How Strong Collaboration Delivers Awards – and Results

We Didn’t Set Out to Win an Award

When our client approached us to completely redesign their website, our first question was, “What Are Your Primary Objectives?” On the surface, the design was clearly dated; it had some questionable navigation and not a lot of educational content. The blog page hadn’t been updated in a while. Visitors just weren’t hanging around.

We could get those issues all up to speed – no problem, but then their site would pretty much just be on par with their competitors. There needed to be a deeper conversation to give the website an edge that would stand out in a ridiculously crowded field.

Peeling Back the Onion

Our philosophy is to build a web “presence” as opposed to a web “site”. It needs to be a vital, functional portal that just happens to live on the internet.

In the case of Conrey Insurance Brokers, we took the exact approach that they take with their clients: ask the right questions – a LOT of them. Really understand the clients and business. That may sound a little simplistic, but we found that after doing the extra detective work, the primary objectives became clear: create an emotional connection that starts a dialog with the viewer – while standing out from every other insurance website out there.

During our discussions, we honed in on the fact the insurance clients want to protect everything they had worked their entire lives to achieve. Whether that was a material goal (like nice cars in the garage or fine art) or a lifestyle goal (a dream to travel the world), each insurance client had their own personal journey.

And when do these big goals and dreams begin? Usually in childhood.

The Big Idea

For us, the big idea was to use children to portray the ideals of Conrey Insurance Brokers’ clients – and also to convey information to help them become better-informed consumers. From the very beginning, our client loved this idea. And, despite some resistance internally, he decided to take the creative risk.  He felt that this approach was the perfect emotional representation of the Conrey Insurance Brokers brand.

The Major Award

Yes, the website and the accompanying tour video, each won a Communicator Award. And, yes, we really must give credit to the client who took the risk on the out-of-the-box idea that resulted in this award. But it wouldn’t have happened without that initial discussion and subsequent collaboration for those of us committed to a vision of developing something truly different and unique.

Does It Work?

Well, if winning an award was not enough (actually, it isn’t enough for us), the website has been a resounding success. It certainly is different from any other insurance website out there. And it has started many, many conversations for Conrey Insurance Brokers and their prospective clients.


Here at Total Spectrum, we want to collaborate with our clients to produce work that works. Do you have a dream – a goal – a business challenge? Share it with us and we’ll help solve it together. Even if the goal is to win an award we’ve got that covered.





Web Analytics Basics (Or, Google and Everyone Else)


Just so we are all on the same page (no pun intended), let’s start off with a formal definition of web analytics: “Web Analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of web data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage.”

The source for that little tidbit: WAA Standards Committee. “Web Analytics Definitions.” Washington DC: Web Analytics Association (2008).

For our purposes, “understanding and optimizing” web analytics translates into marketing and research, as well as tracking eBlasts, on-line ad campaigns, surveys, landing pages and much more. To begin this short journey, let’s review a bit of web analytics history:

The Pre-Google Analytics World

Without getting too technical, here goes: In ancient, pre-Google Analytics times (before 2005) there were open-source web-reporting tools that parsed and analyzed website server log files. Essentially, they were (and often still are) features included in the control panel or “back-end” administration sections of websites. Among them are:

  • AWStats analyze data from Internet services such as web, streaming media, mail, and FTP servers. As mentioned above, AWStats parse and analyze server log files, producing HTML reports. Data is visually presented within reports in simple tables and bar graphs.
  • Analog is a free web log analysis computer program that runs under Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and most Unix-like operating systems. It offers reporting options for a technical audience. Analog does not support the concept of a visitor – an option much-desired for business analysis.
  • Webalizer is an application that generates web pages of analysis – also from access and usage logs. It is one of the most commonly-used web server administration tools. Statistics commonly reported by Webalizer include hits, visits, referrers, the visitors’ countries and the amount of data downloaded. Statistics can be viewed in graphic form and presented in different time frames, such as by day, hour or month.

Hits! I was waiting for that dirty word to come up. We now must take a minor detour into a major pet peeve: One of the worst and misleading metrics ever conceived for website tracking is “hits” – hands down. Why? Because clients tend to think “hits” on their website equate to visits or views. They don’t.

