Welcome to KW Works Blog

welcome to KW Works Blog

by kirk on August 14, 2010

The KW Works web design and online marketing blog is now open for business!  In the weeks and months to come,  we’ll be offering you our observations about the most exciting developments in web technology, and tips on how to get the most out of your online marketing presence.  When we started thinking about the blog, we decided the best analogy was a small-town diner. No fancy sauces and seasonings, just simple fare written for real-world business folks, not just big city technophiles.

We hope you’ll come here to get helpful tips and lucid explanations. We also want the blog to be a comfortable place where you can sit down and chat with people who speak your language.  We encourage you to ask questions, share concerns, or suggest new ways to approach some of the topics we’ll be discussing.  We’ll be giving you the lowdown on the latest content management systems, best design practices, exciting new advertising venues. We’ll initiate you into the mysteries of Search Engine Optimization, the potential goldmine of Pay-Per-Click ads, and even the importance of blogging as a marketing tool.

There’s a lot of information out there, and a lot of ways to use the web to your advantage.  Some are obviously better than others–we’ll help you separate the wheat from the chaff, so that you can use your new insights to make your website the most effective business tool imaginable!  You’ll want to drop by regularly, so be sure to bookmark this page, or better yet, subscribe via RSS.  We’ll be posting several times a week, because there’s a lot of exciting stuff happening out there in the online marketing world and we don’t want you to miss out on any of it. So stop by whenever you can, and see what’s cooking.


No thanks, LinkedIn

by kwilliams on August 12, 2011

Are you a LinkedIn user? Maybe one of those people who signed up for the site, created a profile, then forgot about it? Well it may come back to haunt you. In fact you may come back to haunt you. Following in the nefarious footsteps of Facebook, LinkedIn has just decided that you work for their marketing department.

That’s right, they now claim the right to use your personal information—including your photo—in their social advertising schemes. So if, say, you have any connection to a person, service, or company—no matter how tenuous the connection—LinkedIn will let everyone on your list know! The information they provide on this new “feature” is deliberately vague.  If you “recommend people or services, follow companies, or take other action “[our emphasis], “your name/photo may show up in related ads to LinkedIn members.”  One wonders how far “take other actions” might extend.

If you look at a page, if you research physicians or medications for an illness, if you give money to a political group or person, LinkedIn reserves the right to shout out the details to everyone on your list, unless you explicitly forbid them to do so. You have to go into your account and change your default settings if you want your personal preferences/interests/needs to remain private.  This is surely a new low in the rapid erosion of privacy spearheaded by Facebook.  Not to be outdone, LinkedIn has decided that your profile is their property.  Would you prefer your colleagues not find out how you vote, or what medicines you take, or where your kids go to summer camp? Follow these instructions to opt out:

  1. Click on your name on your LinkedIn homepage (upper right corner).
  2. Under “Settings,” select “Account.”
  3. In the column next to “Account,” click “Manage Social Advertising.”
  4. De-select the box next to “LinkedIn may use my name, photo in social advertising.”

After you finish reclaiming your identity from LinkedIn, take a look at the new default settings under “E-mail Preferences,” and “Groups, Companies, and Applications.” You’ll doubtless be as outraged as we are. When you’re done, you might want to drop LinkedIn a note informing them that you think their “new features” stink.  If enough of us draw a line in the sand, maybe companies like Facebook and LinkedIn will start to realize that web users are private citizens with rights, not a limitless source of cheap advertising.


Book Review – Programming C# 4.0

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by kwilliams on December 13, 2010

O’Reilly’s Programming C# 4.0 is an excellent text for programmers seeking first contact with the C# language and family of associated technologies. Now in its 6th edition, the authors Ian Griffiths, Matthew Adams, and Jesse Liberty provide a clear and thorough introduction to basic C# semantics and foundational programming principals such as abstraction, polymorphism, interfaces, delegates and lambdas. The book also skillfully elucidates many of the newer, and more advanced features of the language and its framework, including an expanded discussion of LINQ in its various dialects, the Entity Framework, and the modern presentational technologies of WPF and Silverlight; more advanced programmers will find these sections useful.  Several recent enhancements, however, do not find their way into the text; there is no mention of MVC or Windows Workflow or mobile solutions. Yet these are quibbles given that the text already boasts an impressive size of over 800 pages and covering the complete scope of any modern programming language exceeds the parameters of any single book. All in all, I can warmly recommend Programming C# 4.0.  I have a special fondness for this text ever since the second edition of the book was my trusted companion early in my own study of C#. I continue to use it today as a trusted resource on the C# language.


