Small business is proving to be big business amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Somewhat surprisingly, the entrepreneurial spirit is thriving, despite the economic recession. There’s no time like the present to consider ways to make your small business bigger.
Startups reached a record high during the 16-month period from March 2020 to June 2021. Data from NPR’s The Indicator from Planet Money reveals that people started more than 440,000 businesses in June 2021. The Wall Street Journal also reported more than 3.2 million applications for employer identification numbers (EINs) were filed in 2020.
Small businesses already in existence have managed to get creative with their business models and quickly pivoted their offerings to meet customer needs in 2020.
Startups just launching are equally cognizant of what it means to pivot, innovate on the fly, and retain the need to be nimble and resilient during uncertain times.
Ready to make your small business bigger?
As I write this in August 2021, it’s a bit difficult for me to predict how Q3 and Q4 of this year will pan out. However, what I do know is that small businesses can ensure their companies continue growing in 2021 and beyond if they take these five steps now — if they haven’t already:
Build a website.
Review your business plan.
Build a business support system.
Consider B Corporation Certification.
Listen to your customers.
Let’s get started building your business!
1. Build a website
One of the most valuable tools in a small business’s toolkit is its website. Websites help create visibility for small businesses. Customers, both existing and new, are looking for your business online.
How can building a website benefit your business? Having a basic website acts as a home base, especially if you have a brick-and-mortar storefront. It allows customers to find you, learn about your offerings and services, and contact you for more information.
A well-designed website also may help create a seamless customer experience. Customers can make purchases through the site and businesses can use a website to accept payments and process orders. How else can you make your small business bigger by leveraging your website?
Showcase your offerings through high-resolution photography, establish a blog, link to social media platforms where your business maintains an active presence, and encourage customers to sign up for newsletters where they may learn more about new and exciting news about your business.
Surprisingly, statistics show that only 50% of small business owners have a website.
The good news is that it’s quite easy to get started creating a small business website. You may work alongside website building and hosting companies or hire a website developer to help build an impressive and functional website for your business.
Editor’s note: Want a beautiful website in no time? Try GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing Website Builder. It’s easy to use, visually appealing, and easily integrates with social media platforms.
2. Review your business plan
Many entrepreneurs draft a business plan when they start a business.
This document details what the business does, analyzes its target audience and competitors, examines cash flow and what makes the business profitable, and sets timelines to reach business goals.
Here are a few questions that may help you begin the review process.
What milestones was your business able to achieve after a year like 2020?
How long did it take to reach these goals? Will you need to adjust timelines to reach future goals?
Have there been changes to your company’s offerings, such as new products, services or pricing?
Is your target market growing or shrinking? For example, you may find that while your business originally intended to reach millennials, it has caught the interest (and sales) of Gen Z as well.
Do you have new members of management or staff? If so, you may decide to update the About Us section of your site with their biographies.
How has cash flow changed over the last year for the business? If it has improved dramatically from one quarter to the next, what factors contributed to these changes?
Remember that reviewing your business plan does not mean focusing on making a perfect business plan. This is an ever-changing document that is meant to better understand how each area of your business — from its financials to its marketing strategy — is being built for growth and success.
3. Build a business support system
As an entrepreneur, you shouldn’t have to go it alone trying to make your small business bigger. There will be moments when you have questions you’d like to get answered, need a shoulder to lean on when moving through the ouch spots or simply want good people to cheer you on when you succeed.
Build up a business support system. Aside from close family and friends, some of the people you may wish to add to this system include mentors and business coaches who can provide relevant insight.
You can find mentors for your business through platforms like SCORE and even take workshops that provide free business training to learn new skills and acquire the necessary knowledge it takes to run your business.
Another crucial part of your support system should include individuals with legal and accounting backgrounds. Legal professionals can help if you have questions about your business formation and accountants or CPAs can answer your tax and bookkeeping questions.
4. Consider B Corporation Certification
Amid a year of civil unrest and the ongoing impact of climate change on our planet, customers are expecting more from businesses. They want to spend their hard-earned dollars with companies that are honest, transparent and walk the walk when it comes to sustainability.
Do you want to truly make a difference with your business and allow your company to be the best for the world rather than in the world?
You may consider obtaining B Corporation Certification, which allows a business to balance purpose and profit and use business as a force for good. Becoming a Certified B Corporation is a voluntary process that is completed with the assistance of B Lab.
Think of it as an audit. Most entities that decide to designate their businesses as Certified B Corps start off as limited liability companies or corporations. The business must pass a test known as the B Impact Assessment (BIA). The company also must be able to meet legal requirements and meet with a B Lab Standards analyst for an assessment review before they are approved as a Certified B Corporation.
