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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Is Google Changing the Game of Search?

You, our blog readers, have shouted time and again that Search Engine Optimization is a topic you want to learn more about for your small business website. The last year has seen Google (by far the dominant search engine) add social media factors into their search algorithms, and increase the immediacy of real-time results with more frequent search spiders – all affecting front page results. But now they’re at it again!

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Google CEO Eric Schmidt shared his belief that “people don’t want Google to answer their questions… they want Google to tell them what to do next.” As a result, Google is now testing a ‘streaming’ search engine that updates your results, as you type them into the field. (See the video below.)

As you can see, this makes for a more dynamic search page and may help searchers find some unexpected results. How do you think this might change the way you search? What kind of effect could this have on how people find your business?

The “Wonder” of Google’s Wonder Wheel

searchIf you’ve ever done keyword research for your online business, you know it can be a bit tedious.

It’s not always easy brainstorming different phrases that your customers might use to search for your business. That said, Inc. Magazine Online recently published a great keyword selection article that drew attention to one of Google’s less talked about features – the Wonder Wheel.

The wonder wheel is a bit of a hidden gem on the results page. If you look to the navigation on the left side, click “More” and you’ll find it about halfway down.

As opposed to the typical list-style results page, the wonder wheel is a graphical representation of related search terms alongside results for the searched term.

For example, when I typed in “naturopathic clinic”, the following is what I was shown:

naturo

The initial keyword is linked to eight others, and it gives you an idea of what other terms knows your searcher is interested in – meaning you get a hint as to what search terms you may want to focus on.

When you click on any of the suggested phrases, it also keeps on linking to more suggested terms, so you can create quite a big list.

Keep in mind that you do need to pare down your list and make sure that the keywords you choose are applicable to your business.

For the complete article that inspired this post, see 5 Secrets to Selecting Highly-Effective SEO Keywords.

Do you have any “magic tricks” for choosing keywords? Share in the comments!

Four Tips to Starting a PPC Campaign (Homepreneur Website Makeover: Part 2)

clickmarketing So, what is Pay Per Click? In a nutshell, Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing is a type of advertising that only costs you money when someone clicks on your ad. The most popular example is Google AdWords – you’ll see these ads on the side of search results on Google. As someone who handles multiple PPC accounts for our website builder, one of the most exciting things I get to do is introduce it to people building a new ecommerce website. Why?  It’s like a fresh canvas: a clean start to build something great.

One of the biggest problems I often see is new PPC users jumping right in with no plan, no goals, and no real strategy for what they want to achieve, and it’s pretty easy to waste a lot of money on it. That’s why I was thrilled to learn that I’d be talking PPC with Marco and Heather Barberini from OvernightPetTags.com, our winner of the 2009 Homepreneur of the Year competition.

Every successful PPC campaign begins with planning offline.  So before we even turned on the computer, I asked Marco exactly what his vision and goals were for his Google Adwords account. Google currently holds a 64% market share of all searches in the U.S.

Here’s what I asked Marco, and here’s what you should ask yourself before you take the plunge into Pay Per Click marketing.

1. What is the main reason to start a PPC account?

Obviously, to get more sales and make more money.  But how are you going to do that?  Are you going to be acquiring leads then calling them?  Do you want to drive traffic directly to a specific product?  Or do you want to to drive traffic to a catalog of products?  Maybe you offer a service and want people to phone you right away after finding your business website.  Even if you have an entire list of possibilities, write them all down.

2. What are you selling?

Of course you know what you’re selling, but can you organize it effectively?  Create a tree of your website and all of your products.  Make yourself a map and organize your products or services into different categories.  In Marco’s case, he sells pet ID tags.  So he would start by categorizing his website into two main top level categories: Dog ID Tags & Cat ID Tags.  These new main categories would be his “Campaigns”.

3.  How would you break down each individual product or service in each campaign?

Once you have broken your site down into its main categories or “campaigns”, you have created a backbone to structure the rest of your account.  You can then break things down further into Ad groups which fall under campaigns. For example, the Ad group “Sports Dog ID Tags” would go under the Campaign “Dog ID Tags”  mentioned above.

4. Who are you selling to?

You might know who you are selling to offline, but online is different.  When you’re advertising online, anyone can search and possibly click one of your ads costing you wasted money if they aren’t “qualified” (a good fit for your products).  So, make a plan offline for who you want to target.  Age, gender, what they might be searching for and why?  Try to create a customer persona and paint of picture of who you’re selling to.

