Archives March 2018

Happy 404 Day!

404 Day

Have you heard of 404 day? We noticed the wonderful folks over at Internet Archive were celebrating a “new holiday” this Saturday, April 4th 2020, and we thought we would join the party!

It’s 404 Day!

If you are fully aware of http status codes, and appreciate the good natured reference to 404 pages, Happy 404 Day! If not – do not fear – a beginners guide to “404” follows.

What does 404 mean?

A “404” is a technical code web developers and website adminsitrators use to describe a page that is shown when a user lands on a page that doesn’t exist on a website. 404 pages tend to be found by accident, often by following a broken link on the web which results in the vistior landing on a page which isn’t there. A link to a page which doesn’t exist is known as a “broken link”

Many website owners acknowledge that from time to time, their visitors will follow broken links, and therefore configure what are known as “404” pages – 404 pages are shown when the visitor follows a broken link, or types an incorrect URL into a web browser. An example 404 page is shown below.

The 404 page on the BBC website.

Are 404 pages bad?

While 404 pages are a very normal, every day expereince on the web, they can be very disruptive for a users browsing experience. Imagine if you are looking to purchase a gift for a close friend. You browse the web, looking for ideas – maybe checking a review or two. After a little surfing, you stumble across a blogger who seems to be reviewing the perfect gift for your friend!

They have a link to a store that claims to sell the item that will delight your friend. You are just about to become the planets greatest ever friend by purchasing the perfect, most considerate gift. You click the link.

Imagine the dissapointment if you end up not on the purchase page, but instead on a 404 page with no way of purchasing your friends dream gift – thats a bad experince for you, and also a bad experience for the owner of the website who has just lost a sale!

How do 404’s happen?

There are three main ways that 404’s occur:

  • A web page gets deleted, breaking links pointing at it
  • Someone makes a mistake iwhen they create a link
  • Someone goes looking for them deliberately

There is very little worth doing about 404 hunters. Some people are just interested to see what a given sites 404 page looks like.

Let’s look at the other two causes – where the 404 page is a symptom, rather than cause of a broken link.

How do you fix a broken link?

It’s not just strangers who can accidentally create broken links. Website owners can also sometimes accidentally link to content that isn’t there.

Links on the same site are called internal links. Broken internal links tend to be relatively easy to fix ONCE you’ve found them – they just need correcting.

Links from othe sites are called external links, and that’s where things can get a bit more complicated and time consuming. One way of fixing an external link is to try to reach out to the party who made the link and convince them to mend it. Sometimes, that’s straightforward. Sometimes it’s a complicated pain that yields no results regardless of how much effort you put into it.

An alternative route to trying to get other people to fix broken links on their site is to try to change your site to accomodate vistors reaching a 404 page on your site via the broken link. You can either use a “redirect” to bounce the user onto appropraite existing content, or put up new content to replace the 404 page with something meaningful, hopefully improveming both the visitors experience and your bottom line!

There is a second, more complicated cause of broken links than mistyped links . This is where content on a website is removed, resulting in any links pointing to the old content becoming broken, and a 404 page being shown.

Website owners therefore need to be careful when deleting content to make sure that they consider the impact on site visitors if well linked to content is removed.

This issue can lead to website owners trying to save all content so no links will ever break. This strategy, however, is not without dangeer.

However, if a website owner gets scared of deleting content, and wants to preserve it forever – other problems can emerge – like old or stale content presenting the users with out of date information, promotions or speial offers.

Search Engine Optimisation consultanats and agencies can help website owners define a content maintenance strategy which means the most valuable pages are kept up to date, and let you know which pages can be either deleted, or redirected to similar content.

Can I find broken links that result in 404 pages on my site?

Given that a 404 page is a fall back when a page does not exist which is often the result of a broken link, it can be worth finding and prioritisng broken links to your site. There are a number of tools to do this – many of which fall into at least one of the follwoing categories:

  • Tools from major search engines
  • Log file analysis tools
  • Site Crawlers
  • Link Maps

One of the most well known Web Analytics tools for finding 404 pages is the Google Search Console. Google Search Console reports on a number of site problems, inclusing 404 pages, and is considered an essential tool by many website owners.

Log analysis tools can be very powerful. Log files are produced by webservers, and record visitor activity on your website. However, downloading and analysing log files can be complex for the unitiated, depending on how your website is configured. There are a number of free and paid tools for webfile analysis. It’s worth noting that your wesite hsting provider may include some logfile analysis tools as a part of the service.

Site crawlers are programs which download websites to your PC “on demand” for analysis. Site crawlers can be a great way to find broken internal links on your site. A popular Site Crawler is “Screaming Frog” – which comes in paid and free versions. The free version is great for smaller sites.

Link Maps – or “backlink indexes” crawl as much of the web as they can, creating a map of how all the pages on the web link together. Link Maps can be very useful for finding out external broken links to your site and others.

Majestic is a Link Map – and features a tool called “Site Explorer” which can help you find broken links to yout site – plans start at just $49.99 US per calendar month.

Find and Fix a broken link on 404 day

We hope you’ve found this guide useful, and challange you to find and fix a broken link for 404 day – potentially an easy, cheap way to get – and keep – more visitors on your website.

Majestic


Faster pages, stronger sales: Optimizing ecommerce site speeds

  • Research from Google suggests that the correlation between page load times and conversion rates is strong, especially on mobile web pages.
  • One of the simplest changes you can make to your website is limiting the data loaded as a visitor navigates through product listings.
  • If you can identify that pages are loading a lot of third-party Javascript files ahead of your body content, you’ll want to see how that can be rearranged.
  • More simple yet surprisingly quick things that can help speed up your ecommerce site.

For online retailers, the abandoned site/cart problem has many factors. Reducing the number of clicks to checkout, eliminating surprises in price displays and offering guest checkout options are some well-known ways to fight cart abandonment on an ecommerce site, but smart merchants are always searching for ways to keep potential customers from leaving the site before making a purchase.

Research from Google (among other surveys conducted in the last few years) suggests that the correlation between page load times and conversion rates is strong, especially on mobile web pages. In short, slow loading times are stopping sales in their tracks.

Speeding up page load can have a huge impact on your business. Just check out Google’s Test My Site tool, which can help you estimate load time’s impact on revenue based on the number of visitors to your site, your average conversion rate and average order value. Depending on your results, you may want to start small or jump into wholesale site adjustments to reclaim revenue lost to site abandonment. Let’s go through speed-oriented changes at three different levels of difficulty.

Level one: Simple yet quick changes you can make yourself 

Images on your website create the biggest data transfer need when someone loads up your page on their browser. One of the simplest changes you can make to your website is limiting the data loaded as a visitor navigates through product listings. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should remove images, it just means you should be smarter about how they’re used.

