Tag: Guide

The Step-by-Step Annual Planning Guide for Overachievers – CharlesNgo.com

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I use to be a horrible annual planner. Then I read everything I could find on planning, spent thousands on workshops, and iterated my process over ten years. Now, I’m badass at this.

I’m going to teach you everything I know about annual planning. This won’t be easy. This is designed for overachievers. I’ve held nothing back.

So, why go through this process? It’s a major time commitment. I’m investing four days into mine.

First, it lets me zoom out and see the bigger picture.  It’s hard for you to see the bigger picture when you’re stuck in an endless loop of emails and zoom meetings.

I reached a crossroads last year. I was no longer excited about running affiliate marketing campaigns or creating courses. The feeling was lingering for years. So last year, I spent a significant amount of time confronting this feeling.

And then I realized I needed to move on from this industry. I wanted to move on to projects that I could be obsessed about.

Second, it helps you connect the dots. There was a lot of pain this year. None of our years went according to plan. What lessons can you learn so you don’t repeat the same mistakes again?

Finally, you’re infinitely more likely to achieve your desired outcomes. I believe that a successful life comes from doing hard things.

Talking about teamwork is easy. Firing your employee because you realize they’re not a great culture fit anymore is hard.

Declaring your goals on Facebook is easy. It’s hard to think, analyze, and reverse engineer how you’re going to achieve your goals.

That’s my mantra for 2021 – “Do hard things.” Everyone wants to take the path of least resistance. You won’t have much competition when you choose the harder path.

Many people won’t bother with annual planning because life’s too unpredictable. Look at how 2020 went for everyone. I get it.

But here’s the thing: the discipline of planning means you’ll react better. 

You know the business plan won’t survive its first encounters with reality,” he says. “But the discipline of writing the plan forces you to think through some of the issues and to get sort of mentally comfortable in the space. Then you start to understand, if you push on this knob, this will move over here and so on. So, that’s the first step.” – Jeff Bezos

Life is like jazz. There’s a score you could follow exactly, but you have permission to riff and make the music bolder.

I don’t know what 2021 has in store for us. But I promise you that your year will be better if you invest the time into annual planning.

You bring the energy – I’ll give you my exact blueprint.

Some Notes Before You Start

There are a few things you should do before you get started.

0.1 Be in the Right Environment

Don’t do this in your home office. You’re too close to the trenches. You need an environment that inspires you.

Look at how Muhammad Ali trained for his fights. His original training camps were in Miami. He had to leave Miami. Too distracting. He built a new training facility in Deer Lake, Pennsylvania. It was called “Fighter’s Heaven.”

It gave him complete focus to train for his big fights.
You need to find your “Fighter’s Heaven.”

Here’s my formula:

  • Rent an Airbnb that’s within driving distance. Around one or two hours away is good. Don’t deal with the stress of airports.
  • Be close to nature.  I want you to be able to open your door and see a forest, a mountain, or a lake. This makes a difference.
  • Don’t be too far from civilization. I like to still be 30 minutes from a town. Going out for dinner each night is my reward.
  • No outside work. You’re here for the annual planning. No meetings. No checking email. Be disciplined.

 An example of the vibes I want. Just make sure it has WIFI. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Here’s my schedule this year.

Sunday: Leave at 4pm. Settle into town.
Monday: Day 1 Reflections. Go into town for dinner.
Tuesday: Day 2 Planning. Go into town for dinner.
Wednesday: Drive home at 11am.

I know it’s tempting to try and shorten your trip to save money. But you don’t want the check-in, and check-out processes to interrupt you.

0.2. Adapting This to a Team

This guideline is for individuals doing their personal planning, but you can easily adapt this to a team.

If you have a team, then I recommend doing two separate annual plans.

For the company version,  I recommend doing this in person with your employees. It also doubles as facetime if you’re remote.

(Note: This article is meant to be evergreen. If you’re reading this in the middle of the pandemic, you can do this via Zoom)

Do your personal annual planning the weekend after. Don’t do it back to back.

I tried it once. It sucked. I had no energy after the company one.

0.3. Sweep Your Digital Dust

It’s important for Chinese people to clear their houses for the New Year. It symbolizes a wish to put the past behind, say goodbye to the past year, and welcome in the New Year.

We’re going to do a digital version of this. I want you to inbox zero everything.

  • Answer all outstanding emails.
  • Go through your Task Manager and clear out tasks.
  • Clear your laptop. I love doing a reformat of my laptop!

0.4. Do Your Homework

Annual planning can be mentally and emotionally draining. Take some time to go through this article.

Is there anything that you’re missing? You might not have a list of core values yet, or a life’s mission statement written. That’s OK. You can work on it now.

Create a checklist. Gather all your financials and documents in one place. Make everything frictionless for yourself.

You want most of your energy during the retreat to be spent on thinking.

This framework will be intimidating if it’s your first time doing it. Give it your best shot. Don’t skip any sections. It’ll get easier with practice.

And don’t feel the pressure to do all this in a few days. It’s fine if you’re still working on this after January. Focus on progress, not perfection.

Day 1: Looking Back

Ray Dalio is the most successful hedge fund manager in the world. His favorite principle is “Pain + Reflection = Progress.

He believes that every pain we go through in life contains a “gem.” But we have to spend time reflecting to uncover those gems.

We’re going to spend the entire day reflecting. I’ll give you some frameworks and questions to guide you.

1.1 What Happened This Year?

It’s been a long year. Take a walk down memory lane. Go through this year month by month.

Write down all the major events that happened each month. It can be hard to remember. Go through your calendar, emails, and task managers to help refresh your memory.

January:
February:
March:

This is easy if you have a system of doing a monthly review.

1.2 Deep Dive into the Different Departments

Life and work can be organized into departments. This helps us see in detail how we’re performing in different areas.

Your company is generating record profits. If you look at your company as a whole, you’d think that nothing’s wrong. But analyze each department. You might notice that the customer service department is lacking.

It’s taking five days on average for customers to get a response. They’re starting to leave bad reviews everywhere. Influencers are starting to trash your products. These are leading indicators. If you don’t improve this department, then it’ll affect the future of your whole company.

This applies to life, too. I’ve seen many people go “all in” on their businesses for years. Their wealth and career might be a 10/10. But what happens if their health or relationships go down to a 3?

I don’t believe someone’s life can truly be “balanced.” We’re looking out for “danger zones.” We’re making sure no areas of our lives are weak enough to hold us back.

Let’s look into the departments.

I categorize my personal life into these buckets:

  1. Work
  2. Financials
  3. Fun/Enjoyment
  4. Skills/Learning
  5. Health
  6. Relationships

You can get more granular with each area.

Health -> Mental Health, Exercise, Diet

Relationships -> Family, Significant Other, Friends, Children

Financials -> Budget, Retirement, Investing, Taxes, Robustness

Adjust accordingly for your life.

A few things that I’m looking for:

  1. Am I balanced in the way that I want? I spent too much time playing video games this year. I spent too little time studying Spanish. Seeing this lets me think about how I can adjust my systems and environment next year.
  2. Are there any areas of my life that are underperforming? I’m not doing as well in the friendship subcategory this year. Quarantine made it tough, but I could’ve called more people. I’m going to make an effort to improve next year.
  3. Did I achieve what I wanted in these areas this year? Why or why not? Identify the obstacles in your way.
  4. Give yourself a score in each area. Rank yourself out of 10. If you’re scoring high in an area, that’s a signal to keep doing whatever you’re doing. Scored low? That’s a signal you need to make some changes.
  5. What systems can I build? I didn’t understand the importance of mental health in my 20’s. So my solution is to create different systems to maintain this area. Some of these include daily meditation, journaling, seeking therapy whenever I needed it.

Let’s look at the departments in a business.

  1. Product
  2. Marketing
  3. Finance
  4. Operations

If you’re a bigger company, then you can add in departments like customer service, project management, etc.

I recommend keeping it simple. Too many departments mean you’ll start losing focus on what matters.

If you’re doing an annual review with a team, then every department head should prepare a report. Let them own it.

Here’s an example for Finance:

  • Show the numbers. Income statement, balance sheets, cash flow forecasting. Make charts and graphs where necessary.
  • Explain the numbers. Not everyone understands finances. Their job is to make it easy for the rest of us.
  • What happened this year? I don’t think Charles spending $3,000 at Spearmint Rhino in Las Vegas was the best use of our funds.
  • Recommendations for next year. Our monthly software and subscriptions expenses are at $6,000 a month on average. Here’s how we can bring it down to $4,000 a month.”

Analyzing a department is simple if you’re already using a framework such as Objective and Key Results.

Compare this year’s results to what was planned. How did the Key Performance Indicators line up?

1.3 Reflect on the Year

Now you have a clearer picture of what 2020 was like. Now it’s time to make sense of what happened.

Here are a series of questions to help you reflect.

  • What Were My Big Wins This Year?
  • What Were My Losses This Year?
  • What Happened This Year That Surprised Me?
  • What Were the Biggest Lessons I Learned?
  • If I had a time machine and could go back to one year ago, what would I have done differently?

DO NOT BREEZE THROUGH THIS QUESTIONS.

I go into thinking time mode in this section. You’ll see that the first few answers you have will come easily. Then you’ll be “stuck” for a few minutes. The next answers? That’s where the gold is.

You have to be honest with yourself. Let’s say you set a goal to lose 15lbs this year, and you gained 15lbs instead.

It’s easy to blame quarantine. The gyms were closed, and it was easy to stress eat. It’s bullshit and we both know it.

If someone had a gun to your head, you would’ve found a way to exercise. You could’ve run outside. But you didn’t. This is where you have to go deeper to understand what happened.

You can’t make improvements if you’re not aware. If you have trouble with self-awareness, then it can be helpful to ask for constructive feedback from others.

1.4 Evaluate Your Mission and Core Values

We need purpose in our lives to feel fulfilled. We need a reason to wake up in the morning besides collecting a paycheck.

This is the part where I ask myself, am I living up to my mission? Am I living according to my values?

One of my core values is to “push my comfort zone.” Everything that I want in life comes from pushing it. It’s what encouraged me to move to Asia, start speaking publicly, and even start this blog.

I didn’t do a great job this year of pushing my comfort zone. Some of my original plans weren’t possible due to quarantine.

I hold myself accountable, though. I could’ve made adjustments on a quarterly or a monthly basis. There are plenty of ways to live up this value even if I’m stuck at home.

That’s it for Day 1. It’s time to recover. I’ll go for a jog in the area. Go into town to grab some dinner. And then I’ll watch something on Netflix.

Go to bed early. Make sure to get plenty of rest for the next day.

Day 2: Planning Next Year

We did a thorough analysis of 2020. You understand what happened this year.

Now it’s time to look forward.

2.1 Review Your Long Term Goals

Before I start planning the year, I want to do a quick refresher on the bigger picture of my life. You need to know where you’re going before you start planning your trip.

Steps:

  • Review Your Life Mission
  • Review Your Core Values
  • Review Any 3- or 10-year Goals You’ve Set

You also need to evaluate if these long term goals are still relevant to you.

At one point, I wanted to write a book. Now? I have zero interest in it. The desire is still there to teach and help people. But maybe a book’s not the best method for me.

Starting a podcast sounds more fun and interesting to me than writing a book.

Don’t be afraid to change your goals if they’re no longer relevant to you. My destination is the same, I’m just taking a different road to get there.

2.2 Write Out Your One Year Vision

Most people start listing out their goals. There’s a valuable step before that called the Vision Story.

You write out what you want your life to be like a year from now.

I’ll write an imaginary example:

I will quit my job. My affiliate marketing side hustle will grow to a profit of over six figures a year. This freedom will allow me to travel the world. I’ll explore living in Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America.

I will take my fitness more seriously. I’ll drop down to 185lbs and 10% body fat. I’ll do this through a combination of CrossFit and dieting. In order to perform at my best, I will be completely sober. I won’t drink any alcohol, smoke any weed, or do any drugs.

