6 Tips to Drive More Traffic to Your Business’ Blog

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Blogging is a powerful, cost-effective marketing tool that can help you engage with your customers, increase conversions rates, and establish your reputation as a creditable source of information among both your clients and your peers.

Of course, the impact your business blog has on your bottom line is directly linked to both the volume and type of traffic it generates for your website. If your online content isn’t actually reaching your target audience, you’ll be missing out on the wealth of opportunities that blogging offers your business.

Here’s what you can do to drive more traffic to your business’ blog:

Know Your Target Audience

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In order to create blog content that reaches the right audience it’s important to understand exactly who you’re hoping will read your blog. Otherwise you could wind up writing a blog that fails to engage your ‘target market’.

Start by developing a persona – a description of your ‘ideal’ blog reader that covers basics like their age, location, level of education, and income. Consider what your business can offer this person, and think about what problems you, and your company, can help them solve.

This information will help guide the development of your blog content, and increase the odds that your blog will actually reach your target audience.

Blog Frequently

Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! all use a semi-secretive algorithm to determine what results users see when they’re looking for online content. While the actual formulas that the search engines use to rank websites are a closely-guarded secret, companies like Google have made it clear that websites with fresh, user-friendly content, like regularly-updated blogs, will be rewarded with higher search engine results rankings.

Share On Social Media

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Sharing your blog posts through social media is a quick and effective way to boost traffic to your website. Publish links to your latest blog on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, and be sure to make it easy for your readers to share posts by integrating social media ‘widgets’ in your content.

Diversify Your Content 

In the early days of business blogging posts were exclusively text-based. Thanks to the development of faster Internet services and computers, bloggers can now integrate both still images and videos into their posts, providing users with an engaging experience that’s both informative and entertaining. Consider diversifying your blog content by adding infographics, photos, Vine loops and tutorial videos to boost your audience and search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

Keep It Brief

Internet users’ attention spans are notoriously short – a fact that’s important to keep in mind when developing your blog posts. Aim to create blog content that’s 750 words or less. Otherwise you run the risk of having your readers tune out before they’ve reached the end of the article. Be sure to break the content up into small, scan-able ‘chunks’ that are easier to read than a large ‘blob’ of text, especially if your audience accesses your blog via a mobile device.

Engage Your Audience 

When crafting content for your business’ blog, aim to use a tone that reflects the personality of your organization. If your brand is light and fun, make sure that’s accurately portrayed in your blog posts (while making sure to respect social norms and boundaries).

You should also focus on providing value to your audience – give them a reason to ‘like’, ‘share’ and return to your blog by posting insider information, tutorials, or answers to frequently-asked questions.

Remember that your business’ blog can be a great, low-cost way to promote your enterprise, but only if you’re able to generate and retain traffic to your website.

BBB Can Help Promote Your Business on Google Maps

Google Maps

Promoting your business online is the single most important type of marketing you need to do even if you don’t sell services through the internet. Today’s consumer turns to the web to find the information they need long before venturing out into the community. But, being present online isn’t always easy to do. How can you ensure your business is in front of those consumers looking for the information, products or services they need? Google Maps is one of the solutions available to you. Keep reading to find out how it works and how Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest can help you get started!

How Can Google Maps Help Promote Your Business?

Google Maps has used various forms of advertisement over the years on its service, but now that more people are turning to mobile to get the information they need – right on the road – it’s becoming more important than ever. The latest generation of tools for local search ads promises to create more branded and customized experiences for those using the Google Maps application. This new design aims to connect the one-third of mobile searches that Google says now have a local focus with those businesses that can meet their needs. The company also noted in its recent summit that local searches by users are growing at a rate that’s 50 percent faster than general mobile searches overall. That shows you the true value of properly using Google Maps.

What Are Promoted Pins and Locations?

The company’s new tool features something called promoted pins and promoted locations. When a person uses Google Maps to search for something local, they will see pin marks on their map with the brand logo displayed on it. For example, the user might see a pin along their route for a restaurant that features the logo of that location.