The simplest way to do this is to make sure your customer’s browser is loading the right size image for their needs. If they’re on mobile, they don’t need the same size product images as they would on desktop. You can manually add differently-sized images and set parameters for when they’re displayed, but your ecommerce platform should offer a way to make images responsive to the customer’s device. You upload the highest-quality image you have, and the user gets the size they need based on the device they are using.

Another best practice is to limit the number of items displayed at one time on each page. Don’t load 100 results per page when only 15 can fit on-screen at once. Instead, use “Load More” buttons and let shoppers tell your site when they’re ready for more. This allows shoppers to scroll segments of your product listings, without feeling daunted by dozens of pages of results to sift through, while also keeping load times ultra fast. Your page will only need to load a handful of images at a time when the user is ready to view them, and their overall scrolling and the shopping experience will be simplified.

Level two: You might need the help of your partners

As with images, reducing the amount of other data that needs to load when a user first visits your website will help speed up their experience. The content they encounter first on your site is called “above-the-fold” content and should be what loads first. You might be surprised to learn that plenty of websites load third-party widgets before getting to the actual content.

It’s easy to identify the way your HTML is structured – just open the developer tools on your browser and look through the page code. Near the top, you want CSS to load first, which appears as <link>. This controls the basic appearance of your site and you can use CSS in place of certain images or graphics to make your pages even less hefty to load. Next, you want to see the <body> of your page – the content your customer is waiting for – or, potentially, some javascript files, <script>, if some are absolutely required for the rest of the page to load.

This is where your partners come in. If you can identify that pages are loading a lot of third-party Javascript files ahead of your body content, you’ll want to see how that can be rearranged. However, going into your site backend and messing with code isn’t usually advisable. Create sandboxes for testing to make sure a change on one page doesn’t break the rest of your website. If you don’t have developer resources in-house, work with your ecommerce platform provider or domain host. They can help you set up sandboxes for your own testing, or identify and correct any page structure mishaps that might have been created as you added different tools and functions to your site.

Level three: Teamwork makes the dream work

Consistent experiences across desktop and mobile have been the goal for merchants since the iPhone’s introduction in 2007 launched the era of mobile browsing. In the 2010s, responsive design delivered significantly better mobile experiences and played a significant role in the shift of internet access taking place mostly on desktop to mostly on mobile.

Now, blending the functionality of websites with the simplicity of apps is the latest move to provide fast, simple mobile commerce experiences. Progressive web apps, (PWAs) which were introduced several years ago but are seeing more significant adoption now, have a few attributes that make them unique, and uniquely-suited to online sales.

PWAs are responsive and load incredibly fast, giving the sensation of instantaneous load times. They can work offline, thanks to progressive updates through service workers, and are secure because service workers require encrypted data transmissions. PWAs can be installed on mobile device home screens and support push notifications like apps, but can also be accessed and shared using URLs like websites.

In short, PWAs can solve the problems of slow page load speeds on desktop or mobile, but also unlock new ways for merchants to interact with shoppers, provide great digital experiences, increase loyalty and empower customers to advocate for the brand. You probably aren’t going to build a PWA alone, but brands who do find many benefits in the process.

When a potential customer visits an online store, it’s typically because they have some level of interest in the products sold there, which is why it’s frustrating for merchants to lose a sale once they have come that far. Don’t let page load times be the reason bail. There are many factors and many fixes like the ones we’ve reviewed here that can impact load speeds and keep customers happily shopping on your ecommerce site.

Jimmy Duvall is Chief Product Officer at BigCommerce.

The post Faster pages, stronger sales: Optimizing ecommerce site speeds appeared first on Search Engine Watch.


The Cruelty of the Paycheck Protection Program

If you are a small business owner and were not awake late last night and early this morning endlessly refreshing your browser scouring Twitter for information, your hopefully peaceful night’s sleep may be the last you can enjoy for some time.

I was fortunate enough to get a call from a financial advisor (not to mention fortunate enough to have a financial advisor) earlier this week telling me that his firm was encouraging all of their clients to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program.

“It’s free money!”

I am pretty sure he giggled when he said it.

Since then, in my spare time while not trying to make sure I still had a business, I have been trying to figure out how to apply to the program. There was very little information because the government was still trying to iron out all of the details with the banks. The best they could do was provide a sample application form, which could change once everything was finalized. All we knew is it would start today.

And that it was first come, first serve…Cue the Hunger Games cornucopia gif:

I bank with BofA, but when I tried calling, the IVR told me I would have to hold for more than three hours. I logged into my online bank account and saw nothing. I checked my inbox regularly. Not even a friendly “it’s coming, get ready” announcement.

Yesterday I decided to drive over to the local branch to see if they were up to speed. I hope when I walked in, with my blue nitrile gloves with the flopping fingertips (recently washed and impossible to pull on all the way) and an N95 mask with a broken strap hanging off my face (picture Bane in a nursing home), that I provided some entertainment for the bankers who had to stand about ten feet away from the door and tell the stream of freaked out business owners, “We’re only taking applications online. Thank you for being a BofA customer.”

I drove home, washed my gloves in the garage sink, hung up my mask on the pegboard to let the could-be-virus die, washed my hands while singing Happy Birthday to Me twice and came up with a genius idea. I went on BoFA.com and booked an appointment with a loan officer for 9am Friday. He quickly followed up and apologized that he would not be able to meet me in my house. No kidding. I told him I just wanted to talk PPP. He responded with “We’re only taking applications online. Thank you for being a BofA customer.”

Last night I hit #PaycheckProtectionProgram Twitter like an addict. All I could find were news sites announcing that PPP would be ready Friday and the occasional report that some banks were balking at the the terms of the program or refusing to participate. I logged into BofA hoping to see an alert or something signalling when and how I could apply, but nada. You know when you are checking the Treasury Secretary’s Twitter account every five minutes, it’s probably time for an intervention. Around 7:45pm he tweeted:

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a form! But still no way to fill it out and no one to send it to. Later that night an “Apply Now – Find a Lender” link appeared on the SBA website, but like most start-up local search apps, it didn’t really work. It still says the nearest bank to me is 10 miles away. Maybe the SBA should do a deal with Yext or something… UPDATE: Just looked again and they took the app down…

I stayed up past midnight testing all paths to the application in hopes that “ready April 3rd” meant “ready at 12:01am April 3rd.” It didn’t.

I asked my oldest daughter, who was still up, to refresh the BofA page before she went to bed and if it updated, she should wake me. She didn’t.

I woke up around 5am and immediately began my quest anew. Nothing in my email from BofA. BofA’s mobile app didn’t load. I took that as a good “something’s happening” sign. I hit Twitter and @’d away at the hive mind. At around 6:15am I hit paydirt and was in (Only after mistyping my BofA password twice. A third mistype would have locked my account. I typed that third password like a damn diamond cutter).

