LITTLE ITALY – For more than five years, West Carleton Online has provided daily coverage of West Carleton, west Ottawa and the Ottawa Valley every single day.
As the business plan was taking shape, when the decision to not get in to the risky world of printing was made, we knew we needed a website that was manageable by a person without an information technology background, dependable and affordable.
The search for the right builder and host was one of the most challenging tasks we faced on the road to creating West Carleton Online. Choosing our website builder and host was probably the most important decision we had to make in the lead-up to our launch in 2018. Choosing Webshark to build what is the hub of our business is a decision that has made it possible to grow, while providing a community firmly rooted in its heritage, a brand new way of getting local news in a community that had just lost its last newspaper, one that had generations of readers.
Webshark is an Ottawa-based web design and online marketing firm that makes small and medium-sized businesses the cornerstone of its business.
Owner Matthew Lapierre sat down with West Carleton Online on Jan. 16 at his Little Italy-area office on Preston Street to talk about the website and digital marketing business, and why Webshark is focused on making sure small businesses and non-profit organizations aren’t priced out of the industry.
“These are the clients I want to get,” Lapierre said. “The small businesses, the non-profits. We have solutions for those types of organizations.”
Lapierre launched Webshark in 2003 and uses a variety of operating systems when building websites and employs a variety of strategies when providing online marketing and search engine optimization for clients.
Webshark uses low annual fees to provide 24-hour support to clients.
“Our support side, as you know, is very good,” Lapierre, a Stittsville resident, said. “We know it’s good, we hear from clients who used to wait weeks to get changes done. Even if someone needs basic changes every day, we can do that. We have a variety of price points. Small service businesses, owner-operator type deals, non-profits. People know they have to have a website so they can be found on Google. They might not know what they need on it. Most of our clients might not need us every day, but they need us enough.”
Webshark offers a fixed rate for clients so they don’t have to worry about surprise costs for surprise work during the year.
“We’ve been doing it that way for a long time and we haven’t seen a need to change it,” Lapierre said. “You want clients to feel like we’re an extension of their team. That’s why we fit well with small and medium-sized businesses. We make sites affordable; we have a fixed fee for support and set-up costs. Keeping the fees low seems to be working. The changes happen as fast as if we worked in their office.”
Lapierre says 20 years is a lifetime in the high-tech business world, and Webshark has done a lot of adapting over the years to stay current.
“Mobile has obviously been a huge game-changer in website design,” he said. “Now 60 to 70 per cent of people access the Internet through their phones. It’s taken a lot of the creativity out of it, because a site has to be able to do things.”
Lapierre says almost all companies can build a good website, but it’s the service in the end that becomes the priority.
“Everybody can build a good website,” he said. “It’s the service. If you can get back to someone in one or two days, they feel like they are a priority – and they are.”
When it comes to online marketing and search engine optimization, it’s all about content.
“It’s not really tricky,” Lapierre said. “Google looks at video like it does HTML (HyperText Markup Language). There is nothing better than creating that organic awareness. I need to take my own advice. Video is powerful content.”
But as anyone knows, creating engaging content (even if it isn’t on video) is time-consuming work.
“We can play with your content,” Lapierre said. “People are busy. They don’t have time to load up their site with content.”
Lapierre says the SEO side of Webshark doesn’t have to work too hard to find new clients who know the importance of being found on the Internet.
“I don’t have to sell anyone on it,” he said. “They come to me and say I need to be found organically. I explain how it works and give them some options.”
From general branding to targeting specific audiences, Webshark provides a variety of services.
“Branding is more getting in front of people, based on geography, demographics, that you want to get in front of,” Lapierre said. “Seasonal businesses do very well because there’s a limited time to use their service. The focus is we have solutions for businesses that think there is not a lot out there for them. They are low maintenance and they’re not going to ask for a lot. But if they can give us good content, we can do a lot for them. What I tell the small business or not-for-profit, is they have a lot of opportunity for content. No one is as intimate with their business as they are. I think people think it’s more complicated than it is. It doesn’t have to be top-level professional to be able to work on a site.”