Pulling Back The Layers of SEO

For the past 3 years, we have been posting a wide variety of articles to our blog to better help our customers as they navigate through the many layers of website marketing. One of the most delicate and difficult layers can be SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO has many different elements from keywords to relevant website content and page names. SEO can be complex and can get overwhelming quickly, so we thought we’d take you back to the beginning and show you how to get started with some basic SEO tips that can improve your website ranking.

1) SEO Building Blocks: Meta Tags and SEO:

This post will give you a good introduction to Meta Tags and Keywords and how they work.

2) Google Keyword Tool:

This post goes step by step on how to use the free Google Keyword Tool and shows you how to create a list of potential keywords and how to pick the ones that will work best for your pages.

3) 5 Tips on where to insert keywords:

This post will give you good information on where and how to insert keywords onto your pages.

The above articles will give you a great start at understanding keywords and creating your own Meta Tags for success in organic search rankings. Stay tuned next week when we reintroduce local business marketing, a good strategy to capitalize on local geographical search results for your business.

Local Business Directories, Google Places, Part 3

Guest Post:  Adam Steele is the CEO at Nightlite Media. His expertise includes SEO, social media and email marketing. This is Part 3 of Google Local Results Changed the Game.

In my last two posts, I explained the 5 W’s of Google Places (who, what, when, where & why), as well as how to go about optimizing your own Google Places page. A year ago, this information would have been enough to earn you a first page ranking, and in some smaller niches and/or cities, this is still the case. HOWEVER, if you want to play with the big boys, and take your Google Places optimization to the next level, then your next step is to learn off page ranking factors.

Off page ranking factors covers a huge scope of potential topics. First, it is important to understand the difference between off page and on page factors. When it comes to Google Places optimization, on page factors include your website and Google Places page. For simplicity, we have only covered your Google Places page, which was the topic of my last post. Off page factors include major link building. That is, building links on other sites, and having them link to your website. In this article, we are going to focus on one type of links: citations.

Citations are occurrences of your business information online. In fact, it doesn’t matter where online it appears, as long as the citation includes your business name, address and phone number (NAP). A common misconception is that a citation is a profile on a local business directory such as Yelp, Superpages, Insiderpages, Judysbook or Citysearch. While these are excellent sources for citations there are not citations themselves. They are local business directories.

Local business directories are certainly the most common place to create citations for a lot of reasons including: it is free, easy, authoritative, of  high quality, traffic-rich etc. For all these reasons, we will focus on these directories and go over what you need to know about them.

Firstly, yes, they are FREE – well mostly. Many of these directories offer everyone a free business profile, which allows them to add their business information, pictures, videos, link to site etc. Not a bad deal! However, these directories stay in business because they hope to sell you extra incentives, including advertising, better ranking on the site and a multitude of other products and services. Do not be surprised if you receive a call or several email solicitations immediately after signup. It is a necessary evil I am afraid. For those of you who want to entertain these offers, I suggest you tread very carefully. Most aren’t worth their weight.

Creating profiles on local business directories is dead easy, but you shouldn’t take the easy, quick route. Although I haven’t proved this yet, it is my feeling that a more complete profile will lend more authority. That is, Google treats a bare bones profile differently than one that has been carefully completed. This may not be the case right now, but I have no doubt that in future this will be the case. So go ahead, add pictures, videos, great content, etc. Another good reason to create these carefully is accuracy. Any inaccuracies in your business name, address or phone number will hurt your ability to improve your Google Places rank.

Authority and quality fall in the same boat. When I say authority I am usually referring to the credibility that Google has assigned to a website, or in this case the local business directory. All the more popular directories have lots of authority, which is in part, passed off to your business when Google finds your business information on it. For all intents and purposes, it is considered a ‘vote of confidence.’ By this, I mean that a link or citation from these directories will have a positive effect on your rankings. Google has deemed them quality websites.

If a local business directory has all the before mentioned characteristics then it also will be traffic rich. What does this mean to you? Well, many of these sites attract consumers looking for local
businesses. If consumers are able to find you, and in a good light (thanks to your robust profile), you may score yourself some extra business. In fact, I find that my clients tend to receive 3-5% of their traffic from these directories. If their monthly traffic is 1000 visits, 30-50 extra visits is nothing to scoff at.

Here is a small list of the more popular local business directories:

These are just some great directories you can submit your business to. There are literally THOUSANDS. Per usual, we have a reward for your readership. We want to send you a list of 100 of the best local business directories online. This is the list that we submit our clients to and one that we have carefully cultivated over the last 18 months. Send me an email adam.steele@nightlitemedia.com and I will quickly send it your way.