In addition to this, local pages will provide additional support including more features and the ability for marketers to customize more fully. Retailers can include things like inventory information or promotions, for example. Clearly, the right promotion could help to drive a significant amount of traffic right to your business – people that are already passing by and are interested in what you are selling.

How Can You Set Up and Use Google Pins?

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As a business owner, it’s important to embrace this new opportunity and it may be easier to do this than you realize. The good news is that it is rather simple to set up Google Maps to automatically display your information.

If you haven’t started yet, be sure to create a Google listing for your company. Then, use the Google Maps page to help you set up your promoted pins and locations.

If you’re an Accredited Business, the BBB Programs Department can get you setup right away. We will even take care of the creative designs at no extra cost! Call 866-459-5222 or email programs@thebbb.org for more information.

To handle it on your own, you’ll need to enable location extensions on your AdWords account and then update your Google My Business listing so that it allows for this. You can then use location targeting and bid by location based on what you’re looking for in reaching your audience. In addition to this, you’ll need to setup and manage your keywords. Your keyword selection should match the product or service you offer along with your geographic area. Proper local keyword selection is essential.

Your ads will appear on both the mobile and desktop versions of the mapping too. And, on the mobile device, it will also add a “Call” and “Directions” button to make it easier for customers to find you.

Google’s charge for this type of marketing depends on a variety of factors but they use a standard cost-per-click method. This includes three types of clicks:

  • Get location detail clicks
  • Mobile clicks-to-call
  • Get direction clicks

Google Maps is one of the many tools you have for properly marketing your business online. Imagine your customer, driving down the highway looking for a place to stop for the night. If your company’s logo shows up, they are more likely to make the turn into your driveway. This is a rather simple and highly effective way to grab and hold your audience while also engaging your most likely customers in real time.

Four Reasons Your Business Should Take Part in a Trade Show

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Trade shows are a great way for customers to find the right business to handle their home repairs or remodeling projects. While they offer a lot for the shopper, what exactly does the shopkeeper get out of it? For many, they get customers, exposure and advice.

If you are afraid your business might get lost in the sea of booths and exhibits, Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest offers you the following reasons why you should consider attending one as soon as possible:

Generate Leads.

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This is your chance to meet customers in-person. Forget relying on a fancy webpage or catchy commercial jingle —you’ll be able to give your sales pitch face-to-face and create a relationship with a person before they even step foot in your store. In fact, if you attend the right type of show you could be seen by thousands of consumers in just one day. *Pro-tip: Set up your booth so your logo is clearly visible and hand out a business card to everyone who stops by, even if all they want is a piece of candy!

Get inspired. 

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See what similar companies are doing. Are they using new technology or offering extended services? You might walk away with a few good ideas to help grow your business. *Pro-tip: Take some time to step away from your booth and talk to other vendors. Talk shop and you may build a business-to-business relationship that can be beneficial to your bottom line. 

Be in the know. 

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Some trade shows offer presentations from special speakers, workshops and even after hours networking events. It’s a great way to expand your knowledge while meeting new people in the industry. *Pro-tip: Be a trade show sponsor and your company logo will have prominence over other businesses. 

Get in the guide, get in their mind

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Many Trade Shows offer guidebooks and maps for visitors. Even if visitors don’t end up hiring a contractor, they’re likely to keep the guide and refer back to it when they are finally ready to make a decision. *Pro-tip: Stand out from the crowd by displaying your BBB Accredited Business Seal. Let shoppers know they can trust you the instant they meet you.

Live in the Portland area? The Portland Fall Home & Garden Show is set to run from Oct. 6 – 9, at the Portland Expo Center. If you want to get your company listed in the guide book, contact the BBB Programs department at 866-459-5222 or email them at programs@thebbb.org. Advertisement space and art must be reserved by Sept. 15, 2016.

Considering a Career Change

By Michelle Tabler, Alaska Marketplace Development Manager

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the August issue of Torch Talk.

