CityMax Work Retreat 2013

In January, our CityMax team was fortunate enough to partake in a staff retreat. Our team set off to the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia to enjoy a weekend of relaxation and team building exercises.

Lodge where we stayed
Lodge where we stayed

During the day we were busy at work taking a course on increasing productivity within our work and personal lives. However, as night approached, the vacation lodge we were staying at was host to all sorts of activities. If we were not engaged in competitive card games, we were huddled around the TV set watching our favorite ice hockey teams duel it out.

We also had the opportunity to sample some of the great hospitality the Sunshine Coast offers by visiting local hot spots such as “The Blue Heron” restaurant.

Some of our CityMax team members
Some of our CityMax team members

As with all getaways, our retreat did have to come to a conclusion. Our team has since been back at the CityMax offices hard at work providing the best web site builder service in the industry!

Google Places Optimization Checklist, Part 2

Guest Post:  Adam Steele is the CEO at Nightlite Media. His expertise includes SEO, social media and email marketing. This is Part 2 of Google Local Results Changed the Game.

Overview

97% of consumers search for local businesses online. You definitely want to be there when they’re looking for you with Google Places for business.

Google wants to show its users the most relevant, up-to-date, quality information (including companies) possible. This is its mission and just one reason it is the biggest. As such, when it comes to optimizing your Google Places page, you should keep this in mind.

The following are some simple tips and guidelines to a successful Google Places page optimization. The quick tweaks will improve your chances of securing better positions for your business. Please keep in mind that Google Places is constantly changing, and what works at the time of this checklist may change dramatically in 30 days. Saying that, we have tried to keep to the things that have remained a constant for some time now.

Initial Process

  • Select the area/city you wish to target
  • Keyword Search: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal. Put in a word that you “think” the average person would type in Google when looking for a business in your city. (NOT the name of a business, but a word or phrase.) Example: ‘Dallas electrician’. Google will suggest other popular words below that term. View the ones that are popular and record them. Make sure you deselect broad and select exact (on the left) and focus your attention on local volume/searches, not global.
  • Identify keywords you would like to dominate in your local town/city and search them for yourself. Not all keywords will trigger Google Places. So, you need to make sure the ones you go forward with bring up Google Places results when you search for them.
  • Record on a piece of paper the top 5 -10 keywords and rank them in order of priority (keep on hand).

Submission

  • Set up a Gmail account if you don’t have one already .
  • Search for your company to see if an existing Google Places page is already setup. Go to http://maps.google.com and put in your phone number with area code to see what comes up. Try more than one phone number if you have more than one for your business.
  • If after you check, you DO have a page, then you will simply want to “Edit Page” if there is anything you want to change (check below to see if your current Google Places page has the appropriate content listed below.) If you do NOT have a page after entering your phone numbers, then you will want to create one!

Creating A Google Places Page

  • After you have created a Google account, you will want to set up your Page. Answer every question (Leave nothing undone – Google views this as “incomplete”.)
  • Company Name (Without keywords) DO NOT get fancy here. Stuffing your title with keywords is just going to get you in trouble. In the past, stuffing the title offered an SEO advantage, but now it is both risky and unnecessary. Simply put your business name here as it is recognized everywhere else.
  • Street Address: Your business address as it occurs everywhere else online and offline. Consistency and accuracy are KEY. If your business has existed for some time, try and search your own address. Look for the most popular address for yourself and go with that one if it’s applicable–otherwise update it. You would be wise to go back and adjust all those addresses that are different than what you use in your Google Places page. NOTE: If later you decide to make any changes to your address, Google will very likely request to send you a post card before updating.
  • City/Town: Self Explanatory. NOTE: This is the city that you will have the best chance of ranking in for your keywords.
  • Main phone: Same principle as your street address. Take a look how your phone number appears already online. Is it in (xxx) or xxx? You want it to appear in Google Places the same way it does elsewhere online.
  • Website: Use http://www. You want it to be hyperlinked.
  • Description: I would typically suggest using the same one that occurs in your site’s meta data (description tag) for consistency. Keyword rich is fine, but don’t make it spammy. Also, consider your click through rate (CTR). Searchers will see this, and decide whether they want to click or not so don’t be afraid to be a bit ‘salesy.’
  • Category: Few things to know here. Stay the heck away from city modifiers. That is, your category should be ‘electrician’, NOT ‘Dallas electrician.’ Doing the latter will get you in trouble. Google gives you 4 custom categories and one pre-defined. Make good use of them and align them with the keywords you want to rank for. Similar to the Company/Organization field, categories are being screened and the same sensitive keywords apply. Custom categories don’t really have to be too coherent. If you have a lot of keywords you are targeting, try and combine them with other keywords, but again, not too spammy.
  • Service Area and Location Settings: Pretty self explanatory. It is commonly used if you are using an address outside of the city/cities that you want to rank in OR you want to rank in all your surrounding cities. Use this function to define your service area(s). NOTE: You aren’t going to rank in San Fran, if your address is in Austin. Obvious, I hope. However, if your address is in the suburb of San Fran and you want to rank in San Fran and its surrounding suburbs is doable. Being outside of the city you want to rank in puts you at a disadvantage. If you are trying to rank for a competitive keyword and you are not located in the city you want to rank in, you could be hooped.
  • Hours & Payment: Just make sure this is consistent with everything else that is published online.
  • Photos: Yes, you should add photos. Photos uploaded should be saved as ‘cityname-state-keyword’ and then uploaded. Google also gives you the option to “Add a photo from the web.” I like to add a picture from the website. This creates a connection between your Google Places page and your website. This is a good thing.
  • Videos: Yes, you should add video preferably of a testimonial like a customer (not you). These can be YouTube videos. Remember to make sure your files are named after a keyword.

