A Startup Focusing on Profitability Won’t Succeed on It Alone

Even when you hire some of the most experienced journalists, there will always be topics that are difficult for them to grasp. Profitability is one of those topics.


When I see journalists conveying that profits are the most important component of any startup, I metaphorically (and sometimes literally) shake my head. Both journalists and entrepreneurs have this mindset that profits are at the top of the startup lists. Don’t get me wrong, profits ARE important. They keep the businesses running. However, so does growth.


Profits and growth have always had a touchy relationship. In order to grow, businesses need a certain amount of financial resources. These resources are needed to cover costs that might not show value for 6 months-year.


For example, if you hire a strategy team of five for $80,000/year each, then you’ll need an extra ~$35,000 per month in order to pay them. Even with an experienced strategy team, deals might not close for up to 6 months.


If you hire 6 sales reps in January at $120,000 / year salary then you’ve taken on an extra $60,000 per month in costs yet these sales people might not close new business for 4-6 months.


Even though this information might seem pretty simple, even the most experienced entrepreneurs tend to forget about it when thinking about profits.


Growing your company is a goal to keep at the top of your list, but you need to remember that hiring more isn’t always the best option. Keep in mind how they’re going to help your company. Will they end up slowing down your revenue? Or does your company have access to funds that will cover temporary loss?



Management Summary:


The majority of companies (98+%) in the world are focused on profits, as they should be. When your company is focused on profits, you don’t have to rely as much on others for funds.


  • Having leverage when you’re trying to raise funds IS possible. (There are investors that appreciate how you can profitably run a business without trying to expand into a large one.)
  • Exit opportunities increase. Acquirers (like Google and Facebook) are interested in buying companies that will essentially bring more money to their company. If your company isn’t profitable, they’re not going to be interested. Their goal is to earn profits quickly from their acqui-hire so their acquisition price will be paid off and they can continue collecting.
  • Focusing on profits will keep your company thriving, even in hard times.


You shouldn’t be focused on profits if you:


  • Have opportunities to create businesses of a scalable size.
  • Have investors that are looking to build scalable buisnesses.


If you have an awesome idea, others will notice and try to compete with you. If you’re in the lead, you need to find investors and raise capital ASAP. If you don’t, your idea will be in the hands of someone else’s success.



The Specifics


This isn’t the first time I’ve had this conversation. I’ve come across entrepreneurs of all types, but the ones worth mentioning in this instance, are the newer ones that have reached annual revenues of ~$1 million.


As a new entrepreneur, this number sounds so promising and exciting (which it is!), but deciding to keep your costs low in order to finally hit profitability, might not be the right choice. Of course you want to cut strings with investors, but be patient.


If you’re looking to run a smaller business, put your company on the market within a few years, or attempt to raise VC, then by all means, as you were.


If you’re looking to grow your company, raise VC, but maintain some leverage, be careful. Investors of startups tend to care more about growth rather than profits. I completely understand wanting to be in control of your company, but be cautious that it doesn’t hurt your growth.


If a VC were to see that your company raised $4 million and is now earning $2 million in revenue a few years later, they wouldn’t be as impressed as you’d think.


It would be different if your customer growth expanded immensely (without focusing on revenue), you spent those few years perfecting a stellar, new piece of technology, etc. However, if you were simply trying to show that you could earn a profit, you might want to find other resources to help your company grow.



Understanding Profits

Before going into heavier details, let me go over a few of the basics:


Revenue – Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) = Gross Profit (also called Gross Margin or sometimes “Net Revenue”) – Operating Costs = Profit





When looking at an income statement, start by focusing on the revenue line. Revenue growth is something that matters to everyone trying to understand the performance of their company. When journalists inquire about public stocks, I make sure to tell them if two companies both had $200 million in profits, that doesn’t mean their futures are similar. The first company’s growth in revenue might average around 50% per year, where the second company’s might average around 5%.


If both companies had the same net profit margins, the second company would actually be going further than the first.


Even though evaluating stocks by P/E ratios is typically easier, you also need to use other metrics such as PEG. Both metrics are pretty simple compared to some other financial tools in existence.


Investors Look for Growth

When determining the value of a company, you need to look at the value of all potential cash flows modified to today’s dollar. With dollars constantly losing their value, this will help fast-growing companies keep an eye on their future profits.


When you’re evaluating a company, you’re going to want to evaluate growth instead of earnings. Earnings alone won’t give you an idea of which company is more successful. Also, when you’re evaluating especially new companies, sometimes you should focus on customer growth instead of revenue.



Where is Your Revenue Coming From?


When I’m evaluating companies that have already established some revenue, I’m going to focus heavily on the revenue line. What does this revenue consist of? Is it based off of one single product or multiple? Who is the revenue coming from, many customers or just a few?

