Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

What to do When Dealing with Informal Investors

Friday, April 17th, 2015

final investor informal

Raising funding from formal investors isn’t always an option for every startup.

Particularly for young or unproven entrepreneurs, informal investors can seem like much more attractive options. And these more informal options can certainly give your startup the boost it needs. But just because they’re informal investors doesn’t mean you should overlook some of the more formal parts of the investment process.

You need to protect yourself and your company. So when it comes to those informal investors, whether they’re angel investors or members of your extended family, it helps to set very specific terms.

Dianna Labrien recently wrote about setting terms with informal investors in a Tech.Co post. She cautioned entrepreneurs against automatically agreeing to give all investors pro-rata rights, or the right to maintain ownership through future investment rounds. This could lead to your startup having too many different investors involved.

While on the surface “having too many investors” doesn’t sound like a problem, it can mean lots of extra work for you. And all of that work means time spent away from actually growing your business. Labrien wrote:

“Having too many people involved means you’ll be spending your time on unproductive things instead of focusing on further development. If you are not careful enough, you may find yourself in an uncomfortable position, spending time on collecting signatures from your shareholders to make future financing decisions or implement new management decisions. Mainly, this happens when you’ve given these rights to your first investor and the follow-on investors happen to request them as well.”

Informal investors can be incredibly helpful, if not essential, when getting your business off the ground. But it is still your business. You need to control how you spend your time. And investors can have a big impact on that part of your operations. You have to find the right balance between attracting the right investors and giving them too many rights to your business.

Labrien’s post also includes a few more tips for dealing with informal investors, such as restricting the number of shares offered and avoiding limits placed on management compensation.

Piggy Bank Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “What to do When Dealing with Informal Investors” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Etsy, ZenPayroll Made Headlines This Week

Friday, April 17th, 2015

final etsy

Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods, made headlines this week by officially launching its IPO. This means that the website will have to work hard to keep both its stockholders and its sellers happy. But Etsy isn’t the only company making changes. ZenPayroll also announced a new round of funding recently. And that means the company is taking its services nationwide.

Read on for a full list of headlines in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

E-Commerce

Etsy Balances Needs of Sellers, Stockholders as IPO Gets Under Way

The site where you can get a tiny crocheted Maltese puppy, a glowing turquoise owl necklace, and a 3D paper taxidermy lion can now be yours. Well, at least part of it. Etsy, went public on April 16. Shares of the company are being offered for $16 each as part of Etsy’s Initial Public Offering (IPO).

Finance

ZenPayroll Could Change the Way You Pay

ZenPayroll, a Web-based payroll processor targeting specifically smaller businesses, says a recent round of funding has helped it take its service nationwide. The company has raised $60 million in funding from Google Capital, with participation from other new investors, including Emergence Capital Partners and Ribbit Capital.

S-Corp Audit Rates Inch Down, But Most Targeted Are Compliant

Here’s some good and bad tax news for owners of Subchapter S-Corporations. The good news is that your chances of getting audited remained low last tax year and are not expected to increase this year. That should be some solace for tax-compliant small business owners concerned about unnecessary examinations by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Online Tools

Are You Backing Up WordPress? You’d Better Be

If your small business is backing up WordPress only once in a while, then you’re not alone. In fact, a survey of 503 WordPress users released March 10 by CodeGuard, a provider of cloud-based website backup services, reveals that 47 percent of WordPress users backup their sites every few months while 21 percent back up WordPress “occasionally”. This is not a good thing.

Amazon Cloud Storage is Unlimited but Budget Friendly

Amazon’s new unlimited storage plan is raising the bar for competitive pricing, — or is that lowering the bar? However you look at it, there’s no denying the company’s new plan comes in super cheap. Other services may want to make an effort to keep up. So how cheap are we talking? Amazon is now offering unlimited storage on its Cloud Drive for just $60 a year.

Amazon AWS MarketPlace Puts Desktop Apps in the Cloud

Last year, Amazon launched Amazon WorkSpaces, a virtualization service for desktops. Now the company is taking their service a step further with Amazon Web Services Marketplace for Desktop Apps. The name might be a bit of a mouthful but the service could simplify desktop apps for business owners.

RebelMouse CMS Lets You Share Posts from Across the Web

RebelMouse, a content management system designed to enable startups, media sites and brands to expand their online presence across social media, is in growth mode. The company has raised $6 million from previous investors Softbank Capital and Oak Investment Partners, with Buddy Media’s Mike Lazerow participating. The startup’s total funding is now $18.8 million.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: ROADLOK Motorcycle Immobilizer Began on a Napkin

Motorcycles are not like cars. When you park a car, it usually stays put. But for motorcycles, there is no standard way to prevent them from rolling. There have been some products over the years that have worked to solve this problem. But safety has been a concern with many of those products as well. That was before ROADLOK came along, of course.