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These days it’s common to consider going back to school in order to advance your career. Whether it’s for a bachelor’s or a graduate degree, the decision shouldn’t be made lightly. While motivations vary, many people choose to pursue higher education for potential increased earnings, to gain new skills, or to simply pursue a different career path.

Some companies offer tuition assistance for employees wishing to gain more education. This type of program is considered an investment that allows an employee to continue working while taking courses. In turn they promise to stick with their company and utilize their new found skills.

But there’s also the option of leaving the workforce to focus on school full-time. If your motivation is to increase your pay, it’s important to investigate the availability of jobs and the pay scales in the field you are considering. Generally, those with advanced degrees earn more, but that can vary depending on the type of degree and the career field. And keep in mind, some occupations won’t boost your income when compared to the cost of the degree.

Alaska Career College totes its most popular programs to be the Allied Health Programs. These include: medical assistant, phlebotomy tech, medical coding and billing and massage therapy. Jennifer Deitz, ACC owner said the courses offered at her college are designed to meet a specific need in Alaska. “Alaska Career College is attuned to the economy and the skills needed in this economy.” While the college offers additional programs in Business Administration and Human Resources, most students prefer the health industry courses.

“Because that’s where the good jobs are,” Deitz said.

The college has been BBB Accredited since 1995 and offers courses in Aircraft Dispatching, business, insurance coding and billing, medical assistant, phlebotomy technician and therapeutic massage. Going back to school can provide a unique experience that is intellectually stimulating and offers the opportunity to meet with people of different ages and backgrounds. It is a great networking opportunity for business contacts.

A friend with a BA in communications worked as a TV reporter and producer and then phased into working for nonprofits. After a while she decided to go to graduate school for a master’s degree so she could work as a consultant. She felt the graduate degree would give her more credibility and allow her to compete more successfully in the marketplace.

If you are thinking about going back to school, here are some tips to consider:

Pick the program 

What program would bring the best results. A four-year or two-year degree? You might only need a certificate program to give you that leg up.

Online or in class 

Will you be able to complete the course online or will you need to log in some classroom time? Either way, you might have to find a part– time job or leave work altogether in order to obtain your degree.

Weigh the cost 

In addition to tuition costs, also be sure to budget for books, computers, supplies for specialty classes and a laptop. Fill out the FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) if you plan to apply for financial aid and grants. There are often advantages to in-state tuition if the courses you plan to take are offered locally.

Going back to school can be highly rewarding. Just be sure to research your options carefully, take into considering the time and costs involved.

Beating Back to School Stress

Editor’s note: This article first ran in the August issue of Torch Talk

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The anxiety of returning to school usually hits when I walk into a grocery store and see the shelves lined with spiral notebooks, No. 2 pencils and backpacks. Even though I’ve been out of school for years I still can’t help getting a little stressed out at the thought of saying goodbye to summer. Fortunately, my daughter is only three and while she will be starting pre-school in the fall it won’t be as intense as when she’s going to school full-time. So how do working parents keep their sanity while balancing both their careers and their children’s school life?

To ensure your family starts off on the right foot I’ve compiled a few tips to ensure you keep your cool this school year.

KNOW YOUR ROLE

If your family is run likes a sports team —with everyone playing a specific role —you are more likely to be efficient during those stressful times. You know, the ones that remind you of overtimes in the playoffs. So make sure everyone in the family knows what roles they play, from transporting kids to school and activities, to who’s checking homework and starting dinner. Older kids can help by getting themselves ready in the morning or by getting their younger siblings out the door on time. Even younger kids can help by clearing the table at night and feeding the family pets. *Needs some help around the house? Consider hiring a cleaning service to come through to keep your family on track. Check out accredited businesses like A + Sparkle & Shine Cleaning Service in Tacoma.

