9 SEO Tips to Get Your Website Noticed

Content marketing is a proven powerful tool to get potential customers interested in your company. But with so many companies jumping on the content bandwagon, it can be difficult to get noticed. During a recent workshop, Insivia’s Andy Halko walked attendees through nine steps marketers can take today to help improve their search engine optimization and get their content seen.

Putting together your company’s website is no easy task and once it’s completed, it’s easy to fall into a sense of relief that the hard work is finally over. Problem is, the work is only getting started.

Getting your website online is one thing, but getting it found once it’s up is just as difficult. During a recent “SEO Deep Dive” seminar, Insivia’s Andy Halko walked attendees through some of the actions they should take to ensure their website pages rank highly on search engines.

Following are nine SEO tips Halko suggested business owners should put into practice so their company’s products and services are easily found by potential customers.

SEO tip No. 1: It’s a long road. Keep in mind it takes time to build your content. SEO is a journey and pays off over time; not overnight.

SEO tip No. 2: Keep working at it. Relatedly, in some ways, your website is always a work in progress. Think of it like your house: You wouldn’t move into a new home and then never cut the grass, clean, or do any maintenance, right? It’s the same for your website. Take care of issues such as 404 errors, slow loading times, etc., as you become aware of them. Otherwise, you might drop in search rankings.

SEO tip No. 3: Pay attention to Google Maps. Make sure your business information is included in Google Maps, otherwise you literally won’t be on the map.

SEO tip No. 4: Don’t guess. It’s 2019 and there is absolutely no excuse for guessing on what parts of your site are resonating with customers when there are plenty of tools out there—such as Google Analytics—to help you figure out where you should be spending your time.

SEO tip No. 5: Know your key word phrases. Key words, aka the search terms that people plug into search engines to describe what they’re looking for, are incredibly important. As was mentioned in the fourth tip above, there’s no need to guess here, either. Google’s free AdWords tool can help you narrow down which terms you’d like to try to rank for.

Keep in mind you shouldn’t always go for the most popular phrases because they have the most competition, making it harder to fight your way to the top of those rankings. Experiment with other key word phrases that are just below the top phrase for your product or service so that there is less competition for your website pages to rank highly.

SEO tip No. 6: Play around with the length of your keyword phrases. Shorter keyword phrases of one or two words are more difficult to rank. Think about using four-plus word phrases, which comprise approximately 70% of searches, and can generate a good amount of organic traffic for your content.

SEO tip No. 7: Quality rules. Search engines such as Google love and prioritize quality content that adds value. What does that mean, exactly? When it comes to creating the impression with search engine algorithms that your content is valuable, consider:

  • Longer articles: Articles of 1,500-plus words show that you are trying to provide information that is going to be useful to your audience. This is a good word length goal to keep in mind as you add content to your site. That said, it’s important also to not write for the search engines—write for your audience! If, through your testing, you discover that your audience reacts more favorably to shorter pieces, then don’t be afraid to put together shorter pieces if that’s what your readers want to see.
  • Outbound links: Part of adding value is directing your audience to other resources that can provide additional information. Be warned though, make sure the site you’re directing people to is a quality site, otherwise your pages could be penalized in the search rankings. Check first before linking to make sure the site you’re directing people to is indeed providing information you think would be useful to your customers.
  • Social signals: One sign search engines look for is whether your page’s url is being shared on social platforms. This is because the search algorithms assume that a page being shared on social must have value. Want to know what goes into having success on your social channels? Check out our social media playbook here.

SEO tip No. 8: Stay focused. Search engines like to single out those pages that maintain a tight focus on a specific subject, rather than those that provide just a broad overview of a topic. So, don’t be afraid to dive deep and get into the weeds on the subjects you’re writing about. This should help you generate better, more specific keywords, which, as noted above, will help your SEO ranking.

SEO tip No. 9: Find your community. One of the best ways to amplify your reach is by working with others. Look for sites, companies or organizations similar to yours that also have a content marketing program in place and ask for guest post opportunities with links back to your site. Don’t be tempted to buy backlinks, as that will have a negative impact on your page ranking.

