Podcasts as Practice

Howard S. DvorkinGUEST WRITEREntrepreneur, investor, personal finance advisor and author.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Over the past month, I’ve been a guest on two podcasts you’ve never heard of — and that’s one big reason I agreed to be a guest.

I’ve been fortunate over my 27-year career to have been interviewed on both network news (CBS Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight) and cable news (Fox News, CNN). However, those appearances are infrequent — I’m a CPA and financial counselor, not a campaign analyst, so I’m not in demand all the time.

Yet I need to be ready for such interviews whenever I’m called upon. So, in fact, do you. Nothing establishes an entrepreneur’s credibility more than other people calling you an expert.

But like a major league ballplayer who takes batting practice in the offseason, we all need to stay sharp between those sporadic interviews. Just as there’s a skill to your core business, there’s an equal skill in promoting it through media interviews.

Original article here.

This Is What Makes SEO Important For Every Business

Fantastic results can be achieved without you having to go overboard on your marketing budgets

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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In today’s digital era, where consumers are just as dispersed as the ways to reach them, there are few digital marketing tactics that hold good for all types of businesses—small, medium and large—across almost all industries. And that tactic is search engine optimization (SEO). A lot has been written about SEO and its merits, but today, I will be sharing the reasons why I believe SEO is not just a good-to-do, but a must-do for all businesses.

Put simply, SEO is essentially a way to ensure that your business organically ranks higher on a search engine results page for relevant industry keywords you wish to target, and thus gets seen by a larger group of prospective clients and customers. The best thing is that all of this can be achieved without you having to go overboard on your marketing budgets.

Sounds exciting? I can bet on it.

Here are top five reasons why every business should invest in SEO.

Expand Your Visibility Manifold

With the right SEO work coupled with regular updates and relevant posts, you can expand your visibility to a much wider base of prospects, giving you the precious opportunity to attract and convert them. Given that there is an average of 63,000 searches on Google per second, and this is only likely to increase in the future as the collective dependencies on digital mediums increase, I am not even going to start talking about the huge loss of opportunity if your business doesn’t rank on the relevant results.

Exponential Increase in Website Traffic Over Time

This will be a direct consequence of better visibility on the right type of keywords. Keywords are a great indicator for search intent, and once your website starts ranking higher in search results, you are also commanding a lot more credibility than the results after you. Organic search results are the primary source of most website traffic, and over time, you will likely see a dramatic increase in relevant site traffic, which will continue to add up exponentially with continued SEO.

Know your customers better

With increased visits, and by implementing site analytics, you will get a better idea of who your customers really are—what is it that gets them to your site, where do they like spending time and how do they behave once they are there? All this is over and above demographic stats like gender, age and location. This will help you make your content more appealing for your customers, and in some cases, even help you tweak your products and service design.

Continuous increase in RoI

SEO is super effective not only at building credibility and trust, but also converting prospects into leads, and if they are taken care of well, then converting those leads into sales. It is no different than having a very effective salesperson make a compelling argument about choosing your brand over your competitors’. Unlike other marketing tactics where you end up seeing short-lived results after heavy budget allocations, the results of SEO work add up to give you better returns on your SEO cost over time.

Continue evolving your user experience

A great user experience has become pivotal to SEO, and most search engines are able to recognize that. One common example is structuring your content to be able to answer direct search queries, and featured snippets are becoming more common, with search results displaying these at the top of the page, before the listed results. Ongoing SEO work will ensure that you stay on top of the game when it comes to user experience, which in turn will maintain or improve your SEO ranking, helping you realize all of the benefits I just shared above. So yes, it is a cycle of staying on top of the search engine charts, which will continue keeping you there.

Original article here.

How Much Time Should You Be Spending on the Google Algorithm Update?

The search engine’s May 2020 update has caused alarm among some business owners. Here’s what you need to know about it.

On May 4, a day filled with nerdy Star Wars jokes, Google‘s public search liaison Danny Sullivan made an important announcement via Twitter: “Later today, we are releasing a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. It is called the May 2020 Core Update. Our guidance about such updates remains as we’ve covered before. Please see this blog post here.

Original article here.

SBA Releases PPP Forgiveness Application and Makes Critical Clarifications and Documentation Requirements

There is now improved guidance on calculation methods, definitions of forgivable expenses and the documents that must be submitted with the forgiveness request.