It was fairly anticlimactic after that. The form took about 5 minutes to fill out and submit. I checked my email for a confirmation, but all I got was an email from BofA saying I could now apply for the PPP.

As soon as I finished, I texted my friend, let’s call her Liza. Liza is a single mom with a very active 10-year-old who owns a small agency in LA. Imagine how fun her shelter-in-place life has been.

This was going to make all the stress of the past few days worth it. I was going to help my friend who really could use something good to happen. I got on the phone with her and walked her through the BofA process. The line went silent until I heard her voice crack, “BofA says I’m ineligible for the program because I don’t have a loan or credit card with them.”

Liza, whose company had been a BofA business customer for more than 10 years, had recently changed their corporate structure and closed down their line of credit and their credit cards. They hadn’t gotten around to setting up new ones. Busy with the end of the world and all. But now they were ineligible for the free money. Liza hung up to go walk her dog and cry.

I imagine this administration doesn’t see it’s job as being warm and fuzzy. If I told this story to Trump at a press conference, he’d probably call me “Baby Andy” and tell me I should be grateful for the free money. And I should be.

I know everyone is making this shit up as they go and god knows what a clusterfuck it was at BofA to try to get this stuff ready in time. I can practically smell the smoke from all the maxed out squirrel wheels.

But why did this process have to be so cruel? Don’t we all have enough stress in our lives at the moment? Why did they design this so we’d all have to compete against each other to get in the program?

As part of the CARES Act, every American will get a check based on how many dependents they have and how much money they make. Seems fair and easy.

For the PPP, the only info I had to submit was my monthly payroll and how many employees we have. The government already knows this info. Why couldn’t they just split the $350 billion evenly among all SMBs based on that info, give us a confirmation number to bring to our bank and call it a day?

I will certainly be relieved if I get the money, but I have zero visibility into whether or not I will with no timetable as to when I will find out.

The fact that it even crossed my mind that publishing this might somehow jeopardize my company getting these funds says all I need to say about the state of the union…


Consumers go to YouTube for uplifting content during COVID-19

  • In recent research, Channel Factory, a global technology platform, asked more than 1000 US consumers to share their YouTube activity in the recent weeks of social distancing as a result of the COVID-19.
  • People are flocking to YouTube for uplifting and mood-enhancing content.
  • 80% of respondents go to YouTube to improve their mood.
  • 69% find the platform’s content more uplifting than other channels.
  • Over 70% of respondents want ads that both boost and align with their mood.

Channel Factory Consumer Survey sheds light on contextual opportunities for brands.

Channel Factory, a global technology platform, announced the results of a new survey that shows how people are flocking to YouTube for uplifting and mood-enhancing content. Entitled ‘Content consumption & consumer sentiment amid the Coronavirus pandemic’, the survey asked more than 1000 US consumers to share their YouTube activity in the recent weeks of social distancing as a result of the COVID-19 virus.

Consumers go to YouTube to improve their mood

Channel Factory found that the vast majority of consumers go to YouTube to improve their mood and find uplifting, helpful and educational content. The survey also found that respondents felt that YouTube offers more contextually relevant content based on what they wanted to see.

  • 80% of respondents go to YouTube to improve their mood
  • 69% find the platform’s content more uplifting than other channels

While 33% of respondents go to YouTube for COVID-19 content specifically, many more are watching a broad variety of mood-boosting videos:

  • 48% are watching entertainment videos
  • 48% are watching music-related content
  • 33% are consuming comedy
  • 31% are looking at videos about DIY
  • 29% are feasting on cooking-related content

Jed Hartman, Chief Commercial Officer at Channel Factory, said,

“YouTube is delivering both meaningful and useful content for its viewers as we all spend time at home. From entertainment and comedy to fitness and cooking, people feel that YouTube is helping to entertain, accomplish tasks and boost their moods.”

Survey respondents were very positive about advertising’s role

The research also points to a significant opportunity for brands to find positive and uplifting contextually targeted inventory on YouTube. From fitness and comedy to cooking and crafting, YouTube’s surge in traffic goes far beyond topics directly related to the pandemic. When asked specifically about YouTube advertising, survey respondents were very positive about the role advertising plays on the site:

  • Over 70% of respondents want ads that both boost and align with their mood
  • 29% of participants expect ads to be relevant to the content they’re watching

Jed Hartman further added,

“Right now, advertisers have a unique opportunity to reach their audience on YouTube with highly targeted contextual placements at a low cost. Our research concludes that the shift in consumer patterns and desire to engage with uplifting content on YouTube gives brands the opportunity to engage in a high-quality environment with a highly engaged audience.”

About Channel Factory

Channel Factory is a global technology and data platform that sits at the crossroads of brand suitability and performance, turning YouTube’s five billion videos and 500 hours per minute of new content into brand-suitable, efficient advertising opportunities.

Channel Factory has offices across the USA and is present in over 30 countries worldwide including the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

The post Consumers go to YouTube for uplifting content during COVID-19 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.


Top 10 Best Los Angeles SEO Companies for 2020

Looking for the best Los Angeles SEO company for 2020? Keep reading because we’ve compiled a list based on real data.

SEO is an essential marketing tool in 2020, so it makes sense that you would want the best possible company behind your campaign.

The trouble is that with so many emerging SEO companies on the scene, it can feel impossible to find ‘the one’. There are just too many fish in that search engine sea!

But, all hope is not lost, and we’ve taken the time to delve into those Los Angeles waters to find the best ten catches so that you don’t have to.

Simply keep reading to find out what each contender has to offer.

Top 10 SEO Companies in Los Angeles

  1. Coalition Technologies (32 points)
  2. Wpromote (29 points)
  3. Thrive Internet Marketing Agency (29 points)
  4. SEO Noble Agency (27 points)
  5. Spinx Digital (27 points)
  6. Over the Top SEO (26 points)
  7. On the Map, Inc. (25 points)
  8. True North Social (24 points)
  9. Los Angeles SEO Inc. (24 points)
  10. Social SEO (23 points)

1. Coalition Technologies

coalition technologies

Coalition Technologies is a #1 ranking Google search optimization company that seems to impress consumers across the review site board, and it isn’t too difficult to see why.

These world-renowned SEO professionals hold the impressive accolade of being a certified Google Ads Premier Partner and have developed a custom software in-house that, according to all evidence, truly does bring results.

This is a fact that they primarily achieve with a scientific-based SEO approach that uses data to get right to the heart of any business. In fact, they’re so confident in their practices that they claim they’ll be able to increase your sales by an impressive 436% in the first two years. And, you know what? We believe them.