Learn more about the power of content marketing by clicking here to check out additional stories on how you can draw more people to your site.

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  • Next up: 9 Ways to Take the Risk Out of Your Social Media Policy

    9 Ways to Take the Risk Out of Your Social Media Policy

    Establishing company policies around the use of social media is an important step in protecting your business. Here are some tips to consider when creating this content.

    Small businesses have found many ways to use social media to their advantage. They are embracing social media to interact with clients and to help build their business. They have found value in sharing content and in getting their business’s name out into the public eye. Social media can be beneficial to helping create brand awareness and to increase customer base.

    If you or your employees use social media, it is vitally important to understand that there is also an associated risk. And as a small business owner, you need to understand the risk as well as the reward of using social media. If your employees have access to social media at work or post anything on the internet, you need a strong social media policy to provide protection to your small business.

    It is not difficult to write a good social media policy and to include it in your employee handbook. Make sure it includes specific rules on how your employees use social media to engage with others. Having a strong social media policy protects your company‘s confidential information and copyrights, and also protects against using content without permission and much more. This includes blogging, which can be a source of copyright abuse and is subject to product endorsement laws.

    Here are nine tips to consider when crafting a strong social media policy:

    Tip No. 1: Disclose any product or other endorsements. All connections of this type must be disclosed, including reaching out to solicit reviews, mentions or endorsements. If any free items or compensation of any kind is offered, the FTC requires the endorser to clearly state in their post that the review or mention was in exchange for a fee item or other compensation. If you ask your employees to promote your product or business on social networks or in blog form, they must disclose their affiliation with your business.

    Tip No. 2: Understand the laws. Employers cannot punish workers for discussing wages or working conditions or for complaining about management or other employees. This means that even a casual conversation on Facebook about working conditions may be protected under the NLRA. Each situation is different, but be very careful about telling employees what they can and cannot do on their own personal social media sites.

    Tip No. 3: Communicate the repercussions. Make sure to carefully spell out any punishment that could be taken toward an employee for online posts deemed as hate speech or disparaging against race, religion or gender. Make it clear in your policies what the processes will be when an allegation is brought against an employee.

    Tip No. 4: Be clear on how you want your company to be represented. Your social media policy should outline how your business and your employees will represent the business and themselves in the social world. Include tips on how you want your business to be represented, customer service policies and rules for intellectual property matters. This is an important step to protecting your reputation.

    Tip No. 5: Include rules on when and how to use social media. Can employees post during business hours? Can they be on social media sites at work? Whatever your rules, make sure you clearly state them.

    Tip No. 6: Outline information on safety. Educate your employees on internet safety, including specific details on how to protect against cyber-crime. 

    Tip No. 7: Explain the potentially harmful nature of the internet. Your policy should stress that social posts are immediate, permanent and can be damaging. Encourage employees to carefully think through information they are considering sharing online.

    Tip No. 8: Brevity is best. Keep your policies simple and concise. Make sure they are easy to read and comprehend for all employees.

    Tip No. 9: Make sure the policy information is accessible. Distribute your written policies to all employees and all new hires. Keep an electronic copy of the policies where employees can locate them—in a shared folder, on the intranet, etc.

    Laws are changing constantly. Include your attorney in the process of crafting a social media policy. You can also hire an outside firm to help you craft a strong policy. No matter how you do it, every small business needs a strong, written social media policy.

    President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security ExpertTimothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com

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  • Next up: A Big Voice for Small Business: Looking Back, Looking Forward

    A Big Voice for Small Business: Looking Back, Looking Forward

    One of the most important things we do is advocate for you with elected officials and regulators to ensure that the intersection of policy, regulation, and your business does not create undue barriers to your success.  The past year provided for some significant victories for small business owners locally and throughout Ohio and your voice as small business owners was driven by your peers as COSE members and leaders played an integral role in advocating for a number of small business community priorities outlined in the COSE 2015-2016 Public Policy Agenda. 

