3 Things to Know: Making Virtual Internships Meaningful

Just because it's virtual doesn't mean it can't be meaningful. Here are three things you should know about creating virtual internship programs that work for students and for your business.

 

Many businesses are still working remotely—and some businesses are considering switching to at least part-time remote work permanently.

So where does that leave internships?

You can still provide meaningful internship programs for students and for your business even if doing so virtually. Here are three things we think you should know when it comes to virtual internships.

First thing to know: It’s still important—maybe even more so—for interns to get to know the team.

You may be staring at each other on a screen instead of gathering around a meeting table, but that doesn’t mean interns can’t develop relationships with the rest of the team. It’s probably more important now than ever that you maintain culture and connection in this digital world—including with internships.

Think outside the box when it comes to keeping interns engaged and forming connections. Virtual happy hours, trivia games, scavenger hunts, pizza making lunches… we’ve learned that so much can be done online together so use your imagination and take into consideration what interests your team.

Second thing to know: Set clear expectations and communicate often.

When everyone knows what is expected from them—and what they can expect from others—businesses always run more smoothly. Interns, especially when virtual, need clear and consistent expectations and communication. Ask your interns how they would like to be communicated with and make sure everyone is on the same page. Specifically, let them know if you expect cameras to be turned on at all times, or any other requirement that might be particular to working virtually.

Another way to increase communication with interns and ensure expectations are clear and being met is by using the buddy system. Assign each intern a regular staff member to check in with about how things are going and set up regular virtual meetings and lunches. This will also give interns a sense of security and increase engagement.

Third thing to know: Your workforce depends on Gen Z—get to know them.

You may think you’re only providing internships for students right now—but if you’re looking to grow your workforce and your business, you’ll be depending on Generation Z for a long time. If you’re hoping to ultimately offer your interns positions with your business, it’s crucial that you get to know this up-and-coming generation of workers. Here are 11 things to know and expect from Gen Z, as well as seven must-have characteristics they are looking for in a job.

Be sure to check out GCP's Internship Central site, full of additional information for planning and managing your summer internship program—even during these uncertain times.

 

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  • Next up: 3 Things to Know: Halfway Through 2021

    3 Things to Know: Halfway Through 2021

    Now that we are halfway though the year, how is it going with the tips and tricks our MYB experts have shared over the past six months? Let us know how your business is fairing so far in 2021.

     

    We’re at the halfway point—six months into 2021—and we thought we’d check in to see how the year is going for your business. Since the start of 2021, our MYB contributors have provided many tips and tools of the trade that can improve your leadership and help your business survive and thrive. So, how’s it going?

    First thing to know: Your website is what makes you accessible.

    With a good website, your current and prospective customers and clients can reach you any time of day. But they have to be able to find you first—and we’ve provided many thoughts on this important topic over the last six months. How’s it going with the 12 effective ways to improve your online presence in 2021? Have you implemented any?

    Our experts have also discussed the importance of an effective digital marketing plan this year. Hopefully, with the digital marketing tactics in 2021 that we provided, you’re well on your way to a solid plan. If not, there’s still plenty of time to check it out and get a plan in place that works for your small business.

    An accessible website means a website that all people can access—including those who are living with physical challenges. MYB contributors have provided several pieces of advice on this topic. Since you now know the reasons why accessibility is important in a website, how is it going ensuring your site is ADA compliant?

    Second thing to know: Delegation is a key to success.

    Have your efforts to delegate improved? As we talked about earlier this year, effective delegation is an essential leadership skill for entrepreneurs. If you didn’t take advantage of it the first six months, understanding why and how to delegate can still help you the second half of the year. Lead your business into even greater success—free up time so you can concentrate on the must-dos on your list and empower other members of your team.

    Third thing to know: Customers deserve five-star treatment.

    If there’s one thing small businesses have learned this past year, it’s that loyal customers are priceless. For those who have stuck with you through COVID, and for those who are new to your scene, great customer service is crucial. So, have you been following our five steps to improving your customer service? Try concentrating these next six months (and beyond) on providing the five-star customer service treatment to everyone who invests in your business—you will be sure to reap many benefits from this approach.