The SBA released its Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan Forgiveness Application and clarified a few critical definitions and documentation requirements in their instructions. The forgiveness application is completed by the small-business borrower and is submitted to their bank or lender whom they received their PPP loan from. The application consists of 11 lines that when calculated results in the amount of forgiveness a small-business owner will be eligible for. The forgiveness component of PPP is what attracted small-business owners to take out PPP loans in droves, as the program promised forgiveness of amounts loaned so long as the small business used the funds for payroll, business mortgage interest, rent and utilities. For a summary on forgiveness rules please refer to my prior article here.

Three-Part Calculation Method

The application consists of a three-part calculation to determine the amount eligible for forgiveness. First, the application asks for the payroll and qualifying non-payroll costs that the business has spent over the eight-week period since it received its PPP funds (more on the updated definition of these costs later). The second step is a reduction in the forgiveness amount if you have reduced pay for employees greater than 25 percent or if you have not brought back the same number of full-time equivalent employees (more on that definition later). The full-time equivalent employee (FTE) rule requires a small business to reduce its forgiveness request if it does not bring back the same number of employees that it had pre-pandemic. The application does provide for a waiver of this reduction if the business failed to bring back its same employee count during its eight-week period but later brought back the same number of employees by June 30, 2020.

Original article here.

Managing Your Company Culture Virtually Through a Pandemic

A Gartner, Inc. survey of 800 global HR executives on March 17 found that 88 percent of organizations have encouraged or required employees to work from home. Remote work is a paradigm shift for most workplaces — and there’s been no time to prepare for this unanticipated world of remote work. For employees, it can create stress, productivity drops and feelings of isolation.

As leaders, we need to step up. Following these five leadership practices will ensure you can reduce stress, engage your teams and still maintain productivity as we wade into this uncharted territory. 

1. Focus on communication

Your team needs you to be the voice of calm and reason. They rely on you to take action and set the tone, so use every opportunity to reinforce your organization’s mission and values, explaining carefully how they relate to the current state of affairs. If you are calm, confident and have a plan, it will reassure them that everything will be OK.

Tip: Communications should always prioritize health and wellness, as well as business continuity. Communicate regularly with employees, preferably daily check-ins on video where you can look them in the eye. 

Related: 4 Ways to Find Opportunity in a Crisis

2. Share the facts

Misinformation and unknowns are a significant contributor to stress and anxiety. Leaders should share trusted resources for accurate and up-to-date information on COVID-19 and how it is impacting the organization and your community. 

Tip: Leverage trusted resources such as your local public health authority, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, share tips with your team on managing the information to reduce anxiety, such as turning off notifications and only checking the news updates at specific times during the day once or twice.

3. Foster virtual employee interactions 

In this time of isolation, virtual communities are essential for mental health and wellness. Without the regular face time in the office, employers need to maintain frequent professional interactions and foster personal connections among all employees. You can do this through employee portals, team messaging and collaboration apps, virtual meetings using conferencing tools or setting up social media closed groups. 

Tip: Find new ways to interact for both work meetings and also social interactions, such as virtual coffee breaks, book clubs or even resource and idea-sharing groups. Try virtual crazy hat days and PJ days to add a little levity to a stressful time.

Related: 3 Major Opportunities That Will Come From This Pandemic

4. Develop clear policies

Remote work looks different for each employee, depending on their needs and those of their families. With daycare and school closures, many employees are multitasking throughout the workday. Empower teams by providing flexibility to balance to their conflicting time demands. 

Tip: Set “core business hours” when team members should all be available to collaborate, and outside that time block allow flexibility with start, finish and break times.

5. Safeguard mental and psychological well-being

Working from homecan lead to feelings of social isolation, which can be detrimental to mental health. Remind your team to protect themselves and loved ones not just physically, but also mentally and psychologically. As an organization, you’re going to be in a much healthier position as the company if you take your emotional wellness culture seriously and uphold a culture of respect. 

Tip: If you have an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP), share resources, tips and tools regularly. If you don’t have these tools through your benefits coverage, they can be found online through organizations like the World Health Organization or online.

Original article here.

Don’t Drop Google Shopping Ads Despite the Free Listings

In a surprise, Google announced on April 21 that a portion of listings on the Google Shopping tab would be free. Google had required sellers to create a Merchant Center account and run Shopping Ads through Google Ads. Henceforth, sellers with Shopping listings will still need a Merchant Center account but not Google Ads.

The notion of free Shopping listings may sound familiar. Google’s initial foray into comparison shopping, called Froogle, occurred in 2002. In 2007, Google renamed it to Product Search. Listings were free on Froogle and Product Search, although merchants could also run ads. Then, in 2012 it renamed again, to Google Shopping, and began charging for all listings.

Original full article here.

