Google and Other Experts Share the Best Online Marketing Information

Google and other online advertising providers use blogging and social media to share advertising tips and trends with interested users. These are important free resources for e-commerce entrepreneurs who are just getting started, or need to brush up on their online advertising knowledge.

Stay on top of the internet marketing game by following the blogs and social media accounts of industry heavyweights Google, Yahoo Search Marketing, Microsoft Ad Center and more.

Where to Find Valuable Google Advertising Tools and Tricks

Google shares tips and updates on a number of platforms. First, the Official Google Blog is a unique look into the many projects and launches Google has going on simultaneously. Filtering blog results by selecting the “Ads” category brings readers to a series of blog posts dedicated to insider tips and tricks for Google AdSense and AdWords users.

Google also maintains several Twitter accounts with short, regular tips on maximizing advertising dollars and increasing online exposure. Add @GoogleAdManager, @AdSense, and @GoogleAdBuilder for a feed of Google’s latest tweets.

Yahoo! Search Marketing Blogs and Tweets

Formerly Overture, Yahoo! Search Marketing is one of the industry leaders in PPC advertising. At YSMBlog.com, Yahoo! executives discuss search engine marketing strategy, share insider tips, and give valuable insight on internet marketing trends.

Yahoo! also invites users to follow along on Twitter at @YahooAdBuzz.com. Tweets concern online marketing news, upcoming releases, developing ads, and more.

Microsoft adCenter Creates Community, Encourages Information Sharing

Microsoft adCenter is the newest of the PPC giants, having entered the market in 2006. However, their Advertising Community is a treasure trove of information for internet marketers and e-commerce entrepreneurs of experience and interest levels. Visitors can access video tutorials, podcasts, blog posts, or visit the forum for assistance from other users.

Through Twitter, the Microsoft adCenter provides information, but also interacts with customers by encouraging followers to message @adCenterRep directly with questions or comments. Toll-free customer service telephone numbers are listed prominently on the profile to facilitate open communication with users in need of advertising assistance.

Other Free Internet Advertising and Web Marketing Resources

StumbleUpon.com, a popular personalized browsing service, tweets from @StumbleUponAds about traffic generation, hot browsing topics, viral advertising and more.

PPC Pro People is a small Facebook group dedicated to sharing ideas and information about the “Big Three” in PPC advertising (Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!).

Internet marketing specialists from PitStopMedia.com, based in Vancouver, share advice, opinions, tips and online advertising strategy in their blog. As online marketing specialists, their team are well-versed in the pros and cons of different PPC and online advertising providers.

Gathering the Documents Needed for Complete Returns

No matter what country or state returns need to be completed, having access to important records makes the filing easier and more accurate. United States returns require documentation on income and expense that substantiates items on the return.

Documenting Income for the Tax Return

Employees will be issued a W-2 form, the Wage and Tax Statement. This form contains the earned income, as well as taxes deducted. Other important pieces of information on the W-2 are retirement and dependent care deductions.

Other income items are reported on one of the various 1099 forms. This may include earned income in a non-employee situation, such payment on a contract. Interest is reported on 1099 INT.

Brokerages will provide a 1099 form listing interest and dividend income, as well as investment purchases and sales of stock, mutual funds and options. Proceeds and costs of these items are reported on Schedule D.

Refunds from state and local taxes are reported on a 1099, and this income must be reported in the current year if the taxpayer claimed the payment of these taxes as an itemized deduction in that prior year.



Documenting Deductions from Income

It is a legal requirement to report all income. It is not a requirement to report all deductions, but a taxpayer will want to reduce taxes by claiming all deductions to which they are entitled.

Therefore, it is important to find all the deductions allowable. Good record-keeping makes this possible. Keeping track of all checks written during the year, or at least maintaining copies of checks to be reviewed at tax time will assist with finding deductions.

It is also helpful to maintain copies of credit card statements, which document expenditures. Types of items that may be deducted in some circumstances:

  • Charitable contributions. Donations over a certain amount must be acknowledged by the receiver, but reviewing the checkbook or statement may help to prompt the memory.
  • Unreimbursed employee expenses which may be deducted, such as union dues and job travel.
  • Medical expenses are deductible over a percentage of income. Bills paid by credit card are deductible in the year charged, regardless of when the credit card is paid off.
  • Tax preparation fees. These are deductible in the year paid, not the year that the tax return covers.

Miscellaneous Tax Documents

If the taxpayer owns investment property, documents relating to taxes paid and depreciation will be required to complete the return. If there is rental property, all documentation of rental income and expenses are needed. It is advisable that separate records (checkbooks, ledgers) be maintained.