Verification: More than likely Google will want to send a post card. The post card typically takes 5-8 business days to arrive. When it arrives, log back into your Google Places dashboard and enter a PIN code to verify and activate your listing.

Similar to my last post, there is a perk for reading. This articles perk is 3 months of FREE Google Places page optimization…a $300 value!! To enter the draw, send your answer to the following question to adam.steele@nightlitemedia.com. Also, if you like some of the tips above, follow me on twitter for more at http://twitter.com/nightlitemedia.

Question: In the categories section of your Google Places page, doing what can get you in trouble?

Google Local Results Changed the Game, Part 1

Guest Post:  Adam Steele is the CEO at Nightlite Media. His expertise includes SEO, social media and email marketing.

Search engine optimization is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in the search engines. As an internet marketing strategy, search engine optimization considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. In this three part series, I am going to focus on local search engine optimization, otherwise known as Google Places, beginning first with a brief history and thorough explanation of what it means to you and your business. My hope is by the time you finish reading part three, you will be able to take it upon yourself to improve your businesses local presence is Google Places. At the end of each post, I will be offering a FREE game changing eBook that I have put together to help you and your business succeed online.

How Google Local Results Changed SEO

SEO—Search Engine Optimization—has been a necessary staple of website production since the invention of the search engine. Many techniques have been invented to make sure that websites appear as highly as possible when customers and audiences are looking for them. It eventually became evident that some massive websites could use these techniques to maintain their dominance indefinitely, even when users were searching for terms only dubiously related to these dominant websites. Also, these huge websites could afford massive firms to provide SEO services for them, which guaranteed them superior results over smaller websites. For this reason and several others, Google instituted local search results.

What are Google local Search Results?

Google first launched their local results system in late 2010. Simply put, local search results are an adjustment to the Google algorithm which displays results from a user’s local area before national options. For example, if someone in Seattle, WA were using Google to search for a common phrase such as “outdoor furniture” they would have once been directed to a results page filled with companies competing internationally. Now however, local results from actual businesses located in Seattle will be given priority and appear at the top of the page.

The local search results also tied in with the expansion of Google Maps. All the local businesses that appear in the search results will also have their locations and applicable reviews noted. This created a powerful incentive for local businesses to begin investing in their online presence, and gave them a reason to consider SEO services for their own needs.

Why do Google Local Results Matter?

Google Local Results or also commonly known as Google Places, are nothing less than a game changer for the world of SEO. The initial impact of the fact that small businesses could now compete with international companies created several serious changes in the way SEO is done, and how seriously businesses need to take their online presence.

Google Local Results changed SEO in several important ways. First, it shifted the focus for any local results from international businesses with massive budgets to small businesses. After all, no matter what, the small business would appear before the larger business when searching for a term that included a geographical region. Of course, only a few of the top results were dedicated to local businesses, and those spots were now fiercely competitive. New SEO firms that dedicated themselves to local results formed quickly and convinced many businesses of the necessity of updating their marketing to include internet saturation. Small Businesses, for their part, had little choice but to take internet marketing more seriously.

It is not an insider secret of marketing that customers are moving more and more of their business online, and not just when they want to order, but also when they are looking for businesses in their own area. Many services assist with this, be they GPS software, Smart Phone apps or others. The fact that Google dominates most searches on the web makes it necessary for businesses operating in limited geographic areas to begin taking their online presence seriously. Not just because they may now compete with international companies, but also because local businesses are now beginning to powerfully compete in their own areas. When a significant number of new customers are discovering businesses online, it becomes absolutely necessary that businesses take advantage of these conditions to compete.

What does this mean for the future of SEO?

Google Local Results ensured that internet marketing and SEO services are now and forever something that locally-oriented businesses should take advantage of. For small businesses, this means it will be absolutely necessary in the future to understand SEO. It may also mean that SEO positions, or a contract for SEO services becomes an important part of companies that rarely dealt with any sort of online marketing before.