You should too, considering that their advanced agency software alone allows them to hire only the top 1% of applicants, as well as offering 130+ university-level training courses to take those skills even further. Then, they’ll put you in touch with those tailor-made experts who genuinely stand to take your SEO to the next level.

2. Wpromote

Wpromote

Coming in at a pretty close second we have Wpromote, founded by Michael Mothner back in 2001. Again a Google Premier Partner and part of Bing Elite Agency, these guys pride themselves on ever-evolving tactics and certainly seem to know what it takes to boost organic rankings.

Their integrated teams of well-versed SEO managers promise impactful results whether you’re a small business or an established industry giant. And, if past clients like Mariott and Zenni are anything to go by, it’s a goal they achieve with gusto.

Wpromote’s unique selling point on the SEO market is their focus on building sustainable traffic that also leads to conversions using in-depth audits, competitor research, on-page focuses, and even mobile optimization.

Their team is made up of an impressive 425+ employees across eight offices, each of whom has an impressive and varied SEO background, including Mothner himself, who is a previous recipient of the PricewaterhouseCoopers Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, as well as a columnist for Inc. Magazine, and a regular speaking at leading industry events.

3. Thrive Internet Marketing Agency

Thrive

Thrive Internet Marketing Agency have some pretty impressive accolades, including being listed as SEOblog’s top LA agency of 2020 and winning UpCity’s local excellence award last year. As of this year, they’re also an official member of Forbes Agency Council. In other words, this agency comes well recommended, a fact that seems deserved when you consider they offer +664% increases in organic traffic, +155% organic leads, and a whole lot besides.

Founded as a one-man division by president Matt Bowman back in 2005, this full-service digital marketing agency now offers solutions to businesses in 25 cities, including Atlanta and Miami. They’ve even gone cross-continental with B2B solutions in everything from plumbing to finance as far as Germany and Hong Kong.

Of course, never do Thrive thrive more than within LA, where they’re consistently named as front-runners, and offer custom SEO solutions to LA’s best which include keyword research, content writing, and technical SEO.

4. SEO Noble Agency

Noble

Read2Learn company SEO Noble offers professional B2B SEO services that focus on strategies across the search engine landscape. Established in 2008 by Kent Mauresmo, the company began life developing reading materials to help businesses perfect marketing strategies before realizing that they, themselves, had some SEO prowess to offer.

Now, as well as providing quality reading materials, the Beverly Hills-based team of 12 varied professionals offer a range of fantastic SEO services, including everything from Google submission to press releases.

Overall, their marketing services are priced depending on location and competition. For instance –

$1,000 – $1,500/month: Local area
$2,500 – $6000/month: Big city or county
$10,000 + per month: All 50 states

This makes for a tailor-made package that works for big and small businesses alike, a fact that, alongside comprehensive SEO services, is quickly securing SEO Noble their place in top spots like these.

5. Spinx Digital

spinx

Out of their cutting-edge LA offices, Spinx Digital interactive B2B and B2C web design agency aim to help companies find engaging and exciting ways to engage with audiences. And, it’s a goal that previous client portfolios including Quinn Emanuel, Amazon, and many more show that they’re managing to achieve.

Founder and president Sukesh Jakharia has used his vision and innovative strategies to project the company into an impressively high growth-trajectory. And, that’s a trajectory that doesn’t look set to slow anytime soon, with Spinx Digital’s big ideas and innovative approaches adding new and impressive clients to their portfolio every single day.

Perhaps the most notable benefit of Spinx Digital from an SEO point of view is that of their technological know-how, with Jakharia himself holding a computer science degree, and various other members of the team able to provide innovative processes such as mobile applications, digital experiences, and more. In other words, Spinx Digital have gone above and beyond to deliver everything a modern company could wish for from an SEO company, all from their modern and inviting LA offices.

6. Over the Top SEO

Over the Top SEO

With a 96% client retention rate and an incredible 73 SEO awards to their name, we couldn’t not include Over the Top SEO and their leader, Guy Sheetrit. With a solid track record, targeted resources, and unique ranking abilities, OTT has generated $970,802,171 in SEO revenue alone since their beginnings. For this reason and more, Sheetrit is becoming a staple face in the world of SEO and has already earned himself a place on Inc.’s Top SEO Experts list, as well as boasting one of the fastest-growing agencies in the world right now.

The most notable benefit of OTT SEO is the fact that they don’t work with businesses as such. Instead, they form long-term partnerships based on respect, trust, and the faith that those partners will follow their lead. So far, it’s worked well, with existing partners that include Fortune 500 companies, best-selling authors, and various world-famous names.

With this partnership focus in mind, OTT screens every business that comes their way, and invests only in the best, or those who have hit a plateau that they can’t overcome themselves. They then apply a few basic success principles and develop working relationships that allow them to truly understand the best SEO approaches moving forward.

7. On the Map Inc.

on the map

Brain-child of founder Rick Hoskins, Premier Google Partner. On the Map Inc, aims to ‘positively impact the world, one person, one business, one dollar at a time.’

This is a goal they work towards with SEO services that are, for all purposes, largely dominating the LA market right now. Already, they’ve seen countless companies to top ranking search positions, and that momentum doesn’t look set to slow anytime soon.

With over ten years of experience in the industry and a team of diverse digital marketing specialists, the dynamic solutions on offer from this standout company are well worth attention. In fact, the businesses that On The Map Inc. already have on their books provide a pretty broad scope of experience and expertise in everything from dentistry and photography, right through to night clubs and attorneys.

While their main offices are in Miami, where a team of 50 trustworthy SEO veterans work on perfecting campaigns, these guys can also be found within offices across LA, Raleigh, Tempa, and other such key city locations to serve businesses across the US and beyond.

8. True North Social

true north social

Boutique digital marketing agency True North Social takes the saying ‘quality, not quantity’ to the next level with a small client base that enjoys significant SEO results indeed. Unlike other companies mentioned who work with various businesses big and small, True North Social, therefore, ensures that they can offer quality results and focused campaigns to every company that comes through their doors.

This tailored approach was the brain-child of founders Kellis Landrum and Kenny Bost, both of whom have previously enjoyed successful creative careers with technology-led focuses. This is experience that they now put to good use creating SEO stories surrounding a quality client list that includes NBC and Hard Rock Hotel, among others.

Despite an incredibly tailored approach, True North Social can offer competitive rates on their various SEO services, which include keyword research, blogger outreach, SEO strategies, and many, many more.

Companies do, of course, need to bear in mind that a boutique service means that True North Social won’t take any old company onto their books. But, if your vision captures their creative style, then you could soon start enjoying SEO makeovers more suited to your company’s needs than you would likely find elsewhere.