Revenue concentration is something to remember. Your company isn’t growing if a select customers are keeping your business running. If your revenue is concentrated on those select few people, it’s at risk and could potentially decline.


You should also try to figure out the how you’re pricing a product, how competitors are pricing theirs, and any expectations for pricing in the future. Fast-growing companies are often destroyed due to lowering prices in order to compete with others selling a similar product.



Revenue Isn’t Enough

Looking at the revenue in dollar terms isn’t going to be enough. In the graph below, you’ll see that even though both companies garner the same revenue each year, the first company’s gross margins are higher because the COGS are lower.



COGS show how much each sale costs your company. If you sell products through a website like Amazon that charges you 30% of each sale, your COGS will be 30% of revenue.


The example above is not as uncommon as you may think. Company 1 is an example of one that directly sells their products off of their website or through a sales team. The second company is an example of one that has to pay a publisher 85% of their revenue for running ads on their website.


This example can also be one of a travel website that gets paid in rewards for selling airline tickets. Companies strive to have higher numbers in their revenue, even though it can be misleading. For example, if an airline website sells $300 million of Swiss Air tickets, that won’t go directly to them. They’ll get paid a fraction of that from booking fees.


eCommerce websites experience something similar. When an eCommerce website sells products, they have to give a higher percentage of those sales to the manufacturers. The actual gross margins of these eCommerce sites can range anywhere from 15-40%.



Don’t All Companies Strive to be Profitable?

66% Gross MarginsNo. Let’s take a look at the following companies, which both have 66% gross margins.


Both of these companies look the same after a year. Both companies look the exact same after one year. They increased seed money but lost around $1 million within the first year.


There’s nothing wrong with your gross margins equaling 66%, but the sales aren’t stellar enough to fund their team (marketing, management, strategy, etc.) When it comes to internet startups, a portion as large as 80% of costs will go towards their team.


How do you know which company is better off?


You can’t. Journalists might state that Company A isn’t profitable. However, that company spent $5 million in VC towards growth. The money wasn’t used carelessly, but was used to fund a larger team in order to launch a second product line. The tech, marketing, and business development team were hired to work on launching those products in order to expand their company.


If there was a need for the products they produced, the investment would be worthwhile.


Take a look at years 1-5 for both of the companies.

Company 5 Year Growth


While Company B looked frugal at first, Company A’s investment in their team resulted in a higher growth rate. At the end of 5 years, Company A garnered $14 million in profits while Company B only made $5 million.


Currently, Company A is garnering around $47 million in revenue/year where Company B is only earning around $12 million/year. As you can see, growth DOES matter.


Let’s take a look at an even more intense situation.

Cumulative Gains


The example of the company above must have raised anywhere from $35-50 million in VC to fund those types of operations. Even though that money would’ve been raised in 2-3 tranches, was this a naïve decision?


It depends. If the growth is as substanstial here as it was in Company A (mentioned earlier), then they would’ve been insane not to increase the VC.


You’re able to increase profits by avoiding investing today’s dollar in tomorrow’s growth.


Journalists that slam Amazon for being unprofitable need to understand this:


Since Amazon is growing at such a fast pace, it makes sense that they’re taking today’s profits and investing them in the company’s growth. Companies that aren’t growing as fast should instead return their profits to shareholders.


In Conclusion: Profitability vs. Being Cashflow Positive

Heading back to the basics, I have to say that investors care more about cash flows than they do about income statements.


For those that have just learned the difference between income statements and cash flows, being profitable doesn’t mean you’re being cash flow positive.



It’s possible to lose out on money while you’re being profitable, even if you thought being “profitable” meant making money.


The design of income statements rely on accounting standards, which are designed to “match revenues and costs in the period for which they should be attributed.”




  • A specific ad network may sell $300,000 in ads. Then, the publisher of the ads will need to be paid within 14 days. The person who bought the ad doesn’t have to pay the network for 60 days.


Even though the person that bought the ad might seem profitable on their income statement, they had to pay $300,000 that they don’t have yet, which results in negative cash flow.

  • Let’s say that I sold a $1.5 million contract for two years. Even though I’m booking around $63,000 on my income statement, the customer is paying quarterly. This means during the first few months of every quarter, revenue is showing on my income statement that I haven’t received yet.



Forget Value Propositions. It’s Now a Value Conversation

The digital marketing paradigm continues to shift to reward the faster, the easier, and the more accessible. But what about the more human? Although businesses constantly evolve to stay in the game, value propositions have remained largely unchanged. It goes a little something like this: Companies offer their products in hopes that consumers will siphon through the sales funnel and make a purchase.


But we all know it’s a lot more complicated than that. And we can all do a lot better than the worn out “here it is, do you want to buy it?” value proposition.