Here is the short version: let’s say a single page on your website has 10 photos or 10 separate graphic elements – or a combination of both. If one person visits that page, it counts as 10 “hits”. Basically, everything “seen” on the page counts as a hit. You can see how that can skew data! Clients see hundreds of thousands of “hits”, but it really only equates to tens of thousands of actual visits. End of rant.

All of the above programs provided good, solid information – but each had significant gaps in their reporting and NONE of the information was presented nicely. The reports were not (and are still not) pleasing to look at, to say the least. (The 1950’s called; they want their reports back.)

Google Analytics: The Big Dog Basics

There are other solid website tracking programs available, but as we have said before, currently it’s Google’s World – we just live in it. Besides: Who is going to argue with Google results? It’s pretty much the gold standard for better or worse.

Google Analytics IS a very powerful web analysis tool that will help you understand and improve the engagement, sales and metrics outcomes for your online marketing efforts. This isn’t your “grandfather’s” analytics. The types of information and ways you can track and filter it and are staggering. It also has features to help you track and evaluate the monetary values of traffic, actual sales outcomes and interactions related to real product data.

You can even see how many visitors are on your site in real time, what pages they are on and more. (For any Harry Potter fans out there it’s kind of like the Marauders Map from the third installment of the series.) It’s a really cool feature.

So how does it work?

Unlike the control panel or web server-based programs discussed above, Google Analytics tracks website data via a tracking code or “script” inserted in the unseen meta tag header of each web page you want to track. This is important. If a website consists of a home page and five sub-pages, all six pages must have the tracking code installed if all six are to be tracked by Google Analytics.

In WordPress and other website templates, there are Google Analytics plug-ins that will populate your tracking code into every page automatically – which is quite nice for websites with lots of pages.

So how do you get a tracking code? After you set up a Google Analytics account for a website, the tracking code is generated. Then, you copy the code (be sure to grab all of it) and either send it off to your webmaster and mix a proper martini, (preferred method) or open Dreamweaver, WordPress, etc. and insert the code in to the web page headers. This requires some software and a bit of web savvy, but it is doable – it’s not webmaster-level stuff.

Once the code is in place, Google will start tracking you web pages within 24 hours. Whoohoo!

Linking to Social Media

In the Google Analytics console you can activate important functions. One of the most important and easiest settings is the Social Settings which “tells” Google analytics where your social media pages are, and specifically tracks them. In Social Settings you can easily enter the URLs for your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other pages to view how much traffic comes to your website via social media.

Dashboards and Reports

Now that your site is being tracked it’s time to begin exploring Dashboards and Reporting in your Google Analytics Console. These functions allow you to see tracked data and have various settings you can adjust with dashboard widgets, custom reports, date range variation, etc.

There are literally countless ways to set-up tracking or pull reports for any date range on-the-fly.
What you should focus on depends on the nature of your website’s business and your specific marketing objectives. Our advice is to start on the left-hand side of the console and open and review each report one at a time to see what information is available.

Generally, as a bare minimum you should be checking the following Google Analytics statistics on a regular basis:

Audience Overview:
Shows total number of sessions, users, page views, average session duration and more

Breaks down session duration times

Frequency and Recency:
Breaks down session visitor counts

Mobile Overview:
Sorts mobile, tablet and desktop sessions, as well as types of devices used

New vs. Returning Visitors:
Compares new and returning visitors

Organic Search Traffic
Lists key words and phrases typed into search engines

Lists the top pages visited, visitor counts and more

Referral Traffic:
Ranks websites that have referred visitors to your website

Unlike the old-school web reports, in Google Analytics, NICE LOOKING data and reports can be exported into spreadsheets or PDF’s and shared via email or stored reports. You can even have web reports automatically generated and emailed to yourself or others on a specific day and time.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Using Google Analytics is a dynamic process and is always a work in progress – especially at the more advanced levels. It can work in sync with your SEO efforts, webmaster tools, call-to-action comments and subscriptions – and other tools that provide information about your website and user interaction.

