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Monday, August 3, 2015

From basement to skyscraper: Clever tips for finding a new HQ

Moving a business is not like moving a house, you don’t get to have the pleasure of sorting through old yearbooks or the joy of setting up your new living room-- commercial real estate comes with a whole new set of rules, tax codes and protocols. However, finding the perfect place to build your empire can also help take your business goals and ambitions to the next level.

1. How to order the perfect brick and mortar

When it’s time to move from your garage or basement into a commercial or office space, or it’s time to upgrade, one of the first issues that springs up is whether to lease or purchase a new space. David Creed, entrepreneur and contributor to Business News Daily notes that there are pros and cons to both, and the key to finding what’s right for you requires an analysis of both your immediate needs and trajectory, but mostly a thorough analysis of the financial pros and cons-- and the headaches that can come along with being your own landlord. Creed suggests that businesses in the market ask themselves the following questions to determine whether buying or leasing is right for you.
  • Do you have the time and temperament to be a better landlord than your current landlord?
  • Does your product or service require specialized equipment or spacial needs that are difficult to accommodate and move?
  • Could your monthly payment be better spent as an investment, what will the market look like in 5-10-15 years?

2. Look to the past, present and future with more than profits in mind

Dollar signs aren’t the only measure of a businesses success, and the commercial space it resides in reflects a lot about the company culture, atmosphere and even trustworthiness and efficiency. Lisa Girard writes for Entrepreneur that, while it’s common sense to want a space that will accommodate growth, we don’t have a crystal ball that will forecast how much a business will grow, but we can negotiate the terms of a lease in case a business fizzles or flourishes within that time. Girard also notes that, in the excitement of finding a “cool” or “affordable” office space, many employers fail to factor in commuting convenience for employees or clients.

A morning trip in a deadlocked traffic jam can be enough to dissuade a recruit or client from making the trek. It’s also imperative to find a space that shows your brand’s identity. Often aspiring businesses break the bank on lavish surroundings, only to scare clients away by giving them the impression they’re paying for the marble floors, not your services. However, one of the most important and overlooked aspects when searching for the perfect place is ADA and EPA compliance. 

There can be a hefty fine if a building is missing the right elevators, ramps and bathroom facilities. Furthermore, many buildings built prior to the 1990s still contain hazardous asbestos-- which could slaughter a small business with a simple lawsuit. Furthermore, buildings built in the 1960’s and before may still contain lead paint. Although it is illegal for a landlord to hide these facts, many of them often do, and unsuspecting business owners learn the hard way to search for the fine print before signing.

Image: Royalty free/licensed to author

8 SEO tips for e-commerce entrepreneurs

SEO Tips - clickminded.com

By Michelle Rubio

Search engine optimization or SEO is an important component of any business’ internet marketing strategy. Along with content marketing and web design, SEO is one of the crucial parts of digital marketing success, especially for e-commerce websites.

E-commerce websites depend on SEO for online visibility. Without online visibility from search engine results from Google, Yahoo, or Bing, web traffic could be reduced by as much as 50 to 90 percent. Search engines are a trusted source of website traffic and these are the primary means of visibility on the internet. Without these, e-commerce sites will be compelled to thrive on referral and direct traffic, which only account for a small fraction of an average site's traffic numbers.
Apparently, SEO is the backbone of e-commerce success. Here are some SEO tips to help your e-commerce website effectively attract and convert your target shoppers:

Invest in an organic SEO foundation

It is not unusual to see e-commerce websites experience success after their first launching, only disappear a few months later. This is generally indicative of a faulty foundation. Pay per click (PPC) advertisements are an effective way to generate web traffic and online visibility, but once you stop paying for PPC costs, your online presence disappears. It is best to build an organic SEO foundation, and use PPC to boost your numbers and drive additional traffic.

Perform keyword research

Effective keyword research is vital to a strong SEO foundation. Focus on local and long tail keywords. People are no longer searching with just one or two keyword phrases. Instead, Google queries are now ranging between five to seven words. The rise of mobile search also means that more and more people are looking for information while on the go. Local keywords can help you benefit from this trend. You may also want to invest in further SEO training and certification to better equip you with the skills and techniques to really optimize your e-commerce website.

