November 5, 2014

Cupcakes with Character: A Small Baking Business in the Big Marketing World

By Megan G.

I have a good friend who happens to be a talented baker.  For the purposes of this article, let’s call her “Tillie Bundt.”  Tillie has a dream of one day starting her own cupcake shop, “Butter Nonsense.”  She has imagined its menu, d├ęcor, and bustling amount of business—unfortunately, this delicious venture remains only a fanciful thought in Tillie’s mind.  With her permission, I have decided to take this imagined business and create an SEO marketing platform.  Hopefully, this can act as an example to other small business owners who want to improve their online standings in the SERPs of Google.  With Tillie’s unique vision and search engine optimization strategies, Butter Nonsense can flourish in the big world of small business.

Here are some key points for Tillie (and you) to consider.

Hey Girl, What’s Your Niche?

Unless you are watching your weight (and if you are, bless you, for you are stronger than me), a cupcake business sounds rather exciting.  Tillie shouldn’t have too much trouble making sales amongst friends and family.  On the web, however, big food culture titans stomp about, such as Martha Stewart, Ina Garten, and  Tillie must find her own place in the baked goods market.

Niche markets prove much easier to navigate than “we-do-it-all” campaigns.  Saying that Butter Nonsense is “a bakery that offers various baked goods for sale” is too generic.  Not only does Tillie’s shop sound uninteresting, but that description also leaves her exposed to a vast range of competitors.  “Baked goods” can be found in grocery stores, coffee shops, and every other bakery in town. 

Tillie decides to specialize in cupcakes.  They are her favorite treat to make, and she makes them better than anyone, or any business, that she knows.  By narrowing her focus, she minimizes her client base to manageable levels.  Providing quality, specialized service to a smaller group of customers leads to more success than if Tillie scrounged up a ton of customers that she could not adequately attend to.  She alleviates the pressure of producing all baked goods, and subsequently eliminates much of her competition—though not all of it.  Cupcakes have seen resurgence in popularity with shows like Cupcake Wars and 2 Broke Girls, which means Tillie is not the first person to come up with a cute cupcake company.  This brings us to our next section:  how to optimize Tillie’s online presence.  She has her shop, a modest number of sales, and an even more modest website.  It features a block of text and a stock photo of a cartoon cupcake with pink frosting.  How can she spice this site up?

Icing Can Be Pretty, but Butter Brings the Flavor

As writes, “content is king,” and Tillie’s originality will be the trump card in Google’s search engine ranking game.  The company name itself, “Butter Nonsense,” is eye-catching and pun-tastic, and effectively communicates the business’ tone.  This is not one of those fancy patisseries with frilly logos and whitewashed walls.  Tillie instead paints her shop bright yellow, with multicolored polka-dots and flower prints on the walls.  The menu, handwritten characteristically messy on chalkboards, features outlandish cupcake names like Bananagins, Bluehaha, and Pffffbbbbtt!  (Those flavors are “banana cream pie,” “blueberry,” and “raspberry,” respectively.)  She designs unique party platters, like giant owls formed entirely of chocolate cupcakes with huge, gummy-Lifesaver eyes and orange icing feet!  Tillie’s personality can be found everywhere in Butter Nonsense, and her online content must reflect the individuality of her shop in order to be successful.  Google constantly asserts the necessity of high quality, original content—and Tillie is bursting with it!

For her website, Tillie can implement various types of content to provide the best experience for her online guests.  She decides to start a blog that features new recipes, events she has hosted, and a customer of the month.  More personal posts include updates about her beloved pitbull-boxer-corgi mutt, or a favorite restaurant she wants to promote.  As L.T. has written about before, blogs both entertain and bring more traffic to a website by adding to the number of indexed pages that appear in related searches.  A blog must be regularly updated to be successful, and thus Tillie’s website will be refreshed weekly, if not daily.  Google favors the freshest content on a topic, so a blog is invaluable to businesses attempting to rank higher.