I am single now and am fine being single next year. However, I’ll definitely date a bit when I’m in different countries.

I don’t have a great social circle where I’m at right now. I want to network with more affiliates and entrepreneurs next year. I’ll go to several conferences.”

Do you see how much easier it is to plan your future if you just write it in story format? If reading your story doesn’t excite you, then you need to think bigger.

I suggest writing out an entire page’s worth. The more detail you give, the better. The details and emotion you put in the story is what gets you excited.

2.3 Prioritizing Your Outcomes

The story was a brainstorming tool.

Chances are that you have plenty of things you want to achieve for this year. Unfortunately, your time, energy, and attention are limited.

I only set three outcomes for the entire year. 3 is easy enough to remember and keeps you focused.

Your average person is too ambitious and sets a ton of outcomes. Here’s what happens after a year.

  • Earn six figures in profit from affiliate marketing  – NOT ACHIEVED
  • Spend at least a month in three different continents – NOT ACHIEVED
  • Reach 185lbs and 10% body fat – NOT ACHIEVED
  • Read 20 books ACHIEVED
  • Journal every day – NOT ACHIEVED
  • Get scuba diving license ACHIEVED

Note: Notice how specific and measurable each outcome is. It holds you accountable.

Your resources are too spread out. Our brain tends to focus on doing what’s easiest. You’ve achieved two of your outcomes but they are the least impactful ones.

You read 20 books this year and got a scuba diving license. How much of a difference does that make to your life? Not much.

Instead, constrain yourself to the most impactful outcomes.

  • Earn six figures in profit from affiliate marketing – ACHIEVED
  • Spend at least a month in three different continents – NOT ACHIEVED
  • Reach 185lbs and 10% body fat – ACHIEVED

Now imagine how much different your life would be when you achieve these.

You know who else sets their outcomes in 3’s? Lululemon. Here is Lululemon’s strategic growth plan.

The Company’s three priorities to drive revenue growth over the next five years are:

  • Product innovation– The Company expects to more than double the size of its men’s revenues by 2023. In addition, its plans call for continued expansion in the women’s and accessories businesses. Both existing and new product categories are planned to grow, with lines supporting yoga, running and training. The Company also plans to continue its product collaborations, expand its popular Office/Travel/Commute category, and pursue new opportunities, such as self-care.
  • Omni guest experiences – The Company expects to more than double its digital revenues by 2023. The Company will focus on offering an integrated guest experience across channels which are intended to inspire, provoke and celebrate guests who live a healthy and mindful lifestyle across multiple experiences – such as events, dynamic new store formats, and its innovative membership program that fosters connections among guests.
  • Market expansion– The Company plans to quadruple its international revenues by 2023. The Company’s recent success in its international markets demonstrates that the sweat life translates across cultures and geographies and presents considerable growth potential for the brand. Expanding across China, as well as the APAC and EMEA regions, will be continued areas of focus for the Company. The Company also believes that considerable growth potential remains in both the U.S. and Canada and it plans to leverage its agile store formats, digital experience, and community connection.

What about the other goals?

Forget about them. You want to stay laser-focused. But I know not everyone thinks this way, so I’ll give you a solution.

Break them out into projects.

One of my goals was to learn how to salsa dance while living in New York City. I wanted it, but it wasn’t important enough to be one of my three main outcomes.

So I turned salsa dancing into a quarterly project. You can turn some of your goals into quarterly, monthly, or weekend projects.

2.4 Do a Strategic Gap Analysis

Anyone can set goals. The hardest part is to turn them into reality. Now is the time to think. How do you bridge the gap between now and your desire?

The easiest way to do this is to do a Gap Analysis.

Here’s my version of it.

  1. Be clear on the end result.
  2. Understand where you’re at now.
  3. Figure out the obstacles in your way.
  4. Brainstorm solutions to the problem.
  5. See if you know anyone who has achieved what you’re trying to do.
  6. Design the machine and systems.
  7. Take action.
  8. Measure results.
  9. Reflect and revise.

I wrote a detailed article on how to do this.

Read: How to do a Gap Analysis

Here are some other tools that I use:

Thinking Time:

Getting the right answers to your problems requires the right questions.

COVID-19 is affecting everything right now. As of me writing this article, a vaccine has been approved and everyone’s excited. What if there is a COVID-20 and it’s worse than COVID-19? What can I do now to prepare my business for that possibility?

How about a sales question?

My customers aren’t buying my product because of perceived risk or uncertainty. What are those risks and how can I mitigate them?

You can’t come up with good answers in a few minutes. But having the discipline to answer these questions means you’ll know your business better.

Here’s an article I wrote on Thinking Time. If you want a ton of thinking time questions, read The Road Less Stupid.

SWOT analysis: This stands for strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This gives a high level overview of your business.

I.C.E. analysis: You’ve brainstormed several project ideas by now. You can use the I.C.E. framework to see which ones are the best opportunities.

You score each project according to Impact, Confidence, and Ease.

Impact: How much of an impact can this project have on your business?
Confidence: How confident are you that you can pull it off?
Ease: How easy is it to implement?

Charles writes a book:

Impact: 6
Confidence: 4
Ease: 3

Average = 4.33

Charles starts a podcast:

Impact: 9
Confidence: 9
Ease: 8

Average = 8.67

This scoring system lets me know that starting a podcast would be a better project for me, than writing a book. It’s a great way to figure out WHAT to prioritize.

2.5 Critical Drivers and KPIs

Finished with your analysis? Now it’s time to understand what activities lead to the desired outcomes. These are called critical drivers.

Desired Outcome: Lose 15lbs

Everyone tracks weight. The problem? It’s a lagging indicator.

We want to track the activities that lead to losing weight. Samantha wants to focus on exercising and dieting.

Critical Driver #1: Go to OrangeTheory class three times a week.
Critical Driver #2: Eat 1500 calories a day.

She can create a simple spreadsheet to track. Is she performing the activities consistently? And if she is, are they making her lose weight? If not, then she needs to adjust.

Look at your three outcomes for the year.

What are the critical drivers, and how are you planning to track them? 

2.6 Map Out Your Year

Next, we’re going to map out your year in a spreadsheet. I did a quick example.

You’re not going to fill it out completely. You’re going to fill things out the best you can. You’re going to revisit this sheet on a quarterly, and a monthly basis.

Let’s look at my December 2021. One year from now.

I don’t know what my work projects or personal projects will be. I do know some of the anchor events.

It’ll be my birthday and Christmas, we’re planning a trip to Peru, and I’ll need to block out a few days to do my 2022 annual plan.

This map helps you reverse engineer your projects. Let’s say you’re manufacturing a physical product. You want it to be ready for Black Friday.

Draw out a quick project timeline.

Quarter 1: Conduct customer research. Make a decision.
Quarter 2: Work with the manufacturers to finalize the design.
Quarter 3: Buffer period. A million things can go wrong.
Quarter 4: Prepare marketing.

People tend to underestimate how much effort a major project takes. Think about how many people are late to an event. They can’t even get that right!

Creating a project map for the year can make your predictions more accurate.

Keeping the Momentum Going

We’re not putting in all this work to feel good about ourselves. We’re here to achieve outcomes. We need to implement and create different systems.

I don’t do this section during my trip. I rather devote more energy to thinking. This next section can be done over the next few weeks when you have more energy.

3.1 Set Reminders

You have to remind yourself of your outcomes every day.

Some ways I’ve done it:

1. Create a desktop or mobile wallpaper. Hire a designer on Fiverr to make it visually appealing.

2. Sticky notes. Write your outcomes down on sticky notes. Put one on the bottom of your monitor, and another on your bathroom mirror.

3. Accountability partner. I had a goal a few years ago to enter a BJJ tournament. Me and my friend made a $1,000 USD wager. If we didn’t compete, then the other person would get $1,000 USD. I would not have competed if I didn’t have that pressure.

This works amazingly for the gym.

We’re going to the gym Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Whoever misses a workout owes the other person $20.”

3.2 Quarterly, Monthly, and Weekly Reviews

Your annual review is a blueprint. You need to establish a regular rhythm to make sure you’re on track.

  • Quarterly Review – It’s similar to my annual review, but on a smaller scale. I do the same thing where I take two days off and spend it in nature.
  • Monthly Review – Last Friday of the month. Takes me around four hours.
  • Weekly Review – Every Sunday. It takes around an hour.

Think of it like a waterfall.

Take your annual plan and break it into a 3-month plan.

3.3 Building Systems to Achieve Your Outcomes

It’s hard to keep track of everything. The easiest way for me is to establish habits, routines, and systems in my life.

Let’s look at relationships. Most people just say they want to have better relationships in their lives, and then they leave it to chance.

When I want something, I establish a system for improvement.

Here are some of the systems in my relationship department:

  1. Me and my fiancé go on a date every Friday night.
  2. I make sure to see my mom at least once every two weeks.
  3. On Sundays, I set aside an hour to do a catch-up call with a friend.
  4. Before COVID-19 hit, I hosted a board game night at my home every month for my friends.

I know this can seem too robotic for some people. I get it. But I have way too much shit in my head.

Creating systems eases the cognitive load on my mind.

Sometimes I get too hardcore into work and Brazilian Jiujitsu. Having calendar event to see my mom is my insurance to make sure I do it.

Let’s look at financials:

My fiancé reconciles our finances every Sunday using a program called YNAB.

Every month, I spend an hour updating our financial spreadsheet. I also have a journal where I list what happened and reflect.

We have a one-hour call every month with a personal finance coach. He keeps me accountable and helps me from making dumb decisions.

Everything in your life can be systemized.

The Plan is Useless, but Planning is Essential

I’m pretty sure that my love of planning and strategy came from playing Starcraft as a kid.

I learned the value of prioritization. I couldn’t have a strong military and a booming economy within the first few minutes. I was constrained by my minerals and gas. I had to choose which one was more important. Most people plan goals as if they had unlimited resources. Too many desires mean nothing’s going to get achieve.

I learned how to analyze and reflect on my own games. Most people just play games over and over again. It’s fun. But you’re just turning your bad habits into muscle memory. We don’t have unlimited lives in the game of life. So reflecting lets us get more juice from the lemons.

And finally, thinking ahead made me more prepared. I was a Terran main. I loved investing in my economy early on, so I could attack during the mid-game. But I knew I’d always be vulnerable to be attacked early. So I made sure to scout the enemy well. I’d create a bunker if I knew they were preparing for a “rush.”

So now I think often in terms of what if’s?

  • What if I die? I’ve already prepared a trust and will. My family will be taken care of, and they won’t have to suffer through probate court.
  • What if someone hacks into my computers and servers? I have 2FA on everything. Everything’s automatically backed up.
  • What if another Pandemic happens? We bought a deep freezer in the garage. The freezer’s full, and our pantry’s full. We have extra masks.

All these make me more robust.

I don’t know what’s in store for 2021, but investing this time into planning will make you more robust.

Please rate this article – it helps me know what to write!

An Effective Guide to Credit Increases


A credit line increase is a terrific tool to improve your financial standing and experience life in HD. 

But there are rules. 

Not the kind of rules that will force you to walk across burning coals or recite the constitution. 

Rules that will allow you to apply for limit increases at the best possible time for the best possible rewards. These are NOT the typical “don’t do this” annoying checklist rules that feel unattainable and nonsensical. 

These are the types of rules that will allow you to make your move at your convenience, for your gain. 

Man relaxing at his computer
Rules that rule. Too much?

Rule 1: Timing that doesn’t suck 

Remember watching survival shows back in the early 2000s? What was the cardinal rule for a warm, toasty shelter? Don’t start building when it’s already raining. 

The same principle can be applied to finance. You might be able to negotiate an increase, but it’s not going to be on your terms. 