Avoid duplicate content

Both search engines and online users hate duplicate content. While any website is liable to penalties related to duplicate content, e-commerce websites are predominantly prone to making these mistakes, as product listings and descriptions can sometimes be repeated in several places. The best way to avoid having duplicate content in an e-commerce site is to create original content on every page.

Be 'crawl-able'

The URL structure of your e-commerce website is very important in obtaining higher search engine rankings. When building your website, make sure to work closely with your web designers and properly structure your URLs so that the search engine robots can find, crawl, and recognize your website.

Optimize product images

While it is very important to showcase high quality images on your e-commerce website, displaying great looking images isn’t everything. You also need to optimize your product images so that the search engines are able to find them. Add relevant and appropriate keywords into the ALT tags for each product image.

Reduce page load times

Google places great importance on user experience, and users hate slow websites. If you want to improve your page ranking, make sure that your pages load fast. You can analyze your page load times by using Google’s PageSpeed Tools. You can also learn ways to reduce load times via this site.

Fix broken links

Another thing that both users and Google hate is broken links. If your e-commerce site has any 404 errors, it's best to fix them as soon as possible. Ask your customers to report any broken links they encounter and keep tabs on frequent errors. There are also plugins you can install which will automatically scan for 404 errors and broken links.

Spend time with Google Analytics

Your Google Analytics account is full of valuable metrics that can show you what's going right and what's needs to be changed. Also, Google has special features specifically designed for e-commerce sites, so make sure that your account is properly set up to track e-commerce statistics and metrics.
By taking some time to study these tips and implement them, you are sure to have an optimized e-commerce website that will benefit from all the traffic that search engines will bring forth.

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 license: Citirecruitment, CC BY 2.0

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Death and disgrace insurance might sound extreme - But it's on the rise

By Peter Collins

A well as earning huge amounts of money from their movies, sports or TV careers, celebrity and athletes also benefit from plenty of lucrative endorsement deals and marketing campaigns. Nike, Adidas, Coke, Pepsi… countless brands have promoted their products off the back of a famous face.

But the issue with this is that you’re staking your brand on that celebrity’s reputation, and it can, and does, go wrong. And, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, it’s everywhere in seconds. So what are advertisers doing to cover themselves in case the worst happens?

The rise of death and disgrace insurance

With this rise in endorsement deals, combined with the potential for things to go very wrong very quickly, comes the rise in death and disgrace insurance. This covers campaigns that involve everyone from athletes to musicians, films stars and iconic models. It might sound over the top, but when you consider just how much money is poured into these sponsorship deals, it doesn’t sound so crazy.

Advertising campaigns can cost millions, meaning some insured values can run as high as $60 million. This can also cover the loss of predicated sales as a result of either the death or disgrace of the celebrity in question. Obviously this is fairy hard to calculate, but it’s pretty reassuring for advertisers non-the-less.

Why now?

Celebrities have been endorsing products for decades and this insurance has been around for years, so why is this trend only just appearing? Well, social media now plays a huge part in the concerns of advertisers and big companies. Reputation is everything and the potential for bad news to spread over the internet is now practically a guarantee.

Celebrities can no longer be marketed and monitored as tightly as before as through mediums like Twitter and Instagram, they have instant access the whole world. All it takes is one poorly timed tweet or post, a quick screen grab and it’s an instant scandal. Although disgrace is entirely subjective, and some brands will tolerate far more than others, it’s impossible to predict exactly how much damage a scandal can have, so insuring against the worst possible outcome actually makes a lot of sense. It’s not just brands either.

Celebrities now often link themselves to charity as a way of publicising a good cause. That’s all well and good, until something happens to tarnish their reputation – then there’s plenty of bad press and the charity is often dragged into it. Again, a reason for the rise in this kind of insurance.

Sports stars

Celebrities are actually able to, in some cases, take out death and disgrace cover for themselves as an individual. This is nowhere near as common as it is for large brands, but for footballers in particular it’s becoming more popular. The potential for injury, either on or off the pitch, could really damage their finances.

