Category Archives: Business Intelligence

Marketing Testimonials & References Matter Most

By | Business Intelligence | No Comments

How do you convert a business prospect into a believer that what you are selling holds the true value regardless of what your competitors are selling? It boils down testimonials, referrals and real data to back it up.

Testimonials are and should be considered true marketing if they are written honestly, with real facts and the ability for new business to contact your references direct if needed. They provide the much-needed ‘proof’ for waivering prospects and can be used to convert more easily if given the ability and access.

It’s easy to sell myself and make the promise that I have your businesses best interest in the forefront of my mind but it can be an up hill battle to sing my own praises when I have competitors that might brow beat me simply by price.

Inorder to be able to compete in such a saturated and competitive marketplace here are four tips for how I make honest and competitive use of testimonials:

1) Westward doesn’t over-edit. Our testimonials work best when they are in real people language. The real written language helps our readers connect which demonstrates that we are an honest company looking out for our clients each and every day.

2) Westward uses testimonials that fit. We place appropriate testimonials along with a particular point that we are trying to make and back it up with facts. Call us on it if you want. We’d be happy to deliver the information.

3) Westward never fakes it. While testimonials are crucial, we don’t take the risk to fake them. We figured that most people have well-trained ‘this is a crock’ detector and they can smell a fake a mile away. If you would like a list of our references – contact me direct: info@westwardstrategy.com.

4) Westward always encourages specifics. Whether a client gives us a testimonial on their own or whether we ask them for one, we do ask our clients to be specific on how Westward helped them. Wouldn’t you want to know exactly what we did as far as specifics for the client rather than a bland – yeah Westward Strategy was great cause they just were!

Read ‘real‘ accounts of how Westward Strategy has been an asset to clients by visiting the testimonials page, my Linked in page or any of my local associations: Better Business Bureau, eWomen Network, Sparks Chamber of Commerce or the Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce.

Web Mastered

By | Business Intelligence, Search Engine Marketing, seo, Uncategorized, Westward Strategy, What Are People Saying | 4 Comments

Chris Gandolfo SEO Specialtist

Daily Sparks Tribune
Business – May 21, 2009

By Jessica Garcia
Most Web users tend to ignore flashing display ads or the text ads on Google surrounding their desired search results.

But to Chris Gandolfo of Sparks-based Westward Strategy and Design Group, those blurbs hold a key to determining how well a company’s Web marketing strategy works.

He makes his living evaluating the effectiveness of text-based or visual ads for his clients through a process called “analytics,â€Â? in which he counts the number of clicks or tests keywords.

While most Web marketing businesses do at least that much to find out how strong a business’ presence is on the Internet, Gandolfo has taken his four years of experience and put it to the test â€â€? literally. Gandolfo recently passed an exam and became, to Westward owner and marketing specialist Kristy Crabtree’s knowledge, the only local person to be certified as a Qualified Google Advertising Professional.

“The reason I did it is, one, I wanted the experience of working with my clientele; and, two, I wanted to continue to invest in my craft and develop my skill set,â€Â? said Gandolfo, 28.

According to Google, the certification requires four basic criteria.

  • The user must sign up for the program and remain in good standing.
  • They must manage at least one account in AdWords, a program through which webmasters can create their own display ads and select keywords for search engines.
  • They have to build and maintain an account where they manage the campaigns of their clients, who must spend at least $1,000.
  • Finally, they must pass the exam.

The exam is about 110 questions long and is taken online.

“It took every bit of my four years of experience to pass,â€Â? Gandolfo said. “It was not easy. … It covers aspect of platform analytics, campaign management, budget, how to write ads.â€Â?

For the company, it’s as if Gandolfo attained a Bachelor of Science degree but with experience instead of academics.

For the client who wants to market on the Web, the value of the certification can be equated to being a money manager, Crabtree said.

“It’s like you’re the professional who tells me where I should put the money and how to track it to get the best retail dollar,â€Â? she said. “It shows you invested time to make your business better.â€Â?

Being a qualified Google ad professional will equip Gandolfo to show his clients how they can improve their search engine optimization by targeting their traffic and rankings.

For example, with one client called PDUs Direct, which sells power distribution units, the Web site offers image-based advertisements, which works well because it’s a new business, Gandolfo said.