What’s in a Brand?

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by kirk on September 20, 2010

In our previous post, we discussed what good web content can do for your business.  One of the things it can do, we said, was “enhance your brand.”  Now if you’re a small- to mid-sized business, you may not have thought a lot about branding–probably because “branding” seems to be the province of “big brands” like Nike, Coca-Cola, Apple, and the like.  “My toy store (or carpet warehouse, or cleaning service) isn’t going to go national,” you’re thinking, “so probably I don’t need to worry too much about branding.”

Not so.  For one thing, a brand is much more than just a logo or a slogan. It’s a marketing message that creates a community around your business.  A good branding strategy isn’t just about getting your target prospects to choose you over the competition. It’s about making them see that your company is the only one that can provide a solution to their problem.  A good brand answers a need, but it also creates that need in the minds of consumers. Harley-Davidson, for example, doesn’t just sell motorcycles.  They sell a lifestyle.  People who embrace the Harley-Davidson brand tend to self-identify as adventurous risk-takers.  Harley sells motorcycles, in other words, but they also sell freedom and rugged individualism.  Sure, you’re thinking, but what about my toy store?  I’m not selling a myth about toys.

Sure you are.  Your toy store is a little fantasy world–a place where adults and children alike can enter the Neverland of childhood.  And your carpet warehouse?  You’re selling an affordable way to make a house a home.  A serene, suburban refuge.  A warm, safe surface for babies learning to walk.  Energy-saving insulation from the cold. Your cleaning service sells good health, by removing allergens and hazardous bacteria. Or maybe it sells time–a priceless commodity for hard-working families. A brand is, in short, the heart and soul of your business. It’s a point of emotional connection for your customers and prospects, and a guarantee of quality.  Think of it this way–if your business were a neighborhood, what would it look like? Who would live there? What would they eat, wear, do for fun?  If you can answer these questions, you’ve just done some essential branding research.

Once you decide on your neighborhood, you’ll get to the details.  What’s it going to be called? Naming is an important part of branding. Names can have forgotten mythic associations (Nike), a musical rhythm (Coca-Cola), or be boldly mundane (Apple).  Many high-tech businesses tend to like evocative, abstract names (Oracle, Google).  Some names are simply the last name of the owner or founder–if this is the case, it’s good to turn that name into a memorable logo, as Hewlitt-Packard and Dell have done.

After you’ve got a catchy name or logo, you’ll need a tagline that captures your brand image. Just do it.   Don’t Leave Home Without It.  The Ultimate Driving Machine. Powerful Web Solutions at a Fair Price. The first two are commands. The third is a mythologized description or “feature” (BMW isn’t just a driving machine; it’s the “ultimate” one) our own tagline offers both a feature (powerful solutions) and a benefit (fair price).  In another familiar example, Apple exhorts people to “Think Different,” which is strikingly ungrammatical–the slogan violates rules, the Apple customer isn’t bound by them.  Commands are bold and in-your-face, but they’re not right for every business, obviously.

But again, a brand is more than a name or a tagline. That’s where web design comes in.  Because a well-designed site does exactly what a good brand does. It

  • Delivers a clear, persuasive message
  • Differentiates a company from its competitors
  • Connects target prospects emotionally
  • Affirms credibility
  • Motivates buyers
  • Cements customer loyalty

Branding and web design are, in fact, inextricable.  A design that doesn’t create or enhance your brand is a failure.  A brand that doesn’t have a web presence is like a story that’s waiting to be told.  A club with no members.  Your website pulls it all together–name, slogan, story–and creates a place where your customers/target prospects can come to share the love. A good site will not only showcase your brand. It will give customers a reason to come back, again and again.  To shop, to see what’s new, and just to get that good feeling.

We’ll have more to say about branding in future posts. For now, start thinking about your brand neighborhood. When you’ve got a good idea of what it looks like,  who lives there, and what they do for fun, give KW Works a call. We’ll help turn that vision into a reality.


Content is King? Really?

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by kirk on September 12, 2010

If you’ve done any research into web design, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Content is King.”  Everyone bandies it around these days.  We’ve used it ourselves.  But what does it mean, exactly?  At the most basic level, it means no one wants an empty box, no matter how pretty the box is.  Your site can look like a million bucks, but if you don’t have effective content, no one will care. Not customers, and certainly not search engines.  But what is effective content?  And is it really “king,” i.e., does content rule over everything else?