This is where the focus needs to shift from simply selling a product to engaging consumers in authentic, meaningful conversations.


Unforunately, many businesses unknowingly sidestep the chance to provide something truly “valuable.” As Harvard Business Review puts it, businesses today must “rethink their attitude to value creation, at times backtracking to the very issue of what ‘value’ actually means. Such situations take place beyond the traditional model of buyer and seller.”


This implies that something needs to change — and marketers everywhere would be wise to reconsider the effectiveness of their value propositions.


Redefine Value

As marketers began to rethink the definition of value, the idea sprang forth to offer something valuable for free, in hopes that it would pay off in the future. After all, free content builds brand loyalty, right? Sort of. This type of strategy posed its own problems and now marketers are once again forced to rethink the process.


Some advocate for paywalls or similar solutions with set firm prices. While the success of these attempts is debatable, it’s clear that we’re still missing something: an innovative approach to monetizing digital content and offering something truly valuable.


A meaningful conversation or a deep, investigative look at an issue or topic will help ensure your position as a thought leader in your industry. Furthermore, it will bring back an element of humanity to your brand, enabling you to explore a new definition of value. And your customers will appreciate your effort.


Consumers Will Pay For ‘Real’ Value

Consider for a moment your favorite free apps or free content producers. Regardless of their purpose, you appreciate the app or content and would likely protest if it were to disappear tomorrow. Now, consider if there were any missed marketing opportunities in your interactions with the app or content. Ask yourself the following questions:


  • Do you love the service so much that you’d be willing to pay for it?
  • Did the creators miss an opportunity to sell you on an upgrade?
  • Are you loyal enough to the brand that you’d recommend it?
  • Have you written a review of the service, product, or content?
  • Have you reached out to engage with the creators to ask questions or praise them for their quality work?


If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you probably agree that consumers will pay for real value. Conversations, not propositions, are at the heart of this value.


Be Sure to Respond

To provide this kind of value to your customers, let them  know you care. Start a conversation and see where it goes. More importantly, respond to them when they reach out. A customer left hanging after he or she begins a conversation with you is a missed opportunity.


Multidimensional views of value are the way of the future. Breaking free of the old model begins with businesses that are ready to engage with their customers in new ways. Consider the following unconventional ways to involve your customers in the process of doing business together:


  • Share knowledge in an attempt to exchange something beyond monetary value.  Think of the greater good of your industry. Make it clear that you’re not trying to sell them on anything and that you’re interested in an honest exchange of information or conversation.
  • Let them set their own prices. Yes, this is actually happening – and it has the potential to be very effective. There are different ways this can be done. Consider delivering the product, then allowing customers to price it as they see fit. Or ask customers to justify their prices with reasons or consider implementing fairness ratings.
  • Evolve to offer something even greater. Amazon’s Jeffrey Bezos is fighting all odds as he purchased The Washington Post for $250 million despite its 44 percent decrease in revenue over the last few years. His plan begins with offering The Post as an app, for free, on every new Kindle Fire HDX. Most would have walked away from such a venture, but Bezos is opting for evolution.


Spark Conversation

Remember to rethink the definition of value as you progress toward meaningful, authentic conversations with your customers. Slow and steady wins the competitive advantage over your competition. With a little patience, an open mind, and dedication to sincerely engaging your customers in meaningful conversations, the conversions — and sales — will follow.

The Three Phases of Startup Growth: Traction, Transition & Growth

With any kind of business in the start-up process, there are three phases it will go through in order to grow:

  1. Traction

  2. Transition

  3. Growth

During each individual phase, the goals, metrics, volume, channels, optimization and team differ. In order to efficiently work through these phases towards success, you have to pay close attention to these differences and plan your actions for your product accordingly. Follow these three phases to ensure success.


1. Create a Grip: The Importance of Traction


“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”  Compare the famous words of Neil Armstrong with your product.  The traction phase is Armstrong’s first step on the moon — once he made that first step, he found different things to examine.  So when you make that first step with your product, there will be a world of opportunities available to you for exploration.


  • Goal: You essentially want to put your foot in the door. You want your market segment to find your product attractive.  Without this, the last two phases can’t occur.


  • Metric: The measurement we use here is the retention rate of the product. There’s no point in continuing your efforts with the product if you don’t have a strong retention rate.  You can create a retention curve like the one below in order to get a clearer understanding of your audience and how large it really is.



  • Volume: Be cautious and don’t go overboard when targeting customers. You want to understand your product/market fit, but ou don’t want a large influx of people to bombard your product. A few people will be enough because you’re still in the early stages with limited resources


  • Channels: Here, you’ll want to find 2 or 3 channels that will help with the steady volume of customers. There are several different types of channels that you can experiment with in order to find the perfect one for your goals.


