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Strayed From Your 2019 Goals? How to Get Back on Track!

Although January has only just ended, how many of us can truly say that we have stuck to the goals we set out for ourselves for 2019? The truth is that only about 10% of people actually carry out the goals they set out too, so if you have strayed from your objectives, you are not alone. Follow the tips below to get yourself back on track and committed to your 2019 goals.

Set SMART Goals

The first rule of thumb when setting goals you are committed to realizing is to set specific and time driven objectives.

SMART can be broken down into the following:

  • Specific: Specific and detailed
  • Measurable: Clear objectives with measurable results
  • Achievable: Goals that are possible within the timeframe and with available resources
  • Relevant: Vital to the success of the individual and the organization
  • Time-bound: Time-specific with a clear deadline

Whether personal or specific, most of us make general goals that make it difficult to hold ourselves accountable.  For example—you may wish to automate your work processes this year, but without planning specific actions within a specific time frame, you will likely never get around to doing so.

Break down objectives into small, detailed tasks, and create a reasonable timeframe in which to get them done. By going down the list and crossing off the tasks that are completed, you will be motivated to keep going and ultimately realizing your goal.

Be Flexible

When you start to carry out a specific goal, you may become unmotivated to keep going because you realize that it is not important, or too difficult to carry out. It’s important not to give up and empower yourself to achieve your goals; however, it is just as necessary to reevaluate your objectives monthly to make sure they are still relevant to your short and long-term plan.

It is advantageous to be flexible to fine-tune your goals, or change your strategy if you truly feel it is not in line with your objectives. Changing your goals will ultimately be more valuable than becoming disillusioned and abandoning them altogether.

Reward Yourself

Most of us have a lot on our plate, and tend to get tired and stressed out when we take on too much. To stay focused on  your goals, it’s vital to create rewards once you have completed a certain objective.

We are psychologically wired to positively react to rewards—research has found. By utilizing positive reinforcement, we can train our brains to get excited about achieving goals because that process will be associated with the positive feelings of getting rewarded.

Whether the reward will be a shopping spree or a relaxing massage, simply doing something good for yourself after working hard is a great strategy to keep working on your goals and yourself.

Regardless of how motivated you are to achieve your goals, sometimes your dedication is not enough. If you need financial assistance to make certain objectives a reality, IOU Financial is here for you. We work with small and medium-sized companies to fund their projects within 24 to 48 hours. Contact us today to find out how you can be approved and funded for a loan up to $500,000.

6 Useless But All-Too-Common Expenses That Turn Your Business Into a Money Pit

It takes a lot of money to keep a small business going – especially if you’re trying to make that business grow. When money is so important, every single cent needs to be spent wisely.

Many small businesses wind up spending a lot more money than they actually need to spend. Those funds would be better off allocated for growth or expansion. Cut the fluff out of your budget and use your newfound cash to help you build a brighter future.

Unnecessary Office Supplies

You’re always going to need office supplies, but changing the way you do things can reduce the amount you’ll spend. Going paperless is one of the easiest ways to save money. Keeping things digital allows you to save on paper, recycling, toner, and printing supplies. Many small businesses burn through mountains of these materials, and paperless businesses barely use them. Going paperless also makes your business eco-friendly, and that’s never a bad thing.

Leasing a Huge Building

You need to give yourself some room to grow for the next year or two, but not for the next decade. While it is a wise move to opt for an office space or retail space that will give everyone some room to move, it’s not a wise idea to overspend on something that you’ll never completely use. It may be wiser to choose a shorter lease on something slightly smaller. If you have your heart set on that huge building, try to negotiate the lease. You might be able to get it for a little less.

High Health Insurance Costs

You need your employees to be healthy, and offering decent insurance is a surefire way to attract top talent. There’s something else you can do that would benefit both your business and your employees. Start a wellness program. A wellness program is much less expensive than high insurance costs, and people who prioritize their wellness are a little less likely to need to use their insurance. Offer up some healthy snacks and partner up with a local gym for a discounted membership. Encourage your employees to use their sick days to discourage them from spreading germs around the office.

