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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Share Your Awesome Content Across the Web

Image by bengrey
Image by bengrey

One of the most difficult things to do for any internet business, or even any website for that matter, is to get recognition from other websites out there.  By having other sites link to you, you’re not only increasing the ability for people to get to your site from other places, but you’re also adding to your ability to rank high in search engines like Google (http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors).

Plugins to Help Share

There are many plugins out there which can help you share links to your most important pages, but we’ll focus on one of the most widely used ones out there, AddThis.com.

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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?

How to Fit Tough Keywords into Your Small Business Website

puzzleWhen you’re trying to optimize your small business website for keywords, you sometimes end up with phrases that just don’t fit in to the flow of the page.

Strange word combinations, odd plurality and missing articles can make writing for exact keyword phrases a pretty difficult task, but it doesn’t have to be impossible – you just need to start thinking of it like a puzzle.

Here are a few suggestions for fitting in those challenging keywords:

1.    Break them up
Although punctuation means a lot to me and you, search engines aren’t that fussy about it. If you’re having trouble fitting the words of a keyword phrase in one sentence, break it up into two separate sentences.

Keyword phrase: San Francisco Real Estate

Looking for a new home in San Francisco? Real Estate can be hard to come by without enlisting the help of an expert.

2.    Use bulleted lists
Not only can bulleted lists be used to simplify information for your visitor, but they can also help you use keywords less awkwardly.

Keyword Phrase: Dog Training Articles

Looking for more information? See the following:

  • “Max’s Guide to Dog TrainingArticles about teaching your dog the basics.
  • “Penelope’s Puppies: All about dog trainingArticles for owners of puppies under the age of 6 months.
  • “Jane and her Litter” Everything you need to know about dog training.

Articles can help you get a lot of the information you need as a new dog owner.

3.    Quotes
Some keywords just can’t sound natural when written from the third person perspective. In that case, try including them in a quote.

Keyword Phrase: Make my own wine

See what our customers have to say about our services!

“I wanted to make my own wine, but didn’t want to spend a fortune. Grapestompers was affordable AND my wine is fantastic!”

Fitting keywords into your small business website is often a challenge, and these are just a few ways you can do it. Try to be creative and flexible without sacrificing readability – it’s important to remember that your visitor is just as important as the search engines, so be careful not to ruin their experience for the sake of fitting in your keywords.

[image by liza31337]

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!

Public Relations Tips for Small Businesses (Homepreneur Website Makeover: Part 3)

ferraris-with-maxToday we welcomed our Homepreneur of the Year runner-ups, Mike and Mary Ferrari of UnusualThreads.com to our CityMax.com office. They stopped over in Vancouver on the way home from one of their vacation cruises (not a bad life eh?), so we thought it would be nice to meet them and get started on their website makeover.

Through UnusualThreads.com, Mike and Mary sell celebrity fashions and have experienced some real online success – generating over $25,000 per month in revenue and 1500+ monthly unique visitors! It’s a great start, but we found that the Ferraris could still improve their search engine optimization, PPC, and overall public relations/social media efforts.

Public relations are essentially the game of selling stories through the media to a large group of potential customers. The payoffs can be huge, with the implied endorsement and additional credibility from the media spotlight – be it TV, radio, print, or blog. Here are a few basic PR tips I gave them that you can apply to your own business:

1. Know your audience.
Any good campaign starts with research. Before you pick up the phone or send out an email pitch, ask yourself:

  • What does this publication or journalist cover?
  • What were their last three stories like?
  • Who is their readership?

2. Only pitch brands and businesses appropriate for that publication’s news.
You probably don’t want to waste your time pitching Forbes Magazine if you are doing three sales a month from your home. However, there might be plenty of small business publications that are a perfect fit your story.

3. Seek only media exposure that is relative to your brand AND your customer.
The end goal of public relations for most small businesses is to increase sales. Consider the following:

  • Do your customers read this publication?
  • Would your story convince readers to buy?

4. Sell your story, but prepare backup pitches.
No editor is always going to go for your first story idea. Create a few alternate storylines that you can quickly slide over to if the editor/reporter is not loving your initial brilliant pitch. For example, a couple of story angles for UnusualThreads.com could be:

  • How to dress while on a budget
  • How certain clothing can you make look skinnier
  • How to shop for certain niche brands

5. Create an event calendar.
Timeliness is everything in the world of news. You don’t want to miss out on an event that might be a cornerstone of your industry (e.g. Oscar Night for the Ferraris, or National Small Business Week for CityMax.com) as this creates many opportunities for pitching and dialogue. Take the time to plan out the next year, and mark down the “can’t miss” events – you can often piggyback off their momentum for your next pitch.