  • Optimization: Look at the big picture. Focus on the big changes that could help your product, such as changing your target customers, as opposed to the miniscule things —  such as which font you use on the website.


  • Team: One isn’t the loneliest number, or at least not in this case. At this particular moment, you should only have 1 person thinking about these phases.  This person should be thinking about these phases and stages almost non-stop. If needed, find part-time help on the side.


2. Implement a Transition: Move Forward in the Right Direction


The transition phase could be compared to what NASA did after receiving all of the information from the first steps on the moon.  Basically, you take the information you receive from the first phase and build on what you have to take it to the next level.


  • Goal: This is when you start to pinpoint and interpret different growth levers that are catered toward your particular business. You’ll learn what can positively impact your business and what doesn’t.


  • Metric: During this phase, you should watch and understand your Cost Per Acquisition and Life-Time Value. If you have been receiving the necessary data, this metric should be straightforward.


  • Volume: Your small influx of people should now get larger at this stage. Make sure your retention rate is still up to par with the amount of customers visiting your site or store.


  • Channels: In the first stage, you chose several channels that are best for your product. Now it’s time to focus in and choose the most effective.  If it’s already effective, build on it and the growth rate will continue increasing.


  • Optimization: Instead of placing all of your attention on the big picture (or macro optimization), start switching your focus to the smaller picture (or micro optimization).


  • Team: This is the time to switch from just 1 person and start building a team with specific positions and job duties to help with growth.


3. Make Small Changes With Large Impacts: Maintain the Growth of Your Company


Armstrong walked on the moon, NASA received the information, but now what?  The answer is fairly simple: they want to continue to expand their goals and success levels after walking on the moon.  During the third phase, you’ll want to increase staff and support — make small changes that create big effects.


  • Goal: The growth levers from the transitioning phase that you started pinpointing? Start tweaking them and make them fit your exact needs.


  • Metric: The spotlight is still pointed toward growth rate, but this shouldn’t be your only focus anymore. Since growth is now occurring, you’ll want to look at your payback period.  You’ll want a shorter payback period in order to have a better investment.

Retention Curve

  • Volume: Pretend this is Poker and you have a royal flush — you go all in. With volume in mind, you’ll want to get as many people as you can to create noise about your company or product.


  • Channels: Do everything you can with the channel you have to fulfill its full potential. This channel will handle most of your growth.  See what other channels are out there so you can create diversity among them.


  • Optimization: Because you’ve focused on macro since the beginning, it’s now time to focus solely on micro. Small changes can also yield large results.


  • Team: With growth comes expansion. You’ll want to create more positions on your team so continued growth and success is possible.


Applying the Three Phases


Flippa is a site that allows you to buy and sell websites, domains and mobile apps. When considering the traction, transition and growth phaes, Nick Kenn, the GM, chose SEO as his growth lever.


Since he knew his audience and how SEO would help target them, he managed to create and grow a company that dominates 70% of the marketplace.  Kenn has a selective team of only 20 members who he hand picks by a series of different interviews.  He has recently added a portion of the site where users (over 500,000 registered) can also buy and sell mobile apps.


By focusing on niche markets and offering unique services to his customers, Kenn has taken the three phases and managed his growth and success accordingly.


Finding Success

So how can your startup find success at every stage of the game? Think about how each phase influences the next, and understand the steps you have to take for each one. If you invest the time and resources to understanding the growth process, you can create a successful business or a product that appeals to a large market.

Bill Gates Content is King

An Open Letter from a King of Industry: Content is King [Bill Gates Speech 1996]

Bill Gates @ the University of Waterloo

Just another reminder on exactly why content is king, from a king of industry. Even since Bill Gates delivered this short speech in 1996, not a whole lot has changed.  Sure technology has gone through drastic innovations, but the core principles behind the development of the internet are still the same.  Business are quick to exploit all of the fast approach tactics that the internet provides, but are again too quick to consider the longevity of their situation.  I’m a big proponent of efficient business, but I only believe in the ones that last the longest.  And to me, focusing on brand positioning for the long run will provide the greatest ROI hands down.

We have so many opportunities to provide compelling content, and build loyal fans, and even more amazing is how equal the playing field can be.  While Google DOES favor brands in its SERPs (wouldn’t be my blog without a little mention of SEO), you can win in other areas.  Especially since Google introduced rich snippets.  All of this points to one thing, that Bill Gates tried to warn us of over a decade ago.  Content Is King.  Nothing will change that.

Imagine where your company would be now, had you heeded those words when he spoke them 15 years ago.

Content Is King – Bill Gates (1/3/1996)

Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.

The television revolution that began half a century ago spawned a number of industries, including the manufacturing of TV sets, but the long-term winners were those who used the medium to deliver information and entertainment.

