Category Archives: Definitions

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.

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.

SEO Do’s and Don’ts: Copywriting

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Tips and Tricks, Uncategorized | No Comments

We’re kicking off 2008 with part 3 of our Do’s and Don’ts series with some copywriting tips.

Do: Add new copy and/or update current copy on a regular basis. Search engine spiders like new content.
Do: Focus your copy on one or two keywords or phrases. Depending on the overall length of your copy also include 1-2 variations of your core keyword or phrase.
Do: Rewrite articles or press releases for each site you plan to submit them to.
Do: Keep the flow of the copy natural. Remember, you’re writing for your visitors first and the spiders second.
Don’t: Use exactly the same copy in multiple areas.
Don’t: Keyword stuff your content to the point where reading it does not make sense.
Don’t: Scrape content from multiple sites and post it to your own pages.
Don’t: Put blocks of copy in images. Search engine spiders can not read this copy.

SEO Do’s and Don’ts: Website Architecture (Structure)

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Tips and Tricks, Web Design, Westward Strategy | 3 Comments

This is part two of our Do’s and Don’ts series. The purpose here is to provide quick actionable snippets of information to help you avoid any pitfalls in developing a strong web identity.

Do: Link to every page of the site from at least one other page on the site.
Do: Use absolute links in your link code, starting with the “http://”.
Do: Link key phrases within your copy to other relevant pages on the site.
Do: Use keywords in your page and folder names. However, keep the names short and simple. Separate words in page and folder names with a hyphen or an underscore. Do not use spaces or special characters in your naming conventions.
Do: Validate your html code and correct any errors. Use this online validator from the W3C.
Don’t: Use javascript menu systems and links. Links of this kind may not be indexed.
Don’t: Use frames or iframes in your html code.
Don’t: Serve different pages to the search spiders than your human site visitors. Nothing will get you dropped from the SERPs quicker – just ask the German BMW website.
Don’t: Use lots of folders and subfolders in your site structure, spiders like relatively flat websites.

SEO Do’s and Don’ts: Link Building

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Tips and Tricks, Westward Strategy | No Comments

This is part one of a Do’s and Don’ts series I hope will help dispel some of the misinformation clients and prospects have stated to us lately about SEO.

I can understand how the average business owner or webmaster can become confused by all information, often conflicting information, that is out there on the net regarding our industry. With no way to regulate the industry the good guys (that’s us) and the bad guys (that’s the snake oil salesmen) are left to clammer over the top of each others’ message in a never ending battle of king of the mountain.

So hopefully this will help. If you find this information useful please let us know and we will continue to publish many more posts like this. Enjoy!

Do: Document all of your link building exercises and progress. Commit time in monthly intervals (minimum) to grow your links.

Do: Vary the anchor text you use for external links to your site. Don’t forget to use your target phrase for the landing page of the link!

Do: Find authority websites in your niche to obtain links from. Use your best judgment on this one by reading the content or reviewing the comments if it is a blog. Can you find the site in a search on the topic it covers?

Do: Utilize news agencies/websites in your niche to link back to your site.

Do: If you feel it is a good advertising investment, purchase links on industry and related websites.

Do: Exchange links on a one-on-one basis with other sites in your niche.

Don’t: Don’t Spam blogs, forums, user groups, guestbooks or anyone else. Ever.

Don’t: Fear Google when it comes to buying links.

Don’t: Buy links for any other purpose than advertising and traffic benefits.

Don’t: Participate in reciprocal link schemes or link farms of any kind.

Hope you enjoyed Part One!

Forget Web 2.0, Let’s Talk About Integrated Marketing

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Strategic Planning, Tips and Tricks | One Comment

I hate the term “Web 2.0” or “Web two dot ooh” as I recently heard someone say. It was born from marketers needing a way to classify those sites that didn’t fit anywhere else or that used certain technologies that were not prevalent at that time. Now that term is the bane of my existence. I am so repulsed by that term because it has instilled in every business owner and marketing manager a need to be “Web 2.0” or they will somehow wither up and die. These are the folks if you ask them what they want they will tell you they want a blog because everyone else has one.

I will agree there are some amazing technologies and options out there for those companies that are truly ready to step up and take advantage of them. However, most small business owners need to forget Web 2.0, Ajax, Blog, Social Network and all the other jargon flying around industry periodicals. Most business owners and marketing managers need to focus on integrated marketing.

From Wikipedia

A management concept that is designed to make all aspects of marketing communication such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and direct marketing work together as a unified force, rather than permitting each to work in isolation. In practice, the goal of IMC is to create and sustain a single look or message in all elements of a marketing campaign.

One of the largest marketing problems I see a lot of small businesses have is learning how to leverage all of the available channels and delivering a solid, cohesive message along all of those channels. The main reason for this is budget restraints. Small businesses do not have the budget available to hire a large advertising agency to develop their identity, print collateral, TV spots, radio spots and website all at one time. They often have to piecemeal their entire existence together by hiring company X for the print collateral, company Y for the television spots, and maybe if they are lucky they can hire company Z to build them a website.

The Rise of Frankenstien’s Monster

Just like the monster that eventually destroys its master, this form of stitched together marketing can destroy the small business. Each channel tries to act independently. One agency believes everything should be done one way, the other believes it should be a different way and most of the time the business owner or contact person is so close to the action they don’t see the wild differences in messaging, creative design and brand identity.

