7 Tips That Can Help Beef Up PC Security for Your Office and Home

There are lots of bad guys out there in the cyber world. And those bad guys have created viruses, bots, worms, trojans, spyware, rootkits, and all sorts of sophisticated malware, in an effort to steal your data. According to the Nortn Cybercrime report there are over 1.5 million victims each day. Yet, most people can protect themselves simply by beefing up their computers and reducing their vulnerabilities. Here are seven tips and tricks for keeping your data and online identity safe and secure.

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1. Keep your operating system updated.

When it comes to having Windows running smoothly and securely on your computer, too many users neglect to keep their software updated. But it’s important to keep your operating system refreshed with the latest security updates and patches, so that your system isn’t vulnerable to the plethora of new attacks that pop up every day. In both Windows 7 and 8, this can be easily done by turning on “automatic updating.” This will let Windows install important updates as they become available. Alternatively, you can manually install updates on your own, but this way Windows takes care of the updates for you.

2. Always have firewall and antivirus software running.

Most new PCs come with some form of pre-loaded firewall and anti-virus software inside of an Internet security suite, but too many people neglect to keep paying for the suite past the included free trial. The result is a neglected computer running an Internet security suite that is not up-to-date with the latest virus definitions and security patches. Even worse, many security suites will stop working once the free trial is up, leaving your PC unprotected.

I highly recommend Norton Internet Security for both home and small business users looking for an unobtrusive Internet security system. It comes complete with a firewall, antivirus, and anti-spyware features and costs just $49.99 when purchased online via a download. For that price, you get one year of updates, as well as the ability to run the software on up to three computers at once. That is an average savings of $30, compared to store shelf prices.

However, if you’re not willing to shell out that kind of money, I suggest downloading a free alternative such as Comodo Internet Security. That said, there are significant benefits to paying for a service like Norton’s, such as technical support. Furthermore, most free anti-virus and firewall software are meant for home use only, and are not intended for business use.

3. Keep your system updated.

If I had a penny for every computer I sat down at that wasn’t running an updated Internet security suite, well, I would have a lot of pennies. So it’s not enough to have a good system running; you also need to make sure that suite is updated with the latest virus definitions and patches.

4. Protect yourself from phishing scams.

Phishing scams happen when identity thieves try to steal your usernames, passwords, and other details by masquerading as trustworthy entities in an e-mail or on a website. Unfortunately, these days the fakes are starting to look more and more genuine than ever—so much that we can all use some help discerning the good sites from the bad ones. Fortunately, Internet security suites like Norton include phishing protection for your browser, while web browsers like Google Chrome also offer built-in phishing and malware detection that are turned on by default.

Alternatively you can use a free browser extension like the Netcraft Anti-Phishing extension, which offers extra insight into the site you’re visiting, so that you can make informed decisions before submitting your data and clicking on links on unknown websites. The Netcraft extension is compatible with both Firefox and Google Chrome.

There are over 1.5 million victims of cybercrime each day.

5. Practice safe computing.

There are some simple online practices that can easily help prevent hackers from getting access to your data. For example, never pay your bills or access highly confidential financial accounts while using a public WiFi hotspot.

6. Use a password manager.

For an extra level of security when it comes to protecting your passwords, using a secure password manager is the way to go. In particular, LastPass is one of the most secure online password managers out there, and it’s free. The service encrypts your password database and automatically logs you into your account on the site you’re visiting. This system helps further protect you from phishing scams and malware.

7. Choose a secure cloud storage provider.

Speaking of password-protecting your data, the number of cloud storage users is growing at a fast pace. According to a press release by IHS Suppli, cloud storage subscriptions are expected to jump to 625 million . So it’s especially important to use extra secure cloud storage services, especially if you’re using these services to store important business documents.