Again, planning is the key to a great start with any new PPC account.  There are many other factors to consider, such as budgets – what are you willing to pay to get a new customer or sell a product?  These four tips above are just the basics to get your head wrapped around how to start.

Here is a list of key questions to ask yourself as your draw up your plan:

  • What search engines do you want to target?
  • What is your monthly budget?
  • How many products are you selling? (this should help you break down your categories)
  • What are your goals for PPC? (i.e. traffic, conversions)
  • What will you use for track? (Our recommendation is Google Analytics but you may prefer Hitslink or StatCounter)
  • How much are you willing to spend if it converts well?

In my next post, we’ll break it down further and discuss Ad groups, Keywords and Ads.  In the meantime, grab a pen and paper and start planning!

How To Market a Unique Product Online

mattfriesenGuest blogger: Matt Friesen is the founder and CEO of Thirdi, a Vancouver Software Development and Internet Marketing company.

What do you do if you are selling something new and original: like a hoodie designed to look like a monster. Even if you captured 100% of the people looking for “Hoodies that make you look like a monster”, you likely aren’t going to have a substantial business. Search advertising can’t capture that intent. Display advertising is too easily ignored, and lacks the necessary credibility, to sell someone on a radically new idea. To make someone take the leap into buying something silly the best way is to have a personal, human recommendation.

Unique products require a human touch and a personal connection. Unique products must fit into communities or they will not be appreciated. Here are 3 questions we ask ourselves, at Thirdi, before starting to market a unique product:

1. What specific groups would enjoy this product?

Don’t cop out and say that your audience is ‘everyone’. Some groups will always be better suited to your product than others. Are you looking for kooky soccer moms or under-18 scenesters. Maybe your audience has an obscure profession, like cartographers or jugglers. You have to have a clear idea of the answer to this question before you can proceed.

2. Where do these groups congregate online?

Start doing Google searches for key terms related to your audience. Make lots of bookmarks using tools like Delicious or Faviki and keep them organized. You’ll also want to qualify these groups by their scale and influence somehow as well, to make sure you aren’t wasting time on communities of 20 people. Two easy ways to do this are to use the Google Toolbar to measure the a site’s pagerank or a service like Alexa.com to measure (rough) size. The details aren’t important, you just need to establish a set of priorities.

3. Who are the most important members of the group?

Every group has a leader. Spend a bit of time digging through each of these crowds and a clear leader will start to emerge. Usually, you can just look through 20 or 30 random posts and start to notice that one name keeps popping up over and over. These leaders will write 10X the post of average users, and command 50X the influence. If you can win them over, the rest of the group will take notice.

Finding these individuals may seem like a lot of work, especially since these efforts may only lead to a handful of immediate sales. What they do offer you is a great place to test your marketing messages. Start a conversation with these individuals and see if your message is resonating. If they like it, they’ll tell their friends and your product will start to catch on. If they don’t, you will have received free marketing feedback from your exact target consumer. Either way, you will have gained some valuable data and possibly a few helpful allies.

3 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Small Business Website for Local Search

2010-03-02-localsearchIs the location of your small business important to your customers? If so, your online marketing efforts need to include optimization of your website for local search.

Not sure what local search is? A great example is Google Local. When you do a search for a local business on Google (i.e. “dog walker Seattle”), on the search results page you’ll see a list of local businesses beside a little map. They are businesses that have been submitted to Google Local who are relevant to your search.

Here are some great ways to optimize your site for local search:

1.    Submit to Local Search Engines
We already mentioned Google Local, but there are many more and some may be more popular in your area than others. Consider the following:

2.    Include Your Contact Information on Every Page
This is easier than it sounds. Just create a site-wide footer for your pages and include your address.
CityMax.com User Tip: Create your page footer by going to ‘Edit Site’ > ‘Page Footer’.

3.    Use Geo-Descriptive Keywords
When researching your keywords, make sure to see what people are searching locally, then use those keywords on your website. Make sure to include them in your title and description tags.

When you make a website that’s optimized for local search, it’s easier to get your business to the top of the search engines – simply based on your location! As a bonus suggestion, consider getting a localized domain name to compliment your existing one.