    One of the most important things we do is advocate for you with elected officials and regulators to ensure that the intersection of policy, regulation, and your business does not create undue barriers to your success.  The past year provided for some significant victories for small business owners locally and throughout Ohio and your voice as small business owners was driven by your peers as COSE members and leaders played an integral role in advocating for a number of small business community priorities outlined in the COSE 2015-2016 Public Policy Agenda.

    Workers’ Compensation Prospective Billing

    Ohio’s workers’ comp system is one of only two state systems run by the state.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to get updated every once in a while.  As part of ongoing efforts to modernize Ohio’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) operations, COSE supported legislation that is now law that transitions Ohio to a prospective billing system for private employers.  That law became effective July 1, 2015 for private employers. The switch to the industry standard of prospective billing provides many benefits, including:

    • An overall base-rate reduction of 2 percent for private employers;
    • Allowing BWC to better forecast the level of premium required to be collected each policy year;
    • Opportunities for more flexible payment options (up to 12 monthly installments);
    • Better opportunities for BWC to provide quotes online or via the phone;
    • Increased ability for BWC to detect employer non-compliance and fraud.

    Workers’ Compensation Successor Liability

    Can you imagine moving into a new space for your business and finding out that you’ve inherited someone else’s bad workers’ comp risks?  COSE led and convened interested parties meetings on this subject, advocated for change, and the General Assembly passed language that offers up a long-term solution.  The legislation was signed by Gov. John Kasich on December 22, 2015 and it will help to ensure entrepreneurs will not be penalized in the form of increased workers’ compensation rates, outstanding balances, or uncovered claims costs for assuming space that was previously inhabited by a completely separate business with negative claims experience; read here for more information on this victory for small business owners.

    Income Tax Cut & Deduction, Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) Rate & Exemption

    Taxes are a sore subject for a lot of businesses.  And, small business taxes are different in a lot of ways than big business.  The Governor’s tax plan was controversial last year, but our approach was to stay focused on small business needs in that process.  We focused on maintaining and increasing small business owner business income tax exemptions and the way in which the personal income tax and commercial activity tax (CAT) uniquely affect small business owners.  The state budget bill reflected COSE Public Policy Agenda priorities and the final version of the tax package granted a 75% small business income exemption for the first $250,000 in small business income for 2015 and increases it to a 100% deduction beginning in 2016.  One COSE small business owner cited that when they filed their 2014 taxes they saved $6,250 on 2014 state taxes due to the first small business tax deduction which was at 50%.  Now, that exemption will double to a 100% exemption.  In addition, we staved off increases to the CAT tax and expansion of the sales tax to service companies.  And, we worked to maintain a reduction in the state income tax which affects most of our small business owners that are organized as pass through entities.

    Business Filing Fees

    Every little bit helps, so COSE supported legislation that passed to reduce certain business filing fees charged and collected by the Secretary of State.

    Entrepreneur-in-Residence Pilot Program

    Sometimes it’s clear that government just doesn’t “get it.”  COSE has been working closely with the state to create an entrepreneur-in-residence program.  The goal is to put real entrepreneurs inside government agencies to work in tandem with the LeanOhio program to help improve state government processes to better serve and protect small businesses.  This program was authorized and the first group of entrepreneurs-in-residence have been named.  The entrepreneurs receive six sigma training, the agencies get help to better serve you, and you get your peers working to make government a better resource for your business.  COSE continues to provide LeanOhio and all the entrepreneurs with feedback on the agencies that they may consider working with to alleviate burdens for COSE small business owners.

    Common Sense Initiative (CSI) Representation, Toolkit

    Ohio’s Common Sense Initiative (CSI) has been a successful effort to get rid of old regulations and intervene on rulemaking that hurts more small businesses than helps them.  The goal is to ensure a state regulatory framework that promotes economic development, is transparent and responsive to regulated businesses, makes compliance as easy as possible, and provides predictability for businesses.  Two COSE small business members continue to serve on the statewide CSI Small Business Advisory Council.  Recent work has been focused on making CSI easier to access and help small business owners better navigate the state regulatory process.  We will be more aggressively marketing these tools to our members and helping CSI  to upload similar resources to their website in the near future.  COSE and CSI staff work closely together and we look forward to continuing to use this initiative as a way to alleviate real regulatory burdens for small business owners in the future.