Pretty soon the TV spots look nothing like the direct mail pieces and the website still has a 2002 copyright, talks about an award the company won in 2003 and looks like nothing else. The company’s brand identity becomes a fractured semblance of itself. All the touch points with its customers serve to confuse because there is not a cohesive brand and consistent marketing.

Hire an Ambassador

My suggestion is to hire or become your own brand ambassador. Depending on the size of your organization and how many marketing touch points need analysis this could be a full time position or you could hire a consultant for a limited lifespan. The point here is to have one person who can determine if a particular marketing initiative is on or off base with your brand identity.
Ask yourself –

  • Does the graphic design resemble everything we have produced?
  • Is the messaging the same as other initiatives? Do we use the same key phrases to talk about our business?
  • Is the imagery similar across media?
  • Does everyone in the organization talk about the company in the same terms?

Pretty simple, right? No one said it had to be hard! When you do find differences talk to your vendor(s) about them. If need be, put one vendor in touch with another. We’re not opposed to discussing the situation with other vendors!

The bottom line is, until you can deliver a brand identity utilizing all or most communication touch points with your clients you don’t need a blog, a wiki, or a social network. Focus on your business and your identity and when you have those things solid then branch out and talk “web two dot ooh” with an internet marketing firm.

We Have PageRank and We Don’t Care!

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Tips and Tricks | 2 Comments

I find it slightly amusing and a little interesting that in the midst of this Google PageRank debacle we received out first boost in PageRank. We’re now a PR3!

The best part is, we don’t care!

I’ve been telling clients for years that PageRank doesn’t matter. Let me repeat that, PageRank does not matter. Got it? PageRank is one of those irrelevant metrics that gets thrown in the bucket with Hits and Alexa rankings.

Once more, PageRank does not matter. The only metrics that matter are conversions, traffic, natural search position. In that order. Period.

The Web is No Longer About Presence, It’s About Identity

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Strategic Planning, Tips and Tricks, Web Design, Westward Strategy | 3 Comments

We spend a lot of time online, after all it is our job. We’ve seen hundreds if not thousands of business web sites ranging from the mom and pop sandwich shop down the street to established medium sized businesses.

It always amazes us the number of companies that simply have a web presence, a mentality prevalent 5 to 6 years ago, when a company could get away with letting the owner’s son build the website in his or her high school computer class. The graphics are often hokey at best, the message is not longer a fit with the company, and any posted prices are grossly out-of-date.

The game has changed, even though most companies have not seen the shift. The web has gone from an auxiliary marketing medium to a prime time player, and in our eyes the ultimate marketing canvas. Businesses need to get their act together and integrate all of their marketing efforts. A presence is no longer adequate, an identity is required. Is a spinning envelope icon really the message you want to send to potential clients or customers? Shouldn’t you be communicating the hometown atmosphere of your sandwich shop or the fresh sliced meat in your sandwiches?

Whatever ideas or concepts drive you to keep your business going should also drive your primary marketing strategies and your website.

What is your message or how are you different from your competitors? As soon as you can answer this question, seek assistance in building or refining your brand identity and communicate this identity in all of your marketing efforts.

The Web is No Longer About Presence, It’s About Identity

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Strategic Planning, Tips and Tricks, Web Design, Westward Strategy | 3 Comments

We spend a lot of time online, after all it is our job. We’ve seen hundreds if not thousands of business web sites ranging from the mom and pop sandwich shop down the street to established medium sized businesses.

It always amazes us the number of companies that simply have a web presence, a mentality prevalent 5 to 6 years ago, when a company could get away with letting the owner’s son build the website in his or her high school computer class. The graphics are often hokey at best, the message is not longer a fit with the company, and any posted prices are grossly out-of-date.

The game has changed, even though most companies have not seen the shift. The web has gone from an auxiliary marketing medium to a prime time player, and in our eyes the ultimate marketing canvas. Businesses need to get their act together and integrate all of their marketing efforts. A presence is no longer adequate, an identity is required. Is a spinning envelope icon really the message you want to send to potential clients or customers? Shouldn’t you be communicating the hometown atmosphere of your sandwich shop or the fresh sliced meat in your sandwiches?

Whatever ideas or concepts drive you to keep your business going should also drive your primary marketing strategies and your website.

What is your message or how are you different from your competitors? As soon as you can answer this question, seek assistance in building or refining your brand identity and communicate this identity in all of your marketing efforts.

Remove the Negative Words in Your Advertising and Marketing

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Strategic Planning, Tips and Tricks | 3 Comments

We often don’t realize it, but negative words have a strong impact on the way we process communications and store information. Some of this information may be elementary, but it is so often overlooked in marketing I feel I have to write on it.

The most abused negative word in marketing and advertising is “Don’t”. I’m sure you’ve seen it so much you hardly realize it is there any more, but think about how many campaigns you have seen with “Don’t Wait!”, “Don’t Forget!” or “Don’t Delay!” plugged into them somewhere. By using those negative word forms you are inviting people to do exactly what you “don’t” want them to!

If your spouse says to you, “Don’t forget the milk”, guess what you will do? If a golfer thinks, “Don’t hit it in the water”, guess where they’ll end up.

Instead marketers should be focusing on positive phrases to encourage conversion, click-through, or whatever call-to-action is the focus of your campaign. Instead of “Don’t Forget!”, try “Remember”. Instead of “Don’t Delay!”, try “Act Now!”

It’s a small change that can have a dynamic impact on conversion rates. Try it!