There are a few things you want in place before you make that call to your credit card company: 

  • Your credit utilization is under 30% 
  • That your credit rating is hot (check your credit report!)
  • Your bank account is healthy and there is no derogatory information on it 
  • Income payments take place regularly 

The most important thing is that your credit line is maintained, but used. This means that you make regular purchases with your card. You make your payments on time and your payment history is clear. And, you settle your credit card balance every month. 

Rule 2: The increase works for you 

Sure it’s great to have a $100,000 credit line. It’s also great to manage your payments without breaking into a hot sweat every time the bill payment pings on your phone. 

Your credit line should enable you to have access to the best in life. At the same time, it should add value, automate your finances (learn more in Ramit’s book, I will teach you to be rich), and afford you access to some epic rewards. 

Rule 3: You’re in control

Now, this rule is the one that is often ignored and tends to make us feel vulnerable to the core. If you’re still living a trapped (Ramit refers to this as the ordinary work-yourself-to-a-standstill to barely afford a cup of coffee) or in treadmill life (where maybe one day you’ll get to travel), it’s time to gear up a notch and realize that banks exist because we let them. 

They provide a convenience, and once that convenience no longer exists, we will quite literally take our money elsewhere. 

Thinking of calling BS on this? Just consider this.  

They need our capital in savings to create a buffer for lending. They need to provide loans in order to make money on the interest charged. Get it? They need your savings and your credit. Yes, even Bank of America has advertising campaigns targeted at new clients. 

Now that you understand your buying power, to request a credit limit increase should articulate your request confidently. Our negotiation techniques are hardwired for a positive outcome and can be applied from credit limit increase requests to asking for a raise. Without sounding cheap. 

Now for the “how” 

While it’s simple enough to do an online limit increase through your online profile with the chosen card company, some companies prefer to do the final verification telephonically. 

When the call comes through (and expect that call to come through), it’s important to remember Ramit’s cardinal rules of negotiation. 

A special tip from Ramit: Always take notes of the call and get as much information as possible. This includes names, dates, numbers. 

Step 1: Ask for what you want 

Simply ask. Something as simple as “I’d like a limit increase on my credit card” is a good place to start. But if you want to take it a step further, add in “and I’d like to see about a reduction in that APR.” 

Step 2: Possible pushback 

If there is a slight pushback on either, remind the consultant that you’ve been a customer for X years. In Ramit’s negotiation techniques, he explains that it’s far more cost-effective for a bank to retain a customer than to onboard a new one. In fact, the cost to onboard new customers is between $350 and $2,500. 

Step 3: Another nudge if needed 

If there is still pushback or the limit is not what you desire, you need to gear up. Ask the consultant to view your history. Ask again how the consultant can help you. Repeat this process with a supervisor if you’re referred to them. Remember to end strong and use phrases like, “I understand,” “I want,” and “I’d like.” 

If you’ve remained firm, you should have what you want by the end of the call. 

Why you should absolutely ask for a credit line increase

As Ramit says, “Credit has a far greater impact on your finances than saving a few dollars a day on a cup of coffee.” But it might not be entirely what you think (if what you were thinking was going on a shopping spree and using your limit more like a target). 

Well managed credit boosts your credit score 

If you find that you’re pushing beyond that 30% usage of your credit card, it might be a good idea to increase your credit card limit. This means that you remain within that 30% margin, which helps push up your credit score. Request a credit line that will allow you to comfortably remain within a safe margin. Failing to do so might cause you to use a higher percentage of your credit card, which can lead to a drop in your credit score. And it’s a downward spiral from here, my friend. If you want to know more, check out our article on how to check your credit score

Higher scores translate to better deals 

If you have a perfect, can’t-touch-this credit score as the goal of your credit card line increase, then you’re in for a treat. Better credit scores mean better access to exclusive credit card offers. Think platinum, invite-only, reserve, elite. Need we say more? Plus, if your credit card issuers work on a variable APR, your credit score will count in your favor for a lower APR. Not just for your credit card, but other credit products too. 

Your cash flow is in your hands 

A credit card is a very short-term bridge between the purchase of an item and when your income comes in. Higher credit limits will provide you with that extra cash flow, as long as you remember not to use it like a safety net (that’s what emergency savings are for). 

When you should say NO

A credit limit needs to serve you. The moment a higher limit causes nervous night sweats and clammy palms, it’s time to pull the plug. 

  • You’re investing. Don’t use loans to fund investments
  • The credit line increase is unaffordable
  • You are at the peak of credit score heaven
  • Another credit company is about to get your business
  • You’ve recently applied for credit

A credit line increase is about more than pushing the boundaries of credit limits. It’s about implementing a strategy that will allow you to tap into the full potential of having a credit card. A credit card should: 

  • Be a tool to improve your credit score
  • Help you reach your personal finance goals 
  • Create opportunities through buying power 

Once a credit card line increase ticks all these boxes, you know you’re well on your way to forging a financial plan that suits your lifestyle.

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Your Guide To Carrier Agreements


A carrier agreement is essentially a requirement by the United States that is important if you want to transport household goods across the country. A Carrier Agreement can be thought of as a contract for household goods which allows motor carriers to transport household goods to customer across the country. A carrier agreement is essentially entered into by a household goods shipper and a motor carrier company.

Why is a carrier agreement important and how does it take place?

Consider a situation in which you want to purchase household goods from a certain retailer and contact carrier companies and let them know about the approximate weight of the goods, where they are to be picked up from, and where are they supposed to be dropped off at, and how much would you be willing to pay them for their services. The carrier can then either agree or disagree to your price, you both can come to a mutual agreement and meet down the middle at a final price. The carrier can then purchase your goods and arrive at your doorstep, but you can say that you have changed your mind and do not want to purchase the goods anymore. The carrier in this case would be stuck with a truck full of furniture that he/she has no interest in.

A carrier agreement saves both of these parties the embarrassment and is entered into by the household goods shipper and the motor carrier. The household goods shipper, upon hearing interest from a potential customer or upon receiving an online payment for their goods seeks a motor carrier and offers them a certain amount of money to carry goods from point A to point B. If the carrier agrees at the states price, the carrier agreement takes place.

A sample carrier agreement features the following pieces of information: the carrier’s name address and MC number; the customer’s name and address; the date of the carrier agreement; the total invoice; information about the total liability and insurance.

Why is a carrier agreement important?

A carrier agreement is important because it then gives the carrier a sort of assurance that they will be paid for their services. If a carrier agreement is not performed, you cannot haul household good shipments and cannot transport them to the customers. Other than being a legal requirement by the Government of the United States, they are also a necessity for sellers of household goods. Also, carriers need to know with certainty the amount of money that they will be paid and the amount and type of liability they will be exposed to.

Different types of household goods carriers

Essentially there are two types of household goods carriers in all carrier agreements: private carriers and common carriers. Private carriers operate under special agreements and transport the goods on the shipper’s vehicle itself and do not have any extra charges. However, common carriers are actually businesses that specialize and are experienced in shipping household goods. These carriers can be on the road, use railways or airways for their transportation purposes. Irrespective of the carrier you choose both of them perform the same core job at the end of the day.

Difference between the household goods shipper and household goods carrier?

It is important that one does not confuse themselves between the two, as both of them are two separate entities. A household goods shipper is essentially a company that makes and sells household goods. The household goods carrier is the party that only ships the goods to the customers.

A carrier agreement is important for all parties involved in a household goods shipping transaction: the household goods shipper, the motor carrier, and the customers themselves. This is because a carrier agreement benefits all parties involved and assures each of them something or the other: the household goods shipper is assured that their goods will be shipped to the same location; the motor carrier is assured that they will receive a certain payment for their services; the customer is assured that they will receive their goods at a certain date and that they will be safe from any damages.

About The Author

vipul

Vipul is a professional blogger and online advertiser based out of Bengaluru, India. Always in a quest for new ways to make money, Vipul detail out all possible opportunities that can help anyone to earn passive income online. You can connect on Twitter, Linkedin & Facebook



A Guide for Beginners |


If content is king, then content marketers are the wizards that sprinkle their magic all over the kingdom to make everything look amazing.

Alright, that might not be the best analogy. But my point is that content marketers make great content. And to businesses great content = better search engine rankings = more money. We’ll get into that more in a bit. But because amazing content marketing wizards can increase revenue for businesses, they can also command big bucks. And, as it turns out, content marketing is a remote-friendly career path with lots of avenues to earn.

Let’s take a look at how to become a content marketer, even if you have absolutely zero professional marketing or writing experience.

What is a Content Marketer?

Before we learn how to become a content marketer, let’s look at what a content marketer is.

I know earlier I compared content marketers to wizards who create magical, money-making content.

Of course, this is an oversimplification of content marketing.

Content marketers wear a lot of different (wizard) hats. They require different skill sets, knowledge, and experience. Before we take a deep dive into the nitty gritty of content marketing, let’s loosely define what a content marketer is.

A content marketer is a person who creates content that attracts readers and turns them into customers.

What kind of content they create, how they create it, and where they share it depends on the product being sold.

However, the greatest need for content marketers is in the vast ever-expanding space we call the Internet. And, for the purpose of this career guide, I will focus on how to become a content marketer online.

Today, many content marketers are needed to plan, produce, and promote written content to reach online audiences and turn them into paying customers.

Skills & Competencies of Content Marketers

At its core, content marketing is broken down into two parts: content and marketing. To become a successful content marketer, you need to know how to do both equally well. Let’s look at content first.

Content Writing Skills

If you hate writing, content marketing is not your career path. Period. You have to love to write. At this very moment, you already know whether or not writing is a passion of yours. If you agonize over word choices and can’t even let an email go until it’s worded just right, you’re a language lover and a passionate writer.

Now you can turn your wordsmith ways into a content marketing career. But, remember, when you’re writing as a content marketer, your aim is to create compelling content that sells. That’s where the marketing part comes into play.

Marketing Skills

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There’s not a whole lot of money to be made for most people in the fiction or journalism side of writing. A lucky few will get their novels published, but far more will never actually make it that far. Similarly, news sites have just a handful of paid staff writers. The rest are often guest posts (written for free) or one-off freelancers getting paid pennies per word. Literally.

To truly make a living as a writer, your best best it to learn how to become a content marketer. But you can’t just create bland content. You have to write crisp, clean content that piques readers’ interests and compels them to become consumers. When you do this, you become a sought after content marketer who can command big bucks for their writing.

Additional Content Marketing Skills

  • Proofreading
  • Editing
  • Grammar
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Link Building
  • WordPress
  • Blogging

Content Marketing Training

You don’t need a creative writing degree or a marketing degree to become a content marketer. Clients will care more about results than your credentials.

Remember, you just can’t call yourself a content marketer and expect to make money. You have to prove you can write content that sells.

The best way to do that is to complete training that prepares you to market yourself as content marketer. That way you can hone your skills AND command a fair wage for your work.

I highly recommend the Highly Paid Freelance Writer workshop at SmartBlogger. My friend, Jon Morrow, has perfected the art of earning $200+ for blog posts and helps new freelance writers do the same. His unique training to teaches you how to become a content marketer so you can earn 10x more than traditional writers.

Through December 16, 2020 you can register for his signature workshop for free!

Work Schedule

Content marketers get to work flexible schedules. That means you can work late nights, early mornings, or anytime in between. Essentially, content marketers can fit work into their lives, and not the other way around.

You just need to meet deadlines and have work turned in on time. Most content marketers work on a freelance basis. That means you are your own boss and can work how and when you want, as long as you complete assignments on time.

Freelancing as a Content Marketer

Typically, content marketers are freelancers. They get paid to write a blog post or email series, landing page, or other one-off piece of content. You agree on pay before you start working and, once you’re done with the work, you get paid.

Remember, freelancing is different than employee positions.

What It Means To Be a Freelancer

  • Pay your own quarterly estimated taxes
  • Are not eligible for benefits like health insurance or paid time off
  • Must find your own clients by pitching your services
  • Can work when and where you please

Freelance content marketers can find clients on marketplace sites, like Upwork. But, the better paying gigs come from networking and pitching your services to potential clients. LinkedIn is a great place to establish your content marketing career.