9. Los Angeles SEO, Inc.

los angeles seo

The aptly named Los Angeles SEO Inc also had to appear on this list. Founded by president Sasan Raeisi back in 2011, the professional team behind this enterprise prides themselves in treating every client website as if it were their own. This has led to full-service internet solutions, including specialist SEO, PPC, web design, and conversion optimization solutions.

Whether companies are looking for social media packages, SEO audits, or other such services, they needn’t look any further than the extensively experienced Los Angeles SEO Inc. team. Even better, all these services are available alongside a free site analysis tool to help you and the experts on hand understand precisely where your current SEO approaches need attention.

As if their services alone weren’t enough to put Los Angeles SEO Inc. out on top, this is a company that doesn’t shy away from proving themselves with a wide range of accreditations that include being Google Partners, Bing Ads accredited professionals, Microsoft Partners, and more.

10. SocialSEO

socialseo

Last but definitely not least, we have SocialSEO, a Dave Ramsey-endorsed business that is proud Google Partners and Forbes Agency Council members, as well as being BBB accredited and one of Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing private companies.

Those are impressive claims, but they aren’t altogether surprising given the fact that founder Greg Walthour has an impressive 20 years of digital marketing experience behind him. Experience which he’s now putting towards hiring ‘only good folks’ that share his passion.

Driven by a leading initiative to take care of their customers and deliver results, the SocialSEO team have worked with some of the best-known companies of our times, including Jaguar, to, in their own words ‘crush the competition.’

From local to national SEO and beyond, small and large businesses alike are sure to benefit from letting SocialSEO take care of their LA SEO needs for them.

Conclusion

Our ranking system when considering LA’s best took into account things like SSL certificates, rankings, loading speed, and mobile responsiveness. And, as we’re sure you’ll agree, it’s led us to a pretty good crop of SEO services for you to choose from.

While this list is written in ranked order, there’s very little separating each of these companies, but they do all offer something different. So, now that you’ve seen the contenders, it’s time to consider your unique SEO preferences and pair them with the one company that can make all your dreams come true at last.


The beginner’s guide to Google Search Console

Do you have your own website or maintain the website of the company you work for? Of course, to do this right, you need to keep a keen eye on the performance of your website. Google offers several tools to collect and analyze data of your website. You probably have heard of Google Analytics and Google Search Console before. These tools are free to use for everyone maintaining a website and can give you very valuable insights about your website.

  • Why everyone with a website should use Google Search Console
  • Setting up an account
  • Features in Google Search Console

    Why everyone with a website should use Google Search Console

    Google Search Console has been created to easily track the performance of your website. You can get valuable insights out of your Google Search Console account which means that you can see what part of your website needs work. This can be a technical part of your website, such as an increasing number of crawl errors that need to be fixed. This can also be giving a specific keyword more attention because the rankings or impressions are decreasing.

    Besides seeing this kind of data, you’ll get mail notifications when new errors are noticed by Google Search Console. Because of these notifications, you’re quickly aware of issues you need to fix.

    Setting up an account

    To start using Google Search Console, you’ll need to create an account. Within the new Google Search Console, you can click on ‘add a new property’ in the top bar:

    Add a new property — or a site — to get started

    Clicking on the ‘Add a property’ button, you can insert the website you want to add. If you choose the new Domain option, you only need to add the domain name — so without www or subdomains. This option tracks everything connected to that domain. With the ‘old’ URL prefix option you have to add the right URL, so with ‘https’ if you have an https website and with or without ‘www’. For collecting the right data, it’s important to add the right version:

    Choose domain if your want to track all your URLs or URL prefix if you want to track specific URLs

    When you’ve added a website, you need to verify that you’re the owner. There are several options to verify your ownership. The Domain option only works with DNS verification, while the URL prefix supports different methods. You can find out more about the differences in Google’s documentation: adding a new property and verifying your site ownership.

    For WordPress users who use Yoast SEO, get the verification code via the ‘HTML tag’ method:

    You can easily copy this code and paste it into the ‘Webmaster tools’ tab within the Yoast SEO plugin:

    After saving this, you can return to Google Search Console and click on the ‘Verify’ button to confirm. If everything is ok, you’ll get a success message and GSC will start collecting data for your website.

    Features in Google Search Console

    Now you’ve set up your account what would be the next step? Well, it’s time to look at some of your data! We’ll explore some of the reports and information available in the rest of this article.

    Performance tab

    Within the Performance tab, you can see what pages and what keywords your website ranks for in Google. In the old version of GSC you could see the data of a maximum of the last 90 days but in the current version, it’s possible to see the data up to 16 months. Keep in mind that the data is available from the moment you set up your account.

    If you check the performance tab regularly, you can quickly see what keywords or what pages need some more attention and optimization. So where to begin? Within the performance tab, you see a list of ‘queries’, ‘pages’, ‘countries’ or ‘devices’. With ‘search appearance’ you can check how your rich results are doing in search. Each of those sections can be sorted by the number of ‘clicks’, ‘impressions’, ‘average CTR’ or ‘average position’. We’ll explain each of them below:

    The Perfomance overview harbours a ton of information

    1. Clicks

    The amount of clicks tells you how often people clicked on your website in the search results of Google. This number can tell something about the performance of your page titles and meta descriptions: if just a few people click on your result, your result might not stand out in the search results. It could be helpful to check what other results are displayed around you to see what can be optimized for your snippet.

    The position of the search result also has an impact on the number of clicks of course. If your page is in the top 3 of Google’s first result page it will automatically get more clicks than a page that ranks on the second page of the search results.

    2. Impressions

    The impressions tell you how often your website in general or how often a specific page is shown in the search results. For example, in the GSC account of our own website, Yoast SEO is one of the keywords our website ranks for. The number of impressions shown after this keyword shows how often our website is shown for that keyword in the search results of Google. You don’t know yet what page ranks for that keyword.

    To see what pages might rank for the specific keyword, you can click on the line of the keyword. Doing this for the keyword [Yoast SEO], the keyword is added as a filter:

    You can query the data in many ways

    After that, you could navigate to the ‘Pages’ tab to see what pages exactly rank for this keyword. Are those pages the ones you’d want to rank for that keyword? If not, you might need to optimize the page you’d like to rank. Think of writing better content containing the keyword on that page, adding internal links from relevant pages or posts to the page, making the page load faster, etc.

    3. Average CTR

    The CTR – Click-through rate – tells you what percentage of the people that have seen your website in the search results also clicked through to your website. You probably understand that higher rankings mostly also lead to higher click-through rates.

    However, there are also things you can do yourself to increase the CTR. For example, you could rewrite your meta description and page title to make it more appealing. When the title and description of your site stands out from the other results, more people will probably click on your result and your CTR will increase. Keep in mind that this will not have a big impact if you’re not ranking on the first page yet. You might need to try other things first to improve your ranking.