6. Foster relationships.
As with most aspects of life, relationships can help you grow exponentially. Don’t be discouraged if an editor doesn’t reply, or hangs up on you. Continue to pitch appropriately and become a valued resource for information in your field. Once you have demonstrated your industry credibility, your likelihood of landing a story becomes all the greater.

Many people underestimate the power of effective public relations and overestimate its cost. You don’t need to hire a specialist, and there is no secret – you just need a bit of research, creativity and courage to pitch your business. Media coverage is invaluable no matter what industry you’re in, and everyone has a story to tell. So get out there and start pitching!

Written by Patrick Lok, Town Crier at CityMax.com.

The Google “Proof”: Entrepreneurs Make the World a Happy Place

Key to every successful business website is having the right product to sell at the right moment in time. A good source of intelligence about what is hot and what is not is Google Trends.

For those that don’t know, Google Trends provides a tremendous amount of data about people, products, or concepts. Want to know what is going to be the hot seller? Ask Google. As noted in this blog, “search volume data (how much people are searching for a keyword or term at a point in time) is a great measure of how interested people are in a particular topic over any given time period.”

At CityMax.com, we use Google Trends for a couple of different things, including search engine optimization and PPC research. However, in looking at Google Trends the other day, we noticed an interesting correlation that “scientifically” proves what we’ve been maintaining for the past 10 years: Entrepreneurs Make the World a Happier Place.

Well scientifically proven may be a bit of a stretch, but we thought we would share our observations:

Our search started with the concept of “happy” (see below for the trend report since 2004). The concept of “happy” ebbs and flows around the holidays, in large part to “Happy New Year” and “Happy Holidays” no doubt. But what piqued our curiosity was the relative volume of news mentions at the end of 2007 and the start of 2008… mentions that have been increasing relatively constantly since that time.

happy2

This chart surprised us a little. After all, aren’t we still in the midst of a recession? Isn’t it all a doom-and-gloom, the sky is falling, run for the hills, depressing kind of world that we live in right now? Why is ‘happy’ trending upwards?

Take a look at the keyword concept “recession” to see both the massive spike in the volume of search surrounding the concept as well as the mentions in news. Yep… the recession is in full swing (though interestingly it is on a downward trend).

recession2

Given this increase in “happy” in the midst of a recession, we asked ourselves, “What makes us happy?” Responses came from across the company: customers, success stories, getting a product out the door, selling. In other words, what makes us happy is winning.

So we ran the “win” and “lose” search concepts through Google Trends and here are the results:

win-lose2

Six years ago, “win” was searched for with much greater regularity than “lose”. In fact, “lose” has recently overtaken “win” for the first time in Google Trend history. But the same uptick occurs for news mentions, correlating to the increase in happy. We guess it stands to reason, that news mentions about winners might happen to mention that the winners are happy.

So was this the answer, or was there something deeper? We dug into things further with a few search concepts that are dear to our hearts: the life of the entrepreneur.

CityMax.com of course is passionate about entrepreneurism as evident by our homepreneur contests, our entrepreneur spirit days, and our website builder that speaks to early-stage entrepreneurs.

We started with a simple search for “small business” (see below). And there was our first “ah-ha”, the same uptick at the end of 2007 and start of 2008. What was interesting is that this uptick also corresponds well to the searches around “recession” and recessionary concepts. Captain Obvious might state that if people are worried about the economy and losing jobs, they might very well consider starting a small business of their own.

3small-business2

What happens when you search for the concept “entrepreneur” and “self employed” within Google Trends? You see the same spike in mentions in the news and you see a rolling average increase in the total number of searches.

entrepreneur2

self-employed2

So, in our opinion, this proves what most entrepreneurs and small businesses know intrinsically: when you are an entrepreneur and running your own business, happiness is often a result.

Do you agree? Are entrepreneurs happier than most? Let us know in the comments below.

Written by John Lyotier, VP of Marketing at CityMax.com and avid reader of stats, charts, and graphs.

The Small Business Makeover Begins!

Wendy Lau of BlueWonderCloth.com, our Small Business Makeover winner, made the trek down to our offices last week to meet the CityMax.com team and give her online presence a shot in the arm.

2009-12-21-wendy-6
Nine years ago, Wendy started selling environmentally friendly cleaning products online as a part-time distributor. She quickly grew to the point where she actually bought out the original owner four years ago and now runs the entire business!

We were excited to meet Wendy, who’s been with CityMax.com since we were just three people huddled in a tiny office. She’s already had some serious success, but Wendy told us she now wants to “make more and do less.” Sounds like our kind of challenge!

Our experts sat down with her and talked custom re-design, local search marketing, and search engine optimization for her site. Wendy even got to check out our daily huddle and meet our two dogs. All in all, it was a great start to the makeover – stay tuned to see what Wendy’s finished makeover looks like!