HAVE BACKUP

What’s your Plan B? You should always have a backup plan in place should someone be unable to fulfill their role. If you suddenly have an early morning meeting scheduled there should be someone available to help out. Having a babysitter on-call is a great way to guarantee everyone is taken care of and you are able to concentrate on your job. *Looking for before and after-school help? There are a number of child care facilities who offer assistance for working families. Look for accredited businesses like Harvard Park Children’s Learning Center North in Spokane. 

DON’T OVERSCHEDULE

Imagine how you feel at the end of a long day of work. By the time 6 p.m. rolls around you’re ready to prop up your feet and settle down with a glass of wine and a little Netflix. Just because kids have more energy than adults, doesn’t mean they don’t require their own time to unwind. When kids are overscheduled with school, tutoring, sports, dance classes and play dates it can cause them to get grouchy. My mother used the term “recharge your batteries” when she would send us to our rooms for a little quiet time. While activities are important for a child make sure they aren’t out of the house too often. Stick with one activity per season so you still have time for studying and some much needed family time. *Want your kid to find fulfillment outside of the classroom? Consider putting them in extra-curricular activities like ballet or karate.  Find accredited businesses like Spectrum II Art and Dance Studio in Idaho.

MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

At the end of the day if you aren’t making time for your own sanity, no one in your home is going to be happy. So don’t feel guilty about penciling in some “you” time once a month. *Find relaxation by getting a massage or hitting the links! Look for accredited businesses like Milwaukee Massage Therapy and Broadmoor Golf Course in Oregon, both designed to help you fight those back to school blues

July Scams Roundup

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The following are some of the scams reported to Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest in July. In most instances names and locations have been omitted to protect the victims’ privacy.

Alaska 

Sweepstakes/BBB Affiliation Scam

An Anchorage man reports he received a call from someone named “James Stewart” from American Sweepstakes. The caller wanted the Anchorage man to fill out tax documents in order to deposit the money. The caller also stated he was working with BBB. Better Business Bureau does not offer sweepstakes prizes. Fortunately, the man did not lose any money in the encounter.

Idaho 

Phishing Scam

A Nampa woman reports someone called her home claiming to be with the DISH Network. She was told the company needed to make updates to her software. The woman was prompted by the caller to reveal the last four digits of her social security number in order for them to make the updates. She was then asked to pay a $99 fee. This alerted the woman and she refused to pay the money. She reported the scam to BBB and the Attorney General’s office.

Craigslist Scam

A Boise woman reports she was nearly scammed when she tried to sell her car on Craigslist. The woman states she received an offer from someone claiming to be a Marine in Quantico, Virginia. He wanted to pay through PayPal. The woman reports his texts and email had a lot of misspellings and information he revealed about himself turned out to be untrue. Fortunately, she didn’t complete the transaction with him.

Government Grant Scam

A Nampa woman reports she was notified she had won a government grant for having good credit. She was told she’d receive $7,000, but needed to provide her city, state, zip code and age. The woman stopped speaking with the callers, but continued to receive calls from them throughout the day.

Oregon 

Home Improvement Scam

A Sherwood woman reports she lost $1,100 in a home improvement scam. The woman claims she knew the person doing work on her home and had hired them in the past. She agreed to pay half of the $2,200 cost the home repairs would need. However, she reports the workers avoided her calls and failed to show up to do the repairs.

Advanced Fee Loan Scam

A Hillsboro woman reports she was contacted by Triple Services LLC who said she had outstanding debt from 2011. She states the caller had her personal information including her social security number. The company told her it needed to collect $2,547 for a $500 loan. The Oregon woman reports the callers kept changing the amount of money owed, leading her to believe it was a scam. She reported the company to BBB.

Montana 

Fake Invoice Scam

A Bozeman woman reports she received a large order to her online store. The buyer requested the seller use a different shipping company called DXB Logistics. The Bozeman woman contacted DXB and was told to wire a payment that was higher than the original shipping fees. The seller stopped doing business with the buyer and cancelled the customer order.

Washington 

BBB Affiliation Scam

A Kent business owner reports someone called her company asking to speak with her about her financials. The woman claims the caller was insistent and harassing with her employees. She called the person back and they told her they were working with BBB. However, the caller could not answer her questions truthfully so she ended the conversation.

