Category Archives: What Are People Saying

Web-design firm offers help to small companies

By | Westward Strategy, What Are People Saying | No Comments

I just received a phone call for prospective business… WOOHOO, right! When I asked how they heard about me, they mentioned that they had cut out an article from the RGJ dated back July 2008. Not only that – when they Googled my name – they ran across the article again from a post I added to PRLOG: http://www.prlog.org/10092877-web-design-firm-offers-help-to-small-companies.html. Amazing day!

Web-design Firm Offers Help to Small Companies

Jul 23, 2008 – By Marian Bond • business@rgj.com
RGJ Business Section: July 22, 2008

Kristy Crabtree After being a Web design developer for a local company, Kristy Crabtree decided to open her own company. Westward Strategy & Design Group was established to offer professional services to the small companies that might not want to invest large sums of money to get onto the Internet to promote their services or products.

“I had worked my way up in 13 years with my employer, from an apprentice to director of professional services, and I was managing 12 to 15 technical and creative designers,â€? Crabtree said. “I wanted my company to be more of a boutique agency. More intimate with the customers. Because I have low overhead, I have more time to spend with my clients. I wanted to target a different audience.â€?

Crabtree started her company from a home office two years ago. She now shares a 2,200-square-foot building in Sparks with ACS Business Insurance Services.

“The technical people do the heavy program duties, set up shopping carts. Things like that,â€? Crabtree said.

Her customers range from sole proprietors to companies with 15 to 20 employees. “I don’t go after the larger clients. There is a place for them. I did not believe anybody was facilitating the niche market I want,â€? she said.

Crabtree says that a new customer coming to her needs to understand who his or her audience is. Clients also need to have goals and objectives they want to sell or the service or product they are offering. She stressed that so much is happening on the Web these days that anyone in business needs to have a presence or they will miss out on clients.

Another plus to having a Web site, according to Crabtree, is that analytical reports can be produced to show activity on the site. This type of tracking helps with marketing goals. Her company will produce monthly or quarterly reports as required.

“The typical site will have a home page that tells about the company or information about the team that works with the product or services,â€? Crabtree said. She also likes to set up a news page that tells more about the company. The Web site will be set up to provide fresh information.

She also advises each company to have its own domain name and to maintain ownership.

Clients interested in art or photography can get stock photos on Web sites. “They are very reasonable in price. If you search long enough online, as we do, you know which photos have not been used,â€?

In planning for a Web site, the company has to decide if it wants to reach a local area or a global audience.

Crabtree said she often has companies with existing sites come for a redesign.

“We first ask if they have any analytical tools to get information as to how a Web site is performing. We find out if anybody has been going to the site. We like to sit back for about a month so we can get information. We will create basically how I would plan to help fix (the site). We don’t want their money to go down the drain. We’re a small business, too. We understand money is important to everybody.â€?

Crabtree said she is always eager to accommodate the customer’s needs. Her company can set up a Web site in just a short time, but generally takes about two months to finish a detailed product.

The cost of a Web site with Westward Strategy & Design Group runs as low as $500, but depending upon the content and intricacy can also run $10,000 or more.

Doug Kurkul, CEO of the Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce, said that last January he entrusted Crabtree’s company to redesign the chamber web site www.renosparkschamber.org and he said he was quite satisfied with the results.

“I’ve dealt with Web designers for 13 years now,â€? Kurkul said. “I believe that Westward Strategy & Design is one of the best I’ve ever dealt with. They are easy to work with and they have outstanding skills on both technical and on artistic aspects of web design.â€?

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Westward Strategy & Design Group, LLC.
www.westwardstrategy.com
Phone: (775) 626-8330

Marketing Testimonials&References Matter Most

By | Strategic Planning, Tips and Tricks, Uncategorized, What Are People Saying | 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 Westward Strategy Builds Client Trust

By | Client Successes, Portfolio, Search Engine Marketing, seo, Strategic Planning, Web Design, Westward Strategy, What Are People Saying | No Comments

You can advertise in many ways, from web based to print to word of mouth, but how do you actually get customers and build a clientele? How are your marketing strategies working for you? Do you constantly have to followup to get clients?

Here are just some ways that Westward Strategy Builds Client Trust

1: Testimonials
Westward Strategy encourages all prospective clients to call our current and past clients for a testimonial of our work. You can ask questions that we may be impartial to answer. We also feature testimonials on our website and our brochures.

2: Knowledge
We continue to stay educated in all of our online marketing services. We also continue to only work with professional contractors who are proven in their field of expertise.

3: Examples of Our Web Design and Internet Marketing Work
We show all prospects our portfolio and are happy to show examples of our work or situations that we have been in to be sure to put the prospects mind at ease of what we have experienced.

4: Passion
We believe that passion plays a key part in client trust. We love what we do and believe that a client will feel more comfortable working with a business who has fun.

5: Telling the Truth
We always tell a prospective client the truth – maybe to often. If we can’t do the job, we don’t take it. We believe that it’s better to be able to deliver the BEST JOB rather than a subpar job.

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Contact Westward Strategy & Design Group, LLC.
If you are interested in the services we offer, please contact us at (775) 626-8330.

Web Design Firm Offers Help to Small Companies

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

By Marian Bond • business@rgj.com
RGJ Business Section: July 22, 2008

After being a Web design developer for a local company, Kristy Crabtree decided to open her own company. Westward Strategy & Design Group was established to offer professional services to the small companies that might not want to invest large sums of money to get onto the Internet to promote their services or products.

“I had worked my way up in 13 years with my employer, from an apprentice to director of professional services, and I was managing 12 to 15 technical and creative designers,” Crabtree said. “I wanted my company to be more of a boutique agency. More intimate with the customers. Because I have low overhead, I have more time to spend with my clients. I wanted to target a different audience.”

Crabtree started her company from a home office two years ago. She now shares a 2,200-square-foot building in Sparks with ACS Business Insurance Services. Crabtree runs her office with one full-time employee, three technical contractors and herself.

“The technical people do the heavy program duties, set up shopping carts. Things like that,” Crabtree said.

Her customers range from sole proprietors to companies with 15 to 20 employees. “I don’t go after the larger clients. There is a place for them. I did not believe anybody was facilitating the niche market I want,” she said.

Crabtree says that a new customer coming to her needs to understand who his or her audience is. Clients also need to have goals and objectives they want to sell or the service or product they are offering. She stressed that so much is happening on the Web these days that anyone in business needs to have a presence or they will miss out on clients.

Another plus to having a Web site, according to Crabtree, is that analytical reports can be produced to show activity on the site. This type of tracking helps with marketing goals. Her company will produce monthly or quarterly reports as required.

“The typical site will have a home page that tells about the company or information about the team that works with the product or services,” Crabtree said. She also likes to set up a news page that tells more about the company. The Web site will be set up to provide fresh information.

She also advises each company to have its own domain name and to maintain ownership.

Clients interested in art or photography can get stock photos on Web sites. “They are very reasonable in price. If you search long enough online, as we do, you know which photos have not been used,”

She said that her assistant, Chris Gandolfo, a professional photographer, will also do photos.

In planning for a Web site, the company has to decide if it wants to reach a local area or a global audience.

Crabtree said she often has companies with existing sites come for a redesign.

“We first ask if they have any analytical tools to get information as to how a Web site is performing. We find out if anybody has been going to the site. We like to sit back for about a month so we can get information. We will create basically how I would plan to help fix (the site). We don’t want their money to go down the drain. We’re a small business, too. We understand money is important to everybody.”

Crabtree said she is always eager to accommodate the customer’s needs. Her company can set up a Web site in just a short time, but generally takes about two months to finish a detailed product.