Before you begin the process, consider consulting a legal professional to determine if a Certified B Corp designation is the right decision for your business.
5. Listen to your customers
Earlier, I mentioned that having a website can be a helpful tool in creating a seamless customer experience. Whether you’re launching a new startup or growing your existing business, take the time to listen to your customers.
Listening to customers allows businesses to do more than just respond to their needs.
This is the time to get to know and understand your customers. Problems facing customers during COVID-19 might be different than they were before the pandemic.
Dine-in restaurants, for example, initially dealt with the issue of being able to serve customers. In the past, a customer would be able to enjoy a meal indoors, but that was not an option during the first few months of the pandemic. Many restaurants resolved this issue by listening to customers and providing take-out and delivery services. Some even installed drive-throughs to make it easier to place orders and help customers get exactly what they needed.
Listen to customers and pay attention to the needs of your target market. Identify their problems and pain points.
How can your offerings act as a solution? Is it possible to develop new products if your existing services are unable to help solve these problems?
Study and plan how you will best be able to serve customers in calm and challenging times alike. Reach out for customer feedback on a year-round basis and keep a sharp eye on customer behavior changes and audience interests. The bigger the business, the more investors will take interest in your startup — and its loyal customer base!
The above content should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation.
Elon Musk said Sunday he “somewhat agonized” over the font designs for his companies Tesla and SpaceX.
The billionaire businessman added he “loves fonts” and has tweaked the logos over the years.
He revealed the SpaceX logo also holds a hidden meaning, representing a rocket’s arc to orbit.
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In a series of Sunday tweets, Elon Musk said he “somewhat agonized” over his choice of fonts for his businesses and revealed a hidden meaning behind the SpaceX logo.
Responding to a tweet about serif and sans-serif fonts, the billionaire businessman took a break from posting cryptic memes and discussing politics to say he loves fonts and put significant consideration into how his companies are presented to consumers.
“I somewhat agonized over the Tesla & SpaceX font design (love fonts tbh),” Musk tweeted. “There are some similarities, particularly use of negative space. We’ve made many little tweaks over the years.”
The Tesla logo — a T-shaped design with a custom, sans-serif font spelling out the brand name — is meant to resemble a cross-section of an electric motor. The SpaceX logo, written in a similar font with an extended X, references the reusable rockets made by the company.
“The swoop of the X is meant to represent the rocket’s arc to orbit,” Musk tweeted.
Other business logos have also held hidden messages: Baskin Robbins, a chain that sells 31 flavors of ice cream, has a secret ’31’ hidden in the letters of its logo. Likewise, Amazon’s arrow logo is meant to represent a smile, while the circular ‘B’ logo for Beats by Dre represents a person wearing the popular headphones.
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The internet has revolutionized the business world and changed how we conduct business. Any business that aims to increase its visibility and boost profit needs to pay much attention to top ranking factors, including local SEO — which introduces the topic of the local search algorithm.
Local SEO is one of the top practices that help boost a business’s visibility and generates more sales.
However, achieving better local SEO rankings is not a walk in the park, especially due to increased competition. To appear higher on local results, businesses and marketers need to understand how the local search algorithm works.
Knowing this helps guide the steps for improving rankings in the local pack.
The competition gets stiffer as more businesses open and optimize for local searching. Besides, Google is updating its algorithm consistently, meaning only businesses that can keep up with these updates can appear at the top of local search results.
Luckily, you have come to this post as this article looks at everything you need to know about Google’s local search algorithm and what you can do to get that top spot in the local pack.
Understanding the local search algorithm
Google aims to provide the best results that match a specific local search query. It constantly updates the local search algorithm to determine which business to rank on top of local search results.
Ideally, Google wants to provide local content that is relevant and valuable to users. As with search engine optimization, keyword stuffing cannot give you that top spot in local search results.
SEO specialists and marketers should consider Google’s local search algorithm updates and make the necessary changes to rank higher. Failure to consider these updates means losing your local search presence, resulting in fewer leads and conversions.
Local algorithms check the Google My Business (GMB) listings to determine where to rank a business in local search rankings.
Ideally, Google’s local algorithm ranks businesses with information that matches a searcher’s query. And the higher a business ranks in local search results, the more chances a potential customer will click on it.
This post looks at the three major pillars that determine local search results to better understand the local search algorithm: proximity, prominence and relevance.
Of course, other factors make up Google’s local search algorithm, but since we cannot identify all of them, we’ll focus on the most crucial ones in this post.
By understanding these pillars, marketers can better position themselves for local search success.
Proximity is one of the major ranking factors when it comes to local search. That means the distance between a business and a searcher is a ranking factor in local search.
