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Monday, August 31, 2015

SEO training basics: How to optimize your business blog

SEO Training - ClickMinded.com
By Michelle Rubio

Blogs are one of the essential components of search engine optimization or SEO. Google rewards website with original, high quality, and relevant content, and adding blog posts is an excellent way to provide your readers with useful content, in addition to the webpage copy of your website. To ensure that your blog reaps the benefits of SEO, here are some basic SEO tips to help you optimize your blog so that it gets noticed by Google and other search engines.

Host your blog on your website’s domain

It is ideal for your business blog to be hosted on your website’s domain, than creating a separate domain for the blog, mainly because doing so makes it easier and more convenient for site visitors to navigate to the blog and this helps search engine bots to associate the blog content as part of the main website, which will help improve your website rankings. This can be done by adding a new folder, so the URL of your blog is domain.com/blog, or you can add a subdomain so the URL is blog.domain.com.

Use relevant title tags and meta descriptions

When you optimize individual blog posts for relevant keywords, this increases its visibility in online search results, signaling to search engine bots what your content is all about. Use relevant and unique title tags and meta descriptions for your blogs, as there are preferred by search engine bots. Make sure that you that these are unique and not duplicated throughout the website. Aside from functioning as cues for search engine bots, title tags and meta descriptions also help create a good first impression of your blog post in search results.

If your blog has several contributors, you may want to install an SEO plugin that will prompt your bloggers to add a title tag and meta description to their posts, so your website developer does not have to add these manually. SEO plugins differ depending on your website’s content management systems or CMS, so do a bit of research to find the best one for you.

Post blogs regularly

There is no set rule as for how many times a week you should post, but it is a good practice to update your blog frequently. According to a study, business sites that published more than 16 blog posts per month got almost 3.5 times more traffic than those that only published 4 posts per month. New posts are helpful in keeping your readers interested and coming back for more, which also helps search engine bots to notice and crawl your website more often. It is good to have an editorial calendar to help ensure that your content is always fresh.

Share your blogs

There is no better way to get online audience to notice your posts than to share them via social media channels. There is no doubt that most of your target customers are on the popular social media networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Sharing your online content on social networks not only creates inbound links from social media, it also allows your posts to be shared exponentially by people you may not have reached organically. Another way to get more exposure on social media is to have share buttons on your blogs. This makes it more convenient for your readers to share your content to their social media profiles.

By optimizing your blog for SEO, you can increase online traffic to your website and help establish your business as thought leader in your industry. So, go ahead and try these basic SEO training tips for blogs and see the improvements in your search engine rankings.

About the author: Michelle Rubio is an experienced SEO copywriter and blogger since 2010. She has been working with various businesses, big and small, in the United States, UK, Canada, and Australia. You can see more of her works and experiences in her LinkedIn profile

Image: SEO Planter/Flickr; "How to optimize your blog post". CC BY 2.0

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Five essentials in a small-business plan

Following a plan when starting and growing your own small business is crucial to its ultimate success. Today, we would like to take a little time to share some smart tips, tools and ideas to help get your business where you want it... and to keep it in great shape for years to follow, once it’s up and running strong.

1. Manage cash wisely

Your cash coming in and out is like the heartbeat of your company. Therefore, of course, you need to constantly be monitoring it, and actively looking for ways to save or improve on your current system.

This will help you identify all of your running costs and how much money you’ll need to stay in business all year long. During the early years of year business, it is important to factor in seasonality, look for weaknesses in cash flow and pay invoices on time in order to get an accurate idea of your finances.

When your company is low on cash, you can help by examining your business’ primary cash flow measures like your marginal cash flow (ex. cash flow from each additional dollar of sales) and cash flow cycle (ex. amount of time to receive cash from sales). To calculate these for your business and determine what you can do to improve them, try searching online or contact a professional.

2. Analyze performance

Build yourself a detailed business dashboard detailing the key points of finance for your company. Strategic and successful business operations require fast, up-to-date access to the most important business stats such as sales, profits, cash flow and more. You may be able to suffice with the built-in tools on your platform, or even an Excel spreadsheet. However, depending on your needs, you may need to develop a custom dashboard using more advanced, premium tools to easily access all your necessary performance data.