    How is your business fairing so far in 2021? Let us know on twitter.

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  • Next up: 3 Things to Know: Spring Cleaning Your Business

    3 Things to Know: Spring Cleaning Your Business

    Spring cleaning isn't just for your home. It's also a great time of year to tidy up many aspects of your business, including your brand, finances, and important documents.

     

    The sun is shining, the birds are singing—spring has finally sprung in Cleveland. Many of us use this time to accomplish some spring cleaning around the house. But it can also be a good time to clean up your business and get organized. Here are three things we think are important to consider as you work on spring cleaning your business.

    First thing to know: Breathe new life into your brand

    Is your brand about as dusty as your baseboards (*checks baseboards*)? If it’s been a minute since you really sat down to review your brand, there’s no time to waste. Check out these 4 Ways to Refresh Your Brand. If budget is a concern—and isn’t it always?—we come bearing gifts. Here are 13 Tips to get Your Brand Balling on a budget, as well as four free ways to accomplish Branding on a Budget.

    Second thing to know: Freshen up your finances

    Handling your finances is more than just knowing your bottom line—it’s also about understanding how fiscally fit you are. Does your financial future need some invigorating, or do you have everything under control? Find out with this short quiz to Check Your Fiscal Fitness.

    Let’s not forget about financial planning. There are steps you can take during each of your Financial Stages of Life that will help you build, and then maintain, your personal financial security. And be sure you understand the Importance of Business Succession Planning and what steps you need to take for a secure future.

    Third thing to know: How’s your handbook (and other documents)?

    Does your business have its own employee handbook? No business is too small for this important document. If you don’t have one, now is a good time to get started putting one together. If you do already have an employee handbook, we bet it’s probably due for refreshening.

    From at-will information to disciplinary actions, you should ask yourself, Do You Have These 10 Things in Your Employee Handbook? A good employee handbook will make sure your entire team is on the same page when it comes to understanding the expectations and policies of your business.

    Why stop there? Your business has many important documents that need regular sprucing up. Check out these other resources:

    5 Must-Have Items for Your Staffing Toolkit

    7 Tools You Need in Your Legal Toolkit

    9 Things You Should Include in an Offer Letter

     

    Check out more articles in our 3 Things to Know series.

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  • Next up: How to Set Up an Effective SEO Content Strategy in 4 Steps

    How to Set Up an Effective SEO Content Strategy in 4 Steps

    If content is king, then an SEO content strategy is your ace-in-the-hole. Check out these four simple steps to creating an effective strategy to get your small business noticed.

     

    The saying “content is king” has become a cliché in marketing circles—but it still holds true.

    To attract customers to your business, you need to first attract them to your website. And to attract them to your website, you must first have some valuable content in place. Developing an SEO content strategy streamlines the entire process of content creation and optimization.

    So the question is: How can you create great content on a regular basis? While there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, there are certain steps you can take to make sure that your content is driven by SEO best practices, and delights your users at the same time. Let’s dig into some of the details.

    Here are four basic steps to creating an effective SEO content strategy.

    Step No. 1: Identify Your Target Audience
    First and foremost, you need to clearly identify your target audience. In other words, for whom you are writing.

    Of course, you may say, “We are writing for everyone who needs our product!”—which is true. But the more details you can uncover about your “ideal customer,” the more effective your SEO content strategy will be.

    This is where a buyer persona really comes in handy. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional profile of your ideal customer. It’s based on attributes like age range, gender, education level, income level, occupation, and so forth. But you can expand your buyer persona to answer questions like:

    What are my ideal customers’ goals, interests, and concerns?
    What pain points are they dealing with?
    How can our product solve those pain points?
    Why would customers buy from us, instead of our competitors?

    As you flesh out your buyer persona, you’ll be able to create content that resonates with your target audience. As a result, you’ll gain new visitors to your site—and you’ll keep existing customers coming back for more.

    Keep in mind; your buyer personas will evolve as your business does.

    Assumptions you may have made initially about who would benefit from your products or services may not have been in your business’s best interests. For example, you realize that the initial version of your personas can’t afford or aren’t willing to spend for the value you bring to the table.

