Blogging Tips for Small Business Owners


Looking to grow your online presence? Want to boost your website’s ranking in search engine results pages? Creating and maintaining a small business blog takes work, but when done right, it can deliver a great return on investment for your enterprise.

A blog gives you the opportunity to position yourself as a subject matter expert in your particular field; it can also give your audience a chance to get to know your company and develop a personal connection with you, your business, and your brand.

Here are some simple tips you can use right now to establish and grow your small business blog:

Establish a Consistent, Approachable Voice 

A blog provides small business owners a chance to connect with clients, customers, and prospects on a personal level. Use your blog to demonstrate your personality, not just to promote and market your business. Think of your blog as a one-on-one conversation with your audience – aim to establish a consistent, friendly voice that reflects how you actually talk when discussing your products and services.

Stick to a Schedule 

Once you establish a small business blog, make sure to keep your audience engaged by posting new content on a regular basis. Many companies make the mistake of starting a blog and then failing to follow up with fresh content – this can give the unwanted impression that a company has gone out of business, or has lost interest in connecting with their customers.

Provide Value to Your Audience 

Give your readers a reason to read and return to your blog by providing them with real value. This value should be in the form of information —for example, ideas on how they can save money, save time, or improve their lives in some way.

Look for topic inspiration in the questions you’re asked as a small business owner. For example, if you operate an automotive repair shop, chances are you’re often asked for maintenance tips, information about choosing the right tires, or ways to save money on car care. These are all topics you can expand on within your small business blog.

Keep It Brief

Remember that most blog readers are looking for quick, easy-to-read content that they can consume during their down time – that means your audience will likely be reading your blog during their lunch break, while standing in line at the grocery store, or during their daily commute. Aim to write easy-to-read content that can be broken down into short paragraphs and lists, since this type of content is easy to view on mobile devices like smart phones and tablets.

Integrate Your Social Media Links

Promote your small business blog through your social media channels like Facebook and Twitter by posting a new update on your feeds whenever you update your blog. This is a great way to encourage your followers to navigate to your website and read your new content. It also makes it easy for your audience to share your blog on their own social media feeds.

Use Your Spell-Checker

As simple as it sounds, it’s worth saying – always check your blog content for spelling and grammatical errors. Regardless of what industry you’re in, the quality of your blog reflects you and your business, so it’s important to ensure your blog is clear, accurate, and well-crafted.

By creating a consistent, engaging blog that delivers value to your readers, you can harness the power of small-business blogging to position yourself and your company, as a go-to resource within your community.

5 Ways to Create Lead Magnets for Your Small Business


Looking to generate more leads for your small business? One of the tried-and-true methods of attracting potential customers is with a lead magnet – a value-added incentive supplied to consumers in exchange for their contact information.

The goal of any lead magnet is to maximize acquisition of warm leads that can be used to create a direct mailing promotion, preferred customer list, or other type of targeted marketing campaign directed toward clients and consumers who have shown some level of interest in your business.

Here are five ways you can create lead magnets for your small business:

Offer Information

Virtually every small business owner is a subject matter expert (SME) in their own chosen field – a ‘go-to’ person for information regarding their specific area of expertise. Consider what types of questions your customers usually ask you, and compile those ‘frequently asked questions’ (FAQ’s) into a checklist, how-to guide, or brief instructional manual that can be used as a handout in exchange for their contact information. For example, if you’re a chef, you might want to create a small printout of your favorite seasonal recipes, while an insurance broker might want to develop a checklist that drivers can keep in their vehicle for use if they get involved in an accident.

Give Away Coupons


Consumers love coupons! You can either create a quick form that your prospects can complete in exchange for a coupon to be used on a product or service, or distribute coupons that are pre-printed with a contact form which customers need to complete in order to redeem the coupon.

If you are an accredited business with Better Business Bureau you can share coupons on your business review page. Contact your BBB Programs Department to learn how to get your coupons listed. 