    November Ballot Measures

    Ohio’s ballot has become a vehicle for constitutional initiatives that can make major changes to our state.  We have to remain vigilant on those issues that could impact your business.  We focused on four big issues on the ballot in 2015 and had success on each of those issues with the outcomes supporting our positions.

    • Issue 1, the state legislative redistricting proposal, passed with more than 70 percent of the vote.
    • Issue 2, an anti-monopoly amendment proposed by the Ohio General Assembly to protect the constitution from economic monopolies passed with just over 50 percent of the vote.
    • Issue 3, the Responsible Ohio led effort to change Ohio’s constitution to legalize medical and recreational marijuana was soundly rejected with 64 percent of voters opposing it.
    • Issue 8, the Cuyahoga County Arts & Culture Renewal Levy, enjoyed significant support from county residents, passing with nearly 75 percent of the vote.

    Thank You

    Your support for our work comes in many ways.  Whether you actively attended a COSE Advocacy Committee meeting,  COSE Day at the Capitol in Columbus or our Washington briefing; or you made a phone call or wrote an e-mail to COSE staff or an elected official along the way we thank you for your engagement in advocacy.  The direct involvement of small business owners everywhere are what allow us to make progress on the policy issues that are vital to helping foster an environment that allows small business owners to achieve their idea of success.  Even if you were unable to get directly involved in the advocacy effort, your support as a member through your investment in membership and your participation as a member of COSE give us the strength to advocate for your success.  That support is important and appreciated!

    To read more on other areas of public policy progress made to-date and some of the issues that we expect to be working on in 2016 click here.

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  • Next up: A Guide to Small Business Growth

    A Guide to Small Business Growth

    A lot of things go into making a small business a success: a solid tax plan; a cash flow strategy; marketing execution and more. It can become a little overwhelming to juggle everything and make it all work seamlessly. Below, you’ll find my perspective on how these things come together to help your small business grow and succeed.

    A lot of things go into making a small business a success: a solid tax plan; a cash flow strategy; marketing execution and more. It can become a little overwhelming to juggle everything and make it all work seamlessly. Below, you’ll find my perspective on how these things come together to help your small business grow and succeed.

    Setting up your business

    A common issue small business owners incur is they form their business as a Limited Liability Company, LLC.  An LLC is not recognized for taxing purposes by the IRS so the owner must file a form to select how they want to be taxed, either as a sole proprietor, S or C corporation, or partnership.

    If it is a sole member LLC, the IRS considers it a disregarded entity, which means the business is taxed as a sole proprietor on Schedule C. The business profits are subject to the self-employment tax in addition to an income tax on the profits. 

    If the single owner business chose to be formed as an S-corp. instead of a sole proprietor, the self-employment tax can be reduced significantly. S-corps do require a shareholder to take a reasonable salary, which will have employment tax liability associated with it. 

    The self-employment tax might not be significant when the business is starting and the business isn’t profitable or has minimal profits, but as the business grows and becomes incrementally profitable, the self-employment tax can become quite expensive to a business owner and in many cases the business does not have the cash to pay the tax liability.

    There are additional considerations associated with LLC versus corporation versus partnership: formalities of existence, limited liability, continuity of life, etc., so be sure to get the advice of a professional advisor.

    Maximizing cash flow in a small business

    A common issue with a small business is the business focuses on sales growth, but does not understand its current and future cash flow.

    As a business starts up, cash is often the most important factor for ensuring success. It is extremely important for businesses to predict and control cash properly. A great way to manage cash is to construct cash flow statements and other forecasting tools. Cash flow is a measurement of the amount of cash flowing into and out of a business during a specific period, such as a week or a month. At the end of the designated period, if a business has received more cash than it has spent, it will have a positive cash flow. By analyzing its projected cash flow statements and its actual cash flow statements, a business can devise ways of maximizing cash flow. A projected cash flow will serve as a major budgeting tool because it will give you an idea of your cash needs well in advance. This will help a business avoid running out of cash as it grows.