    4. Average position

    The last one in this list is the ‘Average position’. This tells you what the average ranking of a specific keyword or page was in the time period you’ve selected. Of course, this position isn’t always reliable since more and more people seem to get different search results. Google seems to understand better and better which results fit best for which visitor. However, this indicator still gives you an idea if the clicks, impressions and the average CTR are explainable.

    Index coverage

    A more technical but very valuable tab within Google Search Console is the ‘Index coverage’ tab. This section shows how many pages are in the index of Google since the last update, how many pages aren’t and what errors and warnings caused difficulties for Google indexing your pages properly.

    Index coverage
    You can see the trends in errors as well

    We recommend checking this tab regularly to see what errors and warnings appear on your website. However, you also get notifications when Google has found new errors. When you get such a notification you can check the error in more detail here.

    You may find that errors are caused when, e.g., a redirect doesn’t seem to work correctly, or Google is finding broken code or error pages in your theme.

    Clicking on the link, you can analyze the error more in depth to see what specific URLs are affected. When you’ve fixed the error you can mark it as fixed to make sure Google will test the URL again:

    Submitted URL not found (404)
    Fixed the specific error? Validate it so Google can check if it’s gone for real

    There are a few things you should always look for when checking out your coverage reports:

    • If you’re writing new content, your indexed pages should be a steadily increasing number. This tells you two things: Google can index your site and you keep your site ‘alive’ by adding content.
    • Watch out for sudden drops! This might mean that Google is having trouble accessing (all of) your website. Something may be blocking Google; whether it’s robots.txt changes or a server that’s down: you need to look into it!
    • Sudden (and unexpected) spikes in the graph might mean an issue with duplicate content (such as both www and non-www, wrong canonicals, etc.), automatically generated pages, or even hacks.

    We recommend that you monitor these types of situations closely and resolve errors quickly, as too many errors could send a signal of low quality (bad maintenance) to Google.

    URL Inspection

    The URL Inspection tool helps you analyze specific URLs. You retrieve the page from Google’s index and compare it with the page as it lives now on your site to see if there are differences. On this page, you can also find more technical info, like when and how Google crawled it and how it looked when it was crawled. Sometimes, you’ll also notice a number of errors. This might be in regards to Google not being able to crawl your page properly. It also gives information about the structured data found on this URL.

    The URL Inspection tool gives invaluable insights into every URL on your site

    Enhancement tabs

    Below the ‘Index coverage,’ you can find the Enhancement tab. Here, you’ll find everything you need to improve how your site performs. It has insights in site speed, mobile usability, AMP usage, and structured data enhancements that might lead to rich results in the SERPs.

    Speed

    The new speed report is still in its experimental stages, but already an invaluable addition. This report gives a good idea of how fast your site loads on mobile and desktop. In addition, it also shows which pages have issues that keep them from loading quickly. The data is based on the Chrome UX report, so real data of real users. Site speed is a difficult topic containing many moving part, so it’s good to learn how you should think about site speed. You can find the answer here: how to check site speed.

    Find out which pages load slowly

    AMP

    One of the tabs is for all things ‘AMP’. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages: lightning fast mobile pages. If you’ve set up AMP for your website you can check for errors in Google Search Console. Within this section you can see the valid AMP pages, the valid ones with warnings and errors:

    AMP error

    Below the chart, the issues are listed. If you click on one of the issues, you can see the affected URLs. Just as in the index section of GSC you can validate your fix if you’ve fixed an issue.

    Rich results enhancement tab

    If you have structured data on your site, provided by Yoast SEO for instance, it’s a good idea to check out the Enhancements reports in Search Console. The Enhancements tab is the place where all the insights and improvements that could lead to rich results are collected. There’s an ever-expanding list of support rich results. As of writing, that list contains:

    • breadcrumbs
    • events
    • faqs
    • how-tos
    • jobs
    • logos
    • products
    • reviews
    • sitelinks searchboxes
    • videos

    All these tabs show how many valid enhancements you have, or how many have errors or warnings. You get details about the kind of errors and warnings and on which URLs these are found. There’s also a trend line that shows if the number of issues is increasing or decreasing. And that’s just the start of it.

    Here’s an example of a how-to enhancement. You can overlay Impressions to get more context for the stats

    The Enhancements reports help you find and fix issues that hinder your performance in search. By checking the issues, reading the support documentation and validating fixes, you can increase your chance of getting rich results in search. We have a more expansive guide on the structured data Enhancement reports in Google Search Console.

    Sitemaps

    An XML sitemap is like a roadmap to all important pages and posts on your website. We think every website would benefit from having one. Is our Yoast SEO plugin running on your website? Then you automatically have an XML sitemap. If not, we recommend creating one to make sure Google can find your most important pages and posts easily.

    Within the XML sitemap tab of Google Search Console you can tell Google where your XML sitemap is located on your site:

    Add a new sitemap

    We recommend everyone entering the URL of their XML sitemap into GSC to make Google find it easily. In addition to that, you can quickly see if your sitemap gives errors or if some pages aren’t indexed, for instance. Checking this regularly, you’re sure Google can find and read your XML sitemap correctly.

    We recommend regularly checking the XML sitemap section in our plugin to manage which post types or taxonomies you’re including in your sitemaps!

    Within the links to your site section, you can see how many links from other sites are pointing to your website. Besides, you can see what websites link, how many links those websites contain to your site and lastly, what anchor texts are used most linking to your website. This can be valuable information because links still are very important for SEO.

    Find out which pages receive lots of links

    Within the internal links section, you can check what pages of your website are most linked from other spots on your site. This list can be valuable to analyze regularly because you want your most important pages and posts to get most internal links. Doing this, you make sure Google understands as well what your cornerstones are.

    You can even see how many links individual pages get

    Mobile usability

    The mobile usability tab within this section shows you usability issues with your mobile website or with specific mobile pages. Since mobile traffic is rising all over the world, we recommend checking this regularly. If your mobile site isn’t user-friendly, lots of visitors will leave it quickly.

    Handy tips to improve your mobile pages

    Manual Actions

    The manual actions tab is the one you don’t want to see anything in. If your site is penalized by Google, you’ll get more information in here. If your site is affected by a manual action, you’ll also get messaged via email.

    There are a number of scenarios which can lead to these kinds of penalties, including:

    • You have unnatural/bought links
      Make sure from and to your site are valuable, not just for SEO. Preferably your links come from and link to related content that is valuable for your readers.
    • Your site has been hacked
      A message stating your site’s probably hacked by a third party. Google might label your site as compromised or lower your rankings.
    • You’re hiding something from Google
      If you’re ‘cloaking’ (that is, intentionally showing different to content than to users, for the purposes of decieving either of them), or using ‘sneaky’ redirects (e.g., hiding affiliate URLs), then you’re violating of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
    • Plain Spam
      Automatically generated content, scraped content and aggressive cloaking could cause Google to blacklist your site.
    • Spammy structured markup
      If you use rich snippets for too many irrelevant elements on a page, or mark up content that is hidden to the visitor, that might be considered spammy. Mark up what’s necessary, and not everything is necessary.

