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FOR THIS INVESTOR, IT’S ALL ABOUT LEVERAGE

The Globe and Mail
Published: August 2007


SCOTT WILSON

AGE: 35
OCCUPATION: Vice president of eMotion Picture Studios, based in Burlington, Ont., avid investor, fifth-degree black belt in tae kwon do and former international champion.

INVESTMENT PERSONALITY
An entrepreneur who broke into trade show video production by shooting and editing the 2003 Arnold Fitness Weekend in the United States for the now California Governor. Mr. Wilson stresses living frugally, owning real estate, maximizing registered retirement savings plans and picking bargain stocks.
“Diversify. The stock market is great but there is no better leverage on that planet that I know of more than real estate.” Mr. Wilson owns a principal residence and an investment property: a condo in downtown Toronto.

STRATEGY
From living in his in-laws’ basement with his wife, son and newborn daughter in 2003, Mr. Wilson has come a long way. That year he opened an online trading account and purchased out-of-favour McDonald’s Corp. initially at $12 (U.S.) a share, and continued to add to his holding. “I bought stock every chance I could and also utilized leverage to buy more stock. Over the next 12 months the stock shot up and I sold it as it approached $30. I invested approximately $7,500 in my first year. By picking a winning stock and utilizing leverage to the max, I was able to turn that into over $40,000. I used this money as a down payment on my first house, which enabled me to move my family into a much better environment.”

PERFORMANCE STATISTICS
“In 2004, I had a 600-per-cent return on investment by utilizing leverage to the max and only picking a handful of stocks which all did very well,” Mr. Wilson said. “In 2005 my bubble burst and I found out that I was not the Warren Buffet I thought I was. I had a huge loss on CoolBrands that was compounded by the fact that I was leveraged to the max on that stock;” purchased for $9 (Canadian) and sold on margin calls for as low as $2.50. “In 2006 I diversified what was left of my portfolio and received 18 per cent for 2007 in stock gains.”

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Mr. Wilson’s company has branched into search engine optimization and now considers individual companies’ presence on the Web before he makes any investments in them.
BEST MOVES
McDonald’s: “It was market overreaction that the stock went down as much as it did.” He also utilized his knowledge of the U.S. Fast food industry to make a 22-per-cent return on Wendy’s International stock. “After Dave (Thomas) died there was a market overreaction to Wendy’s and I made a decent return over six months. They had good solid management and they had Tim Hortons.”

WORST MOVES
“I used to be very aggressive, then I lost some money on CoolBrands and ever since then I am much more conservative.” Mr. Wilson lost $30,000 on the stock in a few months.

INVESTMENT BIBLE
David Chilton’s the Wealthy Barber. Mr. Wilson’s riff on the investing classic is to “pay your investments first.” Rather than spend them, any raises or cash windfalls should go into your investment account.

ONLINE MARKETING: GOOGLE GRABBERS

Jim McElgunn, PROFIT magazine
Published: March 2008

His first experience of search-engine optimization left a bitter taste for Scott Wilson. He was shocked to find that the advice he had paid an SEO consultant $16,000 for did nothing to boost the Google rankings of his video-production company’s website.

The trouble was that the consultant had theories about the best SEO tactics, but no proof that they worked. That gave Wilson, president of Burlington, Ont.-based eMotionPictureStudios, an idea: to start his own SEO service that would recommend only those tactics proven effective by scientific experiments.

He formed an eight-person team packed with math, science and programming big brains that since 2005 has rigorously tested hundreds of propositions about what will land a site a top-30 Google ranking for a given search term. This project, unique in the world, creates one website as a control and then, say, nine variations on it to gauge how changing a single factor affects the ranking. Wilson’s team has identified more than 60 effective tactics — although he stresses that they won’t work if your content stinks.

Wilson has applied the results to keep his firm’s own site No. 1 or 2 over the past year on Google for the search term “trade show video.” And he has landed eight SEO clients — including Atlanta-based HD Supply, a Home Depot spinoff serving contractors — that now generate most of eMotion’s revenue. His team’s research confirms that some well-known tactics, such as encouraging other sites to link to yours, remain key to a high ranking. But the research has also proven the effectiveness of tactics you probably don’t know about, including these five shared exclusively with PROFIT readers.

Leverage the power of social bookmarking: The explosive growth of social-bookmarking services that let Web users share the addresses of their favourite sites offers an SEO opportunity. That’s because Google trusts sites more if visitors bookmark them. It therefore counts as a link to your site any time a user bookmarks your site on, say, Del.icio.us or StumbleUpon. Wilson advises installing an “AddThis” button on each Web page so visitors can bookmark your site on the service of their choice.