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.


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).


  • Set up a Gmail account if you don’t have one already here.
  • 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.


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!

5 Tips on Where to Insert Keywords

From my last 2 posts, you learned how to find keywords and got 47 blog topics for your small business. The next step is to insert your keywords into your CityMax site or blog post.

Before you start inserting your keywords, just a reminder that people will be reading what you write so make sure you don’t sacrifice writing flow to insert your keywords. Your end goal after all is to provide useful information so people will make a purchase and keep coming back to your website.

Here are the different places you can insert keywords:

1. Page content

Put your keywords into your writing. In particular, try to include them into your page headings and subheadings as experts believe putting them there gives them extra weight to the search engines. Generally, you want keywords to appear in 3% of the words on your page — this is called keyword density. You can use a free tool like KeywordDensity.com to analyze your page.

2. Image filenames and ALT tags

When you post an image, put keywords into the filename, but remember to put underscores or dashes between words. For example, if your keyword is “broadway musical” you might use filename broadway_musical.jpg. Additionally, put your keywords into your ALT tags (alternate text that appears when you mouse over an image) for your images. Since this text shows, make sure the text is relevant to your image.

On CityMax, click on the image button. Select an image and make sure to fill out the box under “Alternative Text” (this is your ALT tag information). Here I’ve targeted “chess strategy” as a keyword:

Put keywords into your image's ALT (alternative) text
Put keywords into your image's ALT (alternative) text

3. Links to your page

Put keywords into link text that is going to your page. For example, at the top of this post, I’ve posted link 47 blog topics for your small business. One of the keywords for the page I linked to is “blog topics” so I made sure to include that text in my link.

4. Title tags, meta description and meta keywords

When title tags are inserted in the coding for a page, your title tag information appears at the top of your browser window and/or browser tab.

Insert keywords into title tags
Insert keywords into title tags

Your meta description and meta keywords are also in your page’s coding. They’re not visible on your page. They tell search engines that review your page what your page is about. The meta description is a description in sentence form of your page content. The meta keywords are a list of keywords describing your page.

Generally, meta tags don’t carry much weight with the search engines like they did in the past. This is because people spammed them with their keywords to the point where they weren’t a useful summary of a page anymore. However, it’s still good to include them. To make them more relevant, I recommend only 1 sentence for the meta description and 4 to 6 keywords for your meta keywords for each page.

Another important point about your title tag and meta description is that they appear on Google when someone does a search for a page. For example, I did a search for “music lessons seattle” and the link was drawn from the page’s title tag (highlighted yellow) and the description from the meta description (highlighted pink):

Google Search Result
Google Search Result

On CityMax, you can set this up by clicking “Edit Page” and then “Properties.” In the pop-up, click on the “Meta Tags” tab.

Put keywords in your title tags and meta tags
Put keywords in your title tags and meta tags

5. Web address (URL)

As part of your web address, insert your keywords.  For example, on CityMax you can customize each page’s web address by clicking “Edit Page,” then “Properties” and lastly “Main” tab. If your keyword is “new york walking tours,” you could have web address www.happynewyorkertours.com/new_york_walking_tours.html.

Put keywords in your web address
Put keywords in your web address

You now have the tools to write great articles for your site, find relevant keywords for your webpages and insert the keywords into your webpages.

How to Find Keywords Using the Google Keyword Tool

Lots of articles on search engine optimization (SEO) tell you to find keywords and put them into your pages. It sounds simple, but most people don’t know how to choose them or where to put them on their page.

Keywords are single words or word phrases that you want to emphasize on your pages, so if someone types them into Google search, your site appears at the top.

Today I’m going to take you step-by-step on how to use the free Google Keyword Tool to do keyword research for your CityMax site. By the end of this article, you’ll know how to create a list of potential keywords and how to pick the ones that will work best for your pages.

1. Enter a broad range of keywords that are relevant to your website content.

Try to include a variety of word phrases. There really is no point to targeting a single word because the competition for them is so high. More on that later. Your list also doesn’t have to include every phrase you can think of, instead try to come up with phrases that use a variety of words. The Google Keyword Tool will generate a larger list of phrases for you from whatever you enter.