Whether the taxpayer completes the forms manually, on tax software or pulls the information for a tax preparer, having all the documents at hand will help to make preparing the return efficient and accurate.

Tips on Planning During the Year to Increase Your Refund

December is a popular time for income tax articles, but changes made then will be too late to have much impact. Starting in the third quarter, taxpayers can make changes that will have a direct benefit in the current tax year.

Income Tax Liability

Mid-year is a good time to assess changes to a taxpayer’s situation. Changes in items such as:

  • Employment
  • Marital Status
  • Number of Dependents
  • Investment gains or losses

can mean changes in tax liability. It may be appropriate to review the number of exemptions, or the additional amount deducted for taxes.

If it is determined that there will be a large amount owed at the end of the year, July is a good time to adjust the deductions to avoid a big bill next April.

Alternatively, if the taxpayer adds additional dependents mid-year (like a newborn or elderly parent) it may allow for reducing the liability in August. There will not be as big a refund in January, but that money will likely be needed in each paycheck.

If the taxpayer had a very large refund or owed a lot of money last year, changing deductions during the year will help control that, and may avoid penalties and interest for underpayment.

A large investment gain may be reason to make an estimated payment. Investment losses are limited to $3,000 each year, although they may be carried forward to future years.

Making Contributions Mid-Year

Some taxpayers make few donations during the year, with the intention of making them in December in order to get the tax deduction. Life being what it is, these people may find that they cannot make the payments and miss out on the deduction.

In order to ensure the deduction, it makes sense to make contributions during the year. Charities can always use the money. Setting aside a particular amount each month will make sure the deduction is recorded.

For Individual Retirement Accounts, the deadline for filing is April 15 of the following year, in order for it to qualify for the previous year’s deduction. For instance, taxpayers have until 4/15/2010 to take a deduction for their 2009 taxes.

However, the same concept applies for making a contribution during the year. An investment made in June could potentially earn income that will be tax deferred. By April a taxpayer may find they do not have the cash to invest in an IRA, particularly if they have a large tax bill.

Making tax planning a year-round practice can help generate a nice refund, or at least lower liability when tax filing time comes.

Consider Security Issues When Hunting for Office Space

Janelle Benjamin, a realtor for Red Real Estate, a boutique commercial real estate firm based in New York, specializes in office leasing for established small businesses, branch offices and start ups. She helps clients find commercial space that will meet all the special needs of their business, including safety concerns. Since office safety is such an important issue for small business owners to think about, she took some time to discuss some tips for finding space that won’t compromise business security.

Should Business Owners Focus Most on Safety and Security Issues, Location, or Cost?

“They all relate to each other. The focus depends on the business and its priorities. If a lot of clients are coming in, you’ll want an impressive building and you won’t want to have them walking down a back alley. For this type of business, location is most important. If it is just you, your spouse and a friend and you want to keep your overhead low, price is most important. A tech company will put security first.

Also, if you have staff, think about staff safety. You don’t want them to leave the office in a less secure location at 7 o’clock all alone. In areas where employees use public transportation heavily, some companies give employees taxi vouchers after hours or have security walk them out to the car.

If employees perceive danger, it can take them away from company even if there isn’t real danger. They may relocate to a company that makes them feel safer. A company with staff should make safety a priority.”

Is it Difficult to find Safe Office Space on a Typical Small Business Budget?

“It isn’t very difficult. Safety involves getting to know other people in a building or on a floor. Know who works there and you can spot someone who doesn’t belong there. If you can’t afford a building with 24/7 security and an attendant, the other business owners will look out for you.”

What Safety and Security Features Should a Small Business Owner Look For?

“In order of importance, I’d say a small business owner should look for:

  • A lobby attendant and the hours he or she works. (9-5, after hours, 24/7 etc.)
  • Overall safety features, like cameras and security personnel doing rounds.
  • The life of the building. You should think about how many businesses there are and the deliveries they get. Is there tons of traffic? Do employees come in at 9 and leave at 5:30?
  • The traffic patterns of people on your floor. If there are a lot of deliveries, erratic hours and a lot of staff turnover, security can be harder to handle.”

What Safety Concern Should Make a Business Owner Walk Away From a Low Rent, High Traffic Location?

“It goes back to your staff. It is one thing to put yourself on the line. It is another thing to put employees on the line. If you are considering a location you aren’t sure of, bring an employee by and see how he feels.”

Does Having an Unsafe Location Affect the Business’s Bottom Line?