SugarSync is one such cloud storage service that excels when it comes to keeping your data secure. As a matter of fact, it uses 128-bit AES, which is the same level of protection used for most online financial transactions. It also offers a special plan for businesses which costs $29.95 a month for 100GB of storage that can be shared with up to 3 users. Last but not least, SugarSync has a free personal plan with 5GB of storage and is fortunately just as secure.

Why I Think Generic Brands Are Worth It

A basic principle that helps to manage personal finances is to cut down on unnecessary costs by getting the same product for less. I was recently hanging out with a friend who mentioned that she never buys generic items at the grocery store because she doesn’t trust them, since they’re not from brands she’s heard of. This really took me aback: The objection to generic items is largely a fallacy! Oftentimes, there’s little to no difference between name-brand and generic items that you find in stores—I’ve even heard stories about how the same factories will produce both the name-brand and generic varieties.  More than that, generic grocery items are often more than 50% cheaper than name-brand equivalents, and generic medicines tend to be as much as 80% cheaper. Going generic can help you cut costs, and go a long way toward managing bills each month.

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So, think twice before going for that Quaker Oats instead of the generic. Look at the nutrition facts of both: They’re virtually (or actually) identical, as are the ingredients!

Why, then, do name-brand items cost more? It boils down to the marketing. Psychology studies have shown that people tend to gravitate toward and buy brands they’ve heard of before. Maybe it’s a trust thing, but even if they don’t know much about the brand, they’ll still gravitate toward it because they’ve heard of it. Meanwhile, generic brands don’t even try to compete in that way because – instead of spending money on marketing and pretty packaging – they pass along the money as savings to the consumer. Perhaps the companies are trying to appeal to different consumers—for one, the competitive advantage is marketing and packaging, whereas for the other it’s just price. And, if you’re like me, you’ll agree that price is the variable that may actually make a lasting difference in your life.

Meanwhile, some generic brands have products that are as good as or even better than the originals! For example, Duane Reade (a New York area drug store) has put a lot of time and energy into creating attractive generic products, with its own Duane Reade branding. For example, I always used to like York peppermint patties, but I recently bought the drug store version instead and brought them to a get together. They were different from the originals, but my friends and I all agreed that we liked the generic better!

When it comes to generic drugs, the FDA has approved the medicines to the same standards as name-brand meds. The only differences between the generics and the name-brand meds are the inactive ingredients—legally they can’t be identical, so the generic brands may be a different shape, size, or color, but the active ingredients are the same, and these are fully approved, so don’t worry about dangerous additives.

If you can get the same product for less, why shouldn’t you? You can spend the money you saved on the stuff you really care about.

5 Ways to Save on Summer Sports Camps

With the end of school and the beginning of summer fast approaching, it’s time to start thinking about camps. Whether you’ve got avid sports enthusiasts in your home or kids who just want to try something new, sports camps can be a fantastic option—and they can actually be affordable with a little bit of research.

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Here are five simple ways to help make both active kids and budget-conscious parents happy.

1. Talk to your coach.

In addition to providing solid recommendations for the best local sports camps, your child’s coach might also be able to find you the best deals. Local coaches are often approached by camps with special discount rates for their team members, as well as group rates if a certain number of students attend the same session. Talk with the coach first and then loop in team parents to see if you can organize a group.

2. Check your credit card perks.

You may be able to get special access and discounts with your credit card. Citi ThankYou® cardmembers, for example, have the exclusive opportunity to purchase registration to ProCamps with sports superstars, such as the inaugural LeSean McCoy Football Clinic which I attended recently with my 7-year-old son, who beforehand had only tossed around a football with his dad every now and then. After attending this awesome camp (for boys and girls in grades 1-8), interacting with local high school coaches, and playing football with one of his all-time favorite NFL football stars, he came home begging for a football so he could teach his sisters some of the plays he learned. But that wasn’t all he gained from the experience; the confidence and encouragement he got from being around the coaches and McCoy, who was attentive to all 100 campers (no small feat!), affected his attitude when he played other sports. Check out my blog post for more about our experience at the Citi ThankYou® Sports ProCamp experience.