Advertising to the Whole World

Small businesses want to acquire as many customers as possible. They take to the internet to spread their message far and wide in an attempt to be heard by the right people. The problem with that overzealous approach is that casting a wide net is expensive. In addition to its hefty cost, it’s more of a gamble when it comes to locating an ideal customer.

Focusing on highly targeted ads will help you obtain customers and spread your message with little effort. If you don’t sell your products online, limit your advertising to people who live within a tight radius of your physical location. If you do sell online within your country, only advertise to people who fit your demographic within that country. It’s the most efficient way to spend your ad dollars. When you expand your business, you can begin to expand your reach.

Having Too Many Employees

It takes a lot to run a small business, and this means you’ll need people to make things run smoothly. Hiring people whom you can barely afford to pay may hinder you more than help you. It might be worthwhile to spend a little more on a rock star employee who is content to wear many hats, rather than paying several people the minimum to deliver an average amount of effort. Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to small business employees.

You can also reduce workload by automating as many processes as possible. The right tools can help you achieve a whole day’s work in just a few hours. Don’t do anything manually unless it absolutely requires live human involvement.

Failing to Follow Rules and Regulations

Making legal mistakes is one of the most expensive situations a small business can wind up in. Small businesses try their best, but sometimes fail to secure the right permits or licenses they need to operate or expand the way they’ve planned. Running a business is a learning experience, but you can’t afford to learn with your money.

It might be worthwhile to retain a lawyer for your small business. You need someone to look over the money, the rules, and the licenses as you grow and change. A lawyer might seem expensive now, but nothing is more expensive than finding yourself on the wrong side of the law.

Many small businesses work with tight budgets, but sometimes those budgets are tighter than they need to be. Keep a close eye on the books to be sure you’re not tossing away the funding for your success.

Guest Post: About the Author

Alana Downer is an avid finance blogger from Sydney, Australia, currently writing on behalf of Learn to Trade– money and finance experts. Interested in all things connected to growing a stable income, Alana might often be found online, sharing her financial tips and participating in discussions. Feel free to reach out to her on @alanadownerLTT.

How to Make Business Financing Part of Your 2019 Growth Plan

You might occasionally encounter a business owner who has a dim view of debt. That’s unfortunate, because debt, if you manage it properly, can help you grow your business. Here are several ways your business will benefit from the prudent use of debt:

Accelerate growth:

You can use loan proceeds to buy new equipment/facilities, hire more skilled labor and/or purchase additional inventory. This gives you growing room without drawing down your retained earnings. Naturally, you should have a detailed plan that lays out how you’ll deploy the loan proceeds to achieve the desired results. Failing to plan your finances can leave you in a hole when it comes time to service your debt.

Retain full ownership:

You might want to expand your business and are deciding whether to use debt, equity or a mix of both. Remember that bringing on equity investors gives you new “partners” who’s ideas might be different from yours. By borrowing rather than issuing stock, you remain fully in charge and do not have to share profits.

Tax benefits:

You can deduct you loan interest from your business taxes. As you know, every dollar in business is important, so the tax benefits you receive from borrowing are a significant success factor.

Build your credit:

When you pay your loan back on time (or faster), you likely will increase your credit score and boost your credit limit. This comes in handy as you expand your business, because future loans will be easier to access, and you’ll probably get a lower interest rate and/or higher spending limit. Be sure to check your credit reports and scores so that you can correct mistakes.

Avoid asset sales:

If you find you don’t have sufficient funds to complete your growth plan, you might be tempted to sell off your receivables or inventory. However, asset sales have several problems that reduce their desirability. For instance, your customers might not like being billed by a new entity, and this may cause them to question your viability. Furthermore, the haircut you take on asset sales often exceeds the interest you’ll pay on a loan. Why risk doing permanent damage to your business through asset sales when you can take out a short-term loan instead?