    Security issues

    Last but not least: within the security issues tab you’ll get a notification when your website seems to have a security issue.

    Search Console: an incredibly helpful tool

    Reading this post should give you a good idea of what Search Console is capable of, so I’d like to ask you this: Do you already use Google Search Console for your website? If not, we definitely recommend creating an account so you can start collecting data about your website. Do you think something is missing? Feel free to leave a comment!

    Read more: How to make your site stand out in the search results »

    The post The beginner’s guide to Google Search Console appeared first on Yoast.


PageRank 2020

If you have been working as an SEO for any amount of time, or have been responsible for marketing a website, it’s possible that you have heard of PageRank, which was developed by the Founders of Google in the earliest days of the Search Engine. There is some new news concerning PageRank that I wanted to share when I learned about it this morning.

You may have heard a little about the history of the PageRank algorithm, and that Google had stopped using at least the original version of PageRank back in 2006. Or that they started using a version of PageRank (still referred to as PageRank) after that time. It’s possible that they started using a different version of PageRank at that time. There have been at least two others developed by Google that were available in 2006.

The original patent behind PageRank was originally assigned to Stanford University, where Lawrence Page and Sergey Brin were both students who started working on a search engine, as a diversion while their Ph.D. Supervisor went on Sabbatical to Japan for a year.

A provisional Patent from Lawrence Page was the first official document that described how the search engine worked using the PageRank algorithm. I found a copy of the provisional patent behind PageRank on the USPTO website which I blogged about in 2011. That provisional patent was Improved Text Searching in Hypertext Systems (pdf – 1.7mb). In that version of the patent, Page referred to PageRank as “An Approximating to ‘Importance’” In other words, PageRank is an “approximation of how well-cited or important” matching documents for a query might be.

Google filed a patent updating PageRank October 12, 2006 for the first time (it was updated since at least once.) Another version of PageRank was written about by researchers at Google that resulted in a version that was considered more efficient in the paper Efficient Computation of PageRank. Other papers have been written about PageRank as well.

The original patent behind PageRank assigned to Stanford University and which was exclusively licensed to Google has likely expired in 2018. Which has meant that Search Engines other than Google could use PageRank. Chances are that the PageRank described in the early patents from Stanford, and even the later patents and papers from Google has changed as it was used to rank pages on the Web.

I took a look at the Google Research Publications from 2020 this morning, and came across a paper titled Scaling PageRank to 100 Billion Pages while the author was an employee at Yahoo. He is at Google now, and his name is Stergios Stergiou.

He tells us in his LinkedIn profile that he has:

Architected and implemented many massively distributed systems, including:

  • A Word2Vec algorithm that learns from a 1 trillion words corpus in 2 hours per epoch
  • A PageRank algorithm that executes 35″ iterations on a 3 trillion edges web graph
  • A Set Cover algorithm capable of processing 1 trillion elements in 20 billion sets
  • A Connected Components algorithm able to process a 5.9 trillion edge graph in 3808

That list item about PageRank matches up with the paper that he authored while at Yahoo!, and he may have experimented with that while at Yahoo, which his profile says that he left in October of 2017. He now works as a Software Engineer at Google.

We have no knowledge of whether or not he has worked on PageRank after joining Google, after leaving Yahoo, but it was interesting seeing the paper in the Google Research publications section.

It is possible that it wouldn’t be there if he hadn’t joined Google, and we may never learn if the approaches behind PageRank described in that paper have been put into place at Google.

We also don’t know if the PageRank that he was writing about in that paper was like the one in use at Google when it was written.

However the paper is included in papers to be presented at WWW ’20, April 20–24, 2020, Taipei, Taiwan. According to the conference Website, it will still be held but will be online only.

I am not going to make any assumptions about the use of the processes described in the paper. The crawl data listed in it is cited as being from 2016, and some newer information in the footnotes of the paper are from 2020, such as a page on the Google site, about how Crawling and Indexing work at Google.

We have been told by Google Spokespeople that Google still uses PageRank. We don’t know if that version of PageRank is like the Version that will be presented in 2-3 weeks at the online WWW conference.


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Realising when and how to hire a CRO expert

30-second summary:

  • Some companies need more money to spend on acquisition, while others see SEO as the solution to all their revenues challenges. That’s why companies often think about hiring SEO agencies before moving into CRO.
  • If you are in doubt because your traffic is low or because of any other reason, get in touch with a CRO agency to determine if any CRO work can be done on your website, or if you still need to generate more traffic, before you hire a conversion specialist.
  • There is a very effective and easy way to find a good conversion rate expert online and it’s the look of their website.
  • Conversion rate is almost a scientific approach to increasing the number of goals and for this, every expert has their own proven and tested process. Which is also the main benefit of hiring an expert.
  • Trying to work out whether you need to introduce CRO in your company is not difficult, use the free consultations to find out and then check whether there is a good fit.

I have been working in digital marketing for the last 10 years and I have come to recognize when and how to choose a CRO (conversion rate optimization) expert or an agency.

It normally goes down to a combination of two things:

  • The agencies/ experts walking the talk
  • A proven process for generating more conversions

Before we detail each of the points above, let me give you some background.

Realizing when you need a CRO agency

In some cases, companies have large budgets and a structured team of acquisition specialists that generate enough traffic to hit – and exceed – all of their sales and revenue targets.

Some need more money to spend on acquisition, while others see SEO as the solution to all their revenues challenges. That’s why companies often think about hiring SEO agencies before moving into CRO.

Which makes sense, you will have huge challenges doing CRO without steady and large traffic. The reason is that you need a good amount of traffic to make your AB experiment statistically relevant.

One thing is to generate 1,000 visitors a month, while another is to generate 50,000/month. The second case will have more statistical significance than the first.

Why is low traffic a challenge?

When your goal is to measure the successful completion of a form or an order placement, then you need to have enough visits on your website to determine which variation of the page is the winner.

But if you only have a few hundred visits you got two problems:

  • It will take you a long time to determine the winner with confidence
  • You can’t implement A/B/C or multivariate tests

I am not saying that you can’t do CRO on your website, but you can certainly work on your CRO to find the right things to test.

It’s quite hard to recognize when you actually need a CRO specialist.

How should you approach a CRO specialist?

If you are in doubt because your traffic is low or because of any other reason, I would advise getting in touch with a CRO agency to determine if any CRO work can be done on your website, or if you still need to generate more traffic, before you hire a conversion specialist.