3. Become a sports club member.

f you’ve been waiting to join your local fitness center or gym, or even the YMCA, now’s the time. During the summer, many of these outlets offer programs for kids—from simple sports-oriented day camps to more intense coaching and training sessions—at special member rates. Also check local sports clubs, like running clubs and soccer leagues, for camp rates that apply to members only.

4. Apply for sports scholarships.

Many camps offer scholarships to high-ability students, so if you’ve got a child who excels at a particular sport, it’s definitely worth inquiring about these opportunities. While there may be an extensive application and evaluation process, you might be able to earn a full or partial scholarship. If you’ve got older kids, this can also serve as excellent preparation for the college-sports scholarship application process.

5. Make your own sports camp.

Team up with a local instructor or coach and create your own camp. It can be as simple as asking a few neighborhood parents to chip in, reserving a spot at a public park, and bringing in an instructor for a few hours each day. You’d be surprised how cost effective this can be, since there are no registration or extraneous fees. Plus, the instructor might be willing to offer you a discount since you’re paying him or her directly.

7 Things to Look For Before Hiring a Realtor

Choosing a realtor is not as easy as it may seem. When you decide to move and you go online to start searching for homes, you may see a pop-up asking if you want to be contacted by a realtor, and you may think why not? But wait! Choosing one takes more time than just one click of a button. So, first things first…

Realtor with sale sign

Research! Get background information on prospective realtors. Before hiring someone, ask how long they’ve been in the business. Find out how well they know the local area in which you’re looking to purchase. The more you know about your realtor, the better your chances of finding the perfect person to help you find your dream home.

Here are 7 important things to look for before hiring a realtor:

1. Ask for a list of recent homes bought and sold. This will give you a feel for what types of homes they normally deal with. Some realtors are experts at selling fixer-uppers, some are experts in a particular price range—most will have a niche. Look at past and current listings for asking prices and selling prices and get an idea of how long their homes typically stay on the market. This will give you a sense of their success rate in negotiating and marketing. Realtors should be willing to share this information.

2. Ask for their license. Make sure the realtor you choose is part of a reputable company and has a license to practice. Call your state’s legislative office and/or local municipality to find out if there have been any disciplinary actions or complaints against them in the past or pending complaints not yet publicly filed.

3. Talk with other clients. What better way to find out about a realtor’s strengths and weaknesses than to ask other clients about their experiences? Ask how available and committed their realtor was in helping to sell or buy a home, and ask them to rate their knowledge and capability. Speaking with other clients is a great way to get inside information, and can often give you a good indication of what your own experience may be like.

Once you’ve completed your investigation into their background, take a look at the realtor as an individual. In other words, do you get along with them on a personal level? Do they show a propensity to listen to you? Are they responsive to your questions and do they help alleviate your fears?

4. Ask yourself if they are relatable. You need to be able to talk to your realtor and feel comfortable—you will be spending a lot of time with that person. You don’t want to feel too shy to ask the questions you need to ask during walk-throughs, home inspections, negotiations, etc.

5. Rate their responsiveness. You shouldn’t ever have to ask your realtor to send you more listings. A great realtor will proactively send you daily updates on new homes to help you stay ahead of the market. Make a note of how quickly the realtor responds to your calls—you might even call a few times to ask questions or leave a message as a test to see how fast they’ll call you back.

6. Look for someone with expert knowledge of the area. You want a realtor who lives in the area and knows everything about the community. Their firsthand knowledge is invaluable—they can tell you about demographics, school districts, kid-friendly parks, up-and-coming areas, etc.

7. Use someone who understands your price range. If you’re looking for a $200,000 home but your realtor typically does business on homes in the $500,000 range, you may want to find someone who knows more about the market for your price range.