Before you get too excited, let’s take a step back and be honest. Freelancing is not for everyone. But freelancing does offer a chance to work remotely on a very flexible schedule with unlimited earning potential.

Find Work as a Content Marketer

Good content marketing training will prepare you to find work after you’ve completed it. That’s why I recommend Content Marketing Certification at SmartBlogger. Not only will you develop content marketing skills you can sell, you can also learn how to pitch those skills successfully.

Successful freelance writers often follow steps to start getting clients:

It’s not always an easy road. I started a freelance writing career from scratch and it was the hardest year of my life! But it was also rewarding, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again if given the chance.

You have to be driven, disciplined, and genuinely love writing to succeed in the world of freelance content marketing.

Career Coaching for Aspiring Content Marketers

Not sure if content marketing is right for you? Worried about freelancing? Have waaayy more questions than answers?

No problem. Work with me!

Check out my 30-Minute Remote Career Q & A coaching service. In just 30 minutes, we’ll figure out what remote work is right for you and you’ll even get a free custom PDF to guide you.

Ready to learn more? Check out all the details over at Remotely You.

Happily,

Ashlee Anderson, CPCC
P.S. This post contains affiliate links. Check out my disclosure statement to learn more.

The 80/20 Guide to Making Your Dream Job a Reality


Imagine landing your dream job with all the unnecessary doubt, indecision, and effort removed from the process. 

Imagine making it happen in just one-fifth of the time it might normally take.

Nope, we’re not suggesting a miracle cognition drug, cybernetic brain implants, or an aggressive juice cleanse. Instead, we want to draw your attention to a simple idea known as the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule. This odd quirk of human experience posits that roughly 80% of a given activity’s meaningful consequences come from just 20% of the causes. 

So, imagine sitting in a movie theater (remember when that was a thing?). The 80/20 Rule suggests that around four-fifths of your enjoyment will come from just one-fifth of the movie — all those climactic scenes most of the story builds up to. The rule applies to bad stuff too. Think of all those annoying candy wrapper crinklers chowing down on Junior Mints during those same memorable scenes. Again, this rule would tell us that around 80% of that annoying noise was caused by just 20% of the movie-watchers.  

It’s a generalization of course, but it sounds about right doesn’t it? 

We don’t live in a neat universe where results always happen in a straight line. More often than not, just a few critical factors make all the difference, whether for good or bad. If you geek out on efficiency theory you can grab a coffee along with your cookie of choice and learn all about the 80/20 rule here and how it applies to all manner of corners of industry and productivity science.

In Ramit’s video, ‘The 80/20 Guide to Finding a Job You Love,’ he’ll grab on to this concept and zero in on you, your career, and one pointily practical question… 

woman standing in crowd blowing bubbles

Can the 80/20 rule help you land your dream job?

Or let’s put it another way. Can we just get rid of the 80% of largely unimportant stuff, and focus right in on those few critical turning points that can land you a richer working life? 

We’re convinced the answer is yes … if you’re willing to ditch unhelpful mindsets that lurk in the 80% unproductive zone. Let’s look at a few examples of how just a few changes can make a huge difference as you look for your dream job. 

1. Ignore broad and vague career advice: Get specific

We’ve all had that person in our lives who offers pointless encouragement because they’re trying to help. 

“You can do it!” Gee, thanks. How?

“Get well soon!” Great idea! My plan was to get well slowly.

These people mean well, but platitudes like this come from those who want to help but have no clue how. Unfortunately, conventional career guidance is littered with the same vague solutions. These fuzzy directions mean next to nothing and get you next to nowhere. 

You know the deal: 

Find your passion! Cool. But what does that process actually look like?

Renegotiate your salary! Genius plan. How?

These are time-wasters that’ll consign your approach to the unproductive 80% of the 80/20 equation. 

Watch for these broad statements, and recognize them for what they are: a well-meaning impulse. What they’re decidedly not is a blueprint. You can waste a lot of time flailing about, trying to interpret, and act on these career advice equivalents of a “get well soon” card or an awkwardly executed fist bump. 

Here’s the important part though. Don’t just reject broad and unhelpful advice when it comes from someone else. That’s the easy part. The tricky part is to systematically reject a cookie-cutter mindset. 

So, how do you approach career-hunting focusing on the critical 20%?

Commit to defining exactly what you want

Conventional career-hunting advice is to send your resume to every job opportunity you see — and that might actually make sense if you’d be happy taking any job. But that’s not your goal. Your goal is to get up in the morning eager to clock-in and do your thing.

To find your dream job you’ll need to get specific: 

  • What job do you want? Name it. Have the courage to exclude the ones you don’t.
  • What size company? Where is it located? Be grittily granular.

… And here’s the really important one … 

Everything in your resume and pitch should be hyper-focused on the answers you give to these questions. If you can do that, two things happen. First, you save time by no longer applying for dodgy jobs you don’t want anyway. Second, you make yourself look like a better employment prospect to the companies that actually count.

Get started in 15 minutes or less

Here are a couple of things you can do right now to get specific:

  1. Grab a sheet of paper and split it into 2 columns. In the first column list everything you know about what your dream job looks like. In column 2, bullet out the key characteristics of the kinds of jobs you don’t want. Stick this paper somewhere prominent as a daily reminder. 
  2. Grab a red pen (OK purple will do if red ink is scary). Go through every line of your current resume and scratch out generic, hedging, or vague statements. If it isn’t about the job you actually want, ditch it. 

Congratulations. You just shifted your energy to that critical 20%. 

2. Discard self-sabotage: Believe you’re right for the role

This might sound a bit “Dr. Phil” at first glance, but hear us out. We’re not suggesting something quite so asinine and patronizing as the idea that great self-esteem and chutzpah is all you need to land you a dream job. That’s dumb. Also, see point 1.

What we are saying though is that many job-seekers accidentally absorb a defeatist mindset. In fact, it happens to the best of us. Here’s the kind of self-sabotaging thoughts we’re talking about:

“I’m not qualified. Before I can even think about a new job I need to go back to school.”

“I’m lucky to have any job in this economy.”

“I should wait until COVID-19 and murder hornets go away before any big life changes.”

Don’t get us wrong. These thoughts aren’t stupid.

Skilling up is good! And of course, macroeconomics and other unpredictable variables are all real things that affect how your dream job search will play out. But none of these considerations (along with the myriad other excuses out there) need stop you from taking meaningful steps in the right direction … right now.

These ideas all have one thing in common. They push you to reflect on all the reasons why now isn’t a good time; why you’re not ready yet; why the world is just too scary a place to do something bold and daring like pursuing your dream.

Believe change is possible

OK, OK, we’ll throw the obvious mind shift out there first. 

You do need to believe in yourself to make good stuff happen. There. Satisfied, Dr. Phil? It’s on a billion fridge magnets for good reason. Whatever you need to do to get inspired that you can and should pursue a career that’d make you happy and enriched, go out and get that thing, stick a magnet on it, and slap it on your fridge. 

Life’s too short. 

But don’t just get inspired; get aspirational. 

Time constraints, economic downturns, and yes, even venom-spitting murder hornets will always be out there. Either you aspire to find a job you love despite these and a plethora of equally sucky things, or you resign yourself to a permanent state of waiting. 

At least door one goes somewhere. Door two leads to the eternal thought-muzak of life’s waiting room. That serendipitous 20% zone can only happen when you abandon a resignation mindset.

Get started in 15 minutes or less

So you want to stop polluting your brain and your approach with self-defeating ideas? Got any spare paper lying around? Grab it!

  1. Jot down every excuse or statement of resignation the self-defeatist side of your psyche (we all have one!) can muster. 
  2. Now write a response to each of these naysaying urges. Where you feel an obstacle is real, write down how you can overcome it. Start making tangible plans.  

3. Reject passivity: Pursue crucial situations and people

This all circles around to the absolute importance of kicking passivity to the curb. 

Think back to the 80/20 Rule for a moment: The idea that most of the biggest changes that’ll happen in your life boil down to a relatively slim sliver of critical crux points. 

If you buy into this particular quirk of the universe, being awake for those moments suddenly becomes vitally important, right? 

Yet the vast majority of people that are searching for their dream job hand the responsibility for delivering those all-or-nothing flash-points to someone else. Career-hunting passivity is everywhere, and takes many forms, like:

  • Trusting a job search algorithm to guide your job search.
  • Sending out a resume and desperately hoping the HR team gets back to you one day.
  • Relying on a recruiter to convince your dream company to give you a shot.

Laziness of this ilk squanders not one, but two of your most valuable resources. 

One: Obviously, you’re wasting your time. We probably don’t need to offer too much exposition here on why metaphorically cramming filet mignon into a Mcdonald’s meat-grinder is unlikely to produce optimal results.

But you can’t overlook the negative knock-on effects on your motivation. You’re spinning headlong into a negative spiral here — where a perfect storm of rejection emails, lack of actionable data, and no real clue about what to do differently next time robs you of any desire to continue.

Why do this to yourself?

Passivity breeds failure, which in turn leads to the slow and abysmal process of … well … just giving up. The “80-percenter-zone” is a gray realm of mental laziness — of endlessly doing the same thing while expecting suddenly different results to miraculously manifest from miasmic mundanity. No.

So, what does “different” look like?

Zig when they zag

An active and engaged process of finding your dream job isn’t just about being smart — although, no big surprises here — smart people are generally better at finding useful shortcuts. It’s also about using your creativity and your passion to zig when other folks zag. 

What do we mean by that?

  • Testing your approach: So you threw your metaphorical filet mignon into the algorithmic meat grinder and you got a dry and tasteless meat patty and an unconvincing dill pickle for your pains. If you’re switched on, you’ll chalk that up as a failed experiment and learn from it. Testing your approaches and efficiently learning from mistakes will help you avoid wasting a “rare” opportunity. 
  • Looking beyond the low hanging fruit: The best jobs aren’t advertised. They’re made and won behind the scenes, far beyond your reach if you’re confining your hunt to generic online search tools. Like Poirot (or Angela Lansbury if you’re seeking employment in the Cabot Cove metropolitan area), dig deeper. Keen detective work may be in order. 

Get started in 15 minutes or less

Recognize you have a bit of a passive streak as a job hunter? Good news: no red pens are required for this one.

  1. Can you find employees and HR managers of places you’d love to work on LinkedIn? The best time to begin assembling information about how your dream employer operates is right now yep, before an interview is even a glimmer on the horizon. 
  2. Think of three companies where you’d love to work and follow them on social media. Do some online detective work to learn their lingo and build a clear picture of who they’re recruiting for and why. Make Angela proud. 

“Why should we hire you?”

That’s exactly the question we intend to help you answer when you find yourself sitting in the interview hot seat for your shot at the career you’ve always wanted. 

At this moment, when that crucial question hits, the next few words out of your mouth will need to show (not tell) your interviewer why you’re ideal for their company. These words will need to prove (not plead) your case. These words have to be steeped in the company’s language and be rich with strategy, foresight, and seasoned introspection. 

Imagine feeling calm, the perfect answer spilling out of your mouth as you seal the deal on a career path you were made for. 

We can help you shine in that pivotal, all-or-nothing moment.   

 

 

 

 

Ready to ace your dream job interview?



Use a Website Builder to Create Your eCommerce Site [15-Step Guide]


Even before the pandemic drove most retail businesses online, eCommerce was on the upswing. Many small businesses that have served customers in-store for years have been slow to get a website up, but know they can’t wait any longer.

At the same time, many new entrepreneurs are treating the changing economy as an opportunity to start new eCommerce businesses. Both groups have one thing in common: you need to create an eCommerce website.

In the early years of the web, creating an eCommerce site was difficult. You’d need to hire a professional developer to build the complex elements required to sell products online. But now that the internet’s a common part of our lives, new web tools have become available to make the process easier. 