Naturally, Google provides numerous tutorials to help you along as you learn. It can be a bit daunting but well worth the effort.


If you get it, but just don’t have the time to mess with it, Total Spectrum has the answer. We can set-up and manage your Google Analytics accounts and provide regular reports custom-tailored for your organization. Call us at 714.637.3600 and speak to one of our web experts. They have the knowledge and experience that deliver the results you require.

Evaluating Internet-Sourced Content (Or, tips so you don’t go off half-cocked)


Scenario: Let’s say you need to beef up educational content on a company website. The powers-to-be decide to go on a Google-fest and find a bunch of industry-related articles and videos to post on the newly-minted company blog. Problem solved.

Not so fast. First of all you should be moving toward creating your own content as discussed in Creating Effective Content Efficiently. That said, there is nothing wrong in supplementing your website content library with articles and posts from other sources. But there is a step that often gets overlooked: vetting the content you are posting for truth and accuracy. You can’t just grab and go. Keep in mind passing along bad information can potentially damage your company’s credibility and/or cost money.

Remember, anyone can pretty much post anything on the internet – accurate or not. The purpose of this article is to review some tips on how to quickly evaluate the content of web pages to help you weed out questionable or inaccurate online content.

Tip #1 What’s in a URL?

Let’s start with the basic-basics. Look at your list of search results. Before you get fired up about anything and start clicking around, glean all you can from the URLs of the results page. Questions to ask yourself include:

Questions to Ask:
Is it somebody’s personal web page? Read the URL carefully: Look for a personal name (i.e. smith, or sjones) or words like “users,” “members,” or “group.”

Is the server a commercial internet service provider (ISP) or a provider of personal web page hosting – like Personal pages are not necessarily bad sources, but you will need to investigate the author carefully – because with personal pages, there is no publisher or domain owner vouching for the information on the page.

What type of domain does the page originate from? Is it educational, nonprofit, commercial or government? Government sites end with .gov or .mil; commercial sites .com; educational sites .edu and non-profits are .org. (Note that .edu can include personal student and faculty pages as well as official college and university pages.)

Additionally, many country codes, such as .us, .uk. and .de, are no longer tightly controlled and may be misused. Look at the country code, but also use the techniques in Tips #2 and #4 below to see who published the web page.

Tip #2 Scan the Edges

Once on a page, look for links that say “About Us,” “Philosophy,” “Background,” “Biography”, “Contact” etc. If you cannot find these links, you can often find them if you truncate back the URL. Here’s how: In the top location box, delete the end characters of the URL stopping just before the first / after .com, .edu or whatever. Then press “enter” and you will be taken to the home page. Hopefully you will find the information there.

Questions to Ask:
Who wrote the web page? Look for the name of the author or the name of the organization, institution, agency, or whoever is responsible for the page. An e-mail contact is not enough. If there is no personal author listed, look for an agency or organization that claims responsibility for the page.

Does the page seem dated? Is it current enough? Is it stale or out-of-date information on a time-sensitive or constantly-evolving topic? In our view, undated factual or statistical information is no better than anonymous information. Don’t use it without confirmation.

What are the author’s credentials on this subject? Does his or her background or education look like someone who is qualified to write on the topic? Could the page have been written by a self-proclaimed expert, or enthusiast? All good questions to keep in mind…

Tip #3 Look for Quality Indicators

Look for a link called “links,” “additional sites,” “related links,” etc. If you see little footnote numbers or links within the text of an article that might refer to documentation, take a little time to explore them.

Questions to Ask:
Do the links work?
What kinds of publications or sites are they? Reputable? Scholarly?
Are they real? (It is possible to create totally fake references)
Are sources documented with footnotes or links?
Where did the author get the information?
If there are links to other pages as sources, are they to reliable sources?
Do the links represent other viewpoints or indicate a bias?

The credibility of most writings is proven through footnote documentation or other means of revealing the sources of information. Just randomly writing stuff (however true) without documentation is not much better than just expressing an opinion or a point of view.

Tip #4 What do Others Say?