If your coupon is part of a specific marketing campaign or promotion, be sure to include an expiration date, otherwise, you could wind up dealing with stale coupons months, or years, after you’ve issued them.

Create a Contest

One of the tried-and-true methods of securing leads for your business is by launching a contest. The promise of being able to win something can be a great way to entice prospects to provide their contact information.

Be sure to offer a prize that’s both perceived as being attractive to your customers and relevant to your business. Free products or services supplied directly from your company are always a sure bet, however, if that’s not feasible, look for prizes that come from other local businesses such as coffee shops, restaurants, and theatres.

Offer a Discount


Another great lead magnet that can be used by virtually every small business is the promise of a discount in exchange for contact information from a customer. Simply create a campaign that requires customers to complete a basic form that includes their contact information. For example: “To enjoy your 20% discount on your next purchase, complete this form below.”

Free Estimates

Businesses that offer services such as home repairs, construction, cleaning and automotive maintenance can often achieve success in securing leads by offering free estimates to their prospects.

This is a common tactic used by service-orientated small businesses that have a strong online presence, as consumers are often enticed to leave their contact information in exchange for a complimentary, no-obligation estimate.

Remember that lead magnets don’t have to be lengthy, complicated, or resource-intensive to create and process. In fact, when it comes to developing a successful lead magnet, simple is best.

With an effective lead magnet, you can grow your prospect list and help boost business for your small business.

How to Find and Hire the Best Seasonal Employees


As the holidays approach, the need to hire additional help becomes a key concern with many business owners. Yet, despite the importance, it’s just as vital to take your time to find qualified, reliable employees. Many businesses rush hiring and end up regretting their haste. How can you find the best seasonal employees when you need help in a hurry? Here are tips from experts in seasonal hiring.

Ask Current Employees or Customers for Recommendations

Ask your current employees if they know anyone looking for part-time seasonal work. Employees often have friends or family members who they’ll happily refer. Another good way to find employees is by asking your repeat customers if they’re interested in working part-time. They already know your business and merchandise or service requirements. Many will be thrilled at the chance of gaining an employee discount, if your business offers one.

Once you have names, you can interview them to see if you feel they’re a good fit. While asking around, you may also find some of your part-time employees who are happy to take on additional hours to earn more for their own holiday spending.

Start the Process Early


It is essential for stores, restaurants and companies in need of additional workers to start early. Experts recommend starting your search for seasonal employees in September. Still, you should always be on the lookout for new hires —especially in businesses where employee turnover is high.

As you find quality staff members, keep a list of them when you have to release them due to seasonal employment fluctuations. By keeping a list of temporary workers you can call on to fill in spots during your busy season, you’ll always have qualified workers in mind. Having workers who are already trained saves you time as well.

Hold Prescreenings Before Scheduling Interviews

The number of applications you receive may seem overwhelming, but you can narrow the selection down with prescreening questionnaires. Some internet hiring sites allow you to set up quick questionnaires to help weed out undesirable or unskilled applicants. If you specifically need staff with experience or a specific level of education, ask prescreening questions about their experience, past work history and educational background.

As you narrow down potential employees, start the interview process. Remember that interviewees are nervous. If you take time and build a rapport before diving into interview questions, you’ll get a better feel for the applicant’s personality.

Eye Retirees and College Students


College students tend to get their winter break from Thanksgiving through mid-January. They’re looking for work when they return home for the holidays. Look to college students who are moving back to town for the two-month period. They’re often exceptional seasonal employees, as they simply want the short-term job and don’t have expectations beyond that. If they work out, you can always add them to a list for summer employment or fill-in opportunities.

The same is true of retirees. Many want to get out of the house and earn a little extra income, but they don’t want to be tied down to a permanent work schedule. Look for retirees who spend winters in one state and summers in another for great opportunities at finding workers who do not expect the job to extend past the holiday season.