“With a brand new business, you want many eyes on it, as many as you can,â€Â? he said. “Right now, they’re averaging 12,000 to 15,000 impressions a day.â€Â?

An impression, he said, is one appearance of a rotating ad on a Web site. Many impressions is highly desirable when browsing a search engine like Google or Yahoo, which Crabtree said are the only two companies so far pushing for professional certification in Web marketing to help businesses attain the top-paid placements for ads. On Google, for example, those placements are the top few lines in a shaded box or are listed on the right-hand side of the page.

In an age in which many people go online to make purchases from home and in which 84 percent visit search engines for comparison shopping before making a purchase, companies would miss on advertising opportunities by not having their postings placed as close to the top as possible, Gandolfo said.

“(The postings) are based on the quality of the ad and quality of the landing page (the site to which the ad takes a user) and what you bid,â€Â? Gandolfo said.

Business has been slow for Westward as its clients reign in expenses, but Crabtree and her staff don’t have much time to notice.

“You have to do whatever you can to remain on the forefront,â€Â? Crabtree said. “You want to be the lead horse.â€Â?

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For more information about Westward Strategy & Design Group’s Search Engine Optimization services, sign up for a complimentary SEO Consultation. Westward Strategy & Design Group is a Reno Web Design and Marketing Agency specializing in Web Design , Web Development, Search Engine Optimization and Email Marketing.

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Photo by Debra Reid – Chris Gandolfo, marketing & design specialist for Westward Strategy & Design Group, helps companies increase their website traffic.

Testimonials, References and Real Outcomes Matter Most

By | Business Intelligence, Client Successes, Definitions, Web Design, Westward Strategy, What Are People Saying | One Comment

Better Business Bureau Accredited Business - Westard Strategy Nevada Webdesign CompanyHow do you convert a business prospect into a believer that what you are selling holds the true value regardless of what your competitors are selling? It boils down to testimonials and references.

True Website and Marketing Testimonials, References and ‘Real’ Outcomes Matter Most
Testimonials are and should be considered true marketing if they are written honestly, with real facts and the ability for new business to contact your references direct if needed. They provide the much-needed ‘proof’ for waivering prospects and can be used to convert more easily if given the ability and access.

It’s easy for us at Westward to sell ourselves and make promises that we have businesses best interest in the forefront of our minds but it can be an up hill battle to sing our own praises when we have other website and online marketing competitors that might brow beat us simply by price. Inorder to be able to compete in such a saturated and competitive internet marketplace here are four tips for how we make honest and competitive use of our testimonials:

1) Westward doesn’t over-edit. Our testimonials work best when they are in real people language. The real written language helps our readers connect which demonstrates that we are an honest company looking out for our clients each and every day.

2) Westward uses testimonials that fit. We place appropriate testimonials along with a particular point that we are trying to make and back it up with facts. Call us on it if you want. We’d be happy to deliver the information.

3) Westward never fakes it. While testimonials are crucial, we don’t take the risk to fake them. We figured that most people have well-trained ‘this is a crock’ detector and they can smell a fake a mile away. If you would like a list of our references – contact me direct: info@westwardstrategy.com.

4) Westward always encourages specifics. Whether a client gives us a testimonial on their own or whether we ask them for one, we do ask our clients to be specific on how Westward helped them. Wouldn’t you want to know exactly what we did as far as specifics for the client rather than a bland – yeah Westward Strategy was great cause they just were!

Visit our testimonial page to read ‘real’ accounts of how Westward Strategy has been an asset to our clients or if you would like, contact me direct for a list of references at info@westwardstrategy.com.

How Much Does a Website Cost?

By | Business Intelligence, Web Design, Westward Strategy | 3 Comments

It is something we get asked all the time and it is akin to asking “How much does a house cost?”. Sure there are ways to determine some kind of median price point, but just like with a house the number of variables that affect the price are almost infinite. You need to ask yourself what “must-haves” you are really willing to invest in and what items are “want-to’s” that would be nice if your budget permits.

In the Reno/Sparks area a house might set you back $50,000 or $3 million. Just as a website from a Reno/Sparks web design agency might cost you $500 or $30,000. Do you want to live in a one bedroom apartment in a less-than-desirable part of town or do you want the sprawling estate in the foothills? Do you want a cookie-cutter template site or a robust custom web application? Plywood or hard wood floors? Iframes or AJAX? I could go on this way all day, but you get the point.