Tip: Make sure you know your break even point. This will help you see the minimum level of financial income you need to achieve your desired monetary returns.

3. Be tax smart

Precise record keeping is very important in every business — as is knowing the taxes you need to pay for your employees and understanding what deductions or concessions you may be entitled to claim for your benefit.

Here's what we suggest for new businesses:

Set up good accounting habits. A lot of banks today will provide free, daily bank feeds for customers with eligible accounts. This makes it easy to do business transactions using simple online accounting services. Also save any and all proof of purchases for business related expenses.

Get company credit cards and an account at Sam's Club. Save every receipt and record in a secured folder. Buying in bulk from Sam's or Office Depot can save a lot of money in the long run.

Consult a tax professional who can help you determine what hard copy and electronic business records you’ll need to keep on file and for how long (generally five years).

Be sure to ask your accountant about possible tax deductions for business related expenses while running your business, and tax concessions. Eligibility for concessions could apply to your income tax, capital gains tax, GST and fringe benefits. Searching the web is a quick and easy way to start finding out more.

4. Manage risk closely

Employ a risk management plan so you can ideally spend less time worrying about your new business' success, and more time building it. Be sure you have the proper and required insurance for the tools and equipment you absolutely need to stay up and running. Also, make sure to have a business continuity plan, diversify and widen your customer base, and monitor your reputation. All of these will help you remain risk free and on the fast track to success.

5. Promote

Marketing your business can be quite rewarding. You might use physical signs and banners or go digital with email newsletters and Facebook... the possibilities are endless. For physical promotions always think in bulk. Check vistaprint.com for deals before searching locally; online companies run promos often. Whatever you do, invest the time to really connect with and understand your customer base, and know how you can give them more of what they want. Support your fan-base and interact with them; utilizing word-of-mouth should never be underrated, especially if you’re providing exclusive offers. Finally, consider loyalty programs to encourage return customers. And lastly, never forget the up-sell; this is business!

Image: Geralt/Pixabay; CC0, US-PD

Friday, August 21, 2015

Risk management and reinsurance

By Flaviu Mircia

What is reinsurance?

Just like you need insurance for your home in case of fire or flooding from an insurance company, the same goes for your insurer. Insurance companies need an insurer of their own. Reinsurance is insurance purchased by an insurance company from other, larger companies, known as reinsurers. The reinsurance details are regulated and conditioned by a reinsurance agreement between both parties.

A reinsurance company helps ensure that insurance companies remain financially viable (solvent) even in the case of major disasters or catastrophic scenarios. After disastrous calamities, such as hurricanes, flooding or earthquakes, financial security is the most important aspect, and this is guaranteed because the risks and costs are spread over multiple companies. Essentially, the whole concept of reinsurance works as a means of risk management, spreading the risks over more insurers. This often includes other related services, such as tax mitigation, business audits, evaluation and risk analysis.

The benefits of reinsurance

Reinsurance is very important for primary insurers and helps spread the risks through efficient risk management mechanisms. Some of the main benefits are:

Capital relief and flexible financing options

Access to funds and financing is easier for large reinsurers, which can help smaller primary insurers in case of calamities.

Reduced volatility of underwriting results

The risks are spread for each contract on certain terms as agreed by the two parts.
Access to the reinsurer's experience, know-how, and services

This is particularly important as it allows even small time players in the insurance business to offer complete insurance packages to their clients with minimal risks. Similarly, a large reinsurance company can offer assistance in the process of product development, underwriting, pricing and can help create business connections with other players in the industry.

These benefits are applicable for both life and non-life insurance policies but vary greatly depending on the type of insurance and its main focus.

So how do reinsurance companies manage risks?

Imagine risk as a steady flow that goes from the primary insurer (your insurer) to the reinsurer. This flow, the risk, gets nurtured and managed by the large reinsurance company through its multiple mechanisms. This allows small insurance companies to expand and take on more and more customers without any additional risk. Depending on the type of reinsurance agreement, the risk management process can have varying degrees of effectiveness.