So what’s the moral of the story? Before hiring a realtor, find out everything you can. Purchasing a home is a major investment and takes a lot of time, so you should be careful choosing your representative. After all, you wouldn’t settle on a house that doesn’t meet your standards, so you shouldn’t settle on a realtor either!

7 Personal Budget Alterations to Build Your Nest Egg

1. Track the item prices of your online purchases for up to a week after you buy. Most major online retailers, including Amazon.com, have policies in place that upon request will refund you the difference if the price on a recently purchased item drops within seven days of the purchase.

Calculating savings
Calculating savings

2. Patronize Hispanic and Asian markets for great ingredients and savings. By now you realize that cooking your own meals saves you huge amounts vs. eating out. You can compound your savings by going to smaller farmer’s markets that feature unique ingredients and much lower produce prices.

3. Get your prescriptions at Costco or other bulk stores over pharmacies. If you have monthly prescriptions to fill that aren’t covered by your current insurance, you can save big by going with big-box stores like Costco. Americans paid 447 percent more a year for generic prescription drugs at the priciest pharmacies compared to the least expensive, according to Consumer Reports.

4. Instead of a gym membership, invest in some running shoes or a used bicycle. The majority of gyms and fitness centers try and lock you into a long-term contract with termination fees and month automatic payments. If you are interested in getting in better shape, buy your own gear and build your own aerobic routine instead of paying to do the same at a crowded gym.

5. Utilize online forums to find awesome local freebies and sales. Sites like Craigslist.com and NextDoor.com provide a free forum for members of a specifically targeted community to notify others about sales and items that they are trying to part ways with. There are always amazing deals on high quality goods on these sites — a little extra work on your part here can save you heaps over the course of a year.

6. Develop a relationship with a local tailor. Instead of purchasing a brand new item from your local mall every time you damage or grow out of a piece of clothing, it is almost always more cost-effective to take the item to a tailor and have them repair the issue. This is especially relevant for parents with growing children.

7. Limit your vices! After a long day, it can be nice (even crucial) to pour a glass of wine or have a cocktail to unwind. While this behavior is entirely appropriate, choosing to cork the bottle and save it for another time instead of going for a second round can benefit your wallet and your daily caloric intake — for those watching their waistline.

As with all things, the key to successful frugality is moderation. If you overload one week, it will be that much easier to slip up and binge-buy later. Remember to reward yourself, but try and keep a checklist and a calendar to track your goals and keep on track to a fun.

7 Ways to Save $50 a Month (or More!) at Home

Close your eyes. Picture a crisp $50 bill appearing like magic on your countertop each month. Think of the fun things you can buy with that! A fancy dinner. A nice bottle of wine. The list goes on.

Pile of Money
Pile of Money

Now, let’s make it happen!

Depending on your specific situation and spending habits, not all of these tips will necessarily net you the full $50, but some may be worth quite a bit more.

Here are seven easy ways to not only save more money at home, but also save more money in general.

1. Plant a tree.

It may seem counterintuitive to save money by purchasing a huge plant, but this is a reliable, long-term money-saving strategy. An adult tree that’s placed on the west side of a home can reduce your air conditioning needs by 30 percent. It will also reduce the energy required for heating by 20 to 50 percent, because trees both shade and insulate.

Depending on how much it costs to heat and cool your home, a few trees can save you $50 a month, no problem.

2. Embrace DIY detergent.

Making your own laundry detergent is a lot easier than you may think. You only need three basic ingredients (washing soda, borax and a bar of soap). These are all pretty cheap, so it will only cost you about five cents per load. That means you’ll only need to spend about $25 per year on detergent. Most store-bought detergents are anywhere from $10 to $20 each, so this can save you a solid chunk of change.

3. Lower your cable bill.

The average monthly cable bill is $75. So, if you can live without Law & Order marathons, canceling your cable is an easy way to save. Tip: If you can’t fathom canceling your cable, there are a few tricks of the trade that can help you reduce your bill by up to 20 percent.