The beautiful (and the frustrating) thing many people fail to understand about the web is it’s flexibility. If you only have a $500 budget there are ways to get a website started for you. However, you need to be realistic about your expectations. You wouldn’t expect a $50,000 house to have marble floors, so don’t expect your $500 website to process online orders.

Your Website Should Cost Nothing

All that being said, a website should not cost you anything. Zip, zilch, nada, nothing. Your website should help you generate revenue or in some way get a return, therefore it is not a cost – it is an asset. If your website costs you money then your web designer or developer has done something wrong.  Yes, you will be required to invest something up front for this asset. Usually this investment will come in the form of time and/or money. If your website is a money pit with no discernible return on your investment it is time to ditch your designer. If you’re working alone stop trying to do it yourself and seek professional help.

Just like all your assets, your website will require maintenance to maintain and even improve it’s value. So make sure you are taking care of your website and are not neglecting it to the point where it becomes a liability. Once it becomes a liability then it will cost you money to bring it back to the point of being a valuable asset and this is always more expensive than maintaining it’s value.

Just remember, like most things in life, with your website and online marketing you get what you pay for.

Why Do You Blog?

By | Business Intelligence, Natural Search Engine Optimization, seo, Strategic Planning | One Comment

Over the last couple of days I have spent quite a bit of time reviewing business blogs and compiling business blogging recommendations for several of our clients. Because many of our clients are local, a large portion of my time was spent reviewing the local business blog scene (including many of our competitors) and I quickly found that there are really only two types of blogs – cornerstone blogs and self-serving blogs. Cornerstone blogs are educational, useful blogs of quality with real and implied value in their posts. Self-serving blogs are marketing/seo driven blogs with little valuable content for users. Let’s take a look at both types below.

Cornerstone Blogs

For many businesses blogging has become the cornerstone of their web marketing efforts, a way to disseminate information and reach their target demographic/potential client base in a new way. It allows for dialogue with their clients, albeit still in a top down fashion. The business pushes content down and the masses respond. They could respond in many ways including comments, linkbacks or tweets and retweets. Many businesses use it as a test bed for customer service and/or marketing messages, but there is one overriding characteristic of these blogs. They all add value to the company’s brand image by being useful and providing quality information to their users.

At Westward Strategy we strive to add value every single time we post something. Sure, sometimes we post our own business successes, but more often than not we post the successes of our clients over our own successes. We do research and find supporting and/or opposing arguments to the topic we are writing on. We even publish articles that could be useful to anyone looking for search optimization or web design resources. And we do all of it with the readers/users of our site at the forefront of our minds. If you’re shopping around for a web design firm we hope you can use and/or educate yourself a little bit more with our “10 Questions You Should Ask a Prospective Web Design Company“. It does not matter if you choose to contact us about your project or not.

Now I know what you are saying…

“Chris, if a company uses a blog to publish quality content and that in turn garners more market share and value for the company, isn’t that self-serving?”

The answer – sure, in a way. The difference is cornerstone blogs focus on the customer first and the business second.

Self-serving Blogs

The other type of blog is the self-serving blog. The blog that gets added to an existing website and updated maybe once a month with posts that read something like this:

Reno Car Wash has the best reno car washes in Reno. We use only the best car wash soap and reno car wash equipment at Reno Car Wash. You should stop by Reno Car Wash and see our brand new car wash equipment and get a car wash from Reno Car Wash while you’re there!

Or even worse, they look like this with a bazillion links in them:

Reno Car Wash has the best reno car washes in Reno. We use only the best car wash soap and reno car wash equipment at Reno Car Wash. You should stop by Reno Car Wash and see our brand new car wash equipment and get a car wash from Reno Car Wash while you’re there!

Ok, that may be a little exaggerated, but trust me it’s not by much. It should be painfully obvious, like a frying pan to the skull cap, what the difference is between a cornerstone blog and self-serving blog. Sure the self-serving blog will manage to get information to the user that may be of some use, but really is that the way you talk to your customers? Is that the way you should talk to your customers? The answer to both is NO.