Conclusion

As greater numbers of users and customers shift their lives online, more and more once-rare techniques become necessary for operating in the modern business world. SEO is one of these techniques, and has only become more relevant in the face of dramatic changes like Google Local Results. The consequences of Google Local Results are already evident. The opportunities waiting for both small businesses and specialists alike are daunting to even consider. As in every human endeavor though: Fortune favors the bold.

Now that you have read my monotonous ramble, here is a free eBook that will give you the basics to begin improving your on-page game. That is, I will be providing you with instructions to improve your visibility online simply by making a few changes to what appears on your website. NOW, this eBook is ONLY going to be useful for those who take the time to read. As such, in order to receive your free Game Changing eBook, you must answer a skill testing question, the answer of which is in this post.

Question: What is local search engine optimization or Google Local also known as? Send me your answer to adam.steele@nightlitemedia.com and I will send you your free eBook.

New Partnership with Online Marketing Company Nightlite Media

New partnership with CityMax.com
New CityMax.com partner

We are excited to announce that CityMax has partnered with Nightlite Media.

One of the most asked questions we get is: “How do I get visitors to my site?” Nightlite Media are experts at helping people successfully draw visitors to their sites using:

  • search engine optimization (i.e. getting your sites ranked highly on search engines like Google)
  • social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook)
  • email marketing

We know it’s sometimes difficult to learn and then find the time to promote your site. The reality is that for many of you, getting a company to help you is the best choice. So, our marketing team searched out the best of the best online marketing companies and then put together custom packages we thought made the most sense for our customers. Check out the special packages here.

How important is it to get your online marketing started? Here are some facts that Nightlite Media has put together:

  • 97% of potential customers are searching online first
  • 61 billion online searches were made in August 2010 alone
  • 77% of North Americans are online (that’s a huge 266 million people!)

You can contact Nighlite Media for a 100% free consultation by going to http://websitedynamics.nightlitemedia.com or by calling 1-888- 418-3839. Why not jumpstart your online marketing today!

Introducing Shane Harding, our NASCAR driver!

We have some pretty cool customers at CityMax.com, and we love hearing their stories. Recently we came across one that really takes the cake! Shane Harding (pictured here with his daughter) is a NASCAR driver based out of Langley, British Columbia (just outside Vancouver). His crew chief Joe reached out to us about getting involved with the team and we jumped at the chance to be a part of it!

Check out the new car below:

100_6331

With over 20 years of racing experience and countless wins under his belt, Shane recently had an amazing outing at the 45th annual Apple Cup race in Yakima, Washington. Joe emailed us the story behind the race and we thought you might like to hear it too (it’s a bit of a read, but well worth it!).

Read More

Supporting Social Innovation & Finance – Ashoka International

ashoka-tour-al-dean-celiaWhat is a social entrepreneur?

According to Wikipedia: a social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change.

That’s definitely something we believe in at CityMax.com. So when we heard that Ashoka International, the world’s largest global association of leading social entrepreneurs, was coming to Vancouver to hold a Social Finance and Innovation Tour, we jumped at the chance to participate. We invited some of North America’s top movers and shakers in social innovation to hold their first day of workshops at our office!

ashoka-tour-lunch

Speakers came from exciting organizations such as:

PLAN Institute – using social innovation and social enterprise to mobilize the creativity of individuals with disabilities and their families and to scale up solutions to poverty and social isolation.

Read More

Small Business BC’s Company of the Year!

Every year, Small Business BC hosts The Successful You Awards to support and recognize entrepreneurs from all over British Columbia for their efforts to grow successful small businesses.

They also recognize companies that foster entrepreneurial spirit and this year, we were extremely honored to win Company of the Year!

The event was held at the Birks flagship store in downtown Vancouver, and we met such a great assortment of entrepreneurs – including Chris and Larry, the Clodhoppers Candy Kings! Their inspiring story showed us just how much of a roller coaster (and how rewarding) the entrepreneurial life can be.

Below you’ll find a few shots from the event – enjoy!

Huge congrats go out to our fellow winners, Growing City (Business Start-Up Award), My Tech Guys (Business Growth Award), and SEEDS Development Centre (Small Business Champion Award).

Celebrating the Women of CityMax.com!