I’m going to use an example of a pretend Vancouver restaurant that focuses on high tea. You enter your keywords like this (remember to choose a country and language too):

google keyword tool - keyword research

2. Scan the keywords that are generated and expand your keyword search

A list of keywords based off what you entered will show below. Look through them and add phrases to your keyword search list. Remember your goal is find keywords that are relevant to your pages. If you’re not sure if a phrase is relevant, click on it and you’ll see what pages appear when you do a search for that phrase. If the pages that show match with your page content, it’s a good keyword for you.

3. Put keywords into groups

You’ve now got a huge list of potential keywords. Print them out and then grab some different colored highlighters. I like to group my keywords so like-keywords are together. You can also do this by copying your keywords into a spreadsheet.

If you’re doing keyword research for your website in general, each group can represent a different topic to focus on for each page.

If you’re doing keyword research for a single page, you’ll just be picking out the keywords that match your page’s topic.

4. Choose 3 keywords per webpage

Here’s what you want to look for in a good keyword:

  • Relevant to your content – You want someone who does a search on Google to find your site at the top and click on it. After they click on it, your page that appears must match with the person’s expectations or they’ll just leave. Remember, only choose keywords that actually reflect each page’s content.
  • Lots of monthly searches – You want keywords that often get entered on Google search. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean you want to pick the keywords that have the most searches…see the next tip.
  • Low competition – You have a better chance of ranking well for keywords that don’t have a lot of competition. Low competition is based off the number of webpages that appear for each keyword. Anytime you do a search on Google, you’ll see the approximate number of results for a search.

google keyword tool - choose keywords

You will want to choose 3 keywords to page. I find that any more than that and my writing starts to not flow well. It’s one thing to get people to your page, but if the writing isn’t compelling you’ll still lose the visitor.

Bonus:  Know how different keyword formats are weighted

Did you know changing the order of your keywords or inserting a word in between keywords in a phrase can make a difference?  There are 3 different types of keyword match types in Google.  Assume a person types into Google search:  high tea vancouver

  • Broad match: vancouver bc high tea restaurants. The searcher needs any of the keywords in their search and it doesn’t matter what order or if there are extra words.
  • [Exact match]: high tea vancouver. The searcher needs the keywords exactly as they are shown without any extra words.
  • “Phrase match”: place for high tea vancouver. The searcher needs the keywords in the same order as their search and it doesn’t matter if there are extra words.

On the left side of the Google Keyword Tool, you’ll find where you can show the results for all 3 match types:

google keyword tool - broad match, phrase match, exact_match

Later, when you’re writing for your pages, you may want to keep this information in mind so you present your keywords in the format that gives you the best results.

Next post, how to strategically insert your keywords into your pages.

The Easy Way to Get to the Top of Google

Image by Jeff McNeill
Image by Jeff McNeill

One of the absolutely most popular questions we get asked by CityMax.com customers is “how do I get on Google?”

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a complex game and sometimes it can take a while to get search engines like Google to notice you. It’s a delicate balance of targeting the right keywords, having the right content, using the right elements to build your website, and having the right sites link back to you – you can see how it can be challenging.

While SEO is definitely something you should focus on and ranking naturally through search engines is a fantastic goal, there’s a faster way to do it – it’s called advertising.

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Add a Twitter Plugin on Your Website in 30 Seconds

Image by Rosaura Ochoa

Twitter is a “real-time information network” that allows people to connect with others that they find interesting. For example, business owners like you can quickly share information with people who are interested in what you have to offer and you can begin to build relationships with potential customers.

If you’re not using Twitter to help grow your company, there’s no better time to start than now!

Twitter Plugins

When you tweet your messages for the world to see, the messages are normally confined to Twitter’s own website and are viewed by those who have subscribed to receive them. As an extra bonus, Twitter also offers a plugin which allows you to install a widget on your own website to display tweets.

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SEO Building Blocks: Use your Headlines

headline What you don’t know about headlines may be hurting you and your small business. No, really.

We’ve talked before about using effective headlines on your website to entice customers and state the value of your business. But they also have another valuable attribute: the H1 (or <h1>) tag.

H1 tags are one of those things that search engines look for in your website when they’re crawling your pages and trying to figure out what your site is all about. The logic behind it is that if you’re emphasizing that information on the page as a headline, it probably means something – which is why you should always include keywords in it.

H1 tags are found in the HTML code that makes up your website. If you’re using a website builder like CityMax.com, the HTML is created automatically for you and there are ways to apply the H1 tag without having to mess with any code – keep reading to find out how.

Here’s the Golden Rule:
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