Social Media

Did You Know You Can Now Embed Facebook Videos?

Yes, you can. You can now embed Facebook videos on other sites. Just like YouTube videos, any video that’s publicly posted on Facebook can now be placed where embed codes are allowed. Previously, sharing videos posted to Facebook with your website audience was a bit more complicated.

Startup

Entrepreneurial Teens Prove Coworking Spaces for Students Can Work Too

You’re likely already familiar with the benefits coworking spaces can offer to entrepreneurs and freelance workers. But a group of entrepreneurial teens are also trying to promote the benefits of coworking spaces for students. Jessica Kim, Isabel Wong, Tiffany Chang and Liezl Agustin opened a coworking space for teens in Honolulu, Hawai’i, called The Canvas.

Art Without a Roof Sells T-Shirts Made by the Homeless

Art Without a Roof is a social business venture dedicated to helping improve the lives of the disadvantaged by marketing artwork to benefit causes. The company, founded last year in San Diego, currently focuses on the homeless but plans to benefit other charity groups as well.

Technology Trends

You Can Stick the Podo Bluetooth Camera Anywhere

Selfie and photo booth enthusiasts might want to take a look at the Podo Bluetooth camera. This colorful little Bluetooth camera brags it can stick to almost any surface to help you take the perfect shot of yourself. No “selfie stick” needed. Podo seeks to eliminate some of the common frustrations experienced with smartphone photography.

BoXZY is a Mill, Laser Engraver, and 3D Printer in One Box

With all the devices and technology available these days, what we imagine we can make. With 3D printers what is created on a screen can become tangible objects without even leaving the room. Millers and lasers can turn blocks of material into just about anything we want them to be. But all these amazing tools can add up in money and space.

Leaked: New LG G4 Has Redesigned Camera, Screen

If you find a leather jacket irresistible, it may be hard to say no to the anxiously anticipated LG G4 smartphone. As one LG mobile device is being discontinued, the popular LG Google Nexus 5, another is being introduced. The G4 is the latest of the flagship Android smartphone model from LG. Actually, with a 5.5-inch display, the device is, strictly speaking, a phablet.

Bitmoji Offers Emoji Characters That Look Just Like You

iPhone owners got an unexpected surprise in the latest iOS update — some new emoji. The new characters include some more diverse faces. But there still aren’t enough different characters to really match the look and style of each person who uses them. That’s where Bitmoji comes in.

Evaptainers: These Refrigerators Don’t Require Electricity

Is your refrigerator running? If so, it probably runs on electricity. But if you own an Evaptainer, then electricity isn’t necessary. The small refrigeration devices actually keep food cool just using sun and water. Evaptainers was founded by Spencer Taylor and Quang Truong.

Image: Nasdaq

This article, “Etsy, ZenPayroll Made Headlines This Week” was first published on Small Business Trends

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April 21st, a Responsive Website Will be a Ranking Criteria on Google

Friday, April 17th, 2015

final mobile web

How are your customers accessing your small business website? And more importantly, what does it look like when they do?

The simple fact is that mobile device usage is on the rise. Last year marked the first when mobile Internet traffic surpassed desktop traffic, and recent reports show that 60 percent of total digital media time is spent on smartphones and tablets.

What this means for your small business is that more customers are finding your website on mobile devices. And if it’s not optimized for mobile viewing, they’re clicking away to your competition. The best way to ensure a seamless mobile experience for all of your website visitors is by using responsive Web design.

What is Responsive Design?

Simply defined, a responsive website automatically displays the correct settings that will make Web pages viewable and usable according to the device it’s being accessed from. Responsive design sizes your pages, text, and link spacing to fit the size of the screen. In addition, a responsively designed website uses mobile-friendly features like:

  • Eliminating Flash content and other media that doesn’t work on mobile operating systems.
  • Using proper mobile redirects and mobile 404 pages.
  • Ensuring fast mobile page load times.
  • Eliminating full-screen interstitials that block mobile page views.

Here are some of the main reasons your small business needs a responsive website.

Users Expect Mobile Friendly Websites

Mobile devices are ubiquitous among consumers today, and more of them expect your website to display properly on their mobile screens. In fact, a Google study found that 72 percent of users expect websites to work on mobile platforms — and 61 percent will leave the site if it’s not mobile friendly.