4. Stop relying on coffee shops.

The average coffee shop enthusiast spends more than $80 a month for his daily jolt of caffeine. If you cut ties with those pricey cafes for good, it’s definitely possible to save $50 a month just by brewing your coffee at home. And, if you’ve been downing pricey caramel macchiatos every day, you could save closer to $100 a month.

5. Ditch your landline.

A basic landline phone setup costs about $30 a month in the United States. But that price tag can grow pretty quickly if you add features like nationwide calling and multiple lines. If it’s convenient for you and your household, ditch your landline and use your cell phones. That’s instant money in your pocket.

6. Refinance to lower interest rates.

If you’re paying off any high-interest rate loans on your home, it may be possible (and relatively easy) for you to refinance at a lower interest rate. Loan rates aren’t quite as low as they were about a year ago, but they’re still very much in favor of homeowners with this change, you can easily shave $50 to $100 a month off your monthly payments.

7. Buy diapers in bulk.

If you have kids, you’re probably already familiar with an undeniable truth: Babies poop a lot. In fact, you’ll probably spend around $90 a month on diapers before your kids are potty trained. But, if you buy them in bulk from a store like Costco, you can save at least $30 a month.

How to Raise Money for Your Business With Crowdfunding

Are you looking for money in all the wrong places? Banks, angel investors and venture capitalists don’t seem too willing to put their faith in eager entrepreneurs these days.

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But lo and behold, there’s a new kind of funding that’s getting a lot of buzz.

Crowdfunding is emerging as a powerful way to raise money to start or grow your business.

In 2011 alone, crowdfunding campaigns raised nearly $1.5 billion worldwide. And the industry is expected to experience explosive growth in the United States soon, thanks to the JOBS Act.

What Is Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding, put simply, means you are raising money by persuading “the crowd” to contribute to your project or business idea. In this sense, cash-strapped entrepreneurs have been using crowdfunding for a long time.

For example, it’s fairly common for a business owner to seek small loans from friends and family to help pay start-up costs.

The amazing growth of the Internet and social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, has created an exciting new kind of online crowdfunding campaign.

And it is poised to revolutionize the way small businesses get money to get their ideas off the ground.

Let’s take a quick look at four common crowdfunding models:

Perks-based model rewards the people who contribute to your campaign with perks or rewards, such as a chance to tour your facility and meet your executive team.

Donation-based model allows contributors to donate to a specific cause or project because they believe in it and want to support it.

Debt-based model allows entrepreneurs to borrow money for their business or project, and then pay back contributors after a certain amount of time.

It’s similar to a bank loan, except you’re borrowing small amounts of money from various individuals in hopes of reaching your overall funding goal, rather than seeking a large sum of money from a single financial institution.

Equity-based model allows investors to become shareholders in your company when they contribute money to your crowdfunding campaign. Equity-based campaigns aren’t allowed in the United States yet.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to release guidelines that will make these campaigns legal in 2013.

How to Run an Effective Campaign

If you run an effective crowdfunding campaign, the sky’s the limit. Take the Internet-enabled Pebble watch, for instance. The manufacturer posted its campaign on Kickstarter.com, hoping it could raise $100,000.

To the amazement of everyone involved, it blasted past its goal on the way to racking up an eye-opening $10 million.

So, what makes an effective campaign? Rockethub, a leading perks-based crowdfunding platform, outlined three essential pillars for a compelling campaign during the Crowdfunding Made Simple Conference in Salt Lake City.

1. Project. The emotional appeal of your project or business determines whether people will invest or donate. “Just because somebody is starting a company or launching a band project, doesn’t mean you’ll find success,” says Rockethub CEO Brian Meece. It starts with your message. Your business might be the best, but if you can’t communicate the right message, it doesn’t matter how great your business is.

Identify your why. “A really powerful why resonates with folks. If your why is lame, no one will want to invest in your company,” Meece says. Think long and hard about why you are doing this project and why anybody else would care about it?