“Absolutely. Employees will quit. Buyers won’t want to do business. Curb appeal matters for businesses as much as it does for noncommercial real estate.”

Once small business owners understand that the safety of a location can impact the company’s profits and can cause employee retention problems, they can make an educated decision about the actual savings they will realize if they choose a lower cost, but less secure, commercial real estate location.

Develop Internet Advertising Strategies for Success in the New Year

As online retail sales continue to grow despite lagging U.S. total retail sales, e-commerce opportunities are a bright spot in an uncertain economy. Increase online business visibility and attract new customers with these five online marketing tips as part of next year’s overall internet advertising strategy.

Online Marketing Tip #5- Use Webmaster Tools and Plug-Ins to Expand Business Reach

Learn how to use Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Webmaster Central tools to improve the e-commerce website’s appearance and functionality. Add a translation plug-in, allowing international users to translate the website into the language of their choice. Offer extended customer service hours by phone or chat to assist customers in other time zones.

Online Marketing Tip #4- Experiment with Video and Other Multimedia Internet Marketing Tools

Videos rank high on search engines and are a great way to showcase new products, introduce staff to the public, and give customers a better idea of what the online business has to offer.

Create short video clips, slide shows, and other presentations. Feature them on the company website and upload to Metacafe, RedGage, YouTube and other video sharing websites to gain exposure.

Online Marketing Tip #3- Create a Business Wiki

Write a Wikipedia entry about the online business or an exclusive product, or hire a professional writer to create one. Millions of people use Wikipedia as a reference and the entries rank high in organic search engine listings. Be factual and avoid blatant promotion to ensure the Wikipedia entry is published.

Online Marketing Tip #2- Improve Customer Relationship Management

Retain customers, increase sales from existing clients, and build a reputation as a reliable company dedicated to providing a good customer experience. Solicit feedback from customers and use an email marketing campaign to regularly stay in touch, offering special promotions and discounts to loyal customers.

Sign up for Google alerts and monitor customer feedback on consumer review websites to see what people are saying about the business. Use this unsolicited feedback to improve customer service and business processes.

Online Marketing Tip #1- Targeted Internet Marketing Through Traditional and Social Media

Keep a Facebook fan page updated with new products and specials. Answer questions on LinkedIn groups or industry blogs for targeted internet marketing. Build a Twitter presence and tweet regularly about upcoming promotions, industry news, and business information to become an industry expert and increase exposure through social media.

Contact bloggers and print journalists in the industry and offer products for review or become a source for upcoming stories. Thank journalists for feature stories on the industry and build contacts through social networking.

The Key to Developing Clear, Workable Internet Advertising Strategies

It is impossible to be everything to everyone, especially on a small internet advertising budget. Plan to test one or two internet marketing tools and strategies at a time. Only use those that produce desirable results.

Choose one or two popular products or services to promote and use in marketing strategy testing. If a marketing idea is not working, do not be afraid to let it go and move on to the next one. Don’t waste money on ineffective advertising.

Test these strategies and measure results to find the combination of marketing methods that draws in new customers, increases customer loyalty, and boosts sales in the coming year.

Kick Off an Internet Startup Business with Instant Web Presence

Internet users are a massive market for a new business, or one making the transition from brick and mortar to online sales. The key to success in a web company launch is to avoid getting lost amongst the millions of other e-commerce entrepreneurs selling online.

Internet World Stats: Usage and Population Statistics estimates that as of June 30, 2009, the internet supported over 1.6 billion users worldwide. 73.9% of Americans use the internet, for a total of 251.7 million users. As internet service spreads across Asia, that market is growing exponentially; with only 18.5% of the population using the internet, over 700 million users are already logged on. The potential for online businesses to succeed in that emerging market is huge.

Why an Internet Startup Business Needs a Solid Web Presence

Marketing to an international audience is a feat in itself; however, a web company must also be aware of their competition and strive to increase online visibility. Potential customers often arrive at an online store after using a search engine to guide them to products or services they are interested in.

This creates a need for superior search engine optimization. However, that is only one component of building a successful web presence. Internet startup businesses must make themselves visible in news channels, on blogs, in social media, and on a professional company website.

1st Step in a Successful Web Company Launch- Website Optimization

A properly optimized website ranks higher in search engine listings and is therefore easier for potential customers to find. An internet startup business can save valuable marketing dollars by appearing in organic searches, rather than paid advertising.