Smooth out seasonality:

Seasonal sales variability shouldn’t stop you from expanding your business. Using debt allows you to smooth out the effects of seasonality and keep your growth plans on track. To that end, make sure you borrow from a lender that doesn’t charge prepayment penalties. This allows you to pay off your loan sooner than anticipated without incurring extra charges.

Financing your ideas:

It takes cash, and often lots of it, to pay for the R&D costs associated with a new product or service. You can obtain cash via debt and plow it into your latest research, both from the operational and marketing viewpoints. Using debt instead of equity helps you maintain your trade secrets when they are most vulnerable – in the development stage. Equity investors might require you to reveal valuable information that can fuel the work of competitors.

Cost of capital:

Debt often has a lower cost of capital than does equity. Equity investors not only require a chunk of the profits, but also might require managerial control, a required rate of return and dividends. Debt is simply priced and avoids some of the costs associated with equity financing.

In summary, financing your business’ growth through the prudent use of debt is a winning formula for long-term success. IOU Financial can arrange a business loan of up to $300,000 quickly and with minimum hassle. If you are interested in growing your business, contact us today.

Local SEO Tips For Small Businesses

SEO (search engine optimization) has dominated digital marketing in 2018 and will no doubt continue to do so in 2019. SEO is equally important for small businesses as it is for the world’s biggest brands.

For small businesses with a local presence such as a physical storefront, or simply a customer base in a specific geographical area, local SEO is particularly important. Figures show that 97% of customers search for a local business online. This means that having a strong online presence and ranking highly on search results can make a huge difference in capturing customers and revenue.

In this article we will cover top tips for improving your local SEO to help you to grow your business in 2019.

What Is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the practice of improving your online presence to rank in searches on Google, Google Maps, and other search engines and directories around a specific geographic location. This could be a city, suburb, district or general geographical area. Refining local SEO can help businesses to generate sales leads and attract customers in their local area, and when done well is extremely effective in standing out from the competition.

Keywords

Whether for local, national or global SEO, using the right keywords is extremely important (though not the whole picture, as we’ll cover later in this article). With 40,000 Google searches conducted every second, the purpose of SEO is demonstrating to Google that your site is the most relevant to the search query.

The number one factor that Google looks for in determining relevance is keywords. Therefore finding the strongest keywords which will mean your business reaches the most number of customers. This means reaching not only any users, but those most relevant to your business, who are most likely to purchase your goods and services. For local SEO this means a combination of location-based keywords and other keywords relevant to your target audience. You should determine  these through keyword research using tools like Moz, SEMrush, Answer the Public or  Ahrefs.

Online Listings

Online listings are an extremely important part of local SEO, and Google My Business is arguably the most important platform. It is essential for all small businesses to ensure they have a current, complete and accurate listing on Google My Business to improve their ranking on Google Maps and other apps, as well as Google search results more broadly. Having lots of reviews on Google also increases your ranking, so be sure to encourage your customers and contacts to give you a positive review.

Other online listings are also important for local SEO. Having a presence on these directories can not only drive more organic traffic to your business, but it also strengthens your online presence and therefore improves local SEO. It is a good idea for local businesses to register for as many online directories as possible: the most popular directories such as Yelp.com, Better Business Bureau and Yell.com in the UK should be a priority, as well as any influential directories specific to your area or your sector. Make sure that you have complete and up-to-date listings in each. It is also important for Google ranking purposes that the information in each listing is exactly the same, and exactly matches the name, address and phone number shown on your website.

On-Page Optimization

On-page optimization is an important process, and involves making sure all pages and posts on your site are doing everything possible to encourage Google to rank your site highly in results. When Google is deciding which results to rank first, it will check (“crawl”) pages to determine which are the most relevant to the search. The search engine looks at certain parts on the page in particular when deciding how relevant it is to the user’s search.

One of these key aspects is the SEO title: that is, the title of your page or post which appears on the Google search results, which is also the title shown at the top of the page’s tab on a web browser.