Now anyone, no matter your level of skill, can build an eCommerce website. All you need is an intuitive website builder. 

Below you’ll learn how an eCommerce website builder can help you build an eCommerce store in record time, the benefits to doing so, and the steps you’ll want to take to get started.

Why Use a Website Builder?

When you’re building an eCommerce store, you have a lot on your plate.

You have to research your market, name your store, determine what products you’re going to sell, set your prices, calculate shipping, and market your store. And somehow you need to build a website that looks professional, communicates your brand, and convinces people to buy your products on top of all that.

It’s a lot. 

And for people with limited web experience, the website may look like the most intimidating part. But it doesn’t have to be. With the right website builder, you can let technology do most of the work for you. You input some basic information and—bam!—you’ve got a professional-looking eCommerce website, that only needs a few tweaks to make it yours. 

A website builder takes a lot of time, energy, and cost off your plate. And it means one less item on the to-do list you have hanging over your head as a business owner. 

What to Look for in an eCommerce Website Builder

You’re going to have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to choosing the right eCommerce website builder for your needs. There are a ton website builders out there, but ultimately you’ll want to choose a builder that’s best suited to the needs and goals of your store.

Here are some features to keep an eye out for:

  • An emphasis on building a mobile-friendly website. In our world of ubiquitous smartphones, mobile can’t be an afterthought. Make sure your website builder defaults to creating websites that work well on mobile.  
  • Smart technology that does most of the work for you. The more your website builder does automatically, the less work you’re stuck handling. 
  • An image library included. This is more nice to have than required, but images play a key role in the online experience, so having access to a library of them will make building a visually stunning website much easier. 
  • eCommerce features built in. Your website needs to be able to sell things, that means you need features like inventory management, tax management, and coupon creation.
  • An affordable price. Your business probably has a limited budget, and you don’t want your website builder to cut into the cost of other things your business needs. Luckily, you can find powerful website builders that only cost a few dollars a month. 
  • Bundled website features. If your website builder comes with other important website features you need, like web hosting, an SSL certificate, and a domain name, it saves you the extra cost of buying them separately. And it saves you from having to manage them all through separate accounts. 
  • A reliable, accessible support team. Anyone new to running a website may face questions or issues they need help with. Go with a website builder backed by a company that promises 24/7 support from skilled representatives. 

Once you’ve settled upon an eCommerce website builder, it’s time to start creating your store.

If you’re still unsure about what builder will be best suited for your needs, then take the new Gator Website builder for a spin. It includes all of the features above and more.

How to Use Gator to Create Your eCommerce Store

Building your eCommerce store with a website builder is a simple and intuitive process. With Gator, almost all of the work will be completed for you once you provide some basic information about your business. 

1. Choose Your Category

Gator will automatically select a design for your website based on the type of business you have. Your first step is therefore to fill in what category your business falls under.

Once you start typing a description of your business category, Gator will provide a dropdown list of options you can choose from. Make your selection and click Continue.

choose ecommerce as website category

2. Name Your eCommerce Site

If your eCommerce business already has a name, this step’s super easy. Just fill in the business name here. 

add a name for your online store in gator website builder

If you’re still trying to figure out what to call your eCommerce business, then you’ll want to take some time to figure out the best business and domain name that’s available and suits your brand. Then you can fill in your site’s name.

Notice that once you add your business name in the website builder, it will automatically fill in at the top of the site. As you move through these steps, the information you provide will be applied to the preview window on the right side of the screen, so you can see your website take fruition as you go.

Having good visuals on your website is important to creating a memorable visitor experience and ensuring your website looks professional. The next step is to choose your background image.

You can choose here from the library of free images that come with Gator, and the website builder will supply some suggestions based on your business category. Or you can load your own image file by selecting Upload on the right. 

Anytime you click on an option, you can see how it will look on the site in the preview window. You can take some time to play around with different choices and see which you like best. 

select header image with ecommerce website builder

4. Select Your Font

Your images will make a big contribution to your eCommerce website’s visual identity, but it’s just one part. Font plays an important role too. Gator will provide a selection of font pairings you can choose from. Select the one that feels the most appropriate for your brand. 

As with the images, you can see how the font selection looks by clicking on the option and viewing the preview window on the right. 

select font with ecommerce website builder

5. Choose Your Website Color Scheme

Your online store’s color scheme will be one of the main things visitors associate with your visual brand.

If you have an existing business, think about the color scheme you use for your current brand materials, such as signs, business cards, and advertisements. If you’re building a new eCommerce business and haven’t developed a visual brand identity yet, then this is a good opportunity to do so!

The website builder provides suggestions of colors that go well together, and you can click on different options to see how they look in the preview window before you make a choice.

Make your selection and click Continue.

choose color scheme for ecommerce store

6. Choose Your Navigation Style

You want to make it easy for visitors to find their way around your website. Websites typically have a menu across the top of the site, or behind a hamburger icon that reveals the menu once you click on it. 

The website builder provides a few main options for how to structure your eCommerce website so people can find the navigation features. Try out different ones to see how they look in the preview, and select the one you like the most.

choose navigation style in ecommerce website builder

At this stage, consider what main categories you’ll use to organize your website. The number of items you’ll include in your main menu will influence which navigation structure makes the most sense. If you’ll have a lot of products that will fall into several categories, you’ll want an option that leaves room for a larger menu.

You want to make it as easy as possible for people to figure out how to contact you. The eCommerce website builder puts your contact information right on the bottom of your main page. 

Add your address, phone number, and the best email address for customers and prospects to use. You may have to scroll down to see the information populate on the page in your website preview window. 

add contact information for online store

Click Finish, and the basic structure of your eCommerce website will be in place!

8. Customize Your Homepage Copy

Now you start customizing your website to your specific brand and business. Change the words on the page so they represent your business. Anywhere you see text, click on it and you’ll be able to update it.

You’ll also see a menu pop up right above the text with formatting options you can add as you go.

add copy to ecommerce website

If the website builder added text blocks to the page that you don’t need, you can easily remove them by clicking, highlighting the text, and removing it with the Delete button on your keyboard. 

9. Customize Your Images 

Every image the website builder added to the page can be replaced with another one of the free images in the library, or with one you upload. Click on the image, then click Select Image from the menu of icons that shows up.

add image to ecommerce website with gator website builder

You can search the library of images available, or click on My Images to add your own. 

media library in gator website builder

From the same menu of icons that shows up, you can select:

  • Edit image to make changes to the image itself
  • Link to add a hyperlink to the image
  • Edit alt text to add alternative text to the image (which is good for SEO)

10.  Move and Remove Sections

If there’s a section on the page now you don’t want, or think should be higher or lower on the page, click on it and look in the top right corner. You can use the blue arrows to move the section up and down the page until you get it where you want it. Or use the red trash can icon will delete it completely. 

add or remove sections in gator website builder

By the time you get your homepage looking the way you want, you’ll be an expert in the skills you need to edit your other pages. 

11. Add Your Online Store

For an eCommerce website, the store portion of your website is one of the most important parts.

Look at the menu on the left side of the page to find the Store icon. When you click, it will open up a page that walks you through the steps of adding your store.

add online store using gator website builder

For payment methods and shipping charges, the website builder allows you to go with its default recommendations. If you’re not sure what to choose, stick with the default options or skip these steps for now.

12. Add Your Products

One of the steps in the setup process is to add the products you’ll be selling. Fill in all the details the form asks for.

add product to online store with ecommerce website builder

This information will become the product page, so even though the form won’t require you to fill in all fields, you should if you can. 

A few suggestions for your product pages:

  • Use your product description to provide a clear explanation of what the product is and what it does, and to make a case for why your visitors would want to buy it.
  • Be thoughtful about the language you use on the page. Do some keyword research to figure out what your audience is searching for, and incorporate the keywords they’re using into your copy. This will both appeal more to your target audience, and help with SEO. 
  • Load a high-quality product photo. Anyone buying a product online will have to trust the photo on the page to see what to expect. Make sure your photograph looks great and gives an accurate portrayal of what customers will get.

Once your store is created, when you click Back to Editor, you’ll see that it shows up automatically as part of the website menu. 

13. Add New Pages

Now that the basics are in place, start creating additional pages and getting your website organization into place.  To create a new page, click Pages in the menu on the left side of the screen. Select New Page, then Page.

add new page in gator website builder

If you want this page to become one of the main categories of your website that shows up in the menu, leave the “Parent page” section blank and leave the “Show in navigation” option selected.

If you want your new page to show up in the drop down menu under another page, select the parent page it should go under from the dropdown.

Fill in the name of your page, and the website builder will automatically create a suggested URL based on your page name. You can go with its suggestion, or edit it to one you think is more intuitive or better for SEO.  

Each page you create will start out looking like your homepage. That makes it easier to create an Ecommerce website where each page matches stylistically, since you’re starting with the same colors and structure each time. But you’ll want to make enough changes to differentiate it visually, while also making the content of the page match its unique purpose. So go through and update the images and copy on the page, and move and remove sections as needed. 

Repeat the process with each page you want on your website. 

14. Proofread and Test

If your eCommerce business sells a variety of products, creating your pages, loading your products, and getting all the pages organized in the right way on the website may take some time. Once you’ve got that done, you’re close to ready to launch, but not quite there yet.

Now you need to double check that everything looks good and works the way it should. Go through each page of the website and read back over it, twice. Proofreading is how you catch embarrassing errors like typos, and fix sentences or phrases that have awkward wording. While you’re on the page, go ahead and test out every link on it as well to make sure they all work and go where they should.

Now, see if you can enlist a friend or family member (bonus points if it’s someone that matches your target demographic) to spend some time on your website to make sure it seems intuitive. Ask for feedback about how well it’s designed and organized. Did they find anything confusing? If their feedback is positive, you’re good to go. 

15. Publish Your eCommerce Store! 

Once your website is done, click Publish in the top right corner of the website editor.

Since Gator comes with free website hosting and a domain name, those things will already be in place. You just need to press that button to take the website live. 

Get Started Building Your eCommerce Site Now

With Gator, you can build out a simple eCommerce store in a matter of hours. And while stores that include a lot of products or categories will take more time than that, adding everything you need will be a simple process.

The faster you can get your website up, the sooner you start making money from it. Dive right in and start building now!

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.

2020 Holiday Guide to Google My Business


This year, the holidays will look very different for most of us. The pandemic has affected us all in different ways and its effects are far reaching across economies and consumer habits. Here at Whitespark, we love local businesses and strive to create useful free resources for small businesses owners and marketers on this blog. We know this has been a challenging year for you, your families, and your business. We wish you and yours a happy holiday season!

Adapting Your Holiday Sales Strategy for COVID-19

According to Google’s latest consumer trend report, half of U.S. shoppers say the pandemic will affect how they’ll shop for the holidays this year. Shopping locally is more important than ever – but everyone’s looking for a deal. What’s a small business to do? We’ve created a new Holiday Guide with this in mind.

1. Have your sales early

This year, 70% of shoppers said they intend to plan their shopping earlier to avoid crowds, and 80% plan to make fewer trips than they have in previous years. More than a third of U.S. shoppers who normally shop in stores for Black Friday say they won’t this year. It’s also important to keep in mind that postal and delivery services are usually operating above capacity for the holidays and delays are expected due to additional precautions for COVID-19.

As shoppers look to avoid crowds, plan your sales earlier this year to assure your customers that they’re really getting the best deal today from your business. If you anticipate maxed out in-store capacities, line ups or shipping delays, communicate these with shoppers to avoid negative Google reviews this holiday season.

Share your early holiday sales events with searchers with a Google My Business Event or Offer Post.

2. Keep shoppers informed of special hours, services and health & safety measures

Your business is likely operating with additional precautions due to COVID-19 and maybe even new services such as curbside pickup or service-specific hours.

This season, 53% of shoppers said they’ll choose to shop at stores that offer contactless shopping and 47% said they’ll use options like curbside pickup, in-store pickup or buy online.