2. Network. Use your social capital when you launch your campaign. Talk to your friends and family about contributing to your crowdfunding efforts. If you’re persuasive enough, they’ll pony up some cash and encourage their friends to participate. Before you know it, random strangers might be begging to give you money.

Prime the pump. You’d be surprised how well online social networks can fuel word-of-mouth referrals. But it will only happen if you prime the pump. Some crowdfunding experts recommend that you start getting verbal commitments of support from people you know as much as six months before you launch your campaign.

3. Rewards. The last pillar of an effective campaign is the rewards. Example: “If you donate $100, you get to meet the band backstage at our next gig.” People like receiving something for their contributions. That’s why the Pebble watch campaign took off like it did. The company delivered a compelling message and offered worthwhile rewards. People who contributed $115 received one Jet Black Pebble watch. The campaign also offered other rewards for different contribution amounts.

So, if you’re tired of hitting funding hurdles, give crowdfunding a try. If you do it right, it might exceed your wildest expectations. Just remember, there’s no such thing as free money. Running a successful campaign will require effort, time and commitment.

If you have any questions, please email them to info@growam.com or ask them in the comments. As always, the Grow America Team is here to help you make your business successful so that you can create jobs in your community.

7 Ways to Spark Your Innovative Smarts

Ever wonder how the great innovators do it? How do they develop a product or service that wakes up the marketplace and creates a buying frenzy?

innovative-smarts

Great innovators bring together their observations, experiences, the things they know, and how they feel about them. Then they consider how all these elements relate to one another.

Making connections among these different elements is the key to brilliant concepts and groundbreaking innovation. I call it Red Thread Thinking.

Like the great innovators, you can learn to ignite thinking that channels lots of new ideas. You can apply your own innate knowledge to cultivate brilliant insights that lead to market-moving products or services.

Here are a few examples of how to set a spark to your own innovative smarts.

1. Tinker, tailor, soldier, and buy.

You are not starting with a blank slate. The past provides a deep and provocative well of information, ideas, and insights.

Take a fresh look at what’s gone before, and rework or tweak it to meet a need and gain remarkable advantage.

MIT professor Eric von Hippel discovered that millions of people tinker with existing products to solve a problem or improve functionality. Necessity is the mother of invention, and moneymaking ventures.

An American modified a Harley-Davidson exhaust pipe to create a high-performance
exhaust-cooling device. A frustrated parent reprogrammed a standard GPS so that it could immediately locate objects lost in the house. No more lost earrings, or misplaced licenses or car keys.

People pay for products that make their lives easier.

2. Stop brainstorming.

Innovation begins with the individual: you. Brainstorming doesn’t open up creativity; it slams the door on it.

Studies show that people working alone conceive more fresh ideas than brainstorming groups. This is because your brain can’t make the free-flowing innovative connections it’s capable of in the rigid format of brainstorming sessions. There is too much outside influence and pressure to contribute.

3. Mine the culture.

Know what makes your market tick, and you’ll know what makes them spend. Take advantage of people’s existing habits and behaviors.

The best innovative insights often come from watching. A.G. Lafley, former head of Procter & Gamble, experienced a watershed moment for his company’s fortunes (and consumer research) in Venezuela.

For an hour, he sat in an average homeowner’s cramped kitchen and listened as the young mother described her 31 bottles of cream, lotion, shampoo, and perfume.

Lafley suddenly understood that the products weren’t about what he or P&G’s marketing department said they were; those lotions and potions were about what Maria Yolanda Rios said they were, what she made them into in her life.

Those lotions were her entertainment — and that was very meaningful to her.

As a result of his listening and insight, P&G today still sends observers into the field, to see how potential customers incorporate health and beauty rituals into their lives.

How are they using products and what are they looking for? Observation is crucial to finding market solutions and inspiring successful innovations.