It sure doesn’t hurt to do a separate general Google search of the author and/or the owner/publisher of the web page to see what others have to say. If there is negative information about either, the chances are it will be posted somewhere. This might be the quickest way to vet an article or site in a pinch. However, although “Googling” someone can be revealing, be sure to consider the source. If the viewpoint or tone of an article or blog post is controversial, expect to find detractors.

You can also acquire more information about a website by typing or pasting a URL in the search box on Depending on the volume of traffic to the page you can view:

  • Traffic details
  • Contact/ownership info for the domain name
  • “Related links” to other sites visited by people who visited the page.
  • Sites linking in to the page

Another interesting resource is the Wayback Machine, a website archive where you can view what almost any webpage page looked like in the past.

Tip #5 How Does it Add Up?

To close a website content “investigation”, step back and think about all you have learned about the page. Check your gut reaction – the gut never lies.

Think about why the page was created and the intentions of its author(s). Be sensitive to the possibility that you are the victim of irony, spoof or fraud. It is easy to be fooled on-line, and this can make you look foolish in turn. We all need to stay aware of the range of intentions behind web pages.

One more thing: ask yourself if the web is truly the best place to find resources for the content you are creating! Just saying…


If you have any questions about websites, web content, marketing automation, video production or just about anything else in the B2B marketing realm, call Total Spectrum at 714.637.3600 and speak to one our seasoned experts. We have the knowledge and experience that delivers results. You can bet on it.

10 Guidelines for Developing a High Performance Website

In this article, we will cover the major factors in developing a successful modern website that people can find and use easily. Are there more than 10 factors to consider? Of course, but we have hit all the big ones here. If you follow these key guidelines, you really can’t go wrong. We are not big fans of long, needless introductions, so here goes:

Website Design

While it is true that “Content is King”, presentation is always critical. When you meet someone for the first time, you want to make a good first impression. The same should be true for your website, as the overall look and feel of your site is the first thing your visitors will notice. Not only does a website need to look professional and industry-appropriate, it also needs to clearly and professionally communicate to your key message to your core audience. Here are a few design basics:


An all too common mistake many people make is placing as much content as they can on one page. Cramming too much into each page mainly creates confusion and information overload. Visitors quickly get frustrated if they have to scroll through rows of links and images to find their desired content. By keeping web pages simple, your website will be user-friendly and will provide a more productive and enjoyable browsing experience.


Visitors to your website shouldn’t feel like they are visiting a new website each time they open a new page on your site. Consistency among the pages on your site makes navigation a much easier task, so it is important for all website pages within site to follow a certain layout in order to maintain a theme and uniformity. Naturally there are exceptions for specially-themed landing or special event pages, If the layout of your website pages is not consistent, your website will look disorganized – and won’t properly reflect your organization’s image online.


Color selection can often make or break a website. You know it’s true, as we have all visited websites that are simply painful to look at. When choosing colors, use a consistent palette of colors that don’t clash and make sure there is a strong contrast between the text and the background. Of course, your color selection should mirror you corporate or company colors to help maintain, you guessed it – consistency.

Code vs. WordPress

This isn’t really a performance or best practices issue, because either website platform will work just fine, but instead it’s more of a practicality and flexibility issue.

Custom Code

Some web developers will tell you that whether it’s HTML or PHP, nothing beats writing your code from scratch. It is true that if you code your own pages, you have complete and total control over how they look, act and respond. The downside is that when changes or updates have to be made, you have to know how to write code, or be proficient in software like Adobe Dreamweaver.

With custom code the scenario that typically unfolds is that you need an emergency change made to your website, and your “code” guy is at the comic book convention for 3 days. Then the replacement code guy doesn’t understand the original code, says it’s “bad” and heads off to the comic book convention himself.

Utilizing WordPress

The short version: WordPress is template or “theme” based so it’s easier for users or site administrators to make additions and changes on the fly. You don’t have to know code or learn elaborate and expensive software. It’s also browser-based – so you can log on and work on your website from any computer. Users simply drag and drop photos or files, add or change text or other content within pre-defined parameters and hit the “update” button.