11 Do-it-yourself SEO Tips to Save Money

Search engine optimization takes time and money. If you’re short on time but have the money, an agency or consultant is an option. If you’re short on money, use these do-it-yourself tips to boost your site’s organic rankings.

1. Improve Title Tags

Look at your highest-level category pages. My research shows that ecommerce category pages should drive up to 32-percent more organic search traffic than product pages.

Sometimes a small, common-sense tweak to a title tag can make a big difference, especially if your ecommerce platform generates default titles based on the labels in your taxonomy and the site’s name. This can result in title tags such as “Women’s – [Your Site].”

Do your title tags make sense? Can you make them more specific or relevant? For example, adding “shoes” to the title tag above could be a common-sense tweak: “Women’s Shoes – [Your Site].”

More on this original article here.

Self-Employed With No Employees? You Can Still Get a PPP Loan

Here is some clarity for frustrated sole proprietors across America.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There has been a tremendous amount of frustration by small business owners operating as sole proprietors and trying to obtain a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. To make matters worse, many bankers and loan officers have been overwhelmed by the number of applications, the speed of the stimulus roll out and sporadic SBA guidance regarding protocol for sole proprietors.

Then there is the historic, perpetual confusion shared by many of the self-employed regarding the difference between independent contractors and employees. Regrettably, all of these factors converged simultaneously over the past month, making it very difficult for small-business owners to apply properly for the PPP — and many have simply given up trying to apply.

My hope is to provide some clarity for sole proprietors across America desperately trying to obtain a PPP loan before the money runs out. Let’s start by getting a few facts out on the table before proceeding.

Related: You Now Have an Extra Week to Return Your PPP Loan

Original article here.

An entrepreneur’s guide to long-term marketing strategies amid COVID-19

While lowering the cost to human life remains of utmost importance during the COVID-19 outbreak, the virus is also fiercely impacting businesses across the globe. In the United States 17 million people, 10% of the workforce, filed for unemployment in a three-week period, and the OECD projects world GDP growth will fall to 2.4% in 2020.

Lacking the deep pockets and credit lines that more established corporations can fall back on during times of economic disruption, the startup community will surely be jarred by the rocky economic road ahead. 

While taking stock of company assets and liabilities, founders may be inclined to drastically decrease marketing spend, reactionarily pivot their core marketing strategies, or cut out their marketing initiatives entirely. This would be a mistake. 

Companies would be wise to stick to long-term marketing strategies that work. Remaining consistent, and making small adaptations to long-term marketing strategy is no easy task, however.

Here are three areas entrepreneurs should consider in their efforts to remain true to their brands and come out stronger on the other side of this crisis. 

“Use a scalpel not a sledgehammer” on your long-term marketing budget

Rand Fishkin, founder of inbound-marketing software firm Moz and market research startup SparkToro, recently tweeted: “Have to make marketing cuts? Don’t use a sledgehammer, use a scalpel. Otherwise you could cut revenue-generating channels and spend… Revenue that’s saving people’s jobs.”

Mr. Fishkin’s statement makes sense. Startups should analyze all of their marketing channels and the performance levels of each to make informed decisions about which long-term marketing strategies will continue to work during a recession, and which can be scaled back or re-tooled. 

Companies that lower advertising budgets — or eliminate them altogether — during a recession put themselves at risk when economic uncertainty subsides. 

An analysis using data from the Profit Impact of Market Strategies (PIMS) database, a comprehensive, long-term study of strategic business units (SBUs) in thousands of companies, showed that businesses that lowered ad spend during a recession saw “sales and income fall by 20-30% over the next two years as a result,” according to AdWeek. 

On the contrary, John Quelch, Dean of the Miami Herbert Business School at the University of Miami and Katherine E. Jocz, former VP of Research Operations at the Marketing Science Institute, found that increases in marketing spend by businesses during recessions have “boosted financial performance throughout the year following the recession.” Furthermore, analysis of the PIMS database by marketing experts Alexander L. Biel and Stephen King found that businesses which increased ad spend during a recession increased their market share as the recession subsided.

Startups with low access to capital may find it more difficult to aggressively market during an economic slump, but by remaining calm and analyzing channels that provide positive ROI for the company, founders can better direct resources. 

For startups with little-to-no marketing budget, there are other options to cut costs including partnering with a non-competing brand in a separate product category that targets the same consumer segment as your company to share advertising costs, and internal content creation on your own website’s blog.

There are also funding options via accelerators such as Y Combinator and 500 Startups, in addition to competitions with potential investors such as the SXSW Pitch in 2021 or Tech5, organized by Adyen and TNW. If your company is performing well in the downturn, be sure to communicate that to investors too. 

Original article here.