When primary insurers cede a part of their business (insurance contracts) to their reinsurers, they reduce their risks - both the underwriting and the asset management risks. The risks (the flow) is then transferred to the reinsurer, which assists the primary insurer.

Reinsurance companies implement advanced risk management techniques and processes to ensure that they are financially capable of meeting their obligations. The goal of risk management is to guarantee that the reinsurance company remains economically viable and can honor its financial obligations. Risk management processes involve the monitoring and identifying the risks, creating adaptive models of the main risks and study the various interdependencies between certain risk factors. 

A successful risk management plan combines the management of underwriting units, capital and assets. These three concepts are crucial in all risk modelling processes and may refer to credit risk, market risk and operational risk. Based on the analysis of these main types of risks, the results are used to quantify the impact of the risk factors on the reinsurer's balance sheet. The result is a statistically correct model of risk management which can guarantee that both the insurer and the reinsurer remain economically viable even in catastrophic scenarios.

For any type of insurance provider, reinsurance is a good bet. This is especially true in the medical industry where one mistake in a hospital could result in catastrophy. As such, make sure you find a high-quality reinsurer such as Oros Risk to help manage the potential costs.

About the author: Flaviu Mircea is a small business owner in the medical industry who has worked with many insurers over the years and shares what he has learned online. If you wish to learn more about Flaviu you can visit his profile on Google+.
Images: 1. Ken Teegardin, CC BY-SA 2.0; 2. Paul Cross, CC BY 2.0

Friday, August 14, 2015

Problems to overcome when building in the colder months

By Ken Uhrich

There was a time when trying to build a home in the winter was not only ill advised, it was impossible. Most homebuilders simply shut down during the winter months, preferring to wait till the spring time. While this isn’t the case, there are still some issues that you might run into when deciding to build a home over the winter months.
  • Breaking ground- With colder months comes harder ground. Breaking frozen ground to lay the foundation can be more difficult than when the ground is thawed. However, with the right construction equipment this isn’t as much of an issue as it was in the past. You might also have to import topsoil to replace what was lost which can add to construction costs.
  • Pouring the foundation- One of the biggest issues you can face in the winter is when it comes time to pouring the foundation. Special care needs to be taken to make sure the cement cures properly, otherwise you might have to deal with cracks in the foundation which can lead to problems down the road.
  • Slower production- As you get deeper into winter, the daylight hours get shorter. This means less time during the day for construction. Weather can also create delays, especially if you find yourself in the middle of a snowstorm. Keep this in mind when it comes to setting a timeline for building.
  • Freezing water can be an issue- Special care needs to be taken when laying water pipes and setting up water filtration systems. As water in pipes freezes, it expands which can lead to cracking, damming and other issues.
  • Timing is critical- It’s important to be mindful of timing during the winter months. While external construction can be done during 20-30 degree temperatures, that’s only if there’s no ice. If you’re able to get the external construction done before freezing becomes an issues, internal construction can worked on even when it’s freezing outside.
  • Higher costs- Building in the winter might be more expensive than building in the summer time. Some construction companies charge a premium to work in the cold as it requires extra considerations to make sure that there aren’t any issues with the work, as well as having to work in the cold. The flipside, however, is that some companies might offer a discount as it means they have work during a typically slower season. If you’re planning on building in the winter, make sure you discuss this with your contractor.

File:Farm buildings in the snow - geograph.org.uk - 1625797.jpg

While trying to build in the winter time adds to the amount of considerations you need to make when it comes to planning, it’s not impossible. Sometimes, winter construction is necessary as sitting on building permits can be expensive. There are also some advantages to building over the winter months as it means that your home is done being built by the spring time. Building during the spring time means your yard is torn up usually until the end of summer, which creates an eyesore in comparison to your new home. Having construction done by spring gives you the chance to actually enjoy your new home during the summer months and your family can be better settled come next winter.

About the author+Ken Uhrich likes houses. In fact he lives in one. You can drop him a line at the Custom Home Group website.
Image: Ian PatersonLicense: CC BY-SA 2.0