Don’t Think in Terms of Seasonal

Find the best seasonal workers by applying the same hiring criteria you use for full-time employees. Your company needs great representatives, and not those who are simply there for a paycheck. If you look for the same qualities your full-time staff have, you’ll get workers who draw sales, attract repeat customers and make regulars feel appreciated.

As long as you start early and take time to get to know applicants, you’ll find great workers for your seasonal employment opportunities. When you find great employees, keep a list for the months to come. That handy list becomes a goldmine for avoiding employment searches in the future.

Avoid “Pinkwashing” This October


It might be autumn, but instead of being inundated with pumpkin spice tastes and smells, store shelves are lined with everything pink. Just this week I spotted a pink water bottles, pink ribbon earrings and even pink headphones.

That’s because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. This annual event is organized by multiple breast cancer charities to increase awareness about the disease. This usually involves events for the public to participate in and fundraisers to help fund cancer research.

According to, one in eight U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. An estimated 2,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer is expected to be diagnosed in men in 2016. But there is some good news. Cancer incident and death rates are declining. And that’s why awareness months —like the one taking place right now —are so important.

During this time many companies dedicate a portion of their proceeds to cancer awareness and research, even going as far as creating and selling pink versions of their products. It’s a way to let consumers know that their money is going toward a cancer charity. But just how much of that money is actually going toward helping cancer patients get better?


There have been reports of companies selling their products with a new pink look in order to convince the buyer the money is going toward a good cause, but actually pocket all the money. This is known as “pinkwashing.”

To make sure donations go to the right place, Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest advises consumers to research pink product claims before making a purchase or getting caught up in the hype.

Take the following steps when purchasing a product for its charity claims:

Be a smart shopper


Find out what percentage of the sale price will be donated. Most companies put this information on the packaging and even include a link to detail where their donation will go. Don’t assume every organization listed on the box is a tax exempt charity. You may have to dig deeper to determine their status.

Do some research.


Look into the business you’re purchasing from and the charity they are donating too. There are numerous cancer research charities so do your homework to ensure your buck is being spent in the right place. Be sure to get the charities name and look them up on to see whether they are a reputable charity.

Spend wisely.


Think about the product you want. Is it something you actually need or do you simply like the pink design? Resist the urge to shop on the spot. Be considerate of your purchase, especially when it is solely to benefit a charity. If you don’t need the product, consider making a donation directly to the charity of your choice.

But, hey, if you really like those pink headphones and you’re sure the money is going toward a trustworthy charity —I say go for it!

Tips to Prepare Your Business for a Storm


By Veronica Craker, Managing Editor

The National Weather Service has issued a windstorm warning for parts of Western Washington. While many residents will be busy prepping their homes in the event power should go out, it is important for businesses to also make sure they are properly prepared.


Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest offers the following tips for preparing your business for wicked weather:

  • Inspect the building. Check to make sure your brick and mortar is ready to undertake a storm with winds expected to whip up to 70 miles-per-hour. Fasten down loose outdoor equipment, bring debris indoors and secure flammable liquid containers. Give your roof a courtesy look to ensure there isn’t any loose edging and that gutters and downspouts are cleared.
  • Inspect the surrounding property. Locate any large trees or limbs that could fall and be sure to move any vehicles or equipment away from the area. If limbs are close to power lines, consider removing them to avoid power outages.
  • Have a disaster plan. Have a plan in place for how it will take your company to respond to a disaster. Emergency drills are vital in ensuring everyone knows how to respond to a disaster and what their roles are, should one occur. Make sure managers have employees’ mobile numbers so they can keep in contact with them if the office needs to close.
  • Have finances in order. Do you know how long your business could without electricity or key staff members? Business owners should know how long they can be offline before they are affected financially. Remember: everyday your business is closed is money lost.
  • Records protection. If you keep all of your important files in a basement, what would happen if that basement flooded? If a wildfire were to sweep your town would your files be safe from catching fire? One option for businesses is the use of cloud storage. It is relatively low cost and can be a great backup plan for businesses. If you expect flooding to occur wrap computers or machinery in plastic tarps or waterproof covers.
  • Get the app. Many utility companies offer apps to keep residents informed of when they can expect their power to be turned on. It’s a good idea to have this at your disposal so you can ride out the storm at home, but be informed when power at your business returns.