Choose three or four keyword phrases that accurately describe the web company and its products or services. Be specific. For example, an internet startup selling discount printed clothing for babies might choose:

  • printed baby clothing
  • original discount baby clothing
  • buy discount baby clothing online

The terms, “baby clothing,” and “clothes for babies,” are far too general and competitive. Think of what the customer will type into a search engine to find those products, and make those the primary keywords.

Incorporate the keywords (once each) into a 70-80 character website title and a website description of 200 words or less. Add the keywords to the website’s meta tags and use each word two or three times in the main body of text on the front page. Do not overuse keywords; search engines penalize websites for keyword spamming.

2nd Step in Launching a Successful Internet Startup Business- Build a Unified Web Presence

Web companies can build credibility and attract new business by maintaining several different types of web presences. Use the same logo, language, and keywords on each of the following:

  • A company blog
  • A MySpace page to advertise products
  • A Facebook fan page to interact with potential customers
  • A Twitter account to broadcast sales and new releases

Each component of the web presence should be instantly recognizable as unique to the company. Build a content web by linking all accounts together. Participate in online forums and leave comments on other blogs, with a signature block linking back to the company website, to further increase visibility and generate interest.

3rd Step for a New Web Company Launch- A Formal Announcement

Internet startup businesses benefit from coverage in news media. However, press release writing is an art form; most releases are simply discarded, especially if they are blatantly promotional in nature.

Try to answer these two questions:

  • Why is this news?
  • How will readers benefit from hearing about this business launch?

The title and opening paragraph should immediately answer these two important questions to catch the interest of the news personnel reading it. Use company keywords sparingly throughout the press release and insert two or three hyperlinks to important company information or unique products. Use a company such as Business Wire to distribute the release to journalists and media companies.

Map Out the Launch Strategy in the Online Business Planning Stages

Don’t waste time and money in the difficult first days of an internet startup business launch. Plan to use these three strategies to quickly build a web presence and increase online visibility, giving the startup business the best chance of success.

Tips for Keeping Businesses Safe and Secure

There are so many things small business owners need to worry about. Overhead, hiring and training employees, keeping track of quarterly estimated tax payments and a laundry list of other concerns keep them very busy. However, no matter how overwhelming their to do lists are, every business owner should add one more very important item to his or her list – small business safety and security. Richard Ginsburg, the CEO and president of Protection One, Inc., one of the largest security companies in the United States, has taken the time to provide tips and hints about staying safe and keeping companies secure.

How Concerned Should Small Business Owners Be About Safety?

“Small business owners need to be very concerned about safety in today’s economic environment. There is increased crime in many parts of country. When there is more financial stress, there are more crimes.”

Do Successful Small Business Owners Face Greater Personal Risk than Traditional Company Employees?

“Larger companies have more resources to deal with, which can reduce risks. However, security products are much more affordable today than even three or four years ago. We can set up video surveillance in businesses that wouldn’t have been able to afford it previously. Business owners can do things to protect themselves.”

Are There Any Times When Business Owners Should Stay Alert More Than Others?

“Opening and closing times are times when business owners and staff should be more alert. When someone is in a rush to get there or leave and doing things like propping doors open, everyone should be more alert.”

What is the Biggest Security Mistake Small Businesses Make?

“Not being alert. You should be constantly alert and keep your guard up all the time. Employees need to be reminded to keep their guard up. For instance, someone coming in in a large coat in July or a person the employees have never seen before who is lingering around are both things that should concern your staff.”

What Steps Should a Small Business Take to Stay Safe and Secure?

“To stay as safe as possible, a business owner should hold quarterly or monthly meetings to go over security. Also, drills need to be done. It may seem childish to them, but it is important to go over what is expected in case of emergencies with your staff. Review things like taking a head count and what to do in the event of fire.”

What Should Every Small Business Know About Security that No One Seems to Know?

“Security is affordable. There are many things you can do today that are not very expensive. Burglar alarms, card access systems, cameras and video recording systems are all options that can help keep businesses safe and secure.

Do You Have any Loss Prevention Tips for Retailers?

“Around holidays, retailers should beef up staff. They also should make sure they don’t prop open doors when loading or unloading products. Easy access in and out for employees is also easy access for shoplifters.”

Do Warehouse Operations Have any Different Concerns to Think About?

“Warehouse operations need to be sure everyone is signing in and out. No one should be roaming around warehouse and wandering in off the street. Visitor badges are very inexpensive and can be done with different colors for different months of the year. It is easy to do and very effective. If you don’t have a badge, you don’t belong.”