What’s more, 85 percent of adult users expect a mobile website to be just as good as a desktop site, which is achievable through responsive design.

Local Mobile Search Drives Results

Users rely heavily on their devices to find local businesses. More than 50 percent of mobile users rely on their smartphones for purchase decisions. And regarding local searches, Search Engine Watch finds that:

  • 59 percent of users search for reputable local business on Google.
  • 50 percent of mobile searches are conducted with the goal of local results.
  • 61 percent of local searches result in a purchase.

Mobile Ad Spending and Mobile Traffic Increasing

As online time continues to shift to mobile, more businesses are investing in mobile ad spending. Mobile revenue increased by nearly $7 billion at both Google and Facebook in 2013, and eMarketer forecasts that mobile ad spending will top $45 billion for 2015.

The rate of mobile traffic will continue to increase substantially, as well. According to the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index, mobile data traffic will increase more than 10 times to 97 percent by 2019.

Google Prefers Mobile-Friendly Websites

Perhaps the most compelling reason to ensure that your small business site is a responsive website is Google. The world’s most popular search engine, which currently owns 83 percent of the mobile market share, stated in 2012 that its algorithms prefer responsive design and the most recent Google algorithm update reinforces the search engine giant’s dedication to mobile-friendly pages.

Beginning April 21, mobile friendliness will be a ranking criteria for websites on Google. The algorithms will favor mobile-friendly sites, using a real-time, page-by-page basis to determine mobile friendliness, and penalize sites that display poorly on mobile devices. A website that is not a responsive website or mobile-friendly will suffer negative SEO and decreased search engine rankings.

Google has a number of criteria for determining the mobile-friendliness of a website. If you’re not sure whether your website meets the criteria, you can use Google’s free testing tool to analyze your pages, and receive suggestions on how to improve the mobile responsiveness of your website.

Mobile Web Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “April 21st, a Responsive Website Will be a Ranking Criteria on Google” was first published on Small Business Trends

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4 Ways a Virtual CIO Helps Small Business

Friday, April 17th, 2015

final CIO

Every small business — with dreams of growth and expansion — realizes technology enhances business productivity. Of course, not every small business can allocate funds to staff an IT department — or in some cases even have an IT professional on call.

For most small businesses, IT experts on site are chiefly managing tactical issues — leaving little time for maintenance, monitoring and planning when it comes to nurturing a strategic, effective IT strategy. For most small businesses, a virtual CIO (chief information officer) is an exceptional alternative to restaffing or expanding an internal IT department.

What is a Virtual CIO?

Virtual CIOs are really a portfolio of IT services delivered by today’s Managed Service Providers (MSPs) for small businesses. Virtual CIO is a title — and a service — combining tasks managed and maintained by chief information officers, chief technology officers and technology consultants.

Virtual CIOs take care of everything from infrastructure management, firewall and virus protection to WAN/LAN health monitoring, disaster recovery, scheduled on-site support and more — all with a focus on keeping data safe, secure and accessible 24/7. Virtual CIOs proactively monitor, measure and maintain the IT health and security of a business at an IT budget structured and, in most instances, customized for today’s SMBs.

How do virtual CIOs help small business? From technology roadmaps to IT infrastructure management and more, virtual CIOs help today’s SMBs access and operate the innovative business technologies available to them, with remote and on-site support, consultation and troubleshooting.

Technology Roadmap

Having a forward-thinking vision of where you want your business to be, as well as goals for immediate improvements, is essential to any successful enterprise. Virtual CIOs provide IT plans and strategies that help small businesses leverage IT solutions to fulfill short- and long-term business goals.

Security and Disaster Planning

The best time for a disaster recovery plan is before a small business actually requires one. With Virtual CIO services, businesses benefit from disaster strategy development that allows for quick response and business productivity protection in the event of an outage or natural disaster.

Security is quickly becoming a top priority for all businesses as breaches occur more frequently and carry more serious repercussions. Small businesses are not immune to attacks simply because their data sets are smaller. Virtual CIOs provide consistent security planning and disaster planning plus monitoring, to keep data flowing safely.

IT Maintenance, Monitoring and Management

Comprehensive and consistent IT management is the difference between suffering disruptive productivity gaps and maintaining seamless operational productivity. Virtual CIOs deliver not only day-to-day monitoring and maintenance of IT performance and productivity, but also comprehensive IT management to keep business processes functioning at peak efficiency.

24/7 Specialized IT Expertise

Even with an in-house IT department, sometimes it can be difficult to ensure that you have the right talent for all IT-related issues. Having a Virtual CIO gives a small business big peace of mind with constant IT monitoring and reporting.