To ensure a happy customer experience, let searchers know how you’re offering a safe shopping experience and any new services or services during specific hours.

In your Google My Business dashboard, open the Info section and add any relevant attributes, including amenities, health & safety and service options.

 

In the Info section, also add any special hours (Special hours) or service-specific hours (More hours).

3. Engage with your customers online

Already get a lot of questions about inventory during the holidays? Expect even more inquiries this year; 67% of shoppers said they plan to confirm online that an item is in stock before going shopping.

No one wants to make an unnecessary trip. If your store’s inventory is visible on your website, make sure it’s up to date and also posted in the Products feature of GMB. If you don’t have inventory to add online, here are 3 things you can do instead:

  • Add your services in the Products feature,
  • Turn on Messaging to allow customers to send their inquiries (just remember to respond quickly so you don’t miss a sale),
  • Use the Questions & Answers feature, as the business ask “Looking for a specific product?” and answer with your preferred contact information (h/t Liz Linder at KickPoint)

Post your inventory or services on Google My Business with the Products feature. You can include a photo, description and price for every item you add. 

Don’t forget to keep your Q&A refreshed seasonally

Make Your Business Discoverable Online

You can expect more shoppers to go online this season than in years past. To get ready for the holiday shopping season, make sure your online presence including your Google My Business listing, website, social media profiles, and ads are updated with the latest information.

Almost 75% of U.S. shoppers who plan to shop this season said they will shop online more for the holidays than they did in previous seasons, and a similar number said they would browse for gift ideas online and not in store, according to Google/Ipsos Study (2020).

For more tips on updating your Google My Business listing for the holidays, check out our recommendations from last year (including how to swap your top Q&A, promote events, and update your cover photo) too.

Happy Holidays from Whitespark!

AUTHOR

Allie Margeson

Allie been helping small business owners get the most bang for their marketing bucks since 2014. She loves the opportunities and challenges of local search marketing and Google Ads. She has a knack for helping busy entrepreneurs, owners and marketing managers understand the value of local search efforts, without all the jargon.



Welcome United Search | Local SEO Guide


Dan Leibson has been a strong advocate inside LSG and on SEO Twitter for the under-represented in the SEO community. At times his advocacy has been a bit too strong for some leading to several “WTF is up with Dan?” DMs to me.

Well you know WTF is up with Dan? He has spent the past few months working with an incredible group of SEOs creating UnitedSearch, a first of its kind speaker accelerator focused on helping promote new voices in the digital marketing industry.

“By offering mentoring advice from people with real world, practical, SEO experience, we give students the skills they need to be able to deliver an amazing presentation on any stage and the network they need to land gigs.

All at no cost to the student.”

I am so proud to have one of our team playing a part in this. And I couldn’t be happier to give them what I hope is their first link.

You should do the same.



I Wrote a 20 page (will update much more) intro guide to MTurk/making money online : workathome


Hello all,

I spent my Sunday writing this for a few friends, figured I’d share it here! I know many of you are struggling, so I figured I’d write this for anyone that needs some extra cash, and can make money doing some online work!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Mxw5oZjfy20tW_ulVstazuD6FazPN6Mvy0N0R9hDp8M/edit?usp=sharing

It’s basically a guide on how I’ve been using my quarantine time to make extra cash online, and has about 5 pages of great money making sites, and then the rest is a very informative guide to beginning MTurking, that I’ll be updating to include much more to include Panda, TurkDroid, and other advanced things. I feel like it’ll be a help to new people. Feel free to use my nonref links for the other sites, or if you’re feeling generous, the ref links.

Let me know what you think I should include! I’m more than willing to put another few hours into this to make it perfect for beginners.

Dental SEO: The Definitive Guide [2020]


Don’t pay for dental SEO before you know what it entails

SEO stands for “search engine optimization”. In simple terms, SEO is the process for improving your visibility, rankings, and traffic within Google’s organic search results. Done correctly, SEO for dentists can be a difference-maker for a practice by bringing in more new patients and helping you beat your competitors. In this guide we’ll get into all of the details you’ll need to understand the process for creating a successful dental SEO campaign.

The importance of SEO for dentists

Traditionally, dentists, like many small businesses, have been able to rely on word of mouth, referrals, and any number of age-old marketing techniques like yellow page ads and billboards to grow their practices. But in recent years these techniques have proven less and less effective as people turn to the internet for answers. Whether someone’s trying to figure out when daylight saving time begins or where they can get dental implants near them, Google is the first place people look.

So the question you have to ask yourself is, where do you rank on Google? Knowing that potential patients are doing their research on Google and the other search engines, can you afford not to be on top of the local rankings?

Visibility

Search engines have gotten increasingly complex over the years, and that pertains to local rankings as well. If you’ve ever done a search for dental-related services in your area, you’ll likely see a number of different types of results in the Google search result. Let’s break down the different types of results and explain how, and why they appear in results.

Paid search results

For many searches, you will see top results in Google that look like those you see below. These listings are managed through Google’s AdWords interface, which allows advertisers to select broad or narrow ranges of keywords to display advertising for. Advertisers select a budget and a maximum bid for each click and Google crunches the numbers based on the bid and the quality of the ad and page to order these results. Costs are incurred only when an ad is clicked on.

Local pack results

Probably the most important type of result for dentists is local pack results. These maps typically list three local practices and display map pins of their locations.

Google’s pack listings are fed from Google Maps, the top three listings in Google Maps will appear here. There are a myriad of factors that impact these listings, some of the more prominent including:

  • The location of the business
  • The location of the person searching
  • The quality and relevance of the content on the websites
  • The number and quality of the links pointing to the websites
  • The quality and accuracy of the information associated with the map listing (which can be managed from Google My Business)
  • The number and accuracy of citations (name, address, and phone number) for each business
  • The number, quality, and frequency of business reviews

As you can see, a lot goes into Google’s decision of what ranks atop these listings. Within this guide, we’ll provide more detail on how we go about helping our dental clients improve these areas.

Standard organic search results

The most common, and longest-standing listing on Google are the standard organic results which you can see below. These typically appear in search results after paid search ads and local pack listings, though there are exceptions.

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Google’s algorithm orders these listings based on hundreds of factors. Some of the major keys to ranking well in these listings are on-site optimization and domain authority from high-quality inbound links. In this guide, we’ll go into further detail on how proper dental SEO can improve these critical factors.

SERP click-through rates

When we talk about the importance of SEO for dentists, one thing that really puts it into perspective is the importance of a top ranking. Few things do that like illustrating the click-through rate of different positions in Google’s search results. Click-through rate (CTR) is the number of clicks your listing gets divided by the number of times it appears in search results (which is known as a “search impression”). For example, if you do a search on Google, each result on that page would receive an impression. If your listing appeared in ten searches and was clicked twice, you would have a click-through rate of 20%.

No ads, no local map pack

According to the research available from Advanced Web Ranking, in a regular search result with no ads and no local map pack, the first listing receives a whopping 32.12% of clicks! Here’s the breakdown on the CTR based on top positions for this type of search result. 

  1. 32.12%
  2. 12.38%
  3. 6.62%
  4. 4.77%
  5. 3.36%
  6. 2.34%
  7. 1.94%
  8. 1.45%
  9. 1.23%
  10. 1.15%

As you can see, things drop off quickly if you’re not at or near the very top of rankings.

CTR with map packs

For most dental practices, though, you’ll be dealing with local map packs in your search results. Here’s what the click-through rates look like for these search results.

  1. 13.98%
  2. 9.54%
  3. 6.57%
  4. 4.64%
  5. 3.25%
  6. 1.43%
  7. 0.98%
  8. 1.34%
  9. 1.04%
  10. 0.87%

As you can see, the top results don’t get the massive CTRs when a map pack is inserted into the results. Still, once you get past the fifth listing you’re basically out of luck. You really want to be in the top three listings within the map pack as much as possible to maximize your clicks.

Hopefully, this makes it clear. If you want your website to be an effective component of your marketing program, you’ll need to rank highly to get new patients.

Let’s talk ROI

It would be foolish to think there’s a specific number we can use as a patient’s lifetime value that would be applicable to every practice. There are a lot of variables that go into figuring out the lifetime value of your patients:

  • Average annual value of a patient
  • Length of average patient relationship
  • Average patient referrals

How much is a new patient worth?

While every practice is different, the ADA averages in 2016 said that patients tend to stay with a dentist from seven to ten years and spend an average of $653 per year. To be conservative, we’ll use the low end of that spectrum and assume that patients don’t bring any more referrals. The lifetime value of a patient using these numbers would be 7 x $653 = $4,571.

Once you know the value of a customer you can easily figure out what it will take to turn your SEO initiative into a profitable one. Whether you’re paying a third party for your services or spending your own time and money, a quick comparison of your monthly expenses versus new patients will let you know if you’re coming out ahead or behind. If an SEO company is charging you $1,000 per month for their services, you’ll only need to average at least two new clients per month for you to have a positive ROI in the short term. 

In the long term, you need to consider the lifetime value of each of these new clients as well. That one time SEO cost to bring them in should account for six more years of revenue at $653 per year, or $3,918 of future revenue. So, in truth, if two new clients cost $1,000 as per our example, over the course of seven years they should generate a minimum of $9,142 in revenue, good for a long-term profit of $8,142.

Is dental SEO too expensive?

Dental SEO is only too expensive if you don’t come out ahead. As you can see in our example above, it typically only takes adding a couple of new patients per month to make dental SEO a profitable endeavor. If your website is currently buried beneath your competition on Google, you could certainly help your bottom line with a properly executed SEO campaign.

On-site SEO

On-site SEO is always a starting point for dental SEO. The one thing that search engines care about that you have complete control over is the website itself – what it contains and how well it works. There are two main items to consider when working on on-site SEO for your dental practice. The first is on-page optimization and the second is the experience.

Keyword research

The process of on-page optimization starts with keyword research. Keyword research is used to determine what users are most commonly searching for on Google or other search engines related to your dental practice and the dental services you offer. Each page should focus on two to three relevant keywords or phrases. You do not want to oversaturate a page by utilizing too many keywords on a single page as it will make it difficult for a search engine to determine what the focus of a page is, and it will likely make the page difficult to read.

The best free tools to help you determine the best target keywords for your practice are Google Auto Suggest and Google Search Console.

Google auto suggest

Google auto suggest can be used to determine what users are commonly searching for. As you start to type, Google attempts to complete your search for you based on what other users have searched. As you’re searching for your dental practice, your results might look something like this:

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There are some free tools that help automate the process of using Google Auto Suggest:

Google Search Console

Google Search Console helps you analyze the current performance of your dental practice’s website in Google’s search results. Search Console provides feedback directly from Google as far as what queries, or searches, your website is showing up for, how many times users click through to your website for said searches, and your average position in the search results. This data can help you determine what keywords are already popular for your site and be utilized once you start to optimize content.

You can also use paid tools to find keywords for your dental practice. Paid tools to find keywords for your dental practice include:

Once you determine your keywords for each page, you can then start on-page optimization of your dental website by making edits to the title tag, meta description and body copy of each page.

On-page optimization

Title tag

A title tag, also commonly referred to as a page title or a meta title, is typically 60 to 70 characters long. Google limits titles based on the length of pixels, with a limit of 580. The title tag appears in multiple areas. The first being in the search engine results. Below is an example of a title tag in the Google search engine results.

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A title tag often ends with the name of your dental practice so users can easily identify your practice in the search engine results. A long name can cannibalize the character count in a page title. Google will typically cut off your title after 70 characters when they display in search results. If your dental practice falls into this category, consider using a shortened but recognizable name for the interior page titles.

The second place the title tag appears is at the top of your web browser. Below is an example of a title tag displaying in a browser tab.

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Meta description

The meta description appears in the search engine results under the title tag. Since users see it before visiting your website, it can be seen as a sales pitch for the page they’re about to see.