Hook ’em on video: Google gathers remarkable intelligence about whether people are finding what they want on the sites that show up on its matches, so your site’s ranking will soar if it offers appealing downloads. As YouTube’s enormous traffic shows, video is a powerful attention grabber. It need not be glitzy or pricey: at the heart of eMotionPictureStudios.com’s sustained top-two ranking is a plain-Jane but clear and informative video on its home page of Wilson explaining in 90 seconds “everything you need to know in order to complete your trade show video in the next eight days.” He says the key is to post video that’s highly relevant to the search term — and to do so before rivals cotton on to this tactic.

Keep Google in the loop: The search-engine giant reads CNN.com every few seconds, but might visit your site just twice a year. To ensure that your fresh content or site improvements don’t languish unindexed, submit to Google an XML sitemap, which shows your site’s coding, each time you do an update. Google will help you correct any errors in the sitemap to make its indexing more accurate, and will crawl your site more often if you routinely send it XML sitemap updates.

Optimize each page to a search term: Chances are every page on your website has the same title tag, the words at the top of the browser window describing the page. If they’re all titled “Acme Enterprises,” Google is less likely to realize you have a page rich with content that would interest someone searching for, say, “discount high explosives.” Wilson advises putting a search term in each title tag as part of a strategy to focus each page’s content and labelling on specific keywords.

Run photos and work them hard: A Web page with a photo relevant to a given search will outrank the same page without one — provided your coding labels it with an appropriate tag, such as “left-handed-golf-clubs.jpg,” rather than a digital camera’s default label, such as “1325.jpg.” Also, be sure to run the same keywords in the “alt text” tag that lets you describe the image for visually impaired searchers. Most Web developers leave these tags blank. Yet Google indexes them and rewards pages on which a search term appears more often — although not so often it looks like you’re trying to fool its website crawlers.

OPTIMIZERS CAN HELP YOUR WEBSITE SUCCEED

A SEARCH ENGINE SPECIALIST CAN ARTIFICIALLY BOOST THE STRENGTH OF A COMPANY’S INTERNET IMAGE

Paul Brent, The Toronto Star
Published: May 10, 2007

The Internet is proving to be the great leveler of enterprises big and small in the Web 2.0 business world of today.

A professionally designed, well thought out website can make a business look larger and more capable than it really is, while a neglected Web presence can have the opposite effect.

“People look at our company and think we are a multi-million-dollar company, when in fact we are just three years old and just hit $1 million in revenue last year,” says Scott Wilson, a partner in eMotion Picture Studios of Mississauga. “But our Internet presence suggests we are a much larger and more successful company.”

The family-owned firm, which specializes in search engine optimization and industrial videos, has learned appearances can be deceiving when it comes to the Internet.

“A client came in who was interested in hiring us to make a video,” Wilson recalls. “I looked at his website just before the meeting and I talked with him about one of our cheaper productions,” and an option to pay in instalments.

“Looking at their website, I thought the company was going to struggle to afford it,” he says. “It turns out they are in 12 states and have a corporate jet.”

Most companies still spend big bucks on their real-world corporate image in an effort to impress potential clients, but often neglect their virtual, online appearance.

“We’re now into the age where virtual companies are not nearly as suspect as they used to be,” says Richard Burke, president of Brochure Place Inc., a three-person, Internet-based printing company that does about about 85 per cent of its sales in the U.S. and uses an American-friendly 1-800 number and U.S. dollar pricing.

The low-cost brochure company, which uses third-party printers and a specialized cross-border courier, also uses the Internet to keep prices down and profit margins up.

“We operate as a virtual organization. We all operate from home,” Burke says. “One of my staff is in Barrie, (the other) is in Cambridge. The people who answer my phones are in Collingwood. I’m in Mississauga. We use a sophisticated call system so you never know where that call is being answered from.”

Appearances can be deceiving in the virtual world, but they are no less important than in the past.

“There was a time that on certain streets in Toronto or New York, you had a plush office with walnut desks and that was the face of your company,” Wilson says. “But now it’s the Internet.”

His company is a good example of the transformational power of the Net. EMotion began as a provider of corporate videos, but today finds the majority of its revenue comes from search engine optimization, or SEO.

An SEO provider will customize a firm’s Web presence to boost its search engine rankings for various search terms.

Executed properly, the SEO function can artificially boost a company’s status on the Internet

EMotion customizes sites only for the Google search application, which accounts for the majority of searches conducted in North America today. Its goal is to get customers on the first three screens of searches, or in the top 30 of non-paid Google rankings.

While it says many of its search optimization techniques are proprietary, eMotion does offer some free advice.

First, don’t build a Flash-based site. It may be pretty, but it can take a long time to load and thereby annoy potential customers. Worse, Google has trouble reading and ranking Flash, Wilson says. As well, eMotion recommends companies create specific pages of content for desired search terms, all linked back to the main Web page.

Does it work? The company says it doesn’t do a lot of work on itself because the 11-person team is going flat out for clients such as Home Depot’s contractor unit HD Supply.

But Wilson says Google search terms such as “trade show video” (seventh out of 63.3 million sites) and “pharmaceutical video” (first out of nearly 8.3 million sites) show the worth of the SEO service.