When it comes to an interactive network such as the Internet, the definition of “content” becomes very wide. For example, computer software is a form of content-an extremely important one, and the one that for Microsoft will remain by far the most important.

But the broad opportunities for most companies involve supplying information or entertainment. No company is too small to participate.

One of the exciting things about the Internet is that anyone with a PC and a modem can publish whatever content they can create. In a sense, the Internet is the multimedia equivalent of the photocopier. It allows material to be duplicated at low cost, no matter the size of the audience.

The Internet also allows information to be distributed worldwide at basically zero marginal cost to the publisher. Opportunities are remarkable, and many companies are laying plans to create content for the Internet.

For example, the television network NBC and Microsoft recently agreed to enter the interactive news business together. Our companies will jointly own a cable news network, MSNBC, and an interactive news service on the Internet. NBC will maintain editorial control over the joint venture.

I expect societies will see intense competition-and ample failure as well as success-in all categories of popular content-not just software and news, but also games, entertainment, sports programming, directories, classified advertising, and on-line communities devoted to major interests.

Printed magazines have readerships that share common interests. It’s easy to imagine these communities being served by electronic online editions.

But to be successful online, a magazine can’t just take what it has in print and move it to the electronic realm. There isn’t enough depth or interactivity in print content to overcome the drawbacks of the online medium.

If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will. They need to have audio, and possibly video. They need an opportunity for personal involvement that goes far beyond that offered through the letters-to-the-editor pages of print magazines.

A question on many minds is how often the same company that serves an interest group in print will succeed in serving it online. Even the very future of certain printed magazines is called into question by the Internet.

For example, the Internet is already revolutionizing the exchange of specialized scientific information. Printed scientific journals tend to have small circulations, making them high-priced. University libraries are a big part of the market. It’s been an awkward, slow, expensive way to distribute information to a specialized audience, but there hasn’t been an alternative.

Now some researchers are beginning to use the Internet to publish scientific findings. The practice challenges the future of some venerable printed journals.

Over time, the breadth of information on the Internet will be enormous, which will make it compelling. Although the gold rush atmosphere today is primarily confined to the United States, I expect it to sweep the world as communications costs come down and a critical mass of localized content becomes available in different countries.

For the Internet to thrive, content providers must be paid for their work. The long-term prospects are good, but I expect a lot of disappointment in the short-term as content companies struggle to make money through advertising or subscriptions. It isn’t working yet, and it may not for some time.

So far, at least, most of the money and effort put into interactive publishing is little more than a labor of love, or an effort to help promote products sold in the non-electronic world. Often these efforts are based on the belief that over time someone will figure out how to get revenue.

In the long run, advertising is promising. An advantage of interactive advertising is that an initial message needs only to attract attention rather than convey much information. A user can click on the ad to get additional information-and an advertiser can measure whether people are doing so.

But today the amount of subscription revenue or advertising revenue realized on the Internet is near zero-maybe $20 million or $30 million in total. Advertisers are always a little reluctant about a new medium, and the Internet is certainly new and different.

Some reluctance on the part of advertisers may be justified, because many Internet users are less-than-thrilled about seeing advertising. One reason is that many advertisers use big images that take a long time to download across a telephone dial-up connection. A magazine ad takes up space too, but a reader can flip a printed page rapidly.

As connections to the Internet get faster, the annoyance of waiting for an advertisement to load will diminish and then disappear. But that’s a few years off.

Some content companies are experimenting with subscriptions, often with the lure of some free content. It’s tricky, though, because as soon as an electronic community charges a subscription, the number of people who visit the site drops dramatically, reducing the value proposition to advertisers.

A major reason paying for content doesn’t work very well yet is that it’s not practical to charge small amounts. The cost and hassle of electronic transactions makes it impractical to charge less than a fairly high subscription rate.

But within a year the mechanisms will be in place that allow content providers to charge just a cent or a few cents for information. If you decide to visit a page that costs a nickel, you won’t be writing a check or getting a bill in the mail for a nickel. You’ll just click on what you want, knowing you’ll be charged a nickel on an aggregated basis.

This technology will liberate publishers to charge small amounts of money, in the hope of attracting wide audiences.

Those who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products-a marketplace of content.


This essay is copyright © 2001 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Harrisburg Heating Services

Everything Small Business Owners Need to Know about SEO

Harrisburg Heating Services

Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t something a small business owner can focus on down the road. It should be an integral part of any online presence, whether on the company website, social media sites or review sites. SEO determines where a company is ranked on search results, and it can bring in new customers or drive them away. Not all SEO is “good” SEO, however — just ask the business that has numerous bad reviews pop up well before their website is revealed on Google.