For any small business owner, staying safe and secure is essential. Unfortunately, many businesses avoid the issue because they think that security comes with a big price tag. Protection One’s CEO Richard Ginsburg shows that there are many free and low cost security measures that small businesses can easily implement, such as staying alert or using color coded visitor badges. For more help with keeping small businesses as safe as possible, look into choosing secure real estate locations, safe travel tips and working with staff to create employee safety and security policies.

 

The Importance of IRS Terminology in Saving Money on Taxes

Exemptions, deductions and tax credits are different items that impact how much tax is owed:

  • Credits reduce 100% of the amount of tax owed.
  • Deductions reduce the amount of income, so that less tax is paid based on the tax rate.
  • Exemptions are multiplied by a fixed amount to arrive at a number to reduce income, similar to a deduction.

How Tax Exemptions Work

Each individual is given one exemption for themselves, and one additional for each dependent. A taxpayer with a spouse and three dependent children would receive five exemptions.

There is only on exemption per person per year. An exemption cannot be claimed on a return if they are claimed as an exemption on any other person’s return. This includes the exemption for the taxpayer.

If another person is dependent on the taxpayer, for instance, an adult parent, the taxpayer would be able to claim an additional exemption for that person. If the adult parent has enough income to file a separate return, they cannot be claimed as an exemption on both their own and another’s return.

The number of exemptions is multiplied by the exemption amount ($3,500 in tax year 2008) and deducted from Adjusted Gross Income (AGI).

Exemptions can be different than withholding allowances, which are given to employers on Form W-4 during the year.

Itemized or Standard Deductions

AGI is also reduced by deductions. Taxpayers can use the greater of itemized deductions or the Standard Deduction. Examples of itemized deductions are home mortgage interest, state taxes and charitable contributions.

The Difference between Credits and Deductions

The key difference is in the amount of tax that each reduces. A tax credit reduces income tax liability by 100% of the credit, a deduction only reduces taxes by the amount of the deduction times the tax rate.

In a simplified example, for a taxpayer in 2008 with an adjusted gross income of $50,000 and a tax rate of 28%; a tax deduction of $5,000 will reduce taxable income to $45,000, resulting in a tax liability of $12,600.

In the same situation, with a tax deduction of $0, but a tax credit of $5,000, the tax liability would be $9,000 ($14,000-$5,000).

It is clear that when it comes to reducing taxes, a credit is much preferable to a deduction.

Examples of Tax Credits

Since there is a greater reduction in taxes associated with credits, they are more limited, but in the recent tax bill, credits are available for first time home buyers and improving a home’s energy efficiency.

Tax credits continuing from prior years include credits for child care and educational expenses. Details are available from the Internal Revenue Service.

Lowering the tax bill or increasing the refund requires knowledge of the IRS rules.

 

Struggling Business Advice

Many small business owners who manage to eke out just enough money to keep the business running are constantly stressed and worried. Sometimes, it wouldn’t take much for them to begin to do better financially, but they are so overwhelmed that they can’t see what they need to change. Other times, they feel like they can’t make changes because the changes would involve treating staff members like the employees they are instead of friends. For a small business owner who feels like he or she just needs a little help to turn a struggling business around, one of these tips may just be the answer:

Ask for Small Business Advice from an Expert

The person who knows the most about running a thriving business in a specific field is someone who owns the most profitable and successful business in that field. Someone who is having problems getting his or her business to do as well may want to consider calling in a successful business owner in the same field to act as a consultant. Just a few days of advice can make a huge change for the better in a business that just doesn’t seem to be taking off.

For examples of how much an expert can help a business that isn’t doing well, turn on the television set. There are several television shows that demonstrate how much difference a successful business owner can make in a struggling business in just a few days. Hair salons call Tabitha. Restaurants call Gordon Ramsey.

Finding the top business owners in the field and asking them to work as a consultant does take a bit of courage, but entrepreneurs who are nervous about approaching someone so successful should remind themselves that they are actually offering a job to the potential consultant and that the worst that could happen is the consultant turns them down.

Re-read the Small Business Plan for the Company

Many times, people make a detailed business plan, use it to get money from investors and then stick it in a drawer. However, that business plan is not just a document to show bankers. It is also a road map for the business. When a business owner feels like the business has gotten off track and is having difficulty figuring out where he or she went wrong, studying the original business plan can really help pinpoint trouble spots and get the business back where it belongs.



Attend a Small Business Management Seminar

Not all business owners are naturally great managers. However, even someone who feels like he or she couldn’t possibly manage employees can learn techniques that make him or her a much better and more effective manager. The same holