Local Small Businesses and the Search Engines – Geo-Targeting

“If you, as a local business person, choose to ignore the trend, you’ll miss a window of opportunity which will remain open only until all your competitors have jumped on the band-wagon, and the playing field is level again. Until that happens — as it will — you have the chance to get ahead of the rest, and establish yourself at the top. It’ll be harder later!”

Geo-Targeting – What’s that?

Something every local business operator should know!

More and more people nowadays are using Web search engines to find and compare local shops and businesses for their goods and services, and those local small businesses which are unaware of or ignore this fact are suffering an ever-increasing disadvantage.

Many people see little or no use for a local or regional business to have a Web site to promote their goods or services. After all, the Internet is a global thing, right? Wrong! There are several ways to promote a Web site locally or regionally, so that it brings in a disproportionately large volume of local traffic. Any business owner not using a Web site to promote a local or regional business is making a huge mistake, and ultimately leaving money on the table.

The factors now encapsulated in the field of search engine optimisation (SEO) are varied yet simple. Time and time again, however, Web site owners fail to see some of the most recent naturally occurring ‘common-sense principles’ behind an effective and successful SEO strategy. This article brings to light the most recent important change in SEO: Geo-Targeting…

The trend…

The increase in on-line purchasing generally has led to more consumers using the Web to look for goods and services in their local area. For many obvious reasons they prefer to deal with a local business than one far away.

If customers are looking to buy jewellery, and they are located in Essex, England, it is very common for them nowadays to append “Essex” to their search, or even “Southend”, if that’s the town where they live. So, instead of looking simply for “jewellery” they will search for “jewellery Essex”, “jewellery Southend”, or a similar variation of this.

“Local Search — using Internet search engines and on-line business directories to find local traders — is growing at an extraordinary pace. Figures in the US, comparable to the UK, show that 63 percent of all on-line users performed a local search in July 2006. This is a 43 percent increase year on year. On-line local searches do lead to customer action. The same study showed that 50 percent of all local searchers visited a local merchant as a result of their search behaviour, while 41 percent made contact off-line.” (Source: comScore networksmarketwire.com)

When it comes to consumers making a purchase, local search has more of an impact than national search. At the Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo, held in London in 2007, John Myers of Latitude said that users are 30 percent more likely to purchase a product or service when it is related to local search. Speaker Grant Muckle from Touch Local said that 40 percent of all on-line searches are local in the UK.

The cycle…

These statistics are nothing less than phenomenal. At LocalShoppers.co.uk we think that the “art of shopping” is reaching a full cycle, but on another level. Before the Web, consumers bought locally, unless there was a good reason not to. The reasons are obvious: the travel time and expense saved by buying locally at, perhaps, even a higher price than in the next town compensated for the lower price there; likewise if the goods had to be returned for any reason, or the merchant had to supply spare parts, etc., etc.

With the advent of Web sites, consumers slowly but surely came to trust the technology, and now order goods from all over the world. Astute merchants, however, are beginning to realise that traditional shopping principles still apply. After all, they’ve hardly changed for millennia, and are entrenched in our psyche. It is these astute merchants, often small businesses and even ‘one-man bands’, who are jumping on the Internet band-wagon, and, knowingly or unwittingly, are driving the trend full circle towards shopping locally, merely by having a presence on the Web.

The future…

This is not to say that global shopping has had its day. On the contrary, it will continue to grow, but, now that the initial euphoria of being able to buy anything from anywhere is subsiding with blasé acceptance, people are coming back down to earth, and the in-bred habits of shopping locally are resurfacing. The big difference is that consumers will continue to use the Web as a tool, simply because it is there, just as they did after the advent of the telephone.

Indeed, the telephone can be seen easily as a direct precedent. It appeared first in only a few homes, and was a luxury. Then, as it became cheaper, it became more popular. Nowadays the telephone is an integral part of almost everyone’s life, and people use it to order goods and services quite naturally. Even schoolkids regard a telephone as a necessity! Now think about the on-line computer: Sound familiar? History is repeating itself.

An on-line computer has, of course, several advantages over the telephone: You can see what you’re buying; You can look for what you want at any time of the day or night; You can get far more information about the product or service, and about the merchant; You don’t need actually to talk to anyone; There’s a visible record of the offers being made, thus avoiding misunderstandings; etc. An important benefit of the on-line computer over the telephone is that comparison shopping is now so much easier and quicker. It’s human nature to want the best deal, and people are finding it on the Web. What better opportunity, then, is there for local businesses to display their wares than the one now presenting itself?

The local merchants and tradespeople who grasp the significance of the Web quickly, and take action to be a part of it, will be the ones who will be ahead of the game, and will already have an established presence by the time their slower competitors realise that they must follow them.

The opportunity…

Customers looking for goods or services are becoming more savvy. They now know that, if they search for “magnotherapy”, for example, they’ll get almost 100,000 results to choose from. If they type “magnotherapy essex”, however, they’ll get fewer than 1,000. That’s still a lot. If they enter their town in the search, like “magnotherapy canvey”, only about 100 results are returned. The more local the search phrase is, the fewer are the results.

Because consumers naturally feel more comfortable dealing with a local supplier, and they now understand how search engines work, it explains why more and more of them are performing such local searches.

If you, as a local business person, choose to ignore the trend, you’ll miss a window of opportunity which will remain open only until all your competitors have jumped on the band-wagon, and the playing field is level again.

Until that happens — as it will — you have the chance to get ahead of the rest, and establish yourself at the top. It’ll be harder later!

Bookkeeping Services for Small Business Contributes to Increased Revenue and Lower Costs

How many of us small business owners enjoy invoicing, bank reconciliation, payroll and tax compliance? Not many. And unless it is core to your business, there is a chance that you aren’t doing it as efficiently as it could be.

There is a simple solution – outsource your bookkeeping to a professional bookkeeping service who can free you and your staff’s time up to do what you all do best – serve your customers.

Outsourcing your bookkeeping means you no longer have to worry about employing, training or managing a bookkeeper.

If you are one of those business owners that does the books themselves so you can keep control over your finances, rest assured.

A bookkeeper only does the transactional pieces such as invoicing, accounts payable and balancing the books. The business owner still makes the decisions. Systems are used to make sure the owner has the final word on who gets paid and when.

You will actually have more control over your business because accurate, clean books mean you will have an up to date picture of your cash flow, sales and debtor situation and can make decisions accordingly.

Some business owners think that the books aren’t important because it isn’t a customer facing part of your business. But the time you spend fixing problems, answering questions and apologising to suppliers for late payments is time you could be spending on generating revenue.

In many cases outsourcing will also save you money because you are only paying for the time actually spent working on your books. Not only do you save a salary but have lower overheads and no hiring or training cost.

A good small business bookkeeping service will also have a good understanding of accounting software such as Quickbooks, MYOB, Banklink Xero as well as payroll systems such a Crystal Payroll

If there is someone who can do it better, faster, and cheaper than you, then outsourcing your bookkeeping is an easy decision.

Small Business Bookkeeping Outsourcing Provides Respite From Workload

Outsourcing small business bookkeeping has become one of the most common practices when it comes to handling the bookkeeping tasks at a lesser cost. Small business bookkeeping is fundamental bookkeeping. It is recording of the usual transactions, how much you owe from your creditors, and how much is owed to you. Record keeping of equipment and inventory is also maintained.Basically, bookkeeping encompasses recording of the accounts payable and accounts receivable; preparation of financial statements, income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement and bank reconciliation statement, too. Small business owners have benefit from this service a lot such that it has enabled them to save several thousands of dollars, which they could use on other pertinent matters pertaining to the growth of their businesses.

Because bookkeeping is the process of keeping tabs of the revenues, profits and losses, as well as records of finances of a business, it is a quite crucial task that needs to be focused on. During tax sessions, the most minor of negligence caused by overloading of bookkeeping tasks could already cause major problems for a business. This is because even a single account not tallying to other financial records could already mean a lot when it comes to expenditures or the losses that a business could incur. As such, outsourcing small business bookkeeping service could be quite a big help during these times. It will enable your business to save some quality time and can also save you some money. In fact, you could be more efficient in handling your small business if you would avail of this outsourced bookkeeping service.

Benefits of Small Business Bookkeeping Outsourcing

There are actually a great number of benefits. Not only will you be able to deal away with such things as providing bonuses, sick leave payments and health insurance, among other perks, you could also cut down on the cost of paying high monthly salaries. This is because with outsourcing people for the bookkeeping tasks of your business, you would be transferring the responsibilities to an outsourcing firm or a freelancer, which you would only have to pay with an hourly rate. Because you would only be hiring the services of an outsourced small business bookkeeping for a short period of time, then this would mean greats savings on your part. The money that you would have spent on an in-house bookkeeper, you could already use for other profit-generating ventures within your business.

Because outsourcing small business bookkeeping services could make you handle your company with more efficiency, better work quality can also be attained. This is because while you and your staff handle all the other aspects of your business, the outsourcing firm that you have tasked to handle your bookkeeping will do this in a more specialized manner. As they are not handling other tasks aside from the bookkeeping task assigned to them, you are guaranteed that they are more efficient in handling the financial matters of your business.

Once you have availed of an outsourced small business bookkeeping service, you will find that you have gotten yourself a real respite from an excessive workload that could only result in problems for your company. You have to remember that too much workload, especially in small businesses, could lead to negligence on certain matters that could mean much for the soundness of your business in the long run. So, if you want to escape from these problems and save money and time as well, go for outsourcing small business bookkeeping services.

Small Business Owners: Wondering What It Will Entail to Get Organized?

You have registered your company. You have found the perfect, cozy spot to serve your customers. You have hired your staff. You have stocked up the shelves. You have put up the signs. And you are now open for business.

After a grueling period of working towards your business launch, the dust has finally settled. Now what? While you can still afford to sit back, and before you get fully occupied with customer-servicing, you can spend some time setting up some housekeeping procedures to set everything in motion when it comes to record-keeping.

Bank and Credit Card Statements. For small businesses, bank and credit card statements serve as the cornerstone for record-keeping. It is therefore imperative to maintain these two accounts separate from your personal account.

  • Corporate or business bank account

Open a separate bank account for your business. Use this for all business banking. Try to avoid using a personal account for business transactions as this practice increases the risk of items being overlooked.

  • Corporate or business credit card

Obtain a separate credit card to be used exclusively for your business (it can be a personal card, but different from the card you use for personal transactions). Use monthly statement as a way to keep track of expenses to be supported by slips with details of the expense (like name of the client, description of the item and so on). Slips should be filed regularly in files preferably by expense type. This will facilitate accounting based on the credit card monthly statements.

Cash transactions. All items paid for in cash are to be receipted and receipts kept. Ideally, expenses paid out-of pocket or personally should be summarized and reimbursed by the company by way of an expense report. The form should show detailed description of the expense. There should be separate envelopes or folders where items paid for in cash should be kept to facilitate accounting.

Home-office expenses. Personally paid items such as rent or home mortgage, interest, utilities, insurance, repairs, property taxes, condo fees, etc. should be tallied or at least closely estimated to allow proper calculation of business use of home/rent expense. Home office space should be calculated at the start of the business.

Vehicle usage. Car usage should be tracked to identify and collect information on all business-related trips. You should be able to calculate/estimate the business use percentage and total kilometres driven.

Vehicle-related expenses. All car expenses including loan interest, lease payment, car depreciation or capital cost allowance, gas, repairs, insurance license, CAA etc. are deductible expenses but need to be pro-rated based on the percentage of business use. It is therefore important to track all costs of car operations. Parking is generally 100% deductible.

Telephone and communication expenses. Long distance phone should be tracked to allocate claims. Separate business phone line, cellphone, internet bills are all deductible. Bills for home phone lines are not claimable.

Document-keeping. All source documents should be filed according to expense type or supplier reference to facilitate location should questions arise or if bank and credit card records are not sufficient. This need not be filed as a monthly breakdown; yearly filing is fine.

Corporate year-end. Determining fiscal year-end for corporation is flexible during the first year of operations as no pre-setting of fiscal year-end is required until the first tax returns are filed. This decision depends on profitability and the possibility that income from employment or other sources will come back into earnings in the near future.

Unincorporated entities’ year-end. For sole proprietorship, self-employed, and partnerships, it’s a calendar year-end: December 31st. If you are an eligible individual, you may be able to use an alternative method of reporting your business income that allows you to use a fiscal period other than calendar year-end, but you will have to make a reconciliation of business income for tax purposes to calculate the amount to report in your year-end personal tax return.

Corporate earnings. It makes sense to leave surplus income in the corporation. It provides an opportunity to pay lower tax rates (approximately 15.5% for income eligible for small business deduction generally up to $500,000) on the taxable income while it remains in the company’s books. Personal taxes will only be imposed and payable when funds are actually paid to the owner/s in the form of dividends and/or salary. Tax rates are so designed to ensure equitable taxation across the different business structures (corporation, sole proprietorship or partnership) so that the total corporate plus personal taxes never exceed regular personal taxes.

Incorporation versus unincorporated business structure. In deciding whether to incorporate or to remain unincorporated, from a taxation standpoint, considerations need to be made with regard to the possibility of short-term losses (which favours unincorporated structure), size of business, family ownership, income splitting, estate planning and other considerations.

Year-end preparation. By using the above suggestions, accounting and bookkeeping costs can be minimized at year-end. Organize your year-end documents as early as possible. This will give ample time to plan ahead and ensure that total corporate and personal tax burden are minimized. This will also allow the most time possible to plan for the use of taxes recoverable or to ensure that funds will be available to cover the taxes payable on due date.