    It is therefore imperative to regularly validate and update your buyer personas to make sure your content is hitting its mark and resonating with the right audience.

    Customer persona validation doesn’t have to be a tedious or expensive process. In-person interviews and online surveys (using tools like SurveyMonkey and Typeform) are powerful ways to get real-time and actionable data to help you understand your customer and hone your content.

    Here’s a great video highlighting some key points to keep in mind.

    Step No. 2: Develop Topic Clusters or Content Themes
    The topic cluster model is an SEO strategy that focuses on addressing topics rather than just keyword phrases. It’s important to remember that Google and other search engines have been focusing more on user intent rather than just strictly keywords.

    By creating content themes or topic clusters, you cast a wider but more focused net to attract and capture the attention of potential clients. By adopting a topic cluster model, you improve your site architecture; you make it easy for users and search engines to find related content, ultimately improving your site visibility and rankings. It does this by creating a semantic relationship between your related content and demonstrating that you are an authority in the subject matter worthy of attention and rank.

    This model works as follows:
    --You create pillar content for each broader concept and create supporting content with specific long-tail keywords to flesh out each sub-topic or aspect.
    --The pillar links out to each cluster page, and each cluster page links back to the pillar content using the same anchor text/keyword phrase.
    --That way, when any piece of content in the cluster does well, the entire cluster gets a boost.

    Here is a short Hubspot video that explains the model.

    Step No. 3: Determine Which Keywords to Use
    Once you’ve clearly identified your target audience and developed your content buckets, the next step is to identify which keywords to incorporate in your content.

    Remember, when it comes to SEO content, you’re actually writing for two audiences: your human customers, and the search engines they use. You want to develop your content so that it’s relevant to your customers’ search queries, but also ranks as high as possible on Google.

    Using the right keywords is essential. For some companies, broad keywords are the best option. For instance, if you type in “iPad,” which corporation do you think will pop up first in Google’s results? However, smaller businesses often find that geo-specific search phrases (like “pizza near me,” for example) or long-tail keywords (search phrases with three or more words) work better. These keywords often come with less competition from companies in the same industry—and are usually more relevant to your target audience anyway.

    RELATED: Effective SEO trends for your small business in 2021

    How can you identify the best keywords to use? There are several keyword research tools on the Internet, and some of them are free. Others charge a monthly rate for their services. These tools can help you to determine which keywords have the highest volume of search traffic, and which ones come with the stiffest competition.

    Once you determine which keywords to use in your content, you’ll be ready for the next step of your SEO content strategy, which is…

    Step No. 4: Create the Content!
    Now it’s time to actually write that blog post (or have someone else do it for you if that’s not your jam).

    You have your target audience and the topic clusters in mind, and you have the keywords to build around. Here are some other elements to keep in mind:

    Brand voice: You want the “voice” and “tone” of your content to reflect the sensibilities of your ideal customer. For instance, if you are targeting conservative housewives who don’t like aggressive language, then leading off your content with: “ARE YOU READY TO CRUSH YOUR DAY?!” may not be the best strategy.

    Linking: There are two basic linking tactics you can employ—back-linking and internal linking. Back-links are links you include in your content that redirect the user to another website. These are great ways to back up your claims with authoritative data—but only if you link back to trustworthy sites!

    Internal links, on the other hand, are links to other pages on your site—and ideally to those pages in your topic cluster. Think of these links as a way to gradually build up your own credibility as far as Google’s algorithm is concerned.

    Metadata: It’s a good idea to incorporate metadata into your content (i.e., data that’s visible to search engines, but not necessarily to users).
    Metadata like tags and descriptions for your content can help search engines to more effectively categorize your web pages, and return more relevant search results for your target audience.

    Of course, some metadata is visible to users, as well. For instance, a page’s meta description on Google Search acts as a brief summary of what the content includes and can drive traffic to your site.

    Content delivery schedule: It’s important to post content to your site on a consistent basis. You don’t want to confuse or frustrate your followers by posting 10 new articles in one week, but only two in the next.

    With that in mind, make sure you have your content strategy planned out several months in advance. Create a workable schedule with some built-in flexibility in case you need to make an adjustment “on-the-fly.