For more information on how companies should practice storm preparedness visit


September Scam Wrap-up 


Scam Alert Indicates Rip Off And Advertisement
Scam Alert Showing Rip Off And Sign

By Veronica Craker, Managing Editor

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


Home visit scam

A Girdwood woman reported she received a call from someone named Justin Fisher, claiming to represent CUNA Mutual. The company is where her local Credit Union offered a free $4,000 life insurance policy. The caller stated he would be in the woman’s neighborhood and asked what hours she worked so he could visit. Fortunately, the woman didn’t reveal any of her information, but was shocked to hear he had her name, date of birth, mailing address and next of kin.

Tax collection scam

An Anchorage woman reports she nearly lost $9,741 when she received a call from someone claiming to be with the U.S. Treasury. The woman reports she was told she was being charged with tax faud and that all her assets had been seized. She was also told that an arrest warrant was being issued for her, but they could pass her along to the restitution department. The woman hung up and contacted her attorney and accountant who informed her it was a fake call.


Grandson emergency scam

A Meridian woman reported they lost $6,000 in the family emergency scam. She states she received a call from someone claiming to be her grandson who told her he was in jail in Hawaii. She was transferred to a “Capt. John Rockford” who told her to purchase $4,000 worth of i-Tunes gift cards from Best Buy and read the numbers back to him. Then she was asked to send an additional $2,000. After relaying the numbers to the caller the woman never heard from her grandson. She finally spoke to him on Sept. 17 and was informed she had been tricked.

Facebook government grant scam

A Boise man said he was contacted via Facebook by someone claiming to be his sister. He was told she had won a government grant for $60,000. She asked him if he wanted the contact to text for the application and he said “sure.” He asked his “sister” if she received the money and she told him yes. After exchanging a few messages with the government contact he called his sister and she told him she didn’t know what he was talking about. He unfriended the person claiming to be his sister on Facebook and reported the incident to BBB.


Sweepstakes scam

A Hermiston man reported he was contacted by Mega Global Winners informing him he won $5.5 million. The man states he was told to wire $300 to a man in Twin Falls, Idaho. Fortunately, the man ignored the request.

Tax collection scam

A Scappoose woman reports someone called their husbands cellphone claiming he owed money to the IRS. She was told he needed to call 971-317-4003 to take care of the matter. Fortunately, they ignored the call and reported it to BBB Scam Tracker.


Debt collection scam

An Olympia woman reported she was contacted by someone pressuring her to pay a debt collection fee for a cell phone account she never had. The woman claims the caller had her previous married name and social security number. They told her she was named in a class action lawsuit from a cell phone company for an unpaid account. The woman states she never had an account with the company and the debt did not show up on a recent credit report.

Yellow Pages scam

A Monroe man reports he received a fake bill for $1,183. The invoice was for a listing in the Business Yellow Pages USA. The man reported to Scam Tracker that he did not place the order.


How to Boost Your Search Engine Ranking Using Schema Markup

Writing code

When it comes to enhancing your business’s online exposure and boosting its credibility with potential customers, schema markups are something you can use to promote your business. Schema markup is one of the latest SEO features that can guide search engines to effectively showcase your business and relative information about it in search engine page results. Though it is still one of the least-used SEO tricks of the trade, owing to its relative newness, schema markup is proving extremely beneficial to the businesses that employ it. Once you understand the ins and outs of this SEO feature, you’ll be persuaded to include it on your business website too.

What Exactly Is Schema Markup?