Tillie will post a photo gallery of her best baking endeavors, which acts as both a validation of her skills and a tempting advertisement to her customers.  Finally, she will have an on-going video playlist on another page of her site that features her Food-Network-style baking web-series.  She can further validate her culinary abilities through these videos, and relate to her customers on a personal level.

All three of these examples make Tillie’s website more dynamic, and thus will attract more users and a higher Google ranking.  The site’s design should parallel the boisterous and bubbly ambiance of Tillie’s shop while remaining clean, simple, and accessible to her customers.     

Light on the Keywords, Please

Let’s say Tillie heard that most people in her area were looking for chocolate chip cupcakes, and that was the way to get noticed.  In order to answer this high demand, should she start stuffing her cupcakes with voluminous amounts of chips?  What if she decides to mold a pile of chocolate chips into the shape of a cupcake?  Same thing, right?  No!  That would be ridiculous, and ruin the quality of her product.  Instead, Tillie spends time perfecting a chocolate chip cupcake recipe, deciding the right amount of each ingredient that, in the end, creates the highest quality product.  Websites and keywords should be handled in the same way

Old-fashioned SEO tactics would have you fill your webpage with repetitive keywords in an effort to rank higher in search engines by cheating their systems.   Nowadays, thanks to Google updates like Panda and Penguin, keywords still help your ranking—but only when they are used in a productive, creative way.  Tillie utilizes them, but not to excess.  She inserts relevant and varied keywords into the titles of her blog posts, her URL, hyperlinks, and photos.  Naming a picture “homemade_red_velvet_cupcake.jpg” optimizes her site without annoying customers and Googlebots.

“You Like Me, You Really Like Me!”

Tillie has successfully optimized her website—but without the fellowship of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest, Tillie will have a hard time spreading the word about Butter Nonsense in our modern world of social media.  Pinterest is the immediate choice for a topic like baking, and Tillie’s main website can link customers to a Pinterest page with photos of her shop, cupcakes, and party platters.  However, Tillie can’t afford to focus on only one site.  Everyone she knows has a Facebook, and her friends are ready and willing to share her delicious work on their pages.  LinkedIn is the best choice to promote herself on the professional level, and Twitter can act as a suggestion outlet for new cupcake names and recipes.  Google+, while the dark horse in the social media race, actually proves the most beneficial in terms of Google SERP rankings. 

Cyrus Shepard of Moz explains, “Google uses Google+ to discover new content, and tends to index anything shared on Google+ quickly.”  Google owns this network, and so naturally will pull information from Google+ first.  Tillie would be wise to start building her Google+ community, along with the other social media sites.  She should also make sure to have a prominently displayed widget of these sites on her webpage, allowing easy sharing of her content across the Internet.  Google does not rank pages according to social media popularity, but the more people that know about Tillie’s company, the more likely her main page will be searched for and backlinked—two factors that Google appreciates.

“You’re Going Out a Youngster, But You’ve Got to Come Back a Star!”

With all of these tools, Tillie can pave the way to small business stardom.  To sum up these ideas, I go to Google’s advice for any business or website trying to rank higher in this popular and powerful search engine:  “Webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality content sites that users will want to use and share.”  In the words of Ross Hudgens, Tillie should not ask “how do I improve my rankings,” but instead “how do I improve my site?”  Her focus should remain on creating a product with the potential to be loved, shared, and wanted again many times over. 

Of course, she does not have to do all this alone.  eGumball, Inc. is a local search marketing company that can always assist in a business’ search engine optimization.  With Google Maps Optimization services, we ensure the best online experience for your customers and the best results for your company.  It’s all about making people happy.  So, in the end, it’s all about the butter.

Did you find this article helpful?  Would you go to Tillie’s website, or her shop?  Let us know in the comments! 


  1. This is adorable! It's a great way of relating SEO and social media strategy to small businesses in an accessible and fun way.

    1. Thank you for the comment, Jessamyn!

      We really appreciate the feedback, and we're glad you enjoyed it :) I wish Tillie's shop was real, so that I could order those Bananagins cupcakes constantly. When it comes to social media marketing, do you have a preference on which platform (Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) to use?

      -The Tek Team