    Also, schedule out when to update your content—outdated content is not only a no-no for SEO purposes, but it doesn’t reflect well on your brand, either.

    *Pro Tip! Convert your written work into video content as well to leverage the incredible power of video marketing!

    RELATED: Read more by Nachum Langsner

    Of course, there’s much more to creating content than what we’ve mentioned above (like SEO copywriting for example). But if you follow these basic steps, you’ll be in a much better position to deploy your SEO content strategy in an effective way.

    Partner With Experienced SEO Content Strategy Experts
    The good news is, you don’t have to develop and implement your strategy all by yourself.

    Many local businesses have partnered with an experienced digital marketing agency to form a sound SEO content strategy and generate high-performing content.

    In today’s highly competitive market, working with experts is the best way to capture more leads, convert more customers, and keep existing clients coming back.

    If you’d like to discuss how we can help you set up and implement an effective SEO content strategy, reach out to us today to start the conversation.

    Nachum Langsner is the Co-Founder & CMO of LocalBizGuru, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Cleveland, OH. He has over 10+ years of experience in the SEO industry and is a frequent presenter and instructor of digital marketing and SEO seminars for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Greater Cleveland area for organizations such as COSE, Jumpstart, the Better Business Bureau, Score and the Ohio SBDC at CSU. 

     
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  • Next up: 8 Highly Effective SEO Trends for Your Small Business in 2021

    8 Highly Effective SEO Trends for Your Small Business in 2021

    From artificial intelligence to keyword phrases, here are eight search engine optimization trends worth watching in 2021.

     

    Attracting visitors to your site can be an uphill task without an effective site optimization strategy. Statistics show that Google has approximately 3.5 billion searches daily. Every website competes for the top position, but only the effectively optimized ones make it to the top search results. 

    For your site to generate the much-needed traffic, it needs to rank on the first page. That brings us to the importance of search engine optimization and current SEO trends. 

    SEO Trends in 2021 Worth Watching

    For your site to have top-ranking SEO performance, there are many metrics you must pay attention to. These include backlinks, traffic, social shares, and others. However, these SEO elements are constantly evolving, thanks to Google algorithms. What works today may not tomorrow.

    This guide offers insights into useful SEO trends in 2021 to help your site obtain a dominate presence online. 

    SEO Trend No. 1: Artificial Intelligence 

    Artificial intelligence is affecting many aspects of business and how people interact with content on online platforms. The reason behind the transformation AI provides is the personalization it delivers to users. Google is making use of AI to deliver the exact results searchers look for. The success of the tool is in its unique ability to learn. 

    Experts believe that by using AI, you can create more powerful content for your site. You also can augment your keyword research, optimize all digital platforms, and maximize link building.

    RELATED: 5 Reasons to Invest in SEO

    SEO Trend No. 2: Original High-Value Content

    Content plays a fundamental role in SEO and ranking, but quality is of utmost importance. Authentic content plays a more significant role than just branding. Producing content similar to what already exists on Google reduces your chances of ranking highly. 

    Ensure your content adds value in your own language and brand voice. Most importantly, it must adhere to Google’s EAT principle. This refers to Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness—factors that Google uses to determine the quality of content in a webpage. This can be accomplished by backing up your content with facts and statistics, linking to reputable and authoritative sites, and constantly updating your content with the most recent perspectives. 

    SEO Trend No. 3: Video Content

    If ‘Content is King’, video content is the crown. Currently, YouTube has over 1 billion users and counting. Cisco projects that video content is set to take over all other forms of content in traffic and consumption. 

    Optimization of your video content is crucial. The description should be more than just a collection of keywords. It needs to provide a clear overview of the channel. Get some inspiration from your chosen platform’s auto-complete feature. 

    SEO Trend No. 4: Featured Snippets

    Featured Snippets appear in a rectangular box at the top of the SERP. Snippets are useful for websites and help in ranking. Unfortunately, you can’t choose the content that appears in the snippet as it all depends on the Google Algorithm bots. 