The meta description should be no longer than 920 pixels, or about 160 characters, with the page’s keyword at least once in the description. Utilizing the keyword is beneficial because Google will bold searched words in the meta description. In the meta description below, Google bolded Netvantage Marketing which was searched for in this example. 

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You can test the length of your page titles and meta descriptions using the title and description pixel checker from ToTheWeb.

Headings

H1 tag

The main heading on a webpage should use an H1 tag. The H1 tag is commonly seen as a headline for the page. When possible, the H1 should be the most relevant keyword for the page you are optimizing or a close variation.

Subheadings

Webpages can also consist of additional headings, using H2, H3, etc. tags. These tags are an opportunity to work in secondary or long-tail keywords into the page. They are also beneficial for breaking up long sections of content. 

Dental headings example

Let’s say you have a page about braces on your dental website. “Braces,” being the most relevant term, would be the H1 for a page, but some practices will offer different forms of braces that would benefit from being a subheading. If your office offers traditional braces and clear correct or Invisalign, it would be beneficial to include these as H2s on your page.

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Body copy

A page’s body copy should be at least 300 words at a minimum. Throughout the content, you will want to use your keywords appropriately, without overdoing it. Some of the keywords may not lend themselves to being written into the content as-is, so you will want to use close variations.

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As an example, the term above “full mouth dental implants cost usa” is searched 2,900 times on average each month. If you wanted to target this phrase on a post it’s unlikely you could use it as-is without it sounding awkward. Instead, you could use a close variation such as, “For full mouth dental implants, the cost in the USA has decreased in recent years.”

When creating body copy, it is important that you are providing quality content, not only for your dental patients but for Google. Google prefers quality content over quantity. If your page contains fluffy content that isn’t beneficial, users are likely not going to read it and leave your site to find better information elsewhere. Rest assured, Google will notice this behavior and drop your page beneath others that provide more authoritative, valuable content.

Schema

Schema, or structured data, in simple terms, is code that “talks” to search engines and provides them with information. There are many forms of Schema that can be utilized by a website. For your dental practice, you will want to utilize the most basic form, which informs Google or other search engines, that you are a local dentist. It will also share the location of your practice along with your phone number and website address.

Learn more:

User experience

Crawl errors

A crawl error is when Google, or another search engine, tries to reach your dental website using a bot but is unable to. The bot is crawling your website to index all of the pages on your website to use in the search results. 

A URL error or 404 not found error is the crawl error your dental website will most likely experience. It is when the exact URL is no longer available on your website. It is easy to fix with a 301 redirect. If you have created a new page with similar dental content or changed the address of a page, you will want to add a 301 redirect from the 404 URL to the new page’s URL. 

Multiple devices

Users are searching on the go more than ever. With 68% of health industry related searches being conducted on a mobile device, your dental practice website needs to be easy to use on a phone or a tablet so you don’t lose out on business.

What makes a website mobile-friendly?

Google’s criteria for a mobile-friendly website includes:

  • Content fits the device screen
  • Text is readable without zooming
  • Links are far enough apart to easily click on them

Utilize Google’s mobile-friendly test to see if your dental website is easily accessible on a mobile device. If your website isn’t up to Google’s standards, the test will provide you with information as to why it failed. Start by addressing these items. If your website passed the test, then you should visit your mobile website yourself on different devices. Click around the site to make sure your content is easily visible, the navigation is easy to use, you can click on links, etc. 

Site speed

Not only does your website need to be accessible on a desktop and a mobile device, but it also needs to be fast. A user has a lot of information at their fingertips when they do a search online and will go to another website if the first one doesn’t load fast enough. In fact, a study shows that 40% of users will abandon a website if it takes more than three seconds to load. Due to this, Google has put an emphasis on having a fast website.

What causes a slow website?

Every website is built differently so there is not an easy answer here. A server that you are using might be one of the main reasons you have a slow website. Too many large images can also cause a slow website. The best way to determine what is slowing down your website is to run tests.

How do I know if I have a fast website?

There are a variety of tools to test the speed of your website. A few tools we recommend using to test the speed of your dental website:

Core Web Vitals

Google uses Core Web Vitals to determine a user’s overall experience of a website. The web vitals can be broken down into three main categories for the user experience. 

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) or Loading

This category is regarding the bulk of your dental website’s content loading. To provide a good user experience, the content should be available on a page within 2.5 seconds. 

First Input Delay (FID) or Interactivity

First Input Delay is measuring your dental website’s responsiveness once an action is made. It is calculated when a user makes an action such as clicking on a link and when the browser begins to process the action. 

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) or Visual Stability

The Cumulative Layout Shift is looking for unexpected layout shifts of a page on your website. A page is visually stable if items such as a header image or menu don’t randomly shift within your display. 

To review the Core Web Vitals for your dental website, view the report in Google Search Console. These metrics are also shown when you use the Page Speed Insights tool. 

Off-site SEO

Before focusing on off-site SEO, it’s critical to make sure that your on-site SEO is taken care of. Without proper on-site SEO, Google may have difficulty categorizing your webpages and the overall context of your website.

Once your website is in good order, it’s necessary to turn your attention to the second side of the SEO coin: off-site SEO.

What is off-site SEO?

Off-site SEO relates to any SEO efforts that do not involve website modifications. The goal of off-site SEO is to increase the authority of a website. Unlike on-site SEO work that can see immediate benefits, the gains from off-site SEO work are more gradual.

For dentists operating in a local geographic area, off-site SEO typically involves the following:

  • Citation building
  • Link building (backlink building)

Citation building

Any business that operates at a regional level needs to make citation building a high priority after finalizing on-site SEO work.

What is a citation?

In the context of SEO, a citation is a mention of your business online. If your dental practice has a listing on yelp.com with accurate information about your business, that would be considered a citation.

While all information mentioned about your business is important, search engines closely pay attention to the name, address, and phone number found in a citation. These three pieces of information are referred to as your “NAP”.

Why are citations important for SEO?

Citations establish both legitimacy and popularity for your business. Google wants to display well-established businesses that are engaging in business activity. Measuring the quantity and quality of citations is an easy way for Google to measure the trustworthiness of millions of different local businesses around the world.

In the end, the more citations that your business has relative to your competitors, the more likely you will outrank them in search results.

How do I check my citations?

A great place to start when locating your own citations is by doing a Google search for your brand name while excluding results from your website. To do this, you’ll need to enter the following advanced search modifier into Google:

Google brand search

This will return any indexed pages that mention your brand name, excluding pages from your website. If you receive many results that are unrelated to your business you may need to include additional details in the search like your phone number or address.

Citation consistency is key

Google prefers to display local businesses in their search results that have accurate and consistent citations. If your citations have different addresses, phone numbers, or even names, Google will have a difficult time knowing the important details of your business, which will have a negative impact on your ability to rank well for target keywords.

As mentioned earlier, your name, address, and phone number (NAP) are what Google primarily focuses on when assessing citations. The following are some examples that cause inconsistent NAP information:

  • Moved locations
  • Use of multiple phone numbers
  • Sharing an address with another company

Moved locations

If your business moved locations at any point in time within the past ten years, it’s a good idea to see what citations exist that use your old business information.

Use of multiple phone numbers

This is a common issue when dental practices use a toll-free number in addition to a local phone number. Some directories may list your toll-free phone number while others list your local number.

While toll-free numbers may be convenient for some customers, Google is more likely to associate your business as operating in a specific geographic area if you primarily use your local phone number. Many directories allow you to list more than one phone number, which does not cause an issue.

Sharing an address with another company

If your dental practice is located in the same building as another company, you may share the same mailing address. If that is the case, you will want to use a suite number to distinguish yourself from the other business.

If your business is located at 123 Apple Avenue, Suite 101 then you will want to make sure you use the full address in all of your citations as well as on your website.

How do I get new citations?

Citations often come from a few different sources:

Large business directories

These include sites like Yellow Pages, Angie’s List, and MerchantCircle. These business directories list a large number of different business types, including dentists.

Industry-specific directories

These include niche directories that are specific for dentists or organizations that may cater to the dental and medical industry. These may include sites like Dentagama.comwellness.com, and dentists4kids.com. If you are a member of any specific dental groups or associations, you may also be able to receive a citation listing from their website.

Location-specific directories

If your dental practice is located in Florida, you may be able to find online directories that only list businesses located in the state of Florida.

Unstructured citations

These include any non-directory sites that list your citation. For example, if your business sponsors a local charity in your area, and their sponsor page lists your business along with your address and phone number, that would be considered a citation in the eyes of Google.

Citations can also be found on forums, blog posts, media mentions, and affiliate websites – just to name a few. While NAP information is important, your citation listings should include as much information as possible. When you can, you should include information like a detailed business description, hours of operation, additional services offered, images, and payments accepted.

Pro tip: search competitor brand names

Using the same advanced search modifier that you used to find your own citations, you can do the same thing to figure out where your competitors are getting their citations. This may uncover unknown websites that could potentially list your dental practice as well.

Other citation guidelines

Don’t sweat the details

You should try to make sure that all of your citations are consistent, but there’s no need for concern if there are minor differences. These are a few examples:

Greenburg Dental Group vs. Greenburg Dental Group, Inc.

Street vs. St., Avenue vs. Ave., etc.

123-456-7890 vs. (123) 456-7890

Keep descriptions unique

While it may be tempting to copy/paste a business description across all of your listings, it’s better to write unique descriptions for all of your citations. Google does not like duplicate content, and while it is not always a deal-breaker to use the same description in several locations, it can pay off to take the extra step and write unique business descriptions for each of your citation listings.

Monitor your citations for reviews

Most people will use Google itself to leave an online review of your dental practice, but this can be done in other locations as well. Yelp, Angie’s List, and the BBB are common spots that people use to write reviews of your business. Using these platforms to engage with positive reviews and respond appropriately to negative reviews can show your customers and Google that you are active and engaged.

Enhance existing citations

The more information that you can put into your citations, the better. Many directories allow you to write detailed business descriptions, provide information about each of your individual services offered, and display multiple pictures. If your directory listings seem to have bare-bones information about your business, it may be worthwhile to take the time to fill them with relevant business details. 

Create listings for each location

If your dental practice has more than one location, you will need to separately build citations for each location. For example, if you have two locations then you should have two Yelp listings for each of the locations.

Citation tools

At Netvantage, we use a number of different tools that scan citations and automatically identify inconsistent information and assist with finding new citation opportunities. The following are a few examples – All of which require paid subscriptions:

Using these tools is necessary to help streamline the citation building process and provide an extra edge in competitive markets.

Link building

Link building is the process of getting other websites to create links to your website, which are known as backlinks. 

What are backlinks, why are they important?

Backlinks are links found on another site’s webpage that point to your webpage. Google uses backlinks as a major ranking factor as it provides credibility to a website relative to its competitors.

You can think of a backlink as an endorsement. Other sites provide links to refer their website visitors to webpages that deserve attention or recognition. Google wants to provide the highest quality content to its users, so it relies heavily on these endorsements (backlinks) to determine how to rank content.

In the end, the more quality backlinks you have compared to your competitors, the more likely you will be able to rank ahead of them.

How do you see your backlinks?

In order to properly view your website’s backlink profile with enough detail to understand the overall quality and structure, you’ll need access to a premium backlink analyzing tool. Below are some of the most widely used tools currently on the market. You can also refer to our blog post on the best backlink checkers.

With the help of one of these tools, you can view and download your backlink profile data and analyze a variety of important factors like links to your domain by page, anchor text distribution, referring domains, and link authority vs. trustworthiness metrics.

Google Search Console

Assuming that you have verified your website using Google Search Console, you can find a limited report of your site’s backlinks by going to Google Search Console → Links.

GSC link report

Unfortunately, the data from these reports lack important details that paid backlink checkers provide like linking URL, anchor text, and authority scores. The data also does not indicate if a backlink may be considered spammy or manipulative of Google’s search algorithm.

How do you get backlinks?