March 8 is International Women’s Day: a day to celebrate and recognize women all around the world. The number of women in professional occupations in business has risen by 50% over the past decade (more than double the rate seen among men). To celebrate, we’re profiling a handful of the incredible women on the CityMax.com team. Thank you – we couldn’t do it without your help!

aniName: Ani
Dream Business: An R&D house creating user interfaces based on new technological concepts, such as the Semantic Web and Augmented Reality. ‘Web 3.0’
How long I’ve been with CityMax.com: Since November 2004
Role at CityMax.com: Product Manager – I am responsible for the technology: network infrastructure, product development & quality.
My female role model: Helen Greiner – Co-founder of iRobot Corp. and inventor of the Roomba. She is not only an entrepreneur, but also a strong leader and innovator in a predominantly male industry. Her unique approach to robotics aims to make them a more versatile and integral part of our daily lives.

yasName: Yasmin
Dream Business: SEO consultant (realistic) or a Disney Imagineer (well, it is the happiest place on earth)
How long I’ve been with CityMax.com: Since March 2005
Role at CityMax.com: Business Manager – I am responsible running the day-to-day business, as well as everything to do with people (human resources). You might call me the Chief People Officer!
My female role model: Besides my mom, I would have to say Jane Austen. I admire her strength as a woman, considering the era she was born in. Not only is she a strong role model for women, but all of her characters are strong women by any era’s standards.

corinneName: Corinne
Dream Business: A Geeky Gadget Design company. I can’t wait till the day I see someone walking down the street with my designs!
How long I’ve been with CityMax.com: Since January 2009
Role at CityMax.com: Support Manager – I am responsible for keeping all our customers happy! I help resolve any issues our customers have, and also teach them technical skills for their websites.
My female role model: Randice-Lisa Altschul – the inventor of disposable cell phones.  She is also a successful toy designer and patent holder.  To be able to invent simple toys/games, then make the leap to create several high-tech, ground-breaking technologies inspires me to do the same.

guName: Mara
Dream Business: A vacation resort in Mexico
How long I’ve been with CityMax.com: Since October 2006
Role at CityMax.com: Editor in Chief – I am responsible for all things “text”,  including internal and external communications, social media, and application design.
My female role model: Ann Handley – an extremely talented and successful writer/marketer. She co-founded ClickZ.com, manages personal and corporate blogs, and is also the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, an invaluable resource for any marketer.

beaName: Bea
Dream Business: Exotic Food Restaurant
How long I’ve been with CityMax.com: Since March 2007
Role at CityMax.com: Quality Control – I handle all quality control and testing, making sure that our software products meet the qualified requirements for customers in terms of  performance, usability and functionality.
My female role model: U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. She has endured and triumphed over several life obstacles while in the public eye. It takes tremendous determination and hard work to achieve what she has. Her courage and assertiveness are very inspiring to young women. I admire her wit, edginess, and accomplishments in the political sphere.

For more on International Women’s Day: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Women%27s_Day

Get Your Website for Free!

To show you how grateful we are for every customer you refer, we’re improving how our referral program works!

With the old program, you got your site for free whether you referred 3 or 300 people. With the new program, the more people you refer, the bigger the reward!

Here’s how it works:

  1. You get a link that you can distribute a number of ways (Twitter, email, website footer, etc.)
  2. For every person that signs up through your link, you get 5 credits for every month their site is active.
  3. Each credit is worth $1 and can be redeemed by phone to pay for your website subscription.

You’ll find the new “Get a Free Website” program under “Free Website” below your profile picture on your Dashboard.

2010-02-11-free-website

Ken Lyotier: Vancouver DTES Entrepreneur and Olympic Torch-Bearer

2010-02-11-ken_lyotier_07It’s not often that you get to meet someone like Ken Lyotier – a man who rose above his own personal challenges to create a well-respected, non-profit business by uniting a community more known for sad stories of homelessness and addiction rather than those of success.

Lyotier is the founder and former Executive Director of United We Can, a non-profit bottle depot that operates out of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. This week, we were lucky enough to have Lyotier come in and tell his inspirational story to us first hand during our weekly team learning session.

Like many entrepreneurs, Lyotier started off by identifying a problem that he was experiencing himself. While trying to earn a living by collecting recyclable cans and bottles, he found that the stores that were supposed to honor the refunds were often unwilling to accommodate the bottle returns.

With the help of a local minister, he and a friend decided to organize an event where people could bring in non-recyclable items for cash – he was overwhelmed with the response and energy it generated from the community.

“The buzz you get from people being excited about what you’re doing is better than any high you’ll ever get from drugs or alcohol,” says Lyotier.

After searching for answers to local recycling issues and working with the government and VanCity, United We Can was founded in 1995 and has grown into an impressive source of inspiration, empowerment, and employment to people living in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. Over the past few years, the organization has grown beyond the bottle depot to include other services that work well within the community, including a bicycle repair shop and computer recycling.

Along with being a well-respected member of his community, Lyotier’s positive impact on the community has also recently earned him an invitation to light the cauldron at the 2010 Vancouver Games celebration site after being handed the Olympic torch by Canadian singer Michael Buble.

Ken Lyotier is an inspiration to any entrepreneur and he also provides some food for thought. What business opportunities surround you in your own life? What’s holding you back? Use personal challenges to take a step forward and write your own success story.