Many SMBs want to leverage technology — cloud accounting solutions, customer relationship management software and much more — but lack the necessary expertise and personnel to do so. By investigating and finding the right virtual CIO to compliment and guide their IT infrastructure, performance and overall strategy, an SMB may find not only an exceptional IT authority, but also a technology partner and trusted adviser.

IT Repair Figurines Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “4 Ways a Virtual CIO Helps Small Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Greg Head of Infusionsoft on Systemizing a Small Business

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Greg Head - systematizing a small business

Just about every small business owner can relate to problems surrounding growth.

Greg Head (pictured), Chief Marketing Officer for Infusionsoft, joins Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends for an exclusive one-on-one interview on the topic of systemizing a small business (or “systematizing a small business” depending on which word you prefer), to spur growth.  Greg shares his thoughts on that, as well as the tremendous impact this can have on lifestyle, outlook, and optimism – not to mention business sales.  Automation, says Head, is the source of freedom and creativity.  Read on to see what he means.

* * * * *

Small Business Trends:  How long have you been with Infusionsoft?

Greg Head: It’s been four and a half years.

There have been a lot of changes during that time to the product and the company, haven’t there?

Greg Head: Yes, Infusionsoft wasn’t a startup when I arrived. It was already an up and running company. Over four years ago, we had a hundred and thirty employees and we had four thousand customers.

Today we have over 600 employees, 30,000 customers, and thousands of partners. And we have thousands of people now attending the ICON15 event, and our conference just keeps getting bigger.

At Infusionsoft, we know we’re going to grow bigger. But we’ll still always be as connected to small businesses as we were when we were a small business ourselves.

Our mission is to help small business succeed.

What are the key issues you see small businesses encountering when it comes to their marketing — and why do so many of us struggle?

Greg Head: The marketing problem has to do with driving the things that drive revenues and getting sales and getting cash — and making that consistent.

It’s the number one problem of companies of all size. And it’s especially challenging for small business owners, those in the early stages who are just getting those first revenues and getting out of survival mode.

The challenge for small business owners is that they jump right into the firefight with lots of frenetic activity. Then it’s difficult for them to work on what’s underneath that could make their life a little easier.  They aren’t able to figure out which part of all their customers they should really focus on to create a stronger business and how to improve their messaging and their reporting.

A lot of small business owners get stuck in these tactics. It’s especially hard with digital marketing. It’s not like the old days where people called when they wanted to buy. You just wrote it down and maybe there were a few sticky notes.

Now there are 20 different tools with emails flying all over the place. It’s really hard for small business owners to keep track of. Every year, there’s a different tactic they have to add to their marketing toolkit.

So there’s a lot of tactical distraction that keeps small businesses from building a better marketing foundation for growth.

You’ve got 30,000 customers. We know that Infusionsoft is not for everyone, so who is it for? What do you consider the kind of user that’s going to get the most value out of Infusionsoft and perceive that value?

Greg Head: With 27 million small businesses and five million in the U.S. that have 2 to 25 employees, not all of them are online or active or growth-oriented or progressing.

Let’s call the Infusionsoft customer the progressive small business that either wants to grow the business or keep increasing its capabilities and improve.

These businesses are also online. Their customers are coming to them through their website or through their Facebook page. They’re moving beyond just having a simple website and sending an email once a year.

Infusionsoft isn’t the first tool that business owners use when they first go online and send their first emails.

Infusionsoft is what they graduate to.

Infusionsoft is the platform they go to when the system starts to work — when people fill forms in on your website, and you now have a bucket of names and email address you don’t know what to do with.

We handle the problem when you have a flow in your funnel with customers — and all those transactions are starting to kill you.

Another thing is, the Infusionsoft user has a flow of transactions. There’s pain when it comes to that — and an opportunity. The opportunity is to systematize that customer flow to grow your business, so you can convert better on the front end to make more sales and do more business with your existing customers.

Not all businesses have that kind of transaction flow. Some consultants have a few clients every year. A lot of freelancers are like that. They don’t have the problem that Infusionsoft solves.

Other small businesses, though — whether it’s home services, landscaping, real estate or dentists — have a steady flow of transactions.

One of the issues that a lot of small business people have is they are not marketers by trade. Terms like “conversion” and “funnels” — they are not sure what you’re talking about. How do you deal with that? 

Greg Head:  As part of our kick-start process, we teach a lot about life-cycle marketing. It’s that flow from attracting to selling to delivering and keeping up with your customers. So there’s education provided to new Infusionsoft customers.

