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make-sure-your-seo-is-wearing-a-white-hat.jpgThe New York Times piled some fairly harmful media attention on JC Penney over the weekend by questioning how the behemoth U.S. retailer was able to consistently turn up first in line on Google’s search results for a large number of seemingly unrelated keywords. From “bedding” to “blue jeans,” the JC Penney name popped up as the top spot inGoogle, which prompted the Times investigation.

What the newspaper suggested was that Penney’s was employing “black hat” search engine optimization techniques, which I and others — including Google — consider cheating.

I’d be willing to wager that one red flag prompting closer inspection was a Times Google search for the term “Samsonite carry-on luggage” which ranked Penney’s website ahead of Samsonite’s own home page. How on earth is that possible? The newspaper’s research also turned up links to Penney’s women’s dresses on sites that primarily focused on dogs, disease, diamond-bit drills, online games, travel and snoring.

So how did Penney’s accomplish such prime search engine results? In the case of Google, its search engines judge the importance of a website partially by the number of links that come into the site, as well as the quality of those links. In other words, if your motorcycle repair shop has six links coming into it and your competition has 60, the competing business should — quite logically — rank higher in Google’s search results for the search word “motorcycle.” Read the rest of this entry »

subway1.jpgEverybody knows Subway is a successful franchise chain. But did you know last year it cracked 33,000 units and should shortly hit 34,000? The fresh-sandwich chain passed McDonald’s to take the top fast-food franchise crown — the Golden Arches have just 32,000 restaurants. This may seem like a big-business story at first, but Subway and McDonald’s have made their brand one locally owned franchisee at a time. The chains are essentially huge conglomerations of mom-and-pop restaurants.

The tale of how Subway overtook the longstanding leader in their sector has many lessons for small business owners everywhere. Here are some of the factors that let Subway move ahead:

1. Tell a great story. When Subway found the original Biggest Loser, then-student Jared, the company had the sense to jump on the story and keep it growing. Subway could have just had a motto along the lines of “our food is lower fat and healthier than our competitors,” but it wouldn’t have been nearly as compelling as ”Hey, look at me — I ate exclusively at Subway and lost tons of weight!”

This could have been a one-season marketing arc, but instead Subway kept it growing and fed Jared fans a steady stream of new information for many years. The corporate website still has a whole tab about Jared that goes back to his very first commercial. Read the rest of this entry »

three-tips-for-entrepreneurs.jpgEvery time a grocery bagger said paper or plastic, Margaret Moss would cringe, envisioning the stashes of used bags in her car or kitchen.

Her yearning to go green eventually led to a business idea: a set of reusable bags that fit into a handy pouch. In 2009, after investigating consumer camping gear and experimenting with an old sewing kit, the mother of triplets launched Repax Bags LLC with partners Sammie Bohn and Valerie Fischer.

The Metairie, La.-based company is still tiny, bringing in annual revenue of about $30,000 in 2010. But it has succeeded in winning shelf space in Whole Foods Markets, Louisiana supermarket-chain Rouses and other U.S. grocery stories. Sets retail for about $20 and include four machine-washable bags, which can each hold up to 20 pounds.

As with many new entrepreneurs, every day is an adventure and brings new learning experiences, Moss says. Here are three lessons from her journey she shares with other new business owners.


1. Don’t look too far ahead.

It’s important to let your inspiration for the idea keep you motivated toward successfully creating the final product. For Repax, each new step brought big challenges but also brought creative solutions. If you look too far ahead, it can be overwhelming, so stick to the task at hand and find the best solutions for now.  Read the rest of this entry »

as posted on Entrepreneurs.com:

Google AdWords has been around for more than 10 years, but it remains a mystery to many online business owners.

AdWords offers pay-per-click advertising and site-targeted advertising for text, banner, and rich-media ads. For many users, the results can be more measurable and economical than other forms of advertising, according to Perry Marshall, co-author of Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords(Entrepreneur Press, 2006) and owner of Chicago-based consulting firm Perry S. Marshall & Associates. Marshall will be talking about Google AdWords at Entrepreneur‘s 2011 Growth Conference Jan. 20 in Atlanta.

He says despite the ease with which one can set up a Google AdWords account, the service isn’t always intuitive. We asked Marshall to share his top three secrets for getting the most from Google AdWords:

1. Narrow your focus. If you sell mens’ clothing, for example, don’t bid on the keywords for every single item you sell and then send people to your home page. Choose specific items you want to advertise, write ads for them, and send visitors straight to a webpage built for that specific item.

2. Test your ads. Try out ads using different words and then measure and compare the results. The difference in how Google users may respond to even individual words in one ad can be amazing.

3. Offer visitors something to act on. As soon as customers land on your site, make a sale offer, give out a coupon, ask them to register for a white paper or fill in a quote request. This is marketing-speak for a “call to action.” Use Google’s conversion tracker to measure the results.

Using a call to action switches your mindset from “buying clicks” to “buying results,” Marshall says. “If you want more sales leads, this will guide you to more leads for less money.”

 

By Justin Velez-Hagan

We often receive questions about business opportunities and their potential for success.  Although I have come across some crazy business ideas that ended up being gold mines, there are a lot of scams that you need to be aware of if you are looking for a “work-from-home” business.

Here are just a few of the nefarious sort that I came across on Forbes.com.  Check it out before you consider a business.

No matter what the opportunity, research, research, research.  At a minimum Read the rest of this entry »

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