4. Set — don’t follow — trends.

Too often, we are tempted to jump on the bandwagon of an existing trend. Trends are ephemeral; they don’t last. You have a bigger goal, a product that remains part of the culture, in demand and in use because it serves not just needs but also values.

You want to be the brand that people stay with because it forms meaning in their lives, not just because Sarah Jessica Parker says green tea is healthy.

5. Ply your mind.

Research shows you can boost your brain’s innovative output by the challenges you set for it.

Capture new concepts (learn a language), try a demanding task, broaden your knowledge, and interact with stimulating people. Our brains are changing every second in response to the environment and our experiences.

New neurons jump to action in different parts of the brain right into our old age. Prompt your brain to reinvent itself, and it will repay you in market-changing innovative thoughts.

6. Passion is power.

Successful entrepreneurs have the ability to take the personal and professional risks that will benefit and build their businesses. When the project model is off the mark, they shift and pivot, seeking the needed improvements to get it right.

With passion, you can persevere through the challenges, and win.

7. Own your smarts.

When you believe in yourself, you actually generate more good ideas and innovative concepts. Owning your intelligence and insight makes you more open to new possibilities.

Think of yourself as smarter and you begin to fulfill your own expectation. You’ve got the gift of genius. Start making it work for you, and reap the rewards.

All these elements and more come together in Red Thread Thinking. This proven method helps you innovate and successfully problem solve, whether you’re trying to re-energize a major firm that’s become a lumbering giant, bring a start-up to life, or help organize a community fund-raiser.

You can train your brain to be more on target, more supple and inventive, when you need it to be.

How great will that feel? You can start now.

Looking For Cheap SEO Services? Beware Of the Risk!

SEO is definitely one of the most important aspects for the success of your website. You get the best results when you hire a professional. However, professional services come at a cost, which is why lots of people look for “cheap” SEO services. Well, hiring such a service is definitely great on your pocket. But then, how good are these services for your website? More importantly, are the services reliable, especially when Panda and Penguin are so actively creating havoc on the SERPs?

seo-services

Before you read on, bear in mind that not all cheap services are unreliable. The pressure of competition does force a number of efficient and reliable services to slash the rates of their service. So, before you hire a $50 per month SEO, do look into the quality of service the company offers instead of simply going by its costs.

Real SEO would not have suffered the Panda epidemic

Search engine optimization is a process and not exactly an action. When done right, it gets the rank of your website to scale gradually and stay there. An interesting survey conducted in the aftermath of the Panda and Penguin epidemic showed that a majority sites that dropped in ranks used some degree of unethical SEO such as keyword stuffing or invisible SEO text on the page. When you get it cheap, such tricks are likelier.

Black hat is cheap; but black hat is not SEO

When someone promises excellent results within the shortest possible time and within the lowest possible costs, it usually means that there is some black hat involved. Usually, organic SEO takes time. Black hat SEO does get you great results, but then, your drop is equally likely.

Experience comes at a price

An experienced SEO professional is not likely to offer services at a cheap rate because his or her experience demands value. Amateurs, on the other hand, almost always offer low cost services in order to scale their business. Considering the current volatile SEO scenario, experience definitely wins over experiment.

Cheap could mean limited

Let’s simply say that you get what you pay for.  In several cases, cheap services could have hidden terms and conditions that could limit scope of service. You might have to bear numerous additional charges that cumulatively turn out to be higher than the one time cost charged by an expensive SEO service.

Calculate the duration vs. cost

Cheap SEO services might not be able to get you sustainable results. You have to invest more time and money in the long run to keep your website stay put on the higher rungs of SERPs. A better option is to pay higher and obtain sustainable results.

Finally, it all comes down to ROI. Getting low returns on small investment is not as good as getting great results at a slightly higher price. So, before you hire a service, do take some time out to understand its capabilities. Check out testimonials, talk to previous clients and check the Google rank of the SEO company’s website. Make sure that you make the right choice.

