SEO Action Plan For A Small Canadian Business

This is going to be a multi-part tutorial, next post will be out next week.

Having a website is a great way to promote a small Canadian business, but its not something that you can set and forget! So many business owners get a website built, do no internet marketing whatsoever and then say “well I guess it didn’t work”. In the SEO/Internet Marketing industry, we typically say that your rankings will take 3-6 months to come, but once you have those ranks you will continue to get traffic for quite a long time, even without additional marketing. With rising Pay-Per-Click costs, the effectiveness of SEO is becoming much more obvious, but people are usually put off by the 3-6 month wait.

I did a search for “Small Business SEO Plan” and similar terms and most are really general “guides” or SEO companies trying to sell you services. While some of the articles point you in the right direction, you are going to have a hard time if you are not great with computers if you entire SEO execution plan is “4 blogs a month, 1 press release, social media, & guest posting”.  This raises a lot of questions, “What’s a good blog setup?” “What’s an online press release?”, likely you would just pay a company and tell them to do these things for you.

To help out the little guy, I’ve created this step-by-step execution plan for the average business owner. This guide is intended for people who are not too tech savvy, you can always do use Google and research how to do each task, but I’ve provided fiverr.com gigs as alternatives. :

 

Part 1: The Setup

With the right setup you can have a pretty efficient website going. Here is what you need:

  1. A decent (preferably Canadian) web host
  2. A WordPress based website
  3. A Google Account
  4. Google Analytics installed
  5. Google Webmaster Tools installed

This setup is very common and a lot of times its the first thing an SEO company will do for you.

Since I want this guide to focus on the SEO side of things, I am not going to into a lot of detail on the actual setup.

If you don’t have a web host, I can recommend these ones for Canadian businesses. Any quick web host will be good though, if you page is really slow, it may be time to change.

  • Dave’s Network – Really Cheap @ $3 monthly, this is my web host
  • Host Papa – A more expensive Canadian web host, unlimited everything, great for small businesses
go daddy logo

These guys advertise more than any other host, so a lot of small business go with them. Please avoid them, they charge more and provide worse service.

Now make sure you have a WordPress based website. WordPress is great since it has tons of great free plugins to help with SEO and its probably the easiest content management system to use. Not a techy? No problem, you can have other people do this for cheap, check out these fiverr.com gigs.

Once you have that set up you can install a free theme or order this great gig to get a fully custom WordPress theme.

Now you probably already have a Google Account, even if you don’t know what it is. If you use any Google service, which includes gmail, Youtube, Google+, you have a Google account. If not, making one is as straight forward as it gets.

 

Need Google Analytics and webmaster tools? If you can’t figure these tasks out from a Google search then fiverr has you covered.

 

And that wraps up part one of this tutorial. If you’ve followed the steps perfectly, you have laid the foundation for a fantastically marketable internet website.

If you’ve found anything unclear or think I should add more details, please leave me a comment!

Tips & Resources For New Web Developers In Toronto

Coming out of webmaster school, my classmates and I were so rosy eyed and eager to take on a world of web design & development. This was before you have people claiming that their nephew or their favorite Indian elance freelancer can do it for a fraction of the price. It is particularly hard to convince them before you’ve developed a proper portfolio. Here are a few tips I’ve gathered from my own experiences and those of coworkers to get your few first clients and becoming the best webmaster you can be.

1. Ask Your Friends And Family

I think most people with family or friends in Toronto can name at least one person they know in charge of a small business. Even lots of gruff old school plumbers and construction workers want a website, despite of not giving a flying flip-wrench about the internet in general.

family business poster

Old uncle Connery needs you to convince people online that his business is %110 legit

Just by having a website you add legitimacy to a business. Since no fly-by-night companies would ever hire a web designer right?! So get your family with restaurants, construction workers, and real estate agents and set them up with a slammin’ website. Also hilarious is when it actually starts bringing in customers, their attitude flips 180 degrees and now its extremely serious and all your web pages must be more CALL TO ACTION. If you really wanna bring in a few customers with a little effort, set them up with a G+ Local Page and submit them to a few web directories. Or if you are willing to spend a few bucks, set them up with a phone.com tracking number to prove where the calls came from, then set up a click to call campaign in Adwords with the spend $25 for $100 that Google Partners offers when you sign up for partners with an Adwords MCC Account.