    It’s not clear the exact approach one can use to get a webpage in the Featured Snippet, however, SEO experts suggest a few helpful strategies. First, answer a specific question in bullet form or well-structured content for better chances of success. Properly format your content using the proper header tags in a well-organized hierarchy. Summarize your article into bullet points at the beginning or end of your content following the header tag hierarchy we mentioned above. Then, make sure you mark up that content in Schema to improve your chances of getting your content to rank.

    RELATED: 12 Ways to Improve Your Online Presence

    SEO Trend No. 5: Image Optimization

    Images influence people’s purchasing decisions. Google insists on the importance of optimizing images and it’s important to make this part of your long-term strategy. 

    Incorporate high-quality, relevant images in your content marketing strategy. Ensure you customize the file name by labeling the photo file. This makes it relevant to the corresponding page’s content and helps it rank. Using alt tags will also be helpful since crawlers use them to classify images. Make sure to minimize the pixel density without compromising image quality for quicker load times. Lastly, incorporate images in your site map for easier crawling. 

    SEO Trend No. 6: Structured Data

    The use of structured data helps search engines to better understand your content. Google provides a tool for Structured Data testing to help you familiarize yourself with the idea. Using structured data for your landing pages and website will significantly help your site rank highly. 

    SEO Trend No. 7: User Intent Keyword Phrases 

    Primary keywords, secondary keywords, and long-tail keywords should all characterize your content creation strategy. Long-tail keywords (keywords or key phrases that are more specific – and usually longer – than more commonly used keywords) account for approximately 70% of all online searches. They can significantly help you outrank the competition as they have a 36% conversion rate. The more relevant and suitable your keywords are to your audience, the better placed you are to rank highly—so make sure to create content specifically tailored to your audience needs.

    RELATED: Read more by Nachum Langsner

    SEO Trend No. 8: Core Web Vitals & Good User Experience

    Core web vitals are three measures Google has chosen to reflect real-world page experience metrics. Google sees loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability as important to a good user experience and have been incorporated in their algorithm as a ranking factor. It is imperative to reduce the coding bloat and structure your website elements in a way that improves user experience.

    SEO trends in 2021 – Final Thoughts

    Search engine optimization is a complex but crucial component for businesses looking to compete online. The above SEO trends in 2021 only make this clear, and you have to think about them critically. If you want to beat the competition, ensure you implement these strategies effectively.

    An expert in SEO and Digital Marketing can help you get tangible results with your SEO strategy. Contact us today.

    Nachum Langsner is the Co-Founder & CMO of LocalBizGuru, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Cleveland, OH. He has over 10+ years of experience in the SEO industry and is a frequent presenter and instructor of digital marketing and SEO seminars for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Greater Cleveland area for organizations such as COSE, Jumpstart, the Better Business Bureau, Score and the Ohio SBDC at CSU. 

     
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  • Next up: 3 Things to Know: One Year Into COVID-19

    3 Things to Know: One Year Into COVID-19

    It's been quite a year! Here are three things we think you should know now that we are one year into COVID and remote working.

     

    It’s been a full year since phrases like social distancing, “you’re on mute” and zoom happy hours became regulars in our daily language. Whether your team is back in the office or you’re still working virtually, here are three things we think you should know about COVID and the workplace one year later.

    First thing to know: It can still be stressful even one year in.

    The stress at the onset of the pandemic was one like no other. But even after a year of COVID-19 and its impact on the economy—and probably your small business—you may still be reeling from everything you’ve experienced this year. Take care of yourself and your business with these six tips to dealing with COVID stress.

    Second thing to know: You can do it all from the comfort of your home.

    One thing we found out pretty quickly as a workforce is that we can be just as productive in our sweatpants at our kitchen table as we are in the office. If your team is still virtual, we’ve featured several articles on the blog this past year to help you accomplish everything you need to without leaving your living room. From Networking in the Age of COVID-19 to Virtual Recruitment Best Practices, don’t miss a beat when it comes to operating through the pandemic.

    Third thing to know: Preparation is key next time disaster strikes.

    Nobody could have predicted a global pandemic, but it probably won’t be the last time your business faces distress and uncertainty. Being better prepared starts with ensuring your team is properly trained to handle disaster, as well as reviewing this small business security checklist.

    Check out other articles in our 3 Things to Know series.

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