The cost of a Web site with Westward Strategy & Design Goup runs as low as $500, but depending upon the content and intricacy can also run $10,000 or more.

Doug Kurkul, CEO of the Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce, said that last January he entrusted Crabtree’s company to redesign the chamber web site www.renosparkschamber.org and he said he was quite satisfied with the results.

“I’ve dealt with Web designers for 13 years now,” Kurkul said. “I believe that Westward Strategy & Design is one of the best I’ve ever dealt with. They are easy to work with and they have outstanding skills on both technical and on artistic aspects of web design.”

Build a Better Web with Web Standards and Opera

By | Business Intelligence, Web Design, What Are People Saying | One Comment

I came across this article over the weekend, which propelled me to take a look at the Opera Web Standards Curriculum. I have not delved into it too deep yet, but on the surface it seems to be a fantastic resource for anyone looking to push themselves and their web design coding practices forward.

I have long admired Opera for their educational aspect and their desire to advance the skill level of web workers everywhere. Looking over the outline of the documents it appears this is almost identical to the way I was educated at the University of Idaho and, as Sophia states in her article, it is extremely difficult to find a program like that – that is independent of computer science or graphic design. However, if the web is going to reach the longevity and revered status of print we need more educational institutions to begin teaching and sculpting artisans of this “new media” without the limitations of established programs, but also on top of or ahead of modern practices.

I can’t wait for the rest of the articles to come out!

Westward Strategy: E-marketing Enhances the Bottom Line

By | Business Intelligence, Client Successes, Email Marketing, Portfolio, Strategic Planning, Web Design, Westward Strategy, What Are People Saying | 2 Comments

Sparks Tribune – BUSINESS

Jun 12, 2008
by Jessica Garcia

It’s the axiom of the Internet versus standard paper mailing: Technology has become the predominant source of information. Can two forms of advertising and marketing co-exist?

Kristy Crabtree Westward StrategyThey can – and they should, local businesswoman Kristy Crabtree said.

But making the transition to e-marketing might just give a business the edge it needs to attract new customers as well as retain current ones, she emphasized.

Crabtree’s company, Westward Strategy and Design Group, has been busy the past few months. With the launching of six Web sites for Reno and Sparks businesses, Crabtree spends her time consulting with businesses and showing them how a Web site can enhance their services.

“We try to be a full-service for online (needs),â€Â? said Crabtree, who opened Westward, her first business, two years ago.

Crabtree, along with marketing and design specialist Chris Gandolfo, consult with their clients to understand their advertising objectives and design Web sites to target their desired demographics, increase traffic hits and optimize Internet searches so their companies are found more easily.

Web marketing, Crabtree said, offers businesses som things that traditional methods of advertising doesn’t: the ability to evaluate results and effectiveness.

Westward can report to their clients how effective their sites are through analytics, which is the tracking of information about a Web site’s user: their location, how long they spend on the site and even what they’re interested in by the pages they visit.

Such background information helps Westward and other e-marketing companies determine whether the Web site’s information is effectively helping the company achieve its goals.

“With analytics, you can see an impact has been made to the bottom line,â€Â? Gandolfo said.

E-marketing has potential for businesses of any size. Westward is now focusing on rural clients, such as businesses in Winnemucca, for whom they are now building a site similar to www.monster.com for rural employers and job seekers.

Crabtree said having a site geared specifically on the local level allows these businesses to have more control over what they’re posting.

Westward’s clientele is a variety of businesses in different industries, all with different needs. One of the six companies that recently had their Web sites launched by Westward, ACS Business Insurance Services, Inc., had its former site redone to become more user-friendly, said ACS President Andy Perwein.

“We created more of a user-friendly site that would involve interaction from a quoting perspective,â€Â? Perwein said. “Prospective clients can go in and obtain quotes for themselves and family members on medical and life insurance.â€Â?