When a searcher searches for something, Google considers how far the searcher is from the location of the term they use in the search. When a searcher doesn’t specify the location, Google calculates the distance based on the information they have regarding their location.
Ideally, Google aims to provide the most relevant results to a search query. For instance, why would Google provide a list of coffee shops in Los Angeles if the searcher is searching from Colombia?
That would be irrelevant local search results that won’t benefit the searcher.
Unfortunately, while proximity is a major local search pillar, it’s one of the factors that businesses have little control over. After all, you cannot change where your business is located, right?
You can only ensure your business location is as clear as possible, so that it appears for related nearby queries. Here are steps you can take to achieve this:
Claim and verify the Google My Business listing
Ensure local listings are accurate and optimized for local products or services
Get the Google Maps API Key and optimize for your location and routes
Set up your profile correctly (for Service Area Businesses) to avoid violating Google’s guidelines
Users can perform several types of local searches, including:
Users will perform geo-modified searches when they are planning to visit somewhere. For instance, a searcher in Los Angeles planning to visit Toronto, Canada, may search for a “coffee shop in Oakville.” The results will differ from if they searched for “coffee” while physically in Oakville.
To be specific, geo-modified searches are mainly based on relevance and prominence as opposed to proximity when a user searches for something when outside the city included in the search.
Searchers perform this type of search when looking for something around them. For instance, a user in Los Angeles performing a local search for “coffee.”
Ideally, the user only needs to search for something and is shown results based on proximity. They will get the results that are closest to them.
“Near me” searches
“Near me” searches have been so popular in recent years. Although their popularity has significantly declined, users still perform this type of search when looking for something locally.
For instance, some users could add “near me” when searching for a coffee shop, hoping to get the most relevant results near them. As we’ve stated, this trend has lost popularity because when you perform a local search, you are searching for something near you.
It is not necessary to add “near me” to what you’re searching.
Prominence refers to how important Google thinks your business is, which gets factored into the local search algorithm.
In other words, it refers to how well a business stands from the rest in various aspects, including directories, links, reviews, mentions, among other things.
If search engines view your business as trustworthy and credible, they will likely show it on top of related search query results.
The local search algorithm views businesses/brands with a stronger online prominence as credible and trustworthy. Some of the factors that determine prominence include:
A local citation is the mention of a business’s information online. The mention can include the partial or complete name, address, and phone number (NAP) of a local business.
Citations are an excellent way for people to learn about local businesses and impact local search results.
A business with high-quality citations can rank better in local search results, although businesses must continually manage citations to ensure data accuracy.
Backlinks play a crucial role in local business prominence. Gaining relevant backlinks from high-quality sites is an excellent way to build a business’ online reputation.
If you’re trying to outrank your competitors without much success, your backlink profile could be the reason.
In that case, you should check your competitor’s backlinks and compare them with yours. When doing this, pay attention to the number and quality of their backlinks.
As a rule of thumb, aim to have high-quality local backlinks pointing to your site to improve your page’s authority.
Next, you need to pay much attention to reviews to improve local prominence. Many customers look at a business’s online reviews before deciding whether to engage more with the business or not. Besides, many positive online reviews can increase a business’ ranking factors.
Consider this scenario. A potential customer is looking for a pub around Oakville. When they perform a search, they are presented with two results: one with over 100 reviews and another with less than 10 reviews.
Which business do you think the searcher would trust? The one with 100 reviews, obviously.
As with search engines, customers need to trust a business before they decide to do business with it. Similarly, search engines can view online reviews and analyze them to determine a business’s online prominence.
That said, here are strategies you can use to boost your online review signals:
Have a strategy
You won’t have a strong online prominence if your products or services are not of a high standard. So, the first step to having many great reviews is to develop great products and services.
After that, develop a strategy to encourage your happy customers to leave honest but valuable reviews of their experience doing business with you to help boost your online reputation.
Monitor and manage the reviews
Having many reviews is one thing; you need to develop a plan to engage with your customers for better results. Responding to reviews shows people that you care and are genuine about your products and services.
People will avoid businesses that don’t respond to customer reviews (whether positive or negative).
Search engines, too, can tell whether you engage with customer reviews or not and will use the information to determine where to rank on local search results.
When responding to online reviews, pay special attention to negative reviews and how you respond to them. While no business likes getting negative reviews, how you respond to them can positively impact your business — respond positively to turn the negative reviews around.
As earlier stated, Google wants to provide the most relevant results to a local search query. This key ranking factor will determine a business’s position in local search results — how well does a local business match a search query?
Even if your business ticks the above pillars (prominence and proximity), if the content on your page isn’t well structured and doesn’t cover the topics that a searcher is looking for, you won’t appear on top of local search results.