Put simply, schema markup is code. It’s a type of code that boosts your website’s SEO and allows your site to be more visible to potential customers or clients. The beauty of schema is that its code explains to search engines what your data actually means and not simply what it says. That small difference can lead to big results when it comes to search engine page rankings. When you employ schema markup, a search engine can better “understand” what important individual elements on your page are and can promote them accordingly.

In addition, when searchers are scrolling through their search results, your website will appear far more attractive, which can spell increased traffic to your site. The goal for schema markups are to make your business rank better, look better to viewers, and do better in search engine page results. Also, remember that you can use schema markup to highlight a myriad of content types such as products, articles, local business information, software applications, events, and more.

How Can Schema Markups Affect Search Engine Rankings?

Since schema markups are used to point out relevant features of your website like an image or location, they’ll appear in search results as an attractive package of information. By providing relevant information to search engines and information you want to stand out, you can more effectively promote your brand and business. The goal is to stand out well in search pages in order to encourage searchers to click on your business link and explore your website. With schema markups, traffic is likely to increase and with increased traffic, you’re apt to see an increase in business too.

How to Add Schema Markups on Your Website

Because businesses that use Schema seem to be a step ahead of their competition, there’s every reason to get these features for your website and begin to experiment with them. You can implement schema markups on your website by visiting Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. The tool will help you add schema to your website via its easy-to-use worksheet. For instance, you’ll need to select a data type like local businesses or articles. Then you can paste in the URL for the page you want to markup. If you’re using HTML, you can easily paste that in too.

After pasting in your URL, the tool will then allow you to begin the tagging process. The tool pulls up your webpage on one side of its screen and a list of data items on the other. You simply highlight the elements that you want to apply schema markup to. After you complete the tagging process, you’ll want to click on the button: create HTML. The tool will then provide you with an HTML view of your page with the microdata you just created included. Finally, you can add the schema markup to your webpage by pasting in the highlighted snippets of schema markup into the appropriate spaces of your code.

There are other options for adding schema markup to your website, but the Google tool makes it quite simple. Regardless of how you get schema markup to your business website, you’ll definitely want to make plans to do it soon. As more businesses begin to understand the great functionality of this feature, schema markups will become a matter of course for savvy webmasters. The sooner your business employs them, the sooner it can stand out from the pack in those search results—and that can spell terrific benefits for your business, benefits that you definitely don’t want to ignore.

Four Myths of BBB

Fact Myth Tablet Means Correct Or Incorrect Information

There are plenty of urban legends out there, meant to entertain you with their mystery and spookiness. There’s the one that warns to never flash your headlights at a car who has theirs off and there’s always some tale of a man with a hook.

There are even some myths about the Better Business Bureau. Let’s take a look at some of the most common myths associated with BBB.

BBB is a government agency

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The Better Business Bureau is not affiliated with any government agency. It is actually a not-for-profit organization focused on advancing marketplace trust. It was established in 1912 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since then BBB has grown to include 112 BBB locations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Learn more about what BBB does by watching the 90 second “Why We Are Here” video.

BBB is for consumers only


BBB prides itself on helping consumers make smart choices when searching for a business. One of our goals is to help consumers identify trustworthy businesses and those that aren’t. However, we also do a lot for businesses, whether they are accredited or not. We offer business reviews, mediation services, advertising opportunities, a business magazine and industry driven webinars. At least three of those services are available to non-accredited businesses. Learn more about what we offer by visiting

BBB only reports complaints


Not true. We actually provide customer reviews as well. BBB Customer Reviews allow customers to post positive, negative or neutral reviews about organizations with which they have done business. Reviews are vetted by BBB team members before they are published online and reviewers, upon request, must be able to provide substantiation of the marketplace interaction. Write your customer review today by visiting our Customer Reviews page.

No one uses BBB


Staying relevant is extremely important to BBB. That’s why we have an outreach program designed to inform both consumers and businesses about the organization. Did you know that every four seconds someone searches a business on In fact, nearly seven million customers visit BBB website each year looking for a company to hire. And 95 percent of consumers recognize the BBB Seal. What’s more, seven out of 10 customers prefer to do business with a BBB Accredited Business.