2. Reach Out Online

Toronto is a city that quite enjoys its internet and its websites, and there are specific sites that you can use to find clients. If you live in Toronto, no doubt that you’ve noticed that for the vast majority of Toronto related searches, Kijiji appears on the first page. For some reason, Kijiji is really big in Canada in general.

kijiji mugger

Kijiji.ca, good for muggers as well as web designers & developers

There are lots of people in the world of web design and SEO looking for people to complete their one off web projects, send em a message. If you really want that first client, you can try messaging other people who post ads on kijiji and offer to make a website. The vast majority of the time they will turn you down, but I’d be surprised if you sent 100 messages without any interest.

While I think Kijiji is really, really good for connecting with potentials clients, the usual suspects are good too. So try also these websites:

  • Craigslist
  • Monster.com
  • Workplous.com
  • LinkedIn

Also try finding companies with really crappy websites or marketing and let them know how you can help them. So head on Yellowpages and 411.ca and check out some company websites. If you think you can help them, shoot a personalized email their way!

3. Get Out There, In The Big Scary World

Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world, both in terms of cultures, and of interests. You an find an interest group for pretty much everything. Also, no matter how much of a cheeto-fingered basement dweller you are, you are going to have to interact with people sometime, so think of it as training for your social muscles ;)

3udaxu

This guy… don’t be like this guy

 

I would recommend that you go out to meetups and events both to find clients and to learn from others. Also made sure you have your business cards printed and ready to give out when appropriate.

Meetup.com in Toronto is pretty booming, there is a different meetup group for each one of your needs.

Here are some that I feel are good for webmasters

If you are willing to spend a few bucks, Toronto is also home to a few neat Expos which you might want to be a part of.

 

Annnnddd that is my 2 cents, if you want any other details or think I missed something critical, leave a comment below :)

Building My WordPress Dream Theme

After a lot of sifting though a lot of “not bad but not great” free, custom, and premium WordPress themes, I’ve decided to make my own “Dream” WordPress theme.

Since this theme has small business owners in mind, I have decided to call it SmallBizWiz. I wanted to make a theme I could give to clueless clients and let them fill each part of the website with the content they want using a simple interface. I’ve been developing it for a few months now and it is based upon the excellent bootstrap theme Devdmbootstrap3.

I have really grown to like this theme since:

  • It is already fully Bootstrap 3 based, which is my front end framework of choice
  • The author keeps it up to date, as soon as Bootstrap 3.2 was released, the theme was updated to include the new version
  • Some themes have too many extra features or junk in them, this theme was perfect to just rip apart and remake anew :)

Another bootstrap based theme that looks good is Shoestrap but I have not really played around with it too much yet.

Now on to my Dream Theme, you can see a screenshot of my Work In Progress below:

screenshot of small biz wiz theme

And here are links to the Live Demo and the theme Zip file so you can try it out on your own WordPress installation.

Working on a lot of stuff right now, but most of the tricky stuff is out of the way. This means that the theme is now: fully responsive, has multiple customizable text areas and image areas, fully works with pages how you would expect.

I was considering putting in a slider for the main image area, but there are plenty of reasons to not use sliders on your website.

So with those links above you can try the theme as it is, but you’ll see it is quite lacking at the moment. Things on my to do list are:

  • Add defaults for the customizable areas, so it doesn’t look like a blob of goo when you first install it.
  • Add more customizable areas, like the core competency boxes
  • Allow the user to pick which fonts they want to use
  • Allow the user to use a color picker to change the css colors
  • Make more templates, right now only the homepage template is working, need to work on pages for posts, pages, and landing pages
  • Recommended plugins which include WordPress SEO and Contact Form 7

There are probably a lot more I am forgetting but that is what comes to mind right now.

Feel like I am missing anything important? Please let me know!

 

 

My First HTML5 Game With The Phaser Framework

Hello World!

Its been a long time since my last post (over a year!) So I decided its time for a new one, and a new framework!
Phaser is a new-ish HTML5 framework by Richard Davey that specializes in game development for HTML5.
Following the excellent tutorial for making a Flappy Bird game, I made a kind of remix where you have to dodge pipes that are moving upward rather than to the right.
Capture_bird
The whole tutorial forces you to get used to node.js, which really helps with organization and workflow but was kind of hard to learn how to use at first.
I’ve also been looking into porting this to mobile, but there are some hiccups. The game runs mostly fine in the web browser but for some reason, I can’t get sounds to play on my remix or the original tutorial version. Also debugging for Android browsers is kind of a hassle.
All in all its pretty neat, gunna try to make a real game soon :)

Projects that will appear when Scratch v2 goes live

While Scratch has always been pretty awesome for neat experiments and mini-games, it has never really become a practice tool for the majority of commercially developed games. This is for a wide number of reasons such as, the general inexperience of the Scratch community, the horrible art editor, and the lack of critical functions (cloning and multi-dimentional arrays). Scratch has gotten a ton better over the years too though, after the move away from the sluggish Java player to the flash one, lag in projects has gotten much more manageable. I think Scratch v2 is the final push the program needs to be considered a tool for professionals (or just really good amateurs). There are a few projects I think that have been popular on flash game sites that will become popular with Scratch v2.