IRS Scam

An Issaquah woman reports someone called her claiming to be with the IRS. The caller told her there was a warrant out for her arrest for tax evasion, but it would be cleared up if she paid $2,950 in iTunes gift cards. The woman did not pay the money.

BBB On Wright Stuff Radio: Maintaining Customer Relations

Better Business Bureau’s Chief Innovation Officer Dale Dixon joins Brandon Wright on his show Wright Stuff Radio to discuss how to get the most out of your business affiliations.

Other topics include: working with difficult customers and maintaining business relationships.

Wright Stuff Radio connects small businesses through education, business stories, and controversial topics. You can listen every Saturday at 2 p.m. MT on KIDO. BBB is a sponsor of this segment.

Safe Giving After a Tragedy

Written by Veronica Craker, Managing Editor

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When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005 I found myself watching the news and wondering how I could help. I lived in Biloxi, Mississippi for a short time and still had friends living in the area when the Category Five storm ripped through destroying everything in its path. While watching the news unfold I wondered how I could make a difference. So I opened my wallet and made a small donation to the Red Cross. Prior to that I hadn’t done more than slip extra change into charity buckets sitting next to cash registers or in the red kettles belonging to the Salvation Army during Christmas. With recent tragedies taking place around the world more people than ever are trying to find ways to make a difference. A recent BBB Scam Tracker survey found that one in five people lose money to a scam each year with annual losses estimated at $50 billion.

When a crisis hits, and especially when it hits close to home, we can’t help but feel compelled to do something. Whether its donating blood, giving money or volunteering it’s important to know the most effective way to help out after a tragedy.

In the past year BBB Scam Tracker has seen nearly 200 reports of charity scams in the U.S. and Canada.

Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest and BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips to keep in mind when looking to contribute:

Avoid high-pressure demands. Take time to research charities and avoid emotional pleas that do little to explain how the charity will help victims. Contact potential charities directly.

Use trustworthy charities. Be sure the charity is equipped and has the resources necessary to help with disaster relief. Review whether a charity meets all 20 standards of accountability at Give.org, a website run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Avoid cash donations. Write checks or pay by credit card to charities directly. Scammers will try to convince their victims to wire money or use prepaid debit cards to make a donation. Never give personal information or money to a telephone or email solicitor.

Double-check. Watch for “pop-up” charities with unverifiable background and contact information. Unscrupulous organizations may try to trip up donors by using names that sound similar to reputable charities.

Block social media pleas. Be wary of requests from fake victims or memorial social media accounts. Remember to verify the organization first before giving a penny.

Look closely at crowdfunding sites. Some crowdfunding sites do their best to verify a posted request is legitimate. But some may be set up by family members of victims, meaning it isn’t a charity, and will go directly into someone’s bank account. Those types of donations make it difficult to know where exactly the money is going and how it is being used.

Charity Navigator released a list of fake charities detailing just how rampant this time of scam can be. For more tips on giving wisely visit www.give.org.

FTC Warns of Illegal Payment Methods

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The Federal Trade Commission recently sent out an alert about an important Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) amendment that took effect in June.

According to the FTC these changes make it illegal for telemarketers to use three types of payment methods exploited by con artists and scammers. It is now against the law for telemarketers to ask customers to pay for goods or services using cash-to-cash money transfers like MoneyGram and Western Union. Its unlawful to require them to provide PIN numbers from cash reload cards such as MoneyPak, Vanilla Reload or Reloadit packs. Also, telemarketers cannot use unsigned checks called “remotely created payment orders” to withdraw money directly from consumers’ bank accounts.

The FTC made these changes to the TSR in November 2015, but this is a good reminder that a legitimate company or government agency will not ask a consumer to pay with money orders or gift cards. Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest often hears from victims who were misled into paying for a good or service using these methods only to realize they were scammed.