From the small business’s side, there needs to be some commitment to understand basic marketing principles. With our educational help, they would understand the flow of attracting traffic, converting leads or converting conversations into sales, and then continuing the conversation with customers.

There’s also a mapping of what’s actually happening in their business. That’s actually the first epiphany, “Oh, my gosh. That’s what it looks like!”

We help reveal that to small business owners. We provide a lot of educational resources so they can understand that.

When there is customer flow, a simple math problem happens. We can do that math pretty quickly. How many customers do you have, and how could you systematize things so you can handle them all more efficiently and get more sales?

For example, every landscaper around Phoenix has 500 to 1,000 customers. Yet they all act surprised when we call in the middle of summer, when you trim your palms out here.  You can do that math pretty quickly.

What should happen? The landscaper would collect their customers’ email addresses. Starting in May, they’d start sending an email and scheduling customers out in advance.

When we have those kinds of conversations with small business customers, realization comes pretty quickly.

The great thing about small business is there are opportunities all over the place to do amazing things.

We actually see that as part of what we offer.  It’s not just the software, but it’s seeing what’s happening in their business and the education around it and that revelation. Success isn’t just a software problem. It’s everything else that goes along with that.

To small business owners, it’s like, “How come I didn’t know that before?” But nobody teaches this at school, right?

systemizing a small business

Let’s talk about the Infusionsoft product for a moment. I’m going to hold your feet to the fire here. We know there were some challenges originally with the complexity of the product. The Infusionsoft Campaign Builder seems to have ushered in a new era.

Greg Head: Yes. You see, the company has been around for over twelve years, before Facebook and YouTube and mobile phones.

The product originally was created for people who were relatively technical — for example, the lawyer in Kansas City who knew HTML and stayed up all night digging into it.

Since that early beginning, the product has been going through an evolution. Our goal is to harness the power of automation for business owners who aren’t as technical.

Three years ago, we introduced the Campaign Builder. It allowed people to stitch together all the switches available in Infusionsoft in a visual way.

Now we’re continuing to advance beyond that. Our latest customers say, “That’s nice, but I don’t even want to do that. Can you just give me some pre-made campaigns that I can start with?”

Every year, we’re continuing to deliver more power, without you needing to be an expert. We’re enabling customers to do more things with fewer clicks.

Our partners help tremendously with that, too. Our partners are starting to deliver more packaged solutions to solve specific problems or create a solution for a specific industry — such as for a dentist or a lawyer or a marketing consultant or a real estate agent. The solutions are complete, right out of the box.

That’s just the story of a technology business. We’re making major investments to make our product easier and get people the value faster and solve problems more quickly.

What product development can we expect from Infusionsoft? 

Greg Head: Right now, Infusionsoft has powerful tools that when you start, you get a little help from us or a partner and we’ll take the time to create those first landing pages and connect that to a follow-up email you create. It’s a combination of the content you write, the templates for email, the landing page and creative graphics.

There’s a lot of things to stitch together that aren’t just, “here’s my database,” and simple CRM.

At one level, it means simple templates. You might have seven different landing pages to choose from for your particular situation, that are pretty close to what you’re looking for. There’s more of those templates coming.

The next thing on top of that is for people who say, “Well, I’m not even sure what to write in emails and I don’t know what the email sequence should be. What happens when the recipient doesn’t click after seven days? What do you do?” All that kind of stuff. Our partners have created thousands of campaigns. We’ll be able to publish their best campaigns and share them with users.

Eventually, you’ll be able to say, “I just want more of the final answer, including a whole vertical solution. I’m a pediatric dentist. Can you just give me the stack of things, including the final creative, and I can put in my own logos, tweak it and run with it?”

What particular goals as head of Infusionsoft Marketing do you have in mind that you want to share?

Greg Head: Infusionsoft has grown. We have thirty thousand customers.

We’re still early in this journey. Most small businesses are not online, systematized, choosing the path that they want to take.

That’s part of the magic to occur. We’ve been successful reaching the small business owners who are trying to get ahead by investing in their processes.

Part of the marketing job at Infusionsoft is to keep reaching and attracting and growing the business and converting customers. We’re eight years into the ten year journey that the founders set out on when it was a scrappy little company and they said, “Someday, we’re going to be this big company with a hundred thousand customers.”

We’ll be continuing to champion the cause of small business, which we think is not very well understood outside the heads of the small business owners themselves.

Most people think small business owners are crazy. The government and the big companies don’t understand them.

Sometimes business owners wonder themselves. They think, ‘They never told me it was supposed to be this hard, and we’ve got to do all this stuff. I thought I was a dentist. Now I need to be a sales and marketing person, too?’