The second important element is the page or post’s title as it appears at the top of the page (also known as the H1 heading), and the page’s permalink or URL. Be sure to include as many primary keywords as possible in all three of these elements, and long tail keywords if possible. Other important elements to prime with keywords are subheadings and alt-tags (alternative text descriptions) on images.

Link Building

As previously mentioned, Google looks not only for post relevance but also signs that your site is authoritative and reputable in determining rankings on its SERPs. Backlinks, or links back to your site from other well-known and reputable sites, are a key way to demonstrate that your site is authoritative, and along with keywords one of the two top ranking factors on Google.

You can build backlinks by creating valuable, useful and informative content which is relevant to your audience. By producing valuable content, you will encourage other sites to link to your site, although this is rather a long-term strategy. You can actively build backlinks through a PR strategy involving approaching online publications and sites and pitching guest articles or other content. These types of link building techniques are highly effective in both boosting local SEO and driving organic traffic via other sites and blogs.

Citations and within your site can also demonstrate to Google that your site is reputable, improving your rankings. Include citations (links from your site to sources) for any information, quotes or figures you give, as well as products and companies you mention in your content. Building internal links within your site (links to other pages and posts within the same domain) will also improve SEO. This is because internal links make it easier for Google to navigate or “crawl” your site.

Implementing these local SEO tips and techniques can make a world of difference. By building a great local SEO strategy you can bring more traffic to your site, attract potential customers, boost revenue and grow your business in 2019.

Guest Post: About the Author

Tom Buckland is a digital marketing and Amazon seller consultant specializing in technical SEO. He’s the founder of Cardiff-based digital marketing agency HQ SEO in the UK and loves helping businesses profit through smart digital marketing strategies.

Three Strategic Ways to Help Your Online Content Perform Better

One of the most effective and affordable ways to get your business to show up in Google search results is by including content in your marketing strategy. When potential customers search for restaurants, hair salons or body shops, you want your company to come up on the first page of Google, otherwise you will have a very difficult generating new traffic to your website.

Content is not only advantageous for new business acquisition, but for customer retention, as well. Offering your existing customers value through informative, educational and engaging articles and blogs will help them stay connected with and loyal to your brand.

Some business owners get disappointed when they don’t see any results from their content, but that is likely because they are not optimizing it to help it perform. Follow the three strategies below to help your content perform better and increase traffic to your site.

Keywords

Keywords are specific words or terms that search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, utilize to help online visitors connect with your site. Examples of keywords include:

  • Los Angeles hair salon
  • Restaurant family deals
  • Affordable wedding photographer

If you are not utilizing keywords in your content, you should change that starting today. In order to discover what keywords your potential customers are searching for, you need to utilize tools, such as Google’s Keyword Planner. This is a completely free website that will help you find keywords related to your offerings, and inform you about how many people search for the terms and what the competition is for them.

Your goal is to find keywords with the highest search volumes and the lowest competition, which will help new customers find you more efficiently online.

Social Media Promotion

Your social media business accounts are the perfect place to promote your blogs and articles. Many content management systems, such as WordPress, allow you to automatically connect your social media accounts to the system, publishing content that you post across social media.

This easy strategy will go a long way in helping you get more eyes on your content without much effort on your part. Your content will also help set you up as an authority figure on social media, giving you the opportunity to educate your followers about your latest products, as well as sharing product reviews, how-to videos and industry-related advice.

Promoting your content on social media will allow your followers to share it with their circle of friends, thus giving you free marketing. Plus, your followers will be able to comment on your content, asking questions or stating their opinions, which will improve your communication with your customers and show them that you are committed to bringing them utmost value.

Cross Linking

Search engine optimization (SEO) is necessary to help your content rank better. Cross linking is an imperative strategy that you must learn to implement if you want to generate traffic to your site.

Cross linking means creating different links that point back to your website, which helps Google see your page as having more authority, thus directing more traffic to it.

