one model, and companies can feel free to innovate and brainstorm their way to sharing success. One rule of thumb is that it's not a good idea to try to ask content writers to post business  items on their personal Facebook pages. Instead, a dedicated business Facebook page can be a central way to get this social data out to customers. Having a sharing plan that’s equitable and well-supported can make a huge difference in readership and return on investment.
 
Test Content

When content is out in the world, local businesses can go further by quickly looking at the metrics, and figuring out what works. Did a certain post net an extremely high volume of traffic and spike your page views for the month? That's valuable data that so many companies overlook. Just a few minutes of analysis can make a huge difference in managing an editorial calendar to reach more customers on an ongoing basis.

Talk to WebSubstance about setting up a great content marketing programs for your business that works. We’re specialized in content marketing for local businesses in Northern Virginia and can take care of everything from the initial ideas to the quality finished content. Make your website more competitive in the age of organic search and thought leadership.

 

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The Value of SoLoMo for Web Marketing

Maybe you haven't heard of the “SoLoMo” model, but it's all the rage these days when it comes to digital marketing practices.

SoLoMo isn't brand-new -- in fact, it's been around for few years. But it's still a good guideline for upgrading your marketing techniques and building modern webpages that lead your business toward success.

Linguistic experts call SoLoMo a “portmanteau” -- which is a fancy name for a collection of words abbreviated into their individual syllables. In the case of SoLoMo, the term combines the three words: social, local, and mobile.

Social Marketing

To many people, the value of social marketing is as evident as the nose on your face. We tend to think of Facebook first, just because it's such a primary social platform. It's not just because everybody uses it, either. Facebook started accommodating business with items like the Facebook Open Graph, and specific builds for business profiles. Now it's considered kind of negligent for small business to not have a Facebook page. The Facebook enterprise profile is also a great way to reach out to customers and offer coupons or discount deals. Many businesses tie the Facebook page into the website, for instance, posting blog posts on Facebook.

However, Facebook isn't the only social media platform that's very useful in digital marketing -- companies are flocking to LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and many other platforms to get their message across to target audiences.

Local Marketing

This one can be pretty straightforward, too, but there is often a digital element that companies hire professionals to work with. Geo-targeting and related practices can be tricky with digital media. Professionals may tag parts of the website, use specific keywords, or otherwise target content or digital media toward a local audience. Then there’s also organic local marketing. With organic SEO and social, you're simply writing about things that are going on in the community, relevant for the local audience, which can also have a powerful impact. When you have localized content on a web site, that can really drive interest and a bigger readership.

Mobile Marketing

It's important not to leave out the concept of mobile marketing. We've always stressed mobile-first design and responsive design for websites, because we know that so many customers end up viewing business webpages on a smartphone.

True mobile-first design can require extensive graphic design and web design work. That's why WebSubstance employs the right people to renovate a website to get that mobile-friendly aspect applied.

Ask WebSubstance about getting professional results that will help your business soar to new heights with a combined Social, Local and Mobile strategy. We’ll take care of all of the details, and consult on how to re-brand with a fully functional and appealing web footprint, to boost profits and visibility, as well as your business reputation. Don’t wait to utilize the power of the Internet to achieve more with your business.

So next time your hear SoLoMo, think of WebSubstance.

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Thought Leadership is Real

What do companies do nowadays to make their web sites stand out from others? What's the real “secret sauce” in web design?

Many business leaders are convinced that new forms of data visualization are the way forward. They believe in the power of flash animation and infographics.

It's true that the visuals and classy themes and overall graphic design layout make a difference -- but it's also a mistake to ignore the quality of content.

Those who read more deeply into what's happening in today's marketing world understand that there is a trend towards meaningful, investigative long-form content. With that in mind, companies that follow yesterday's playbook -- simply setting up a five-point website with landing page, about us, contact, products and services and a blog, may not be doing themselves any favors.

Adding Long-Form Thought Leadership Content to a Site

In addition to the above generic site layout, having long-form pieces and articles does a number of things.

First, it gives the core audience that real industry data that they crave. People want to read about real things on the Internet, not just surf through endless pages of fluff. Companies that reveal some industry secrets or explain confusing ideas to consumers can see their online and off-line traffic increase.

The long-form comment is also a key indicator that the site has something to offer. Even people who don't read resources like white papers, e-books or digital guides can note the inclusion of these items on the site, and make their judgments about the company's standing in its markets. In fact, some companies put news pieces behind pay or registration walls -- which may or may not be a great strategy for showing customers what they're about. Do you want your customers to read the long-form pieces – or are they just decorations?

Using Thought Leadership Content

In fact, the “wall” question is a good example of key decisions business leaders will have to make about this investment in thought leadership. In general, long-form content doesn't belong on the landing page -- so where does it go?

You can choose to sit your thought leadership pieces behind a pay wall or registration wall, or you could house them somewhere in a menu directly off of the landing page. You can also surround them with compelling photos and other visuals that keep web users engaged as they navigate your site.

All of this is part of what you might call a “Web 3.0” approach that moves a business from the 1990s and early 2000’s into the evolving virtual dynamism of today's digital marketing world. Ask WebSubstance about how to really upgrade your site for today’s audiences and position you as a thought leader in your target market.

WebSubstance can help. We excel at offering companies the ability to create better and more interactive websites with pro photography, content management and other key services. Ask us about setting up one of these thought leadership websites, connecting it to social media, and ranking high on search engines.

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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