The magic for small business owners is when they create systems for some part of their business — systems that can make the business a bit easier.

For small business owners, their scarcest resource is time. Unlike a big business that has money and technology, with small business owners, it’s their time. And that’s the biggest crisis going on. The lifestyle business that has no life ….

Being systematic means you automate something, so you don’t have to do it yourself or pay somebody to do it.

Taking a little piece of the business to make it more automatic is part of the magic. It’s where the relief comes from.

The irony is that automation is where freedom and creativity come from. You are freed up when the system runs and you can go back to what you had fun with in the first place.

What else would you like small business owners to know, that we haven’t talked about?

Greg Head: I’d like them to understand that here at Infusionsoft, we know their business challenges are hard. We know because we’ve gone through every step of their journey. We’re on a journey at Infusionsoft, too.

Every small business owner — from the one with a side job to the one saying “I’m actually making revenues” to the one who is hiring staff — is going through stages in this fantastic process.

And it’s hard. It’s confusing. It’s slightly crazy.

But it’s actually the lifeblood of all the great stuff that is useful in the world.

Thirty percent of the jobs in the economy come from those companies with 100 or fewer employees. It’s what builds communities and it makes the next generation of everything. I think it’s the lifeblood of the economy.

And they should know there are people who are going to help them go through that journey.

They will have to keep learning and move their minds a bit to get through the journey. But once they do, they will rediscover the hope they had when they started the business. The freedom feeling and the superhero feeling and money in the bank and all the rest of that.

We know it’s way harder than it used to be in small business, and that’s why we exist at Infusionsoft.

This interview on systematizing a small business is part of the One on One interview series with thought-provoking executives, entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today.  This interview was recorded at the ICON15 conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The transcript has been edited for publication. 

Images: Small Business Trends

This article, “Greg Head of Infusionsoft on Systemizing a Small Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Numbers Look Great, But There’s a Catch

Friday, April 17th, 2015

cartoon7142

I normally run ideas past my wife before drawing them up, but this has been a crazy busy year for both of us and lately I don’t always get her opinion.

So after work one night I showed her the cartoons I’d done that day and she read this one.

She looks up at me, looks back down, and looks back up with that “I’m confused but I’m trying not to hurt your feelings” look, smiles, and waits for me to comment.

Listen, I know this is a weird one, but for whatever reason it makes me laugh. It was inspired by that old Twilight Zone episode where everyone had those weird pig faces. Apparently that’s the cost of the gypsy deal they made for their skyrocketing sales.

Sometimes you just do them for yourself.

This article, “Numbers Look Great, But There’s a Catch” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Hiring An SEO Agency? Ask These 7 Questions

Friday, April 17th, 2015

final seo

When you finally decide that the warning signs are there and it’s time to invest in SEO, you have to actually make sure you work with a quality SEO agency. Believe it or not, this isn’t always the easiest thing to do. In many cases you are hiring an SEO agency because you either can’t keep up with the work yourself and want to see a change or you simply aren’t sure how to do SEO on your own. In either case, asking the right questions and knowing the correct answers can be difficult. Fortunately, even if you don’t know much about SEO, you can still come across confident when interviewing by using just a few basic questions.

Consider the questions below to help you get started and make sure you’re on track to finding the right SEO company to work with. Any good agency should be able to answer these questions in detail:

Can I Have a List of Your Current and Past Clients and Contact Them?

This should be no problem for a good SEO company because they will have nothing to hide. Once you have a list, actually use that list by contacting them and hearing what they have to say. Do a little bit of analysis on the clients as well to see if they have A). Good SEO and B). An easy to navigate and easy to read website and C). Quality content and reviews.

What is Your Current Link Building Strategy?

A good SEO company will tell you that their link building strategy consists of building relationships with authoritative websites and then earning natural links. You should be building links for users, not for Google.

How do you Measure SEO Success, and What Kind of Results do you Expect for a Company Similar to Mine?

Keep in mind that no quality SEO agency will guarantee results or guarantee any particular rankings at a particular time. SEO takes time to see results, but a good company will have a few tools they use (including Google Analytics) to see which keywords are moving up in the ranks.

Do you use any Third-Party Tools to Gather Data and Analyze Results?

A few great SEO tools include SEMRush, Ahrefs, Screaming Frog, and Majestic, but of course there are many more options out there. I recommend writing down what the agency says and then looking into the tools at a later time. In either case, it’s important that the agency has something to say for this question.