There’s a good reason SEO professionals and companies are so popular. Just how does a person practice good SEO strategies to begin with? How does a company make it to the top of Google searches? Why isn’t the ranking of a site improving, even though the right SEO steps are being taken? Here’s the ultimate guide to SEO for business owners ready for a DIY approach, whether they’re brand new to the scene or veterans. So how does a small company with a local reach effectively market themselves online?  Let’s take a look with SECCO Home, a localized Harrisburg heating company, as a case study.

It Starts with the Right Words

SEO key words and phrases are at the heart of SEO. For example, someone might be looking to buy construction machines in Dallas. One keyword is “machines,” but that can lead to all kinds of websites. Most people won’t plug in a single keyword, and will instead Google “buy machines Dallas.” The unfortunate thing about human nature is we like to get rid of filler words like “the” and “in” when Googling things, making SEO writing a big challenge.

If you make “buy machines in Dallas,” that could also be a good SEO key phrase, but the original “buy machines Dallas” might garner more hits. Not even all professional writers have the skills to write SEO, so this is going to be one of your biggest obstacles. Utilize the best writer in your company and constantly update a spreadsheet of possible key words to include. Google Analytics is a free tool that can help you find new, related key words.

Then There’s the Writing

Once you have a solid set of keywords to include in the content, the writing aspect is next. Keyword stuffing used to be the go-to trick for SEO professionals, but that’s no longer a possibility. It reads as spam and can cause devastating SEO effects. Instead, completely original and organic content is required with the keywords included as naturally as possible.

Never copy and paste, never duplicate copy, and invest in a Copyscape subscription. There’s sometimes a thin line between plagiarism and sharing the same information. After all, the specifications of a certain machine can only be described in so many ways. Run all copy through Copyscape to play it safe and avoid any hassles.

Link Quality

Another great way to improve SEO is with inbound and outbound links. This includes the links you share on your site to a complementary site, as well as your URL that’s shared on other sites. Just like friendships, it’s quality and not quantity that matters here. If your outbound links connect to spammy sites, it will impact your SEO. If the links are broken, completely unrelated to your site (such as a pet store that links to car dealerships) or the outbound link is filled with ads, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

Once a month, check all links for quality because they can change. What was once a great link can become bogged down with banner ads, or the site might switch directions and it no longer relates to your business. This can be time consuming, but it’s worth the effort.

Avoid These Newbie Mistakes

You might think having duplicate websites is a great way to monopolize SEO rankings. This always backfires. If you have different URLS like MachineMaster.info and MachineBeast.info, but they both have the exact same content, that’s a huge red flag. Duplicate copy is a shortcut approach, and many sites get caught trying to improve their SEO this way. There’s no alternative to quality, original content.

Another big mistake is hosting too many ads. Unless ads are seriously driving up revenue, they’re better left off of the page. Ads read as spam, and spam is death to SEO. If you really want to try to make money with ads, start with one or two and play around with ad placement to optimize them. If they don’t deliver a decent profit, let them go.

The New SEO Tools

There was a time when infographics and videos did little to improve SEO, but those days are over. Infographics are just what they sound like: Images combined with text or information. Everything from a cat meme to a pie chart listing diseases in the US is an infographic, and they can vastly improve SEO rankings. However, they need to relate to the site, be high quality, and have viral appeal (so you need to make them easy to share).

Videos are on the same track, but you need to be careful when including them on websites. Not all platforms will support video loading, or maybe someone has a slow connection, so always provide content that describes the information in the video, too. Videos can easily catch someone’s attention, but if they don’t load properly, what’s the use?

How Design Impacts SEO

Your web designer should know the intricacies of SEO, too. Responsive design is a must so websites are easily accessible on any platform. The site should be designed so people can easily navigate it, and SEO content should be rich and included on most pages. Don’t get too creative with nav bar placement or using fancy fonts that are difficult to read.

If SEO sounds like a lot of work, you’re right — but it’s an integral part of succeeding online. Particularly for businesses without a brick and mortar shop, e-commerce is truly their only bread and butter. Utilize SEO wisely, don’t take any shortcuts, and monitor rankings regularly with a free tool like Google Analytics. Even if your site has been up and running for years, it’s never too late to take corrective action and get those rankings up.

Local SEO Census Data

How to Use Census Data to Improve Local SEO

Local SEO Census Data

Localized search engine optimization (SEO) is somewhat of a new kid on the block, and small businesses are hungering after maximizing it. What you might not realize is that census data, which is completely free, can be a game changer with localized SEO. Why not take advantage of this data to make the most of SEO for your small business? Here’s how to get started:

Census information is the mother of all big data, and it’s readily available for all businesses. Whether bought or found for free, try combining census information with big data for the best results. Let’s say you own an Amish outlet store in Pennsylvania. Census data can tell you a bevy of information about your local clients.