In May a Cheney, WA resident reported they lost $7,000 to an IRS scam when they were told to pay with iTunes gift cards. They reported the incident to local law enforcement officers and with the Internal Revenue Service. Unfortunately, they’ve yet to be refunded their money.

To learn more about this law, visit ftc.gov. If you’ve been asked to make a payment using any of the above methods and believe it to be a scam you can report the transaction to the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or at BBB at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.

10 Tips to Stay More Organized at the Office

Staying More Organized at the Office Blog

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your workday seems to get away from you. With so much to do and so little time to get it all accomplished, it’s easy to find yourself feeling frustrated, lost, and unsure of where to start. Staying on top of your many responsibilities at work can be a challenge, but with these tips, you’ll be better able to prioritize your tasks and make sure every day is efficient and organized.

  1. Start the day with a clear mind

When you come to work worried and anxious, it’s going to reflect on the rest of the day. Even if you’re stressed from the moment you walk through the door, take a few moments just for you before you get moving. Check your email, brew some coffee in the break room, or swing by your pal in accounting’s desk to chat for a moment; find a way to relax, and make it a part of your routine.

  1. Tackle the hardest jobs first

It’s only natural to dread the hardest tasks on your agenda, but there’s no reason to let them ruin your day. No matter how much you’d prefer to put off the biggest, most challenging projects, taking them on first thing in the morning when you’re still fresh can give you the motivation to get things done while eliminating stressors before they have time to wear on you.

  1. Make a to-do list – and stick to it

There’s a lot on your plate, but that doesn’t mean it has to overwhelm you. Instead of letting the pile of work in front of you get you down, make a to-do list. Write down everything you have to do today, tomorrow, and for the rest of the week, and stick to it. Add new tasks as they come up, and cross out the ones completed successfully.

  1. Cut down on meetings

You may feel as though all of those meetings on your calendar are of the utmost importance, but take a good, hard look and ask yourself how many you could miss with minimal consequences. Instead of spreading yourself thin attending non-mandatory gatherings, appoint a coworker to take notes on calls and conferences that aren’t essential.

  1. Take time to clear your mind

It can be hard to rationalize a break when you’re busy, but it’s a big part of staying calm and focused. When the pressure is on, take a few minutes and take a walk, get some water, or use the bathroom. Simply stretching your legs and briefly directing your attention elsewhere can give you the mental reprieve you need to stay focused on the tasks at hand.

  1. Keep your desk clean

A messy desk may not seem like a problem, but when you’re losing important papers, struggling to find agendas, and having trouble remembering what you stored where, it can only add to your stress. Do your best to keep your desk area clutter-free, even if that means requesting a filing cabinet or a set of drawers to put your paperwork in.

  1. Stop multitasking

Multitasking may seem like an inevitability in the business world, but it doesn’t have to be. Even though it may not feel like it, multitasking splits your attention in a consequential way, leaving you unable to give 100% to any one task. Handle a single task at a time, and keep working on it until you are completely finished.

  1. Don’t be afraid to delegate

When you’re used to handling everything yourself, giving over the reins can be very overwhelming. However, it’s also a big part of being an effective manager or team member. If you have tasks you know someone else could take on, don’t be afraid to delegate some of your responsibilities. Give clear directions and a deadline, and move on to something else.

  1. Cut down on email

When you have a quick question for another member of your team, email is often the go-to form of communication. As convenient as it is, however, it can leave you with more work later while you sit around waiting for answers. Instead, make it a point to call or instant message whenever possible, keeping your inbox clear for more important communications.

  1. Ask for help

When you’re stumped and aren’t sure where to turn, it can feel frustrating, especially when it’s starting to impact your productivity. Instead of spinning your wheels, get in touch with a supervisor or another member of your team. Sometimes, talking things out for a minute or two is all it takes to get you back on the right path.

Staying organized can take some commitment, but changing up your routines and focusing on the end goal can keep you attentive and hard at work, even on the longest, busiest days.

What do you do to stay organized? Leave a comment and let us know!