There are a tremendous number of strategies and methods that SEOs use to get other sites to link to theirs. These are a few of the most common methods that are used for dental websites.

  • Business associations
  • Online directories
  • Link reclamation
  • Broken link building
  • Guest blogging

Business associations

If you have close ties with another business like an orthodontist, periodontist, or oral surgeon, you may want to take a look to see if they have a location on their website where they could link to you. If they have a blog or news section of their website, you could offer to write content for their website in which you can link back to your website. If you are a member of dental associations, a chamber of commerce, or local business association, you should check to see if you are getting a link from these places or not.

Online directories

Getting listed in online business directories has another benefit outside of building citations — many provide a link to your website as a part of the listing.

Link reclamation

Link reclamation involves finding unlinked mentions of your brand name or updating broken or outdated links to your site. While these instances are usually somewhat limited, news sites, articles, and directories may reference your business, but not link to it. 

Finding these instances can be done in a few different ways:

  • Search for your brand name
  • Search for your name
  • Search your logo
  • Scan your backlink profile for broken links

Search for your brand name

Doing a simple search for your brand name can return pages that mention your brand name and may or may not link to you. You can use the advanced search modifier mentioned above to narrow down results that are not your website: “your brand name” -site:yourdomain.com

Search for your name

As you would expect with dentists, their names are closely tied to their businesses. If you find mentions of your name online that are in reference to your dental practice, then the website owner may be more than happy to provide a link to your website.

Search your logo

Use Google image search to find where other sites are using your logo. If any sites are using your logo but are not providing a link, you can kindly ask them to add in a link to your site.

Google image search

Scan your backlink profile for broken links

This requires access to a backlink checking tool, but it is a great way to identify pages that are linking to a broken page on your website. For example, let’s say that your About Us page used to be located at dentistiam.com/about-us and two years ago the page was moved to dentistiam.com/about. If a 301 redirect was not created, or if it is no longer functioning, there may be websites that are linking to your old About Us page, which provides you with no SEO benefit. Backlink checking tools can help you find these instances if they exist, which provide an easy way for reclaiming broken links to your site.

Broken link building

You can also build links by finding broken content on other websites. This process, called broken link building, starts by finding a broken, or dead URL on another site that has many other sites linking to it. Ideally, you would want this to be related to dentistry or oral health. You then reverse engineer new content or a new tool that’s comparable to the broken content and pitch it to sites who are still linking to the broken page. This method works better than a standard link request because the webmasters you contact likely have more motivation to make a change on their site when they find out something is broken.

Guest blogging

Perhaps the most obvious method of link building is guest blogging. This is exactly what it sounds like, when you offer to write content that is published on other blogs who provide you a backlink within the content. Many sites will allow you to place a link in the main copy, while others may only allow it to be placed in the author biography. As more and more dentists around the country have blogs as a part of their website, there are an almost limitless amount of dental related sites to potentially guest blog for.

These are some of the most common methods for building links, but it’s always worthwhile to see how the top-ranking competitors in your area are getting their links. In order to see this information, you’ll need access to a premium website analyzing tool to view and download this data. Some of the best backlink analyzing tools include Majestic, Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush.

How do I know if I have bad backlinks?

If you or another SEO has engaged in manipulative link building techniques, it can result in poor keyword rankings or in extreme cases completely being deindexed from Google.

Google will inform you of any manual actions imposed on your website in Google Search Console.

Link relevancy

In 2020 and beyond, where you are getting your backlinks is more important than ever before. Many different types of websites provide links to dental practices such as a chamber of commerce, local newspaper, or a referring healthcare provider.

Websites that do not fit this description include sites related to gambling, car insurance, tourism, etc. Having too many links from sites that have little to do with dentistry can become an issue. To Google, these links were set up for the sole purpose of providing a link to your website and, as a result, manipulating their ranking algorithm.

As a rule of thumb, consider what a potential patient would think if they saw this link. If you wouldn’t want them to see the link, then it likely is not providing any benefit to your website.

Manipulative anchor text

Anchor text refers to the text used in a link. Historically, Google has used anchor text as a ranking factor as it has helped them identify the primary focus of a website.

A natural backlink profile will have a wide distribution of anchor text. The most frequently used anchor text is typically a website’s brand name followed by the URL

Link attributes

Not all links are the same – when a website assigns an attribute to a link, it will instruct web crawlers like Google to take a particular action.

One of the most common link attribute is the “no-follow” tag, which instructs crawlers to not follow a link. On the front end of the website, the link will look like a normal link, however, on the backend, it will look something like this: 

nofollow tag

Many websites like Facebook and Twitter will intentionally give all of their outgoing links a nofollow tag. This is to prevent SEOs from creating content (and links) for the sole purpose of influencing search results.

You can see if a link has a nofollow attribute either by looking at the HTML of the page or by installing a browser extension like No Follow, which will outline any links that have a no-follow tag.

Nofollow tag front end

Understanding Google My Business 

As you learn about SEO it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of terminology and tools you’re exposed to. While you may not understand all the SEO centered tools and terms, Google My Business (GMB) is one platform that you should be familiar with. So, what is Google My Business and how can it help your dental practice grow? The short answer is Google My Business is an online business listing that gives potential and current patients a snapshot of your dental practice within Google’s search results. It details important information about your practice including your business’s description, address, phone number, website address, hours, reviews, and more. The best part is that setting up a Google My Business profile for your dental practice is a free, easy, and straightforward process that you can do yourself.

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How to claim and verify?

Trust us, compared to dental school this will be a piece of cake. Getting started with your Google My Business is easy, however, the page will stay unpublished until you go through Google’s formal process of claiming and verifying your new dental listing.

Claim by computer 

  1. Open Google Maps and use the search bar to search for your business. 
  2. Once you’ve found your business, click on the business name. 
  3. From here, click “Claim this business” to begin managing. 
  4. Follow through with the instructions for the verification process. 

If your business is not already listed in Google Maps, you’ll have to use a Google account, login to Google My Business, and choose the “Add your business to Google” option.

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Verify by mail 

  1. Log into your Google My Business account. 
  2. Find the business you wish to verify and click “Verify now
  3. Ensure that your business information is displayed correctly on the postcard request screen. 
  4. From here, click “Send postcard” and you should receive it within 14 business days. 
  5. Once your postcard has been received by mail, log back into your Google My Business account. 
  6. Click “Verify now” and enter the unique 5 digit verification code in the field.
  7. Click “Submit” and you are done.

How it relates to citations

Your Google My Business listing is authoritative and can potentially be a source that feeds other citations across the web of your practice’s information. When Google displays search results with map listings, that data comes from your GMB listing. To trust your listing enough to display it, Google will compare the data you’ve provided with citations from around the web to check for consistency. If Google finds that your GMB listing has discrepancies between your practice name, address, or phone number on your website and other local directories like Yelp, they likely won’t trust your data enough to display your map listing when users do local searches. The more accurate your GMB listing is compared to third party citations across the web, the better chances you will have to appear in local rankings.

How to optimize your listing 

If you want to take your GMB listing to the next level, there are a few things that you should focus on. By optimizing your listing, your chances to be shown in the local map pack and map search results can increase greatly.

Reviews

When people search for your business on Google, one of the first things they will take a look at are the reviews. So encouraging your patients to leave a review about your dental practice can make a huge difference in whether potential patients click on your listing. In addition to getting patients to leave a review, it’s equally important to take the time to respond to these reviews whether they are good or bad. This lets patients know that you are actually acknowledging and reading what they are saying and effectively handling any negative public feedback. 

To learn more about how you can get more reviews for your practice, take a look at this post.

Images

Adding photos to your listing is crucial so that potential patients can get an idea of what your practice looks like before coming in. This will help build confidence that your office is a welcoming, professional environment before entering your practice. We recommend having high-quality photos of the exterior of your building, inside of your practice, and some photos of your dentists and staff. The goal is to use these images to help introduce your staff and build trust with potential patients. Be sure to keep photos up to date as things may change around your office. 

Categories

Typically as a dentist, you can fall within several different categories of dentistry. Maybe you provide both cosmetic dentistry and pediatric dentistry. That’s why categories can come in handy as you can list your practice in more than one category to show up in local searches related to these terms. You can easily add categories to your listing by visiting your Google My Business dashboard and locating the info tab to add categories.

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Services & descriptions

Google allows you to add services to your listing and relevant descriptions of each service. This can help your listing gain broader relevance in local search rankings. When adding these services, you can categorize them into different sections. For example, you might put “clear correct braces” as a service under the “cosmetic dentistry” category. By adding services, this helps not only patients but also helps Google better understand your practice and what you have to offer. 

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Hours & holidays 

Having accurate hours is important for your patients, and many of them will rely on Google for that information. Thus, it’s important to keep up with your hours on your listing. Google allows you to adjust these hours in your listing under “Special Hours” for holidays and other dates and times when your practice might be closed or operating under different hours. 

Reporting 

The GMB insights tool can be helpful when optimizing your listing. The insights section can provide you with data surrounding how customers have interacted with your listing. The main data points that it will provide you with include:

  • How many people have viewed your listing
  • How these people found your listing and where they came from
  • What actions to these people take on your listing
  • Any other interactions that happen with your listing

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How do you know if your SEO is working?

There are several good ways to measure whether your SEO is working. But before we get into those, let’s talk about the wrong way to measure SEO success – Googling yourself. 

One of the major complaints we hear from people is, “Our office doesn’t show up when I search.” It may seem counterintuitive, but constantly searching for yourself is a bad way to assess how you’re doing in search results. There are a number of reasons for this.

Google personalizes your results

Once you start searching and clicking on your own listing or your competitors, your experience will begin changing based on what you click. This is not the experience a new user has, nor what Google is likely presenting them.

Results change by location

Google updates results based on where you’re searching from. So, your rankings likely won’t be the same in your living room as they will be in other parts of town. Have a look at the massive variation of rankings for one dental office within a one-mile radius when searching for “dentist near me” below.

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Google is beyond simple binary rankings at this point. It’s extremely rare to consistently rank number one for a localized term throughout a whole town or city. If you are extremely concerned about your local rankings, you can pay for a localized rank checking service like Local Falcon which will allow you to generate reports like the one you see above. This will give you much more accurate reporting than trying to do it yourself.

If you can’t always be number one, how do you measure success?

For dental SEO it’s important to look at things in the aggregate. Rather than obsessing over how often you seem to show up in the first spot when you search on your own phone, you should pay attention to a handful of other metrics:

Organic search traffic

If you’re truly ranking higher, that will show itself in the number of visitors reaching your site from search. Google Analytics provides reporting on this data, and it’s 100% free.
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Search impressions

Often when starting an SEO campaign, you may have little or no traffic at all from search engines. Before you start getting clicks, you need to start showing up in search results. Every time your website appears in a result for a user, that is considered a “search impression”. Even if you don’t earn the click, tracking the trends in impressions will tell you if you’re making progress in Google. Google Search Console is a free tool from Google that tracks your impressions. If your SEO is working, you should see continued growth in impressions, followed by clicks. Bing offers a similar tool, called Bing Webmaster Tools, if you would like to get similar reporting from their interface.

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Localized metrics

In addition to the above data, Google also provides a lot of valuable feedback on your local SEO within Google My Business. This free dashboard will allow you to see how people are interacting with your Google map listing. This dashboard will give you data on how you are performing in Google’s local map packs and also when people utilize Google maps. Here you can find data for how often users click through from the map listing to your website, how often the request directions, and how many phone calls come from your local listing.

Conversions

If you’re savvy with Google Analytics, you can set up conversion tracking to see how well your website, and your various traffic sources, are performing in generating new patient leads. With this level of tracking you can see just how many new leads your SEO campaign is generating, and you can also measure other online marketing channels like paid search and email marketing.

If you’re overwhelmed by the process of dental SEO and looking for a dental marketing company, contact Netvantage today. We have experience helping dental practices with on-site and off-site SEO as well as optimizing Google My Business listings.