Since WordPress is template-based, you obviously do not have as much control over the look, design and other features as you would with custom code. That being said, there is probably a “theme” available to meet just about any website look or need. A bit of food for thought: as of this writing, approximately 37% of all new websites launched are in WordPress.


There are few things more frustrating on-line than not being able to find certain content on a website quickly. If the visitors find it difficult to navigate from one page to another, they will give up and leave the site. Keep in mind, attracting these frustrated visitors to come back to visit the site is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Pages should be well-organized with topics or tabs listed clearly across the top of the page so that visitors can easily browse through the different sections on the website. Depending on the industry or purpose of the website it may be a good practice to list duplicate links vertically along the left hand side of the page.

For an example, go to and click the “Products” tab at the top of the page. You will notice that the same product links are listed vertically along the left hand side of the home page below the Search boxes – to make it as easy as possible for visitors to go directly to desired products. Is this for every website? No, but it’s worth noting.

Browser Compatibility

Remember when Netscape was just about the only game in town? Today, there are various Internet browsers in use, so it is imperative that your website loads properly on the main browsers – which include Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome.

In theory, all browsers are supposed to render webpages the same way, but sometimes they just flat-out don’t – often seemingly for no real reason at all. Make sure to test your website thoroughly on multiple browsers to make sure everything loads and appears correctly. It’s always best to catch and correct these problems ahead of time instead of relying on complaints from visitors down the road. Or worse, if they don’t complain at all and never come back.


People will access your website using a wide variety of devices – including smartphones, tablets, netbooks, laptops and desktop computers. Consequently, it has now become critical that websites scale and display correctly on different screen sizes. Most recent WordPress templates/themes are scalable, but if you are going the custom code route, cover the scalability issue with your web developer right out of the gate. It’s a major hassle to make a hard coded website scalable after the fact.

This is officially a big deal. According to Google half of web searches are now done with mobile devices – the majority being smart phones.


As time goes by, the main factor that drives a website towards becoming successful is its content. Even if a site is beautifully designed, it is no more than an empty shell without content. A good website has both great design and great content. All of your pages require unique, original content that will make them worth visiting.

If content is not updated often, potential website visitors will have little reason to return. Adding and updating content on a regular basis can be accomplished via a blog on the site or a “News” or “What’s New” section area. You can post white papers, eBooks or thought leadership articles that users can download.

Once again, let’s go back to Code vs. WordPress…unless you can rely on a webmaster or have one on staff, a WordPress website platform is probably your best choice, because additions and updates are much faster and easier to accomplish via your browser.

For more on website content development, visit and download “The 5 Secrets of Content-Drive Marketing” eBook.


Even though bandwidth availability and download speeds have increased dramatically overall, there are still many pockets of “slowness” out there in the world at large – so any website should be designed to download quickly. Forget the elaborate splash page that takes 30 seconds to load just to eventually say “Enter Here”. In today’s fast-paced world, patience is rapidly becoming a quaint practice of the past.

Visitors want websites to load quickly to look at photos, articles or watch videos immediately. When a website has too many large images or large videos within it, it will take longer to load – which can invariably lead to frustrated visitors leaving your site.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

SEO – AKA “The Big Mystery” – or many would like to have you think. Let’s face it; many SEO “gurus” these days are the snake oil salesmen of the new millennium. Pay them a hefty monthly fee and magical things will start happening. Then nothing changes and you fire them in three months.

For starters, real SEO is based on research and is an on-going process built around best practices, great (and current) content and other factors that work in harmony together to increase search engine (namely Google) presence. There is no magic software, button or short-cut – just proper strategy and execution.

For starters, you have to create a consistent “trail” for the search engines to easily find something. For a best practices example return to, click the “Products” tab. You will see “Acoustical Isolation” listed. After clicking “Acoustical Isolation”, you will notice that the words “acoustical-isolation” are part of that page‘s URL. This is good. (“Acous-Iso” would be bad). Now kook at the page itself: the exact words “Acoustic Isolation” appear as the headline.