 

1. Mario-esque Platformers and Various Tile-Based Games

This is one of the MOST popular project types on Scratch, that is always imitated but never duplicated. Easily the biggest issue with this is that the world in platform games are generally pretty big, and most scrolling games in Scratch use huge bitmap images to make up the map. I remember doing this with the game Archknight’s Adventure the result was a pretty fun scroller with 5 levels. Main issues were that the game, while only 5 levels, took up 10 megabytes with compressed images (forget having sound!). The original Mario Bros has way more than 5 levels but with a tiny file size of less than 1 megabyte, this was achieved though the use of tiles. Rather than having a number of huge bitmaps, you would ideally have 1 tile sprite that would clone itself to make the map and would have those clones change costumes as the player moved. I tried to replicate this in current Scratch and the results don’t look horrible in the present version of Scratch Linky. This was adapted from a Flash Actionscript based tutorial, but has a few bugs due to my shoddy transition from using 2d arrays in flash to 1d arrays (lists) in Scratch. This is probably also possible with the current version of Scratch but not ideal since you have to have 100+ individual tile sprites. This is for sure one of the first project I want to try to make with v2.

2. Tower Defense Style Games

This one has done pretty well in current versions of Scratch (example) but no version have the ludicrous numbers of enemies and projectiles that this genre is known for.  Most versions have a limited number of enemies and towers, with 1 dedicated projectile per tower. This is also technically difficult to program since you have to be well versed in pathfinding algorithms (such as A*) to make sure that towers do not block the path. The situation with this type of game (and most others) have gotten way better with the flash player, as the Java one had massive lag spikes when sound was played and just became very sluggish when project had too many sprites or costumes. With sprite cloning, the majority of the issues involved with this kind of project are gone and overall development time would be much faster.

3. Any Type of Multiplayer Game

From what I’ve seen on the beta website so far, the cloud variables work pretty well. I tried this MMO project that took your user name and put you in a world where you could walk around with other users. This seems much easier to do with Scratch than it would be to do with other languages so it seems to have potential. However, it was pretty laggy, so maybe this issue will be resolved later or people will learn to make more efficient projects. It also seems to be a good idea for someone to make multiple projects to act as separate game servers, so no one project becomes overloaded. Not 100% sure what the future holds for this one, but it will be fun to find out :)

Have any opinions on the matter? Leave me a comment below.

Website update and what is up with me

Hello internet peoples!

I just installed statcounter on this website to check out how people are finding me since I do get some traffic on this mostly stagnant website. Seems most people are coming from Scratch.mit.edu, which makes sense since I did post quite a bit on their forums a while back and make some neat projects.

Have not touched Scratch at all for a long time (or any programming really) but it is a fave tool of mine and I will probably use it when Scratch 2.0 is officially out. I know that the beta is out right now but I want to be able to share it with people not in the beta and post it in this blog. It looks really promising and might be able to more commercial quality programs like Tower Defense and Tile Based Platformers. I also re-opened my fiverr gig to make a game in Scratch if you want me to make you something neat.

I am pretty busy with school right now, I am a 4th year business student at York University in Toronto Canada. One thing I am experimenting with is SEO and trying to develop a profitable website for cheap. Mainly using Fiverr.com, which is a site that typically gets a lot of hate but if you go though the 99% of gigs that are scams you can find some really high value gigs. I developed hhcc-catsitting.ca for a friend a while ago and it gets pretty decent, targeted traffic and is generally position 2-3 for the search term “cat sitting toronto”. My newest one is johnspestcontroltoronto.ca and this is mainly an experiment to see if I can rank for a moderately competitive keyword using a specific schedule for ordering fiverr gigs, and a little bit of manual work.

Also! I re-enabled comments but added a captcha to prevent spam. This site is a PageRank 3 now, mainly from my Scratch links I think, and theres lot of dirty “marketing professionals” who want to crap all over it. Hopefully you can expect more updates from me and maybe a cool Scratch 2.0 walk-though in the future. ;)

New and Revamped Website!

Hey internet peoples, Jonathan here and my website is finally presentable! I used Artisteer to create this theme, and will likely be adjusting it changing it entirely in the upcoming days. The webpages were made with WP Portfolio plugin and loving how it looks, for the moment. I started this to be a sort of portfolio site for my Fiverr clients but I will also post guides and news on things like programming and web development. Thanks for visiting my website and come back often for updates!