There are several ways to generate links to your side, including searching for content that is similar to yours online, and leaving a comment with a link to your article.  For example, if you wrote an article about easy ways to french braid your hair, you can Google other articles about hairdos, and leave a comment for the readers saying that you wrote an article about french braiding that may be interesting to them, then adding that link.

Another way to attain this goal is to search for other websites in your niche, and contact the administrator asking them to link to your article in their content. This usually works if your article can add value to theirs.

Alternatively, you can offer to swap links, adding another site’s link to your content and asking the administrator to do the same.

The three ways mentioned in this article are essential to get your content to perform better. You may also consider hiring a professional SEO strategist to advise you on efficient ways of generating new traffic to your site.  If you need financial assistance with this goal, IOU Financial can help you secure an easy and fast small business loan of up to $300,000. Contact us today and get funded within 24 to 48 hours.

Small Business Guide to Big Technology

Over the past decade, technology has become a major part of the business world. Although advanced technology previously only belonged to large-scale businesses, that’s no longer the case. No matter what size the company, technology is an integral part of the day-to-day processes at any scale. In fact, a large percentage of small enterprises reported the use of at least one digital platform for sharing information with customers, advertising, communications and sales. 

The use of big technology may seem daunting to smaller businesses; however, the implementation of tech like mobile applications, cloud computing, automation and AI-based chatbots can be a game changer. The use of these types of programs helps businesses to make better use of their precious time and operate in a more cost-effective, efficient manner. 

Cloud computing

One of the most important innovations to hit the small business scene is the transition of data storage, processing, and analysis to the cloud. Cloud computing decentralizes data and eliminates the need for an on-site data hub. 

According to industry front-runner, Mark Hurd,  “The cloud has changed the dynamic significantly … You don’t need an IT department anymore — that’s changed. With the cloud, the work is done for you.” This means that companies can instead focus those resources on tasks which will more directly benefit the organization, which is an important perk, especially for small businesses.

Using the cloud is a much safer alternative to an on-site storage system. Because artificial intelligence technologies are included in many cloud-based computing applications, the level of security is much higher, allowing for more secure data and higher customer satisfaction.

Business automation

The amount of time, energy and resources it takes to complete tedious, everyday tasks can get a bit frustrating. However, through the use of business process automation (BPA), those tasks can be handled without the need for actual human labor. Automation instead employs AI and machine learning to complete the more mundane, data-driven responsibilities of a corporation. 

Basic processes like forwarding and transferring data, sending notifications and reminders, extracting info, organizing data and processing multitudes of information can all be put into the hands of BPA. Doing this reduces the number of errors and allows the tasks to be completed at a much quicker pace than they could ever be done by humans. Not only does it help the business operate more smoothly and efficiently, but it also frees up those employees for more valuable work. 

AI-based chatbots

The need for a human at the other end of a chat tunnel has become obsolete. Businesses are now turning to computer programs that mimic real human interaction and do so to converse with customers. This means that businesses large and small can cut down on customer service representatives and instead employ this technology to do the work of multiple people. 

Chatbots offer large-scale, 24/7 availability to customers and reach a much larger audience without increasing costs. They can be customized to the business, learn as they go and provide round-the-clock customer assistance, offering quick solutions and real-time support for nearly any question a customer may have.

Not only does this create a much more customer-friendly funnel for service, but chatbots can also become interactive platforms for marketing. Customers can chat via Facebook messenger and receive information about a company or even discounts and coupon codes at the click of a button.

Mobile applications

In this day and age, nearly everyone owns a cell phone and uses mobile apps multiple times a day. No matter the size of the business, creating an app for customers to use can be a vital ingredient for success. For businesses like salons, exercise studios and restaurants, apps can be used to handle day-to-day tasks like scheduling and setting reminders. 

Moreover, a mobile app creates more engagement at a faster rate by reducing the number of touchpoints and human interaction while creating a more personalized experience. These apps can remember favorite orders, settings and other user preferences. In this way, the apps can send and share information regarding sales and other offers to the audiences most likely to enjoy and use them. 