Often, agencies offer a free consultation to discuss exactly that point and many others

  • How many visitors your landing pages generate
  • How many different traffic channels you get traffic from
  • What is your share of online revenue vs the offline counterpart
  • What CRO strategies have you used in the past

These points will put you and the CRO specialist in the position to realize if there is a good fit.

Now let’s assume you have determined you need CRO, how do you even choose the right experts?

You can hire a CRO consultant or an entire agency, depending on what your specific in-house skills are. In both cases you should look at these following aspects:

1. Experts walking the talk

There is a very effective and easy way to find a good conversion rate expert online and it’s the look of their website.

I have hired one of the best conversion rate agencies around and my initial impressions about how good they are, six months later, proved true because our conversion rate grew exponentially.

These factors helped me choose the right agency

  • Are they transparent in terms of case studies? Normally if they have lots of clients speaking for them, it’s a good sign that this agency or expert will probably bring you good results. It’s important their case studies are not biased, so videos come handy when evaluating this aspect.
  • Which companies have they worked with? If you see companies within your industry that you recognize, they are probably a good fit for you. Especially if they have worked with your competitors and gained good results, you can trust they will be the right agency to hire.
  • Are they generous with the content they publish? Often the most successful experts, including CRO experts, share lots of content to learn from because they use an inbound approach in lead generation. I tend to subscribe to companies that I find useful and eventually I become their client, sooner or later.

This is what walking the talk means.

At the end of the day, if you have subscribed to their blog or newsletter it means they know how to convert you from visitor to lead.

2. A proven process for generating more conversions

After you have determined this agency is a good fit, another tip is to check in which industries they mostly operate and which process do they use.

Conversion rate is almost a scientific approach to increasing the number of goals and for this, every expert has their own proven and tested process.

Which is also the main benefit of hiring an expert.

I have seen a lot of advice around the web on how to A/B test button colors, or form submission copy for the sake of it, but generally this is made up writing.

It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever testing different color variations if you don’t have a hypothesis to test in the first place. How do you even know it’s the right thing to test?

That’s when the process comes to help because it identifies a number of things

  • What are the objections of your users, in other words, you want to find out what is wrong with your website conversion rate
  • How can you overcome objections? This is when you formulate the hypothesis.
  • What tests do you need to run and how technically difficult can they become?

In every one of the points above, the CRO experts can help you, they have a team and the skills in place. These would include account managers, developers, designers, web analytics experts, and other specialist skills that can help you customize your own CRO strategy.

Conclusion

Regardless if you hire a consultant, an agency or both, the added value of a CRO expertise for your own in-house team is enormous. Trying to work out whether you need to introduce CRO in your company is not difficult, use the free consultations to find out and then check whether there is a good fit.

Luca Tagliaferro is the Senior SEO Specialist at Future Fit Training, the largest fitness and nutrition training provider in the UK. He signs off all the SEO and conversion rate projects.

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Financial Relief for U.S. Agencies During The Coronavirus Crisis

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was formally enacted on March 29, 2020. This act provides over $350 billion in financial relief for U.S. based small to medium sized businesses in the form of a collection of programs that can significantly mitigate the impact of the current economic situation we find ourselves in.

To be very clear: if you are an agency or even a sole proprietor, whether or not you’ve been immediately impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, we strongly recommend you make yourself aware of these programs. 

Even if you’ve found ways to deal with payroll and expenses in the current climate, there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty around both the longevity and the total economic impact. 

These programs can provide a buffer to that risk.

Here is an overview of the specific programs and benefits available to agencies and sole proprietors.

Quick Assistance

Before we break down the programs available and what they mean for agencies and sole proprietors in the U.S., I want to direct you to the U.S. Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee’s “Small Business Owners Guide to The Cares Act.

It can direct you to full information on the CARES programs available if you’ve got any of the following concerns:

  • Capital to cover the cost of retaining employees
  • A quick infusion of a smaller amount of cash to cover you right now
  • To ease your fears about keeping up with payments on your current or potential SBA loan
  • Just some quality, free counseling to help you navigate this uncertain economic time

If you’re struggling with any of these areas and need help immediately, just visit that guide to get a full explanation and get started. As we cover below, tremendous emphasis has been placed on expediting processing to get necessary funds in your hands quickly.

The Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is one of the most critical components of the CARES Act. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) defines it as:

“An SBA loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.”

Who does it help?

Small businesses with less than 500 employees in the U.S., including agencies and sole proprietors.

How does the loan work?

This is the most important element to understand. 

The defining element of this unprecedented loan is that it will be fully forgiven if funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities over an eight week period. 

The loan amounts may be up to 2.5x average monthly payroll costs for the last 12 months up to an annual pay of 100,000 per employee. 

So, to put it in very simple terms, the SBA will cover payroll costs for eight weeks through the CARES act.

Another important thing to note here is that no collateral is required for loans under this program, nor are there any fees associated with the program.

There are some stipulations for loan forgiveness, largely driven by keeping employment and salary for employees. Those stipulations are:

  • At least 75% of loan must be used for payroll expenses
  • Forgiveness is based on maintaining or quickly rehiring employees
  • Forgiveness is based on maintaining salary levels
  • Forgiveness will be reduced if in future full time headcount declines or salaries/wages decrease

Even in the case where for whatever reason, forgiveness is not possible but a loan is required, interest rates on the loan will be very favorable.

When can I receive funds?

This is an expedited loan which will begin paying out quickly. According to SBA, lenders will begin processing loans as soon as April 3, 2020. 

How can I apply?

Instructions for application are as follows:

“You can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union,  and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program. Lenders may begin processing loan applications as soon as April 3, 2020.”

If you’d like to download a sample form to see what will be expected of you when applying, the SBA has made one available here.

Economic Injury Disaster Advance (EIDL) Grant

The other major component of the CARES Act that will be particularly beneficial for agencies is an extremely expedited EIDL grant process

Who does it help?

U.S. based small businesses, including agencies and sole proprietors, who are experiencing a temporary loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 crisis.

How does it work?

Businesses can apply to receive a loan advance of up to $10,000. Again, the critical element to understand about this loan advance is that it will not have to be repaid.

When can I receive funds?

Due to the immediate demand for revenue, funds will be made available within three days of a successful application. 

How can I apply?

Businesses that feel that they are in a position to require this assistance can put in an application to the SBA right here.

Putting It Together

The combination of the Paycheck Protection Program and the EIDL grants will make it possible for agencies to ensure their employees get paid, protect headcount and productivity, and keep the lights on along with additional relief for lost revenue during the Covid-19 crisis. 

We are all together in hoping that this crisis ends quickly and that the proposed two-month relief windows are sufficient to keep things running. We will be sure to keep you updated on any more information about this or future relief options as we get it.

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