    Cash flow should not be confused with sales or profits. It’s not uncommon for a small company to make a significant sale or be operating profitably and still go broke because of insufficient cash flow. This can happen, for example, when the company doesn't get paid for several months after its product has been delivered. In the meantime, the company may run out of cash when trying to pay current expenses. If you price your product too low and have high expenses, you may also run out of cash.

    Having a cash projection and tracking tool will allow the business to manage toward having a cash reserve.

    Maintaining a business cash reserve is like maintaining a personal savings account. Just as your personal savings can act as a hedge against unforeseen financial problems (such as job loss or the death of a spouse), a business's reserve cash can help the business get through changes in market demand and pay for unexpected business expenses. A cash reserve can also help your business be prepared for future new business opportunities.

    Your business's ability to maintain a cash reserve will depend on its overall cash flow and the business life cycle stage at which it finds itself. Typically, businesses pass through four stages: start-up, growth, maturity, and decline.

    Start-up companies generally have high expenses and little or no cash flow and cash reserves because the business has yet to make sales. If your business is at this stage, it is unlikely that you will be able to afford much of a cash reserve at first, but you'll want to establish one as soon as your firm starts to generate sufficient cash.

    During the growth and maturity stages, maintaining a cash reserve will be important, both to hedge against unforeseen problems and to finance expansion through capital reinvestment.

    Allocating time and funds to marketing

    The success of your business depends largely on your marketing efforts. The market consists of customers and potential customers for your products and services. Marketing is the process of making your business and its products and services attractive to those customers and prospects. Marketing activities come in various forms and may include everything your business must do to get its products and services into the hands of your customers and prospective customers.

    These activities might include: designing your products so they will be attractive to your customers, conducting market research and pricing and promoting your products and services so potential customers will know about them. Some of the tools you can use to promote your products and services are advertising, public relations, marketing communications, sales, and distribution.

    Typically, marketing activities will be based on decisions and strategies you make about what products and services you will offer to your targeted market and how you will inform your customers.

    Segment and target your market

    You might have limited funds to spend on your marketing efforts. Rather than trying to be all things to all people in all places, you should consider segmenting your market. Generally, segmenting the market might occur in two ways.

    First, you may want to target your market by geographic location (e.g., a city, state, or region) and thereby focus on the needs of customers within a defined area. This may also help keep your advertising and promotional costs down because you would be restricting those efforts to a specific area as well.

    Second, you might target a specific customer group (for example dog owners, users of public transportation, or managers above a certain income level) by identifying and directing your promotional activity to those specific groups. You may narrow your target further not only by targeting your customer groups but also by focusing on those groups, within a geographic area. Segmenting and targeting your marketing efforts help your business in the following ways:

    • Marketing your products and services to the wrong potential customers can result in increased overhead.
    • Correctly targeting your products and services can result in increased sales.
    • Identifying your present and potential customers might present opportunities for additional needs in the market.

    Jim Bonvissuto is the co-founder of Business Improvement Group, Inc. and, with more than 30 years of domestic and international multi-industry experience under his belt, is a valued resource to his clients and members of the business community. He is also a member of the COSE Expert Network

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  • Next up: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Likes

    A Picture is Worth a Thousand Likes

    Enhancing Your Presentations Using Visual Aids

    Whether informative, educational, persuasive, or even motivational, presentations have become a key communication tool in advancing the knowledge base of their audiences. For many of us, they are a critical component to our professional success, as each of us has likely been called upon at some point in our career to deliver a presentation, whether it be an internal proposal to a manager, a high-stakes sales pitch to a client, or in a group setting such as a seminar, national conference, or a training session.

    The reality is that despite our constant exposure to this form of communication, presentations are often considered to be boring and unengaging. According to a survey done by Prezi, the cloud-based presentation company, 46% of employed Americans admit to being distracted during a co-worker’s presentation. Rather than watching the presentation, these survey respondents usually send text messages, answer emails, surf the web, check social media, or even fall asleep.

    Visual Aids Make Presentations More Memorable
    More and more the use of visual aids is becoming essential to enhancing the effectiveness of a presentation. Beyond assisting you with keeping your audience engaged, visual aids facilitate understanding, increase audience interest, and give you an all-around better chance at a memorable presentation. We see evidence of this in another recent study which showed that audience members who only heard a presenter remembered about 10% of the information delivered, whereas audience members who both heard and saw visual information remembered about 65% of the information.

    So why not incorporate visual aids into your presentations? Charts, graphs, posters, videos, props, handouts…whatever medium that best helps get your message across. You may even consider leveraging our off-site printing offering through the COSE Office Depot Savings Program. Recently, we negotiated additional price reductions for off-site printing services exclusively for COSE members. The previous price for black and white copies through our program was $0.027 with color copies at $0.34. COSE members now pay $0.025 for black and white copies and $0.22 for color. Additionally, we have secured a 40% discount on a list of over 500 additional items including posters, pop-up banners, brochures, manuals, decals, and other signage…any of which could make an excellent addition to your next presentation.

    You can take advantage of this benefit at any of your local Office Depot or OfficeMax stores. You can simply upload your digital artwork and pick up your printed material when it is convenient for you. Simply present your COSE Store Purchasing Card at the time of check-out.

    If you have any further questions about off-site printing through the COSE Office Depot Savings Program, visit the website, or contact us at 844.289.6728.

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  • Next up: A Resource to Grow Your Business

    A Resource to Grow Your Business

    Designed by the nation’s top-ranked entrepreneurship school, Babson College, the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program provides entrepreneurs with the know-how they need to tackle a wide range of issues that impact their business. This includes a focus on practical business skills that can be immediately applied by business owners, including negotiation, marketing and employee management. 

    Designed by the nation’s top-ranked entrepreneurship school, Babson College, the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program provides entrepreneurs with the know-how they need to tackle a wide range of issues that impact their business. This includes a focus on practical business skills that can be immediately applied by business owners, including negotiation, marketing and employee management.

    With the deadline for this year’s applicants looming on Feb. 23, I thought I’d take some time to answer some of the most common questions I’m asked about Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses.

    Why should I take time away from my business for Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses?

    I hear this all the time. And my response is: I know you’re busy. But honestly, when was the last time you told yourself, “This is the year I am going to focus on growing my business”? Well, this is the year you can make that statement. Take a look at the program. Are these topics that could help you and your business? If so, take five minutes to complete the simple application before this year’s deadline of Feb. 23.

    OK, I do want to grow my business and the curriculum looks good. But how can I apply these lessons to my business?

    I’ve seen a lot of people come through the program, but one of my favorite stories is from Matt Radicelli, the owner and founder of Rock the House Entertainment. Matt likes to talk about how he learned that while it’s true that anyone could be your competitor, anyone can also be your partner.  Matt used the lessons he learned on how to acquire and partner with other organizations to use and in result, teamed with one of his biggest competitors. This has helped his business grow. And that’s just one of the various success stories I’ve seen emerge following completion of the program

    What else can I expect to get out of this?

    One of the hidden benefits of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is that it is going to expand your business stratosphere. On the first day of class, most business owners don’t know each other. By the end of the course, they have not only developed relationships and a support network, but they’re also doing business with each other. I should also mention that there are a myriad of resources made available to participants throughout the region that are available and eager to assist in growing their business.

    So, how much is this going to set me back?

    It’s free! There are no hidden fees or gimmicks to get you to buy something once you’re in. The program is sponsored by Goldman Sachs, which means the business owners who are chosen to participate get to do so without paying a cent.

    What have you got to lose? The application is easy to fill out and the course won’t cost you a dime. Get your application in before the deadline of Feb. 23 and make 2017 the year you commit to jumpstarting your business growth!

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