People know the BBB and when they need help learning about a business they oftentimes come to us.

So consider this one myth busted.

Private Tax Collectors to Begin Collecting for IRS: Here’s What You Need to Know About Your Rights

Taxation Word Shows Excise Levy And Duty

Written by Amy Biviano, BBB Foundation Director

The IRS announced this week that private debt collection companies will start collecting overdue tax bills in spring 2017. They’ve also released the names and contact information of the four companies awarded those contracts.

  1. CBE Group, 1309 Technology Parkway, Cedar Falls, IA 50613
  2. Conserve, 200 CrossKeys Office Park, Fairport, NY 14450
  3. Performant, 333 N Canyons Parkway, Livermore, CA 94551
  4. Pioneer, 325 Daniel Zenker Dr, Horseheads, NY 14845

Under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, passed in December 2015, the IRS is required to use third party, private collection contracts to collect long term, outstanding tax bills. Several factors contribute to the IRS assigning these accounts to private collection agencies, including older, overdue tax accounts, and a lack of resources prevents the IRS staff from working these cases.

According to the IRS, the chosen collection companies are required to agree to respect taxpayers’ rights, including the consumer protection provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and to be courteous in their communications. The collection agencies are permitted to identify themselves as IRS contractors collecting taxes. While the IRS includes information about these changes on, and encourages consumers to frequently check the “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” page on their site, there are warning signs that tax scams will continue to proliferate and likely will increase, given this significant change.

In light of the unending phone scams in which criminals impersonate the IRS and demand immediate payments of taxes, the IRS says it will do everything it can to help taxpayers avoid confusion and understand their rights and responsibilities to pay any tax due. The IRS warns taxpayers to be especially careful of scams where callers claim to be collecting on behalf of the IRS.

Since most scammers have long differed from official IRS communications in their use of phone calls and emails while the IRS has strictly communicated by letters through the postal mail, the confusion between official and potentially false information may increase dramatically with this change. No longer can a consumer count on the fact that they have been contacted by a method other than the mail as an easy check on fraudulent activity, a policy that gave consumer advocates an easy to convey message and many targeted seniors more peace of mind.

Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest offers the following precautions to keep in mind, should a consumer receive a call about a past due account:

  • You will pay the IRS directly. Private collection agencies will not ask for payment on a prepaid debit card, a practice used by current tax scammers.  Instead, tax payers will be informed about electronic payment options currently located on The consumer can also opt to pay a past due balance by check, but this payment should only be payable to the US Treasury and sent directly to the IRS, never the private collection agency.
  • You will still get a letter. Any collection assignment must be preceded by two separate letters alerting the taxpayer of a past due balance and the pending collection activity. This procedure more closely mirrors prior IRS policy and may avoid some scam activity, but that is not clear at this point.
  • Not everyone is affected. Accounts that will not be sent to private collection agencies include taxpayers who are: deceased, under the age of 18, military members in designated combat zones, victims of tax-related identity theft, currently under examination or audit, currently in a payment plan, classified as an innocent spouse, and those in presidentially declared disaster areas.
  • You can opt out. Consumers who do not wish to work with the assigned private collection agency to settle overdue tax accounts must submit a request in writing to the private agency directly.

The IRS also advised any taxpayer who wants to make a complaint about a private collection agency or about the behavior of a specific employee to contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 800-366-4484, online at or in writing to:

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Hotline, PO Box 595, Ben Franklin Station, Washington DC 20044-0589.

As always, the BBB Scam Tracker and remain reliable resources for consumer information and scam detection and reporting resources.

Amy Biviano serves as the Foundation Director for BBB serving the Northwest. Biviano is a CPA and holds an MBA in Taxation from Gonzaga University and a BA in Anthropology from Yale University.