How will you Keep us in the Loop of all Your Activities? In Other Words, How can we Communicate and Keep up With Your Progress and Offer Comments and Suggestions?

Many SEO agencies will actually have their own portal or dashboard to help keep you updated on progress and everything they’ve been doing. At the very least, you should expect an agency to have a weekly call with you to discuss progress as well as one contact person who is made available to you at all times if you have any questions or comments.

When it Comes to Content Marketing, What Tools do you use and What Metrics do you Follow? Why?

Content marketing tools are different than SEO tools (question 4). While there could definitely be some overlap, it’s extremely important to inquire about content marketing specifically because content is becoming so important to Google in 2015. Make sure they follow clicks as well as social engagement with each different article, and then make sure they tell you that they try and find trends through Google Analytics (or another tool) to help determine which content resonates best with your audience.

What is Your Technical SEO Experience? For Example, Have you Ever Dealt With a Google Penalty or a Major Algorithm Change? If so, how did you Deal with It?

Asking an SEO agency how they dealt with a problem is a great way to weed out the OK agencies and leave yourself with the great ones. A Google penalty can happen at any time, so your agency has to be prepared. A good agency will explain how they anticipate algorithm updates before they happen — read SEO blogs, stay up to date with Google announcements, etc. — but will also have a story about a time when they had to help a website recover. After all, recovery is just as important as prevention in the first place.

The Takeaway

Of course, there are many more questions you can ask aside from just these seven. Many find that asking questions such as “Do you know of any quick fixes?” or “How long will it take to see results?” are good questions because the correct answer should be “I don’t know.” There are lots of SEO scams out there, so it’s important that you’re finding a company that is honest as opposed to just having the right answers.

In other words, the questions above are your core questions, but you can get creative and should spend some time picking their brains about what they enjoy and don’t enjoy about SEO.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Google Search Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Hiring An SEO Agency? Ask These 7 Questions” was first published on Small Business Trends

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You Can Stick the Podo Bluetooth Camera Anywhere

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Podo Bluetooth Camera

Selfie and photo booth enthusiasts might want to take a look at the Podo Bluetooth camera. This colorful little Bluetooth camera brags it can stick to almost any surface to help you take the perfect shot of yourself. No “selfie stick” needed.

Podo seeks to eliminate some of the common frustrations experienced with smartphone photography. Measuring about two inches and weighing 1.8oz, this 8-megapixel camera is designed to be easily carried in a bag or pocket. While taking along an extra phone accessory might be a bit of a hassle, Podo could add other conveniences to make it worth your while.

For more information on Podo, check out the Kickstarter video below.

Podo’s biggest bragging feature is its restickable back. Instead of adhesive, a micro suction pad is used. A magnet is also in the back for added secure stickability. The pad is washable to remove dust build up, but can still stick over and over again. The Podo Bluetooth camera can adhere to glass, wood, concrete, metal, just about any solid surface, the company claims.

This restickable back is supposed to make Podo a convenient hands-free camera. You don’t have to ask a passing stranger to take a picture, be limited by your arm’s length, or twist in awkward angles to get the shot you want.

The Podo Bluetooth camera works by syncing to your smartphone through a Bluetooth connection. With the use of an app, the company claims you can then control Podo to take single shots, time lapse sequences, video, burst shots, and more. The app also has a live preview so you can see what the camera sees before you start shooting.

Podo is the brainchild of three UC Berkeley graduates. After coming up with their idea for a stick-and-shoot camera, they decided to enroll in a hardware accelerator, Highway1. Highway1’s purpose is to help hardware startups make better, more cost effective prototypes and prepare for production.

After completing Highway1’s program, the trio began working with PCH, a company that assists design manufacturing solutions for businesses. Since Highway1 is a division of PCH, this was probably a natural transition for the team.

To launch their product, the team has started a Kickstarter campaign. Judging by how well their campaign is going, it’s clear there is some definite enthusiasm for this little device. With thousands of backers, Podo has successfully raised more than $350,000, leaving its $50,000 goal far behind.

For those interested in trying out their own Podo you can pre-order one for $89. The estimated retail price in the future will be more in the $99 range. Podo is expected to begin shipping in August.

Image: Podo

This article, “You Can Stick the Podo Bluetooth Camera Anywhere” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Entrepreneurial Teens Prove Coworking Spaces for Students Can Work Too

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Coworking Spaces for students

You’re likely already familiar with the benefits coworking spaces can offer to entrepreneurs and freelance workers. But a group of entrepreneurial teens are also trying to promote the benefits of coworking spaces for students.