Get Business Intelligence

Business intelligence, or BI, is comprised of processes, methods and theories that transform raw data into actually useful information. You can get BI from software systems or hire a contract BI professional to comb through census data for you. One of the biggest problems with big data is that people aren’t sure how to parse and use it. However, it can be used to create SEO campaigns that improve your bottom line.

At the same time, census data lets you know a lot more about individual neighborhoods. You might think you know the town where you do business, but the reality is that you only know a portion of it. Look at what your business is targeting, and utilize census data to narrow down target markets by age, gender or other caveats. The data can tell you exactly where your ideal or new markets are located.

Whittle It Down Some More

Micro-local SEO is an even newer breakthrough in the world of SEO. However, with census data, you can narrow down your target market to a zip code, block or even one specific street. This is great for businesses that have extremely specific niches and need to know exactly where to focus their efforts. A door hanger campaign can be very effective when you know who’s picking up the flyers.

You can also compare the IP addresses checking out your website to broader information about that zip code. Do you want to know why a certain IP address is constantly on your website? You can find out more by cross referencing it with census data. It might be a good idea to market your products or services to the neighborhood where the IP address originates from.

Stay Informed

A new census poll is conducted regularly, so it’s relatively easy to have updated information. Unlike some big data collections, you can almost always rely on census information. It’s the biggest free data source in the US, so take advantage of it.

Whether you’re looking for improved localized SEO or to just know more about your potential market, start with what’s free. As long as you use BI to understand it, you’ll have a solid foundation to work from.

New to Personal Branding? 10 Tips You Have To Know

Success in the professional world isn’t always about where you’ve worked or what school you went to. There are millions of people out there with experience, education and skills. The way to truly succeed is to set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd. You can do this through personal branding.


Create a name for yourself and reserve your spot in your industry by creating your brand now. Here are 10 tips you need to know to be successful in personal branding.


  1. Know Who You Are

Knowing who you are is about more than your name and your background. Who you are is the identity you want to build for yourself. It’s the idea you want people to have in their heads when they hear your name. Are you a witty fashion expert or a stern business owner? You need to know what you want people to see you as so you can maintain a clear voice to your audience.


  1. Have an End in Mind

Don’t go into this blindly. When you begin building your brand, you need to know what you want to get out of it. Do you want your brand to attract potential buyers of your product? Do you want to create a name for yourself in your field and be a trusted source for information? Do you want to be well known in your city, your state or do you want international fame? No matter how big or small your goal, you need to know what you’re working towards.



  1. Be a Creator

You can get by with posting interesting content you discover, sure. But to really get your name out there, you need to be the person behind the content. Write articles, write guest blog posts or even start your own blog! Get your ideas out there and show you have fresh knowledge about the trends surrounding your industry. This is what will make your brand a reputable source for information.



  1. Be Consistent

When you figure out who you are, stick to it. Remember, everything you do should reflect what you want your brand to be. You need consistent helpful content your audience can count on time and time again. You need to be consistently you and consistently active. Don’t go a month or even a week without activity or you may lose your audience’s interest and trust.


  1. Get Personal

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Part of creating your brand is tying your personality and your life into it. Provide people with a story about how you got into the business. People will feel more connected with you and be more likely to remember who you are. Never underestimate humor! People want to see a human being, not a robot.


  1. Have a Schedule

You need a day-to-day schedule to keep you completely on top of your game. You need to know how many blog posts you want to post in a month, how many tweets need to be posted a week, how many Facebook posts a day, etc. You need to create a plan and stick to it. If you go in without any organization, you’re likely to slack off and not be effective.


  1. Be Supportive

Building your brand is about more than just you. You need to network yourself with other players in your industry. Your support for them links you to them. Having a network of established experts in your field helps your credibility and exposure. If you’re a medical office specialist, build your network with nurses, doctors, and other medical staff. Linking up with others in the game is a win-win situation for everyone involved.


  1. Get Social

Social networking is an absolute must in today’s world. If you’re not already a social butterfly, you need to get it together ASAP. Facebook and Twitter are necessities. You should also consider LinkedIn and any other social sites relating to your industry. Activity on forums in your industry can be beneficial as well. Set up your own blog and get social!


  1. Adjust Your Voice

When your brand goes social, different platforms require different tones. Your tweets will obviously differ from your Facebook posts. Decide what you want each platform to be used for and then go for it. Maybe you want your Twitter feed to be used for interesting facts about your industry, while your Facebook page could tie in your professional life with a personal touch. Maybe you want to follow news and trends with your blog. Whatever it is, assign each platform a use and stick with it.