The risk is higher when compared with other celebrities such as actors, and many see it as future proofing against injury. Clearly there is a lot more to consider in cases of individual insurance, including drugs and lifestyle. Ironically enough, if a player has a squeaky clean image it can make it harder to get this kind of insurance as, if that reputation is tarnished, the payout will most likely be much larger.

With the continued popularity and the advances in smartphone cameras, meaning people can snap and share images in seconds, it seems like this kind of insurance will only become more common place for big brands with millions on the line.

Please note - the Kevin Bacon photo is used for illustrative purposes only.

About the author: Peter Collins is a director at LFC Risk and Insurance, an Essex company that provides business and individuals with bespoke insurance and risk management solutions.

Image license: tpsdave/Pixabay;  CC0 US-PD

Monday, July 27, 2015

Maintaining your credit score by legal means is important

By Andrew Reilly

Given the importance of your credit rating when it comes to your finances and things that you are able to achieve, it is important that you stay on top of your credit rating. If your credit score is not as high as it should be, it makes sense to take steps to improve it. This will pay dividends in the short and long term but it is important to be aware that not all steps you can take to improve your credit rating are as effective as others.

However, there are also some steps which should be avoided at all times, which is likely to be the case for a man from Bury St Edmunds who is on trial facing charges of “converting criminal property.” It seems as though the defence being made by Trevor Seeley, facing charges at the crown court in Ipswich, is that the alleged criminal transactions that went through his account were actual attempts at improving his credit rating. We could all do with improving our credit rating but there are ways to go about improving your credit score in the most effective and appropriate manner.

It is claimed that the activity took place between the 1st of January 2014 and March 2014 with the prosecution alleging that money was obtained from an online loan scam and then placed into Seeley’s bank account. From there, Seeley withdrew the money and passed it on to other people.

There are some big steps to take to maintain your credit score

Seeley spoke in court about how he thought these actions may have been “dodgy” but he then said that after speaking to the loans company he was assured that this all above board and perfectly legal. Seeley also claimed that he had been a victim of fraud as he had money which had been borrowed from his brother which was eventually paid out to the loan provider.

As part of his evidence, Seeley claimed that he became involved with this activity when he applied for a £10,000 loan. This was denied because Seeley was informed that his credit rating was too low. He was then informed that money would be paid into his account, under instructions from a man referred to as David Morgan. Seeley only spoke with Morgan by phone and this was when Seeley was instructed to withdraw money and then transfer it over to Morgan by wire.

Seeley claimed that he questioned whether this was legal but money kept appearing in his account and the instructions kept on coming, with the route of passing money changing on occasions.

Credit scores are vital in obtaining finance these days

Seeley, a father of two, admitted that he and his wife had been £60,000 in debt at one point and that David Morgan informed him that carrying out these transactions would boost his credit score. There was one point where Barclays Bank placed a freeze on his account due to their concerns over the activity taking place on the account but this led Seeley to changing his bank. Again, if you were having concerns about the legality of these transactions and then your bank provides you with a big reason to stop, you would think that you would look to change your behaviour.

Michael Crimp represented the prosecution during the trial and he alleged that the money which was placed into Seeley’s bank account represented upfront fees for loans which hadn’t been made by people who operated an online site. In court, Mr Crimp said; “A number of people were conned into parting with their money and their money was paid into Trevor Seeley’s bank account. He then took it out and passed it on. He was a small but important cog in this scam.”

This case, however it pans out, is a timely reminder of how important your credit rating is and what impact it can have on your life. While it may seem as though you have no options at your disposal when you have a poor credit rating, this isn’t the case. With a guarantor loan, you are able to obtain finance, including sums up to £10,000, so you should be able to arrange the finance you need to be able to move on in confidence. While the above case is clearly an extreme example of what may occur when you have a poor credit rating, the importance of your credit rating should never be overlooked.

About the author: Andrew Reilly is a freelance writer with a focus on news stories and consumer interest articles. He has been writing professionally for 9 years but has been writing for as long as he can care to remember. When Andrew isn't sat behind a laptop or researching a story, he will be found watching a gig or a game of football.

Image license: Trinity Credit Services, CC BY 2.0