“The look and functionality of your website is important, but it can be a billboard in the forest,” Wilson says. “That’s when you build a really good billboard, but nobody gets to see it except those who are specifically looking for it or have been directed there.

“If you come up No. 1 in the world but your website is a poor experience, that doesn’t do you much good. On the other hand, you may have an amazing-looking website that is not showing up on any of the searches. Not enough people are getting exposed to the website.”

OVERLOOKED AREA OF WEB PAGE TRAFFIC KEY TO FUTURE GROWTH

Rick Spence, Financial Post
Published: Monday, December 03, 2007
Quick question: At your business, is the Internet an opportunity or a liability?

There has never been a more cost-efficient communications tool. But the Net is also a trackless jungle where millions of Web sites compete for attention. Yet, you can turn this wasteland into a paved driveway that delivers qualified prospects to your door.

The solution is search-engine optimization (SEO), an art that combines science, math and literature to make your site a Web magnet. “SEO is the single most important marketing and communications medium available today,” says Scott Wilson, an SEO consultant entrepreneur in Burlington, Ont. “It can take your business to entirely new levels.”

Wilson isn’t saying that just because he sells SEO services, rather he sells SEO because it works for him.

Scott and his brother Cameron founded eMotion Picture Studios in 1999 to produce low-priced corporate videos. Their father, Bill, an industrial engineer, created a “lean-manufacturing” approach using two-person production teams and on-site editing. The result: The company produces high-quality training and trade show videos for $10,000 — compared with $40,000 or more at the competition.

Naturally, the brothers built a Web site, but they weren’t happy with the response. (Look up “trade show video” on Google and you get 74 million results.) To make their site search-friendly, they agreed to pay $16,000 to an SEO company, but cancelled the contract when nothing was working. “It was a terrible experience,” Scott Wilson says.

Then a staffer suggested a new tack. “Google is just an algorithm,” he said. “Let’s take it apart and figure it out ourselves.” Knowing they could recoup their research costs through federal and provincial R&D tax credits, the Wilsons started experimenting with Google. By setting up dummy Web sites and testing different keywords, the brothers learned enough to boost eMotion into the No. 1 spot in a Google search for “trade show videos.” Today, eMotion has 20 employees and blue-chip clients in Canada and the United States.

One client, who saw how well eMotion ranked and who had been using an SEO consultant for two years and never saw a benefit, gave the brothers an ultimatum: If they wanted to produce more videos for him, they must do an SEO makeover on his site. Thirteen months later, eMotion has a full SEO consulting practice and has plans to hire 20 more staff by March. “Our SEO work now outsells our video production,” Wilson says.

Wilson offers a three-part formula to reach the top of the Google charts:

Trust Before Google — the leader in Internet search — will rank your site, it must trust your site. You score points when other sites link to yours. Anyone can do this: “Talk to businesses you’re dealing with and trade links,” Wilson suggests. Seek listings in industry and community directories. Ask your staff and friends to link to your site.

Read Before Google can link to you, it has to be able to read your content. Avoid burying key content in graphics, Flash programming, or databases that the search engine can’t read.

Key words Identify words and phrases people may use when seeking products and services such as yours. Find the most cost-effective terms. If you sell golf accessories, for instance, you will never own the word “golf ” — there’s too much competition. Maybe you can dominate searches for “left-handed golf clubs.” But you have to know how people search. Wilson found, for example, that more people search for “golf clubs lefthanded” than “left-handed golf clubs.” (People will first search for “golf clubs.” When they find too many results, they add a filtering term such as “lefthanded.”)

For its $9,985 SEO package, eMotion asks you to submit potential search terms. Then its staff burrow into Web analytics at sites such as Word-tracker. com to find the most efficient combinations, based on how often the terms are sought for, and how common they are on the Web. eMotion tries to find 40 key phrases that are heavily searched-for, but relatively rare — so you have less competition for seekers’ attention.

Then the real work begins: making sure those keywords appear multiple times on the specific “landing pages” to which you hope to drive search traffic. The term “trade show video,” for instance, appears 13 times on eMotion’s landing page.

What kind of payoff can you expect? Houston-based TSM Inc. built a Web site four years ago to promote its sheet-metal fabrication services. But weeks would pass without a visitor. “We couldn’t find it ourselves,” says marketing management Steve Tatum.

Last summer, TSM hired eMotion to work its magic. When TSM made the first page of Google for several search terms, traffic jumped to 30, 40, then 80 visitors a week. “We get as many hits in a day as we used to get in a month,” Tatum says. “And based on the traffic we’ve seen in the past few weeks, we’re destined for more.” Tatum can’t say how many of these visitors are qualified buyers. But last week, one prospect placed an order worth US$140,000. The profit on that deal will more than pay for TSM’s investment in search.

Rick Spence is a writer, consultant and speaker specializing in entrepreneurship. His column appears Mondays in the Financial Post. He can be reached at rick@rickspence.ca