  1. Watch What you Say

Remember, when you take personal branding online, everything you say and do can be saved online forever. It’s really important you always portray the positive image of your brand you want others to remember. Any tacky posts can ruin your reputation and brand you in the wrong way.


Teaching People to Break the Rules: Why Creativity Classes Make Sense

Creative people are always coming up with these weird ideas that no one else has ever tried. Because their unorthodox ideas are often successful, that’s why you should learn to think outside the box.

When we think of creative people, we tend to think of actors and singers with a penchant for bad behavior. However, creativity is what propels society forward; without it, we’d still be rubbing two sticks together to heat our food. Whether you want to further your career or change your life, creativity classes are the key to success.

Who Needs Creativity, Anyway?

The answer is simple: EVERYONE needs it. Creativity is the act of coming up with a new idea, not just in art and music. Pizza, the printing press, the Constitution and the Internet all came from the creative process, meaning you wouldn’t be reading this article now if someone hadn’t thought of a way to deliver it to you.

Creativity also does a lot to dispel the notion of the “starving artist.” New research shows that the most creative cities are economically stronger than other cities. In short, a creativity class might seem like a fun indulgence, but it can actually make you and your community more productive and successful.

What Happens in Creativity Classes?

Creativity classes vary depending on the course objective and who’s teaching it. For example, an art workshop won’t be run the same way as a management course for an online college degree in business. But many will use the same types of exercises and methodologies, including:

Free Thinking:  In these sessions, you write or draw whatever you want on a blank piece of paper. Maybe you get a suggestion; maybe you don’t.  Otherwise, no one tells you what to do or how; you just keep going until time is up. This exercise keeps your hands occupied while it relaxes your mind, which can ironically spark great ideas.

Random Objects:  MacGyver could create bombs or keys just by using whatever objects were available. This exercise works the same way in that you’re given 3-4 random objects and have to make something out of them. It could be a new toy or a solution to an existing problem. Either way, you learn to make the most of what you have.

Pretend:  Did you pretend to be a princess or a cowboy when you were a kid? If you take a creativity class, get ready to do it again. For instance, you might become one of your characters in a writing class, or an employee or customer in a management class. By learning to think like someone else, you learn how best to work with them.

Creativity makes the world go round, and yet too many people have abandoned their creative impulses. Get them going again; sign up for a creativity class today and start living and working more successfully.

Where Do I Start When It Comes To Marketing Myself Online?

Marketing Intelligence

So you’re ready to start promoting yourself or your business on the Internet. You sit down at your computer, hands poised over the keyboard. You have a great business, maybe selling Mustang accessories, but you realize you do not know the smallest thing about online promotion.

This can seem overwhelming, but don’t let it frustrate you. If you’re a newbie to the world of online advertising, just take a deep breath and relax. It’s not half as hard as you think it is, and before you know it you’ll be running a website, Tweeting about sales and updating photos of your store on your own Facebook page.


Calling In Reinforcements

If you truly are a novice when it comes to the Internet, you may want to have some help beginning this new journey. Hire someone to help you create a website for your business. Ask colleagues and friends who they’ve used to help get up and running online and see what you can get for your budget. Once your website is online, you’ve crossed the first major hurdle.


Using Your Website

Now, decide what you are going to offer potential customers and clients who visit your website. Will they be able to order items online, such as Mustang parts? Or will the site simply offer information about the items you sell, such as uses and prices?

Something else you could add to your site could be how-to videos. You can even start a blog offering a different piece of advice every week for how to use one of your products. Add lots of photographs and videos so people can see how easy and great using your products is.

facebook business

The next step you’re going to take is to get a presence for your business on Facebook. Yes, that’s right: Facebook isn’t just a site where teenagers post their thoughts about the latest music or clothing. It’s also an amazing and valuable resource for promotion and advertising, so take full advantage of this by starting a page for your business.

Get friends, customers and family to “Like” your page, which will raise its popularity. Update your status frequently with news about store promotions, sales and new products. Ask satisfied clients to post positive reviews to your page so visitors will be able to see them. Make sure to update your page frequently to keep people interested, and post a link to your website on the page as well.



Twitter is also a social media tool, but it’s a little different from Facebook. You can post status updates, but they have to be short, interesting and to-the-point. You can also post photos and links. Encourage people that “Like” you on Facebook to follow you on Twitter and you can offer special coupons or promotions for followers, maybe adding a new one every week.

Update, Update, Update

Now that you’re up and running with a creative, fabulous website, Facebook presence and Twitter page, don’t just walk away and think these sites will work without you. You have to stay up-to-date on all of your sites and keep them going by adding content weekly, if not daily, to keep interest going.

Don’t forget the importance of incorporating keywords into your copy, such as the names of your most popular products, your store name and other words people would use to find you online. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll see your business boom.

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