Web Design - 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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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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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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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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Digital Marketing for Local Biz | What Works?


Local small businesses can really profit from good digital marketing. E-commerce may have started with large shopping portals and mega chains, but it's making its way to Main Street. Nowadays, so much of what people buy gets bought over the web that small businesses almost have to invest in good digital marketing to survive. Customers might be right down the street, but they're still on their smartphones.

Here are some foundational pillars of digital marketing that work for small local businesses.

Content Building

In general, businesses that want visibility on the Internet need quality content -- but specifically, local businesses benefit from locally directed content. Unfortunately, the vast majority of businesses have not understood this principle, and they still have SEO people writing bland, generic content that could be posted anywhere in the country. Instead, if you focus on local issues, and hire local people to craft stories about what's happening in the local area, you're going to get great ranking, a vibrant sets of page views and good click-through rates.

Engage the Community

Another way to really boost visibility for small local businesses is to get out and talk to the neighbors. You can go and ask for feedback on your business, and even give out free samples to try to get people to stop by and chat. You can build public events that get people participating in the conversation. All of this is extremely important in word-of-mouth marketing and building brand visibility over time.

Giving Back

Small, local businesses are also embracing the concept of charity, a concept that's often present in board rooms and practiced by big corporations. The idea is that you set aside some of your profit and give it back to the community. It's often done in public ways, so that it will capture some marketing value. For example, different types of public charity in the local community can generate high-quality referral links, which are excellent for SEO, apart from the fact that it elevates your company’s image in the local community.

Paid Media and Paid Search

In addition to natural, organic web content, companies are also investing in marketing tactics like PPC advertising. Paid search can be an excellent way to supplement all the other kinds of digital marketing that you do, in concrete ways that involve transactional results. You pay a certain amount of money for paid search or other paid promotions on social media platforms, and you get a certain amount of traffic in return. Usually traffic from the paid search is highly qualified. It's a good idea to try to estimate your return on investment (ROI), to make sure you're getting your money’s worth -- just like you would in print marketing. Google very recently introduced many new features like Expanded Text Ads (ETA) that can boost up a local business’s sales or lead generation. And by the way, adding a little print marketing still works, too. Some of the experts talk about multichannel marketing, where you're doing SEO, PPC, and print, all together and investing a certain amount of money in each.

WebSubstance can help your local business set up a quality website and market your products or services through multichannel marketing tactics and help you participate in your community. Let us engineer the structural design of your site and help you build out the results to get more market share in your local market.

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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