Here are factors that businesses should consider to create a relevant listing:
Local page signals
Local listing categories and attributes
Social posts and responses to online reviews
Local listing signals and categories
A business GMB listing and category can impact its relevance score for local searches. As such, complete your business profile carefully and continually add quality content to the web page to ensure it is relevant for proximity searches.
More specifically, ensure that all information on all listing pages, including Yelp, Bing, and Google, is complete and accurate. Aside from these factors, here are two crucial features you should pay attention to:
Selecting the right categories for your local business listing is among the crucial factors for ranking locally. With over 4000 GMB categories, you want to choose categories that best describe your business — ensure they are relevant and specific.
Here are guidelines to follow when selecting a category:
Describe your business as opposed to your services
Be specific to minimize competition
Reduce the number of GMB categories to describe your business better
Without a proper description, users won’t know what your business is about. This section is about adding an introduction to your business so that customers and search engines can know more about your business.
However, don’t use this section for marketing your business. Just give users and search engines descriptive info that can help determine whether your business matches their needs.
Local page signals
Another way a business can improve its standing in the local search algorithm is by optimizing web pages for specific keywords. For multi-location businesses, it’s essential to have separate, localized pages for each location, with relevant information and contact details for customers to reach you.
Performing competitor research is advisable to determine what terms or keywords to use for a specific query. Here are top on-page signals to consider when trying to gain relevance for a given topic:
Keyword research — Before creating local content, you need to find keywords that matter to your business. Perform keyword research to determine highly relevant keywords with high intent. When finding relevant terms to use in your content, base your research on the customer perspective; think about what they search for and the type of content they are looking for.
Create local content — After finding the right keywords, it’s time to create your content. Google values the quality of content more than the length of the content, so keep this in mind when creating content. Another crucial thing to pay attention to is localizing the content. For example, you can create content on local news and events or use your city’s name within your content.
The goal is to create a connection between what’s happening in your local area and your business. Also, use pictures with your specific geolocation to increase your content relevance.
Creating quality and relevant content is only the start. You need to optimize your content for on-page signals so local search algorithms can discover and rank them better. Here’s how you can optimize your local content for on-page signals:
Meta descriptions — Include keywords in your meta descriptions to encourage searchers to click through and increase visibility
Title tags — Title tags are some of the factors that search engines use to determine where to rank content. Incorporating keywords naturally in your title tags can help boost local rankings
Image tags — Another way to improve local rankings is by including relevant keywords in your image tags. Including geotags also comes with an added advantage
Headings — Users and Google value pages with clear structures. Consider creating headings within your content to capture readers’ attention and encourage them to read on. However, ensure your heading tags describe the content that comes after them well. Also, include keywords in your heading tags to help search engines understand them and their importance.
Off-page local signals
Gaining high-quality backlinks is a great way to boost credibility and trust. Backlinks refer to external links from another website to your site. Aim to have more high-quality backlinks to boost your website authority.
Ideally, having many quality backlinks shows search engines that your website or page is credible and trustworthy, which boosts the chances of ranking it higher in search engine results.
Guest posting is one of the best examples of link-building strategies you can use. Finding great guest posting opportunities provides an excellent opportunity to share your content to a new but relevant audience, which helps boost your website authority.
Another strategy you can use is to create longer and better content than what is already available on the web. When your content is high quality and relevant, it will be easier to get high-quality backlinks.
Review and social signals
Online reviews can also help boost relevance for your local business. Aim to get as many positive reviews from your happy customers as possible.
Remember, when customers perform a local search, they get not only the relevant businesses but also reviews related to the search. The more positive reviews a business has, the higher chances a potential customer will do business with them.
Closing thoughts on the local search algorithm
Ranking on top of local search results can seem daunting, but it shouldn’t when you know the vital things to focus on. As you have seen above, the local algorithm is based on three pillars: relevance, proximity, and prominence.
Of course, other factors determine local search rankings depending on your industry and competition.
Ah, email. Why did you send my friend’s birthday party invite to my spam folder? Why do you make it so easy to archive an email when I don’t even know what that means? Why are you … blue now … Gmail?
Email is a necessary evil. So whenever I hear about startups looking to innovate on the decades-old communication tech, I’m instantly intrigued considering the huge number of potential areas of improvement. Plus, talk about a large TAM!
Startups have taken note. Boomerang launched its email productivity software in 2010, and since its 2014 launch, Superhuman has raised $108 million to help users get through their inbox faster. Trying to build a better email mousetrap isn’t exactly a novel concept, but it could be big business.
I recently received pitches from two new upstarts, both of which launched their email innovations in the last year, that really piqued my interest. Let’s meet them.