By having a mobile app, organizations can create a high level of brand awareness. A consistent, recognizable design that lives on a customer’s cell phone allows companies to have constant exposure and subtle advertisement. Even when a consumer is not actively engaging with the app, the logo is still present and making an impression, however small. 

Guest Post: About the Author

Maddie Davis is co-founder of Enlightened Digital and a tech-obsessed female from the Big Apple. She lives by building and redesigning websites, running marathons, and reading anything and everything on the NYT Best Sellers list.

Planning Your 2019 Customer Service Strategy

Now is the time to be setting goals for 2019 together with your team. One of the most vital strategies to plan for is your customer service strategy in the new year. Excellent customer service is one of the most important metrics for successful businesses, and what sets them apart from the competition and creates loyal customers for life.

f you are able to instill great customer service into the very foundation of your business, your customers will feel confident that you are delivering the utmost value to them.

Why should you dedicate so much effort to customer service? First it’s because retaining a customer is much more affordable than acquiring a new one. Second, because it helps you improve your sales strategy; one source found that “the probability of selling to a new customer hovers in the range of 5-20 percent, whereas selling to an existing customer resides in the range of 60-70 percent.”

The tips below will help you with planning your 2019 customer service strategy:

Live Chat

Today’s customers demand immediate help with questions and concerns, and waiting 24-48 hours to return a phone call or an email will usually lead you to lose a sale. In 2019,  it is extremely advantageous to streamline your customer service response time and offer options, such as life chat, that will connect your employees with customers immediately.

In 2018, businesses that already utilize live chat improved the customer experience by allowing images and files to be shared throughout the process. For 2019, forward-thinking companies are implementing screen sharing and video conferencing, which is especially advantageous for tech companies or businesses that can add value to their customers by walking them through the process of using their offerings.

Social Media

You’re likely utilizing social media to connect with new and existing customers, so it is no wonder that 63% of customers expect to be able to contact you on channels such as Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. If you have a business page on any of these platforms, but do not regularly check your communication, you are likely losing out on potential sales.

For 2019, dedicate staff members who will communicate with your social media audience right on the platform. In addition to increasing potential sales, social media communication is much more affordable than communicating via phone. One source estimates that one interaction on social media will cost a business an average of $1, compared to $6 for an average call center phone call.

Artificial Intelligence

Any article that focuses on customer service trends can’t omit artificial intelligence (AI) in the discussion. This technology is no longer part of the future, but a staple of the present. In fact, some experts predict that by 2020 85% of businesses will use AI instead of people for customer service needs.

If you haven’t started implementing AI into your business operations, you are in the minority, as it is estimated that over 55% of companies have jumped on this bandwagon.

Chatbots are likely the most popular and easier to implement strategies for your customer service needs. When utilized for messaging, AI bots can be programmed to answer many of your customers’ questions without needing a live person. Chatbots are now being used to book services for customers as well as recommend complementing products.

Investing in your customer service strategy is one of the smartest and most important moves you can make it 2019. Your customer service is often the most important identifying factor of your brand to your customers, and will likely be the deciding factor whether they will be loyal to you or move on to your competitor.

IOU Financial wants to help your business improve its customer service in 2019. Contact us today to learn more about our small business loans of up to $300,000, which you can use in improving your operations in the new year.

5 Reasons Why SEO is so Important for Small Business

Small businesses nowadays have difficulty in keeping up with larger corporations for a number of reasons, which include inadequate experience of market dynamics. However, they have some quite interesting advantages that keep them afloat. The advent of SEO has partly levelled the playing ground in order to make small business more visible amid giant companies. But for you to profitably utilize SEO for your small business, you should be fully aware of its importance and significance for a small business. That’s what this piece seeks to discuss.