Self-serving blogs are like cheap furniture. They may have a nice wood veneer, but one scratch will reveal the shoddy construction and cheap materials underneath that thin cover. At that point it doesn’t matter what you put into the blog, you or your company will be seen in a not-so-friendly light.

So, the question is, why do you blog? Are you adding value for your clients, customers and website users? Are you helping educate them? Are you freely giving information and knowledge? Or are you posting for your own perceived benefit? Are you blogging to dominate the search results? (See SEO Myth: Blogging Means Top Rankings) Are you adding value or just creating white noise?

Why do you blog?

Sparks Web Agency Launches Affordable eCommerce Website

By | Business Intelligence, Client Successes, Portfolio, Web Design, Westward Strategy | One Comment

feuscreenshot

Westward Strategy is proud to announce a recently launched robust eCommerce web solution for a Las Vegas Client: Furniture Etc USA (www.furnitureetcusa.com). Westward Strategy provided an affordable ecommerce solution that used low cost and efficient entry level interns to help facilitate the loading of the website. This in turn kept overall cost down for the client.

About Furniture Etc USA
Furniture. Art, Accessories and more
Specializing in fine furniture and home accessories for the bedroom, dining room, living room, kids and youth furniture and more! 30-day money-back guarantee on all purchases. Fine furniture and home accessories for the bedroom, dining room, living room, kids and youth furniture and more!

Contact Kristy Crabtree for a website appraisal or Chris Gandolfo for an SEO consultation. Westward Strategy is a Sparks and Reno Web Agency providing cost effective and affordable online marketing solutions. We maximize your revenue with SMART Web Design.

The Questions You Should Ask a Prospective Web Design Agency

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Portfolio, Strategic Planning, Tips and Tricks, Web Design, Westward Strategy | No Comments

After having met with several discruntled and frankly over promised and under delivered small businesses, I thought it would be best to re-distribute a helpful post from 2007 that still holds extreme value during these slower economic times: Top 10 Questions You Should Ask a Prospective Web Design Agency.

1 ) How long have you been in business?

Think about what type of company you are comfortable working with before you meet with them. If they give an answer outside of your comfort level tell them immediately. Some businesses don’t mind working with startups or individuals with lesser experience if the price is right. Everyone has to start somewhere, but if this is a risk you are not willing to take just tell the designer upfront.

2 ) Can I see examples of your work?

This is a must have for any designer or web agency. Make sure they have actual websites you can review on your own computer at any time you want. Avoid designers that only show you their work in a PowerPoint presentation or only on their computer.

3 ) Do you have testimonials from other clients?

Good designers and companies will happily provide a list of satisfied clients, both past and present. We even make them publicly available on our website.

4 ) What is the experience level of your team?

While almost every company has a few noobs (pronounced newbies) there should be some senior members on the team. Again, this is a comfort level thing on your part. Don’t get caught up in sales pitches and listen to your instincts here.

5 ) What programming languages and development tools do you use?

Even though you may not care about the answer to this question, it is important information for you to know. At the very least they should be able to hand code html. Other acceptable languages are PHP, ASP, XHTML, CSS, AJAX and javascript.

For development tools look for names such as Adobe or Macromedia (although Adobe now owns Macromedia).

6 ) What is your process for designing and developing a website?

A well outlined plan or process ensures you and your vendor know each other’s respective roles in the design and development of your website. It also will help you gauge their level of experience. Beware of companies that don’t have a plan!

7 ) What is the change process after the website is finished?

At some point your website, no matter how great it is, will need some changes or updates made. Find out what the process is for having these changes made. One way to avoid having to work with your vendor for content updates is to see if they will implement a content management system on your website.

8 ) Do you provide hosting?

Ask very specific questions about where the site will be hosted. If you need to, review our August 2007 post: Protect Your Website and Domain!

9 ) What other service solutions can you provide?

You never know what other services they may be able to provide unless you ask. It is often easier on you and can build a stronger brand identity if one company or designer can handle multiple aspects of your marketing. Ask them about direct marketing, email marketing, and natural search optimization services.

10) Who owns the website in the end?

There is only one acceptable answer here. No matter what, the client owns the website including all graphics and content. The only exception is if your website uses a content management system. Often the CMS is outlined in your contract with the vendor as belonging to the vendor as their intellectual property.