Jessica Kim, Isabel Wong, Tiffany Chang and Liezl Agustin opened a coworking space for teens in Honolulu, Hawai’i, called The Canvas. They came up with the idea during a leadership conference where they discussed issues with the education system. The hope is that the space will add a bit of a social setting where students can work on academic projects. Kim told the Huffington Post:

“We started thinking about mentorship or tutoring … But then we started to think about something bigger, opening a space where people could come and work. There are many students who don’t have the resources to excel in their academics and we wanted to bring a space that highlights students’ strengths.”

The Canvas consists of three small rooms: a main room with workstations, a meeting room that doubles as a classroom, and a library full of donated books. Everything in the space has been built and designed by teens.

The Canvas operates as a 501c3 and doesn’t charge anything for the use of its space, WiFi, workshops, tutorials, or even snacks. Teachers and other professionals volunteer their time to make presentations and tutor students.

Even though the coworking space doesn’t turn a profit, it still took a lot of work and entrepreneurial spirit to get it up and running. The founders are young. But sometimes that youthful energy can make up for inexperience and even lead to some truly innovative ideas. And according to Chang, it’s already been a huge learning experience for them:

“When you’re naive, you don’t set limits on yourself and you keep dreaming and pursuing those dreams. We’re learning every single day what works and what doesn’t work.”

Image: The Canvas

This article, “Entrepreneurial Teens Prove Coworking Spaces for Students Can Work Too” was first published on Small Business Trends

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How Social Media is Impacting Web Design

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

final social media 3

Social media has been everywhere these days. And it is affecting almost every walk of life.

It is often noticed that social media has its impact on the offline world as well. So, it is quite obvious that the world of the Internet would be impacted the most by social media platforms.

For businesses to be successful these days, creating a social media strategy is a must. And for almost everything they do, they need to follow a process that integrates social media in it. Web design is no different when it comes to this. It has experienced a sea of change since the advent of social media on the Internet.

Social Media Impacting Web Design

Social media has been able to exert its impact on Web design to a great extent.

Almost all the companies these days have their presence on social media. And what can be a better platform to let people know about this than the home page of the business website? This is why almost all the websites have the icons of different social media websites. And a click on any of those would lead the website visitor to the company’s social media page. This is becoming imperative for any website these days.

Attractive Design for Social Media Pages and Profiles

The advent of social media has made the Internet more of a live and interactive marketplace than ever before. It’s no more the same drab thing. In addition to creating an attractive website, it is also extremely important to have a prominent social presence. And for that, you need to design how you want to present yourself in front of your potential customers through the social media platforms.

For example, if you want your business to be present on Facebook through a page, it is important to design the Facebook fan page of your business properly. The same holds true for Twitter and other platforms as well. The profiles that you have on these social media websites need to be designed in such a way that they can grab the attention of the viewers with immediate effect.

Perfect Design Necessary for Ads on Social Media

With social media becoming more and more popular with every passing day, increasing numbers of people are joining these websites. For example, Facebook alone has its number of active users in 2015 at a whopping 1.41 billion. This is driving the companies to use these platforms to reach out to their target audiences. So, they are preparing ads for the social media websites. And the focus is more on design.

The ads are being specially designed for different platforms. The objective is to increase their effectiveness and garner more clicks. The designs of the ads will also play an important role in ensuring that the company is able to gather leads, which should be converted to earn revenues. Moreover, the designers are also required to create different other stuff, such as banner ads, memes, and so on.

Interactive Designs

Social media has helped to create a penchant among people for content that is more interactive and interesting. This is where Web design is expected to play an increasingly important role. Web designers need to shape the websites as well as the social media pages of the companies in such a way that they attract more interaction from the potential as well as the existing customers. This will help them understand what their customers are looking for and where they are going wrong.

Using Images for Social Media Communication

Social media has been able to change the way businesses are run. They are the perfect field to interact with the customers, know what they want from you, and help you decide how you should plan your offerings.

The designs should be planned in such a way that they drive the interaction of hundreds of customers on a regular basis. A picture speaks a thousand words and hence, they are among the best components for communication. So, most of the social media platforms need images. This is where a Web designer becomes relevant. Attractive images need to be created. Moreover, the images should also be resized to meet the requirement of different social media platforms.

Increasing Importance of Web Design on Social Media

Is the importance of Web designing going to diminish with the passage of time?

This is a question that’s haunting the online world after the advent of social media. But that is not expected at all. In fact, the importance of Web designing is likely to increase further soon. This is because the companies will need attractive Web design to keep the audience captivated on their social profiles.

Social Media Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “How Social Media is Impacting Web Design” was first published on Small Business Trends

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