It creates easier access for the potential client, who can then call the company to talk to an agent further about their options. Hiring Westward Strategy was a good move for ACS, he said.

“I’ve known Kristy a long time and the e-marketing side of the equation was important to be able to get more traffic driven to our site,â€Â? Perwein said.

Still, ACS will continue using its traditional mailings and print advertising to promote its services, begging the question: Will e-marketing replace traditional means of advertising?

Carol Wenzel of Nevada Presort and Mail Marketing, said she doesn’t think so.

The Sparks-based business that sorts and meters individual and mass mailings hasn’t seen a significant decrease in services due to e-marketing because some people prefer the old-fashioned method of receiving materials in their mailbox, Wenzel said.

“I think people still prefer … to look at a pretty picture of something they might need instead of getting it in their e-mail,â€Â? she said. “I personally delete it (from my e-mail) because I don’t know I need it.â€Â?

Wenzel said if there has been a decrease in advertising mailers, it’s because of the slumping economy, not necessarily because businesses are taking their marketing online.

“You never know from day to day,â€Â? she said. “It goes back and forth.â€Â?

Crabtree said e-marketing is often cheaper than mailing out postcards and purchasing advertisements in local newspapers. She said designing a site, in general, often ranges from $500 to $25,000, depending on how sophisticated and complex the clients’ needs are.

“If it’s a site for an entrepreneur or sole proprietor, it’s cheap for them,â€Â? Crabtree said. “The rest are just bells and whistles.â€Â?

Regardless of price, Crabtree said if companies want greater success at bringing in customers, e-marketing is becoming the way to go. They might do well on traditional means of advertising, but without an online presence, “you’re missing out,â€Â? she said.

More information about Reno Web Design and Marketing
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Photo by: Tribune/Debra Reid – Kristy Crabtree of Westward Strategy and Design Group poses with her photo of balloons at the Sparks Marina during Star Spangled Sparks.

WordPress Lesson Learned

By | Westward Strategy, What Are People Saying | No Comments

The lesson is, don’t just delete plugins. When removing plugins from WordPress follow these simple steps:

  1. Deactivate the plugin. Login to your WordPress administration and go to the Plugins section. Click the ‘deactivate’ link to the right of the plugin description.
  2. Visit the plugin author’s website. Read through their documentation and/or the plugin readme file for instructions on removing the plugin.
  3. Delete the plugin. Access your website files using your FTP client. Go to wp-content/plugins and delete the plugin files and/or directory.
  4. Remove any associated files. Follow the author’s instructions for removing any associated files or folders. Some plugins will modify WordPress files including wp-config.php and/or your htaccess file. Look for lines of code in those files related to the plugin you are removing. Delete those lines and then upload the new files to your server.

You may be wondering why I am posting this. Well, if you have been to our site within the last few weeks you may have noticed some performance issues, including but not limited to; very slow load times, pages that fail to load and instead load a blank page, and a sporadic internal server error. After a couple of conference calls with our host to get it straightened out, we determined it was a plugin conflict between two different cache plugins.

Cache plugins can be great because they create and then serve static versions of all your pages. So if you have a sudden influx of visitors from an article that has been Dugg you can still serve the page without all the database calls and possibly crashing your server altogether. However, as we experienced they can also be troublesome to correct when they conflict.

So we would like to apologize for the poor website performance and invite you to leave us a note if you continue to experience problems on our site. Thank you.

IWC Website Recognized…Again!

By | Client Successes, Web Design, Westward Strategy, What Are People Saying | 2 Comments

Boy was I surprised to pull up my unmatched style feed today and see Integrated Wealth Counselors right there! The site has managed to make it to quite a few CSS galleries, but this one is a big one. Anyone who calls themselves a designer knows (or at least should know) about unmatched style. It is an incredible, and often times inspirational, resource for web designers. So, to see one of our sites front and center on their site makes us blush just a little bit!

Congratulations to IWC and thanks to unmatched style!