SEO and its significance in modern business

SEO is an acronym for “Search Engine Optimization.” It is a strategy you can implement in order to qualitatively and quantitatively improve search engine traffic to your website. If properly implemented, SEO can help you rate your webpage higher in organic search engine results. In our modern market where 81% of buyers conduct their product research on internet and 89% of consumers engage search engines before settling for their choice product, you can’t afford to joke with SEO in your business.

Advantages of SEO in business

  • SEO is the major source of website traffic and it helps business to bypass some competition.
  • It is a form of free advert, it is therefore cost effective.
  • SEO can help businesses to build trust and credibility which will in turn add value to such businesses.
  • SEO can be measured easily. Some of the attributes you can measure in your SEO include; organic traffic, website ranking, conversion and the source of conversion etc.

Disadvantages of SEO

  • SEO requires long time to achieve desired results.
  • For businesses in highly competitive niches, effective SEO might require more investment.
  • SEO doesn’t provide full control for businesses.

5 Reasons why SEO implementation is beneficial for small businesses

Despite the challenges associated with SEO, there are still numerous success stories out there. Aside being “a free advert” which small businesses can leverage on, SEO could help consumers to locate small businesses in the “internet crowd”. As a startup, SEO could be your only affordable stepping stone to your target audience. The following are the reasons why well-implemented SEO is beneficial to small businesses.

1. SEO can provide users with a better experience

Every business owner wants a good level of ranking and effective visibility. Most people fail to realize that having a good user experience is a big step in getting there. A good example of a strong user experience is how Google has become the most sought-after search engine. A good SEO adds a memorable experience for users, which in turn works in favor of the brand.

2. SEO improves the purchase cycle

Using SEO strategies in relaying your message and the increase in the dependability of your services would definitely put you in a good spot with your customers. It will improve the purchase cycle when practiced in the right way. This is a major benefit from the buyer’s and seller’s perspective.

3. SEO improves business visibility and branding

When customers check online for products and services, they expect to find websites where their needs can be met. There have been testimonies from various people who easily found their way to EssaysOnTime via search engine, just at the right time they urgently needed their academic tasks done. If your webpage can continually appear in search results, it means you are gaining more potential customers.

4. SEO offers your business a wider coverage

It gives you the avenue to sell to people outside your comfort zone when they are looking for products that your business provides. You don’t have to pay for spaces in magazines and newspapers. It beats all forms of traditional advertisement. You just come up when they are looking for businesses like yours. Even if you’re in a competitive industry, you can still standout using the right SEO strategies. For example, Emerson’s PHP development website was able to rank as number one, despite using a competitive keyword and being a new website. This is just one of the numerous SEO success stories achieved through appropriate strategies.

5. SEO helps you keep insight on your customers

Google Analytics is a tool that helps you monitor the traffic your customers generate, the language they speak, how they search and browse. This helps you make timely and informed decisions about your business and your techniques.

Conclusion

A developing business has a lot of space to flourish, and SEO constitutes a significant part of this space because of the numerous opportunities it offers. The benefits of adopting SEO in running a small business include the increased awareness, better user experience and improved purchase cycle. Therefore, you would be enhancing your small business the most cost-effective way, if you utilize the opportunities SEO has to offer.

Guest Post: About the Author

Jacob Dillon is a professional writer and distinctive journalist from Sydney. Being passionate about what he does, Jacob likes to discuss stirring events as well as express his opinion about technological advancements and evolution of society. Find Jacob on Twitter and Facebook.

Networking for Small Business Owners

Networking for small business owners is imperative to make vital connections to grow your company. Interacting with potential investors, business partners or clients will help you form loyal and trusting relationships and open up new opportunities.

The biggest roadblock that prevents small business owners from networking is lack of time—it’s difficult to carve-out hours to attend an event or a conference when you are practically living at the office. However, networking should not be ignored—with these tips, you can achieve this goal.

Utilize LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social media platform designed to connect professionals in virtually any industry. They currently have over 500 million members in over 200 countries around the world. The first step to using this site is to create a personal account with your photo and contact information. You should add details about your business so that when you communicate with other members, they are able to easily find what company you own.