SEO And Inbound Marketing

Search engine optimization (also known as SEO) has become a major part of the modern online business ecosystem, especially as it relates to inbound marketing tactics. For those who are unfamiliar, inbound marketing encompasses a wide variety of marketing formats. When you market your content with the use of a blog or social media, that is a form of inbound marketing.

inbound-marketing

Other forms of inbound marketing include community outreach programs, e-mail related campaigns, life cycle management, as well as a host of others. But building these links to your content is useless unless your company has the content to back them up. Pointing users to your content is all well and good, but without the proper content, it is all for naught.

Inbound marketing is executed differently depending on the size of the company. Certain businesses may be short of staff and require one person to handle all of their inbound marketing. Meanwhile, a larger business could have the resources to put an individual to work on each separate aspect.

So where does search engine optimization fit into this complex puzzle? A search engine optimizer should embrace the usage of inbound marketing, as it significantly simplifies their approach. Instead of the old days when a search engine optimizer was sent a company blog spot and told to spruce it up with keywords to increase its Google ranking, those who work in the SEO field are able to do much better marketing.

SEO strategy must be built around a « can do » mentality. Their job is to tie together all of a company’s inbound marketing strategies into one cohesive whole. By doing so, this ensures that the entire company is on board and that everyone is working towards the same goals.

There are several ways that an SEO can help a company improve their overall inbound marketing strategy and execution. First and foremost, they provide important analysis about the latest keywords and trends in the world of online marketing, giving a company the chance to adjust their approach accordingly.

A business’ website is essentially their calling card. A well-constructed site that utilizes responsive web design and prides itself on delivering a satisfactory browsing experience for the user is hugely important to a company’s long term success.

An SEO will work alongside of the web development team to ensure that the site has no errors and is easy for a browser to use, which increases their chances of using inbound marketing to convert leads into sales. They will also help your company build key relationships with those who can positively influence your site’s growth by sharing your material and linking to it.

Search engine optimization is a process that never stops. What will work for your company today could be obsolete by tomorrow. Inbound marketing strategies cannot remain static, they must be adjusted to meet the demands of the changing times.

By working with the CEO of the company, an SEO helps to provide important data that will influence the upcoming improvements made to your website and the way that your company does business. Being able to draw customers through inbound marketing is not enough, there must be a viable strategy for retention.

The way people use search engines to find businesses and products is much different than it was in the past. People used to search for something once, using one keyword and they made their decisions based off what they uncovered during this initial foray into the Internet.

But consumer savvy is now at an all time high. No longer do people simply select the first product that they see or enter one keyword into their search engines. Now, it is a process, one that takes place over a undetermined length of time.

A user may start by searching for just one keyword, but over the course of several days, they will modify their search to include words that are more specific to their goal. The process may even take weeks, as they sift through all of their available options and seek feedback from those closest to them.

It is not just the active searchers that SEOs need to be worried about when aiding companies in their inbound marketing strategies. A consumer’s opinion of a business is often developed over time and they may have a good idea of how they feel about your brand before they’ve even decided whether they wish to shop with you.

People are spending more time on the Internet than ever before, thanks to the advent of smartphones. They build their opinions about your company each day through the use of social media. The modern consumer does not linger on Google’s search page, they use the Internet to learn more about the world around them.

With qualified inbound marketers at your disposal, a business can speak directly to these consumers as they bounce around the Internet each day and build a relationship with them that extends beyond trying to sell them a product.

In a perfect world, businesses will continue to mix inbound marketing with search engine optimization to create a more informative and entertaining experience for their potential consumers. By dedicating an equal amount of focus to both strategies, a company is able to increase their opportunities to meaningfully engage with the customer.

The more chances a business has to link their consumers to awesome content, the better their chances of retaining them. Search engine optimization and inbound marketing are both here to stay and will work hand in hand to ensure that smart businesses are able to realize all of their benefits.