So there is the trail: the “Products” tab, the page URL and the page itself each contain the exact phrase “Acoustical Isolation”. Of course, there are numerous other factors regarding SEO, but this example is generally helpful.

Google Analytics

It’s seems like it’s Google’s world, and we just live in it, right? Google Analytics is what is used to keep track of how each and every page on your website is performing. Although there are multiple search engines in the world and multiple ways to track website traffic, activity and user behavior, Google is king of both – so roll with it for now.

Basically, when you create a Google Analytics account a tracking code is generated which is then installed on each page on the website by your webmaster – or in the case of WordPress sites the code is installed in one area that automatically populates the code throughout the site. A wide range of data is then collected that can be filtered and exported for review in in a variety of formats. For more information, check out

Marketing Automation

Everything is up and running, the SEO and the Google Analytics are happening…now it’s time to take things to the next level with marketing automation. It really doesn’t make sense to have all these people come to your website and browse all over the place…and not track where they go and what they do. With marketing automation, a tracking cookie is placed on the browsers of visitors to the site – which can then collect and store a surprising amount of information and user behavior.

Traffic reports with a detailed list of website visitors are generated daily. Tracked information is also fed into a database where it can be filtered and prioritized for automatic marketing outreach efforts such as targeted emails. For more information check out:


That’s about it for this junior website manifesto. There is more to tell, but if you keep these 10 guidelines in mind when conceiving and developing your next web project, you will be well on you way to creating a successful web presence. If you have any questions, need help with a website project or want to hear a motivational speech, contact Total Spectrum at 714.637.3600 and ask for Jim Bogenreif.

Website Design Trends: Out with the Old & In with the New

Website design has come a long way in the past 20 years, and it continues to change and evolve over time. Here’s a roundup of the design trends that we’ve been seeing…what’s trending out, what’s becoming increasingly popular, and the reasoning behind it all.

Out: Static Design / Mobile Versions

In: Responsive Design

Why: Remember when most people accessed the web through their desktop or laptop computers? Back then organizations would either create separate “mobile versions” of their site, or simply write off smart phone and tablet users altogether. Today 64% of American adults own a smartphone, and organizations cannot afford to ignore their needs. Responsive design, which optimizes the viewing experience across a wide range of devices, has become the new standard.

Out: Clicking

In: Scrolling

Why: As more people access websites using (mouse-less) smart phones and tablets, “fat finger syndrome” makes clicking cumbersome. Today’s popular “endless scrolling” approach creates a better experience for mobile users. As an added bonus, scrolling sites usually load faster, too.

Out: Flat Design

In: Semi-Flat Design

Why: Flat design is a minimalist approach that strips design of all fluff and frills, such as gradients, shadows and textures. As such flat design uses bold colors, simple typography and simple shapes. But it’s very…well…flat. As part of the backlash against this, many designers are now using what’s known as “semi-flat” or “almost-flat” design. While still eliminating the clutter, semi-flat design gives some elements a little depth and dimension, in order provide a clean look and feel with a bit of a flair. 

Out: Generic-Looking Stock Photos

In: Large High-Quality Images

Why: This is really the convergence of two trends. First, many designers are moving towards the use of large images in either the foreground or the background. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words – and many of today’s site visitors are not interested in doing a lot of reading. The second trend is that people are simply getting tired of seeing generic stock photos. Bold, original images that reflect the brand’s personality are therefore trending in instead.

Out: Complicated Designs

In: Minimalist Approach

Why: This design trend is also tied in with the trend towards designing for mobile devices. After all, cluttered or fussy sites just don’t render well on a four-inch screen! Consequently, “less is more” seems to be the new mantra. Excess graphics, unnecessary sidebars and submenus, and other non-essential elements are either hidden or eliminated altogether.

Out: Disorganized Content Hierarchy

In: Tile-style Layouts

Why: Although tile-style layouts, like what is seen on Pinterest, are not for every content type, this design trend is continuing to gain in popularity. Tiles work well in responsive designs, and can provide a simple and very visual way for visitors to browse through and find the information they need.



If your website not mobile responsive or is in need of a “face lift” contact us. We have the expertise to develop a website that represents your company well.