You can also create a business page showcasing your business on LinkedIn. If you connect your email account, you will automatically be able to add your contacts. You can also search for contacts via their name or company they work for.

LinkedIn transformed the networking world by allowing users to create groups by interest or industry, where you can find like minded entrepreneurs or clients without leaving your home or office. You can also join professional groups and ask questions to get help in growing your business.

Host a Meet & Greet

Devoting time to net working can be especially productive if you combine it with other goals, such as brand recognition and connecting with new customers. A great way to do all three is to host a meet & greet inside your business, if it has a physical location.

Start with inviting other small business owners either in your niche or simply in your area. This will be a great way to connect with other entrepreneurs, bounce ideas off each other and learn new tips on improving your business operations.

To make sure that everyone interacts and has a good time, plan some activities, such as ice breakers or fun games. Make sure the attendees have enough room to mingle and get to know one another. Facilitate interaction by setting up small tables where attendees can congregate, but encourage everyone to move around the room.

This will not only connect you with other like-minded professionals, but also expose your business and products to possible new customers.

Cross-Promotion

If your goal is to network with potential customers, a highly effective way to do so is cross-promotion strategies. Partner with another business, preferably not in your industry so as to avoid competition. You can work together to promote each other’s brands on collaborative materials.

This can be as simple as leaving flyers or coupons in each other’s locations, or as complex as creating a marketing plan to promote both brands. For example, think of world-known companies such as T-Mobile and Netflix offering their services in a joint plan.

By joining another company in your networking efforts, you can expose your brand to a brand new customer base and decrease your marketing and advertising costs.

If you are looking for financial assistance to invest in your business, look no further than IOU Financial. Our company supports small businesses with easy and quick loans. Contact us today to learn how you can get a secured loan of up to $300,000 in 24-48 hours.

Women in Business: How to Get Certified as a Woman-Owned Business

If you are a woman who owns or runs a business, you can gain a competitive advantage by having your business certified as women-owned. Although the process can be time-consuming, it’s well worth the effort, because many governmental entities and public corporations have quotas for women-owned businesses. So don’t despair if you are not part of the “old boys’ network.” Celebrate instead, and fight for you share of the pie by getting certified.

The federal government  likes women-owned businesses, and has a requirement to award 5% of eligible prime contracting money to women-owned small business. Government agencies and large companies distribute requests for proposals through organizations like the National Association of Women Business Owners (NWBOC) and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), who in turn distribute the requests to members. In addition, many state and local governments offer opportunities for women-owned businesses, as do large corporations such as Starbucks and Target.

Who Qualifies?

In general, a business is considered women-owned if:

  • Women control at least 51% of the company, and they are U.S. citizens
  • Women must manage the daily operation of the company and must occupy the highest executive office on a full-time basis
  • A woman and man can jointly own a women-owned business as long as the woman owns 51% and can demonstrate her control and management of the company

Four Certification Programs

There are four major, nationally-recognized certification programs for women-owned businesses:

  • Small Business Administration’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) designation: This is an excellent certification for businesses wishing to bid on federal contracts. The WOSB designation helps women-owned businesses in industries where they are underrepresented.
  • Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification: This is a federal designation provided by your state. It can help you win contracts from the U.S. Department of Transportation. States that issue contracts that use federal money must include DBE businesses at a predetermined level. DBE certification is not just for women – it also applies to minorities.
  • Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certification: This is probably the premier non-governmental certification, accepted at federal, state, and local entities as well as 1,000+ corporations. Certification requires significant paperwork and a personal interview, but there isn’t any requirement for the size or age of your business. The SBA accepts the WBENC certification for the WOSB program. By joining WBENC, you gain access to thousands of other female business owners.
  • Nation Woman Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC) certification: This program is similar to the one offered by WBENC. In addition, NWBOC offers training and mentoring opportunities.