No, it doesn’t.  It’s a vital part of a successful website, but if your site has scintillating, eye-catching content wrapped in a dysfunctional design, it will fail.  A top-notch site needs both. So why is the phrase “content is king” so popular? We think it’s a case of persuasion by exaggeration. Most web-savvy people know  that design matters. Fewer people know that content does–witness the myriad sites all across the web that have poorly-written text, annoying flash animation, or weirdly irrelevant links.  So even if content isn’t an absolute monarch, it’s still a crucial component of a successful web strategy.

But getting back to our first question–what is effective content? There isn’t one answer to this, obviously. It’s not just good grammar or nice pictures.  Effective content should

  • Engage the reader
  • Enhance your brand
  • Increase search engine rankings and traffic
  • Attract links from other relevant sites
  • Lead to conversions

Now, we could write a lengthy article on each one of these goals.  And at some point, we’ll address them in more detail here on the blog.  For now, however, consider this post an introduction to the whole complicated business of content strategy.  For starters, let’s unpack those five points.

You engage your readers by giving them what they want. Simple, yes?  Ah, but what do they want?  They’ve found you, so they must want what you’re selling.  You just have to remind them of that fact in a compelling way.  Tell a brief story.  Set up an interesting scenario. Tell them something they didn’t know. Use a catchy headline. Don’t bore them with long, run-on sentences or peripheral facts on your home or landing page.  Don’t talk about you.  This is about them.

You enhance your brand by creating content that reflects your values, your mission, and (most of all) the needs of your target audience. Your site should remind your customers what you stand for, what you’ve done in the past, and what you promise to deliver in the future.  But how do you do this without talking about you?  By using interactive, ongoing features such as blogs and forums, and finding the right tone.  If you’re running a small, family-owned business, for example, you don’t want to use a lot of slangy expressions that would appeal to urban hipsters.  You want to create a community around your brand.  Ideally, customers will come to your site to buy your products, but also to see what’s new and to reconnect with your company.

You increase search engine rankings by writing relevant content with appropriate keywords and metatags. It sounds easy, but it’s not.  You want to find a nice balance between awkward, keyword-stuffed prose and SEO-oblivious text.  This is where it’s useful to hire a professional.  But if you do want to generate your own content, you’ll want to start with a list of keywords, then use them as “seeds” from which you’ll grow your site’s narrative.

You attract links by linking to sites relevant to and influential in your industry, by commenting on industry blogs and taking part in forums, and by building relationships with professionals in and around your business. But mostly, you attract links by having good content–if your site is informative and influential, it will naturally garner links and citations across the web.

And those conversions?  If you combine a disciplined content strategy with functional, appealing design, conversions will naturally follow. The key term here is “disciplined”–that’s why we don’t like to think of content as a capricious monarch, doing whatever he/it wants.  Content should serve, not rule your site. David Campbell, the founder of Saks Fifth Avenue, once said that “discipline is remembering what you want.”  That’s a good thing to keep in mind when generating content.  Remember what your content is for.  Remember what your website wants.  It wants repeat customers. Every word, every picture, every video clip should serve this end.  If it doesn’t, get rid of it and find something better.


Bounce Rate: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

September 4, 2010
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That’s the question every visitor to your website is asking.  Should I take a look around, see what this company can offer me, or look elsewhere?  The thing is, you have only a few seconds to convince them to stick around and get to know you better.  A few seconds before they click the dreaded [...]

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The Perils of Poor Design

August 30, 2010
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We’ve all had this experience. You’re looking for a service or product, so you do a Google search. You’re a little nervous about doing business with a new company, but you really need a dog groomer/realtor/bridal boutique/yoga studio, so you have to take a chance.  You get a list of companies, and proceed to click [...]

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Push vs. Pull: 7 Key Advantages of Online Marketing

August 25, 2010
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If you’ve been in business for awhile, you’re familiar with the limitations of traditional offline advertising. Ads in newspapers and magazines are relatively very, very expensive. They only run for a limited time and in a limited area.  And there’s no guarantee that the people who see them will have any interest in your products [...]

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WordPress: Better Than Apple Pie

August 16, 2010
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You’ve decided to have a Big Sale, but you need to get the information up on your website immediately. You’ve got some fantastic photos of your last Event.  You know your customers will get a kick out of them, and you can’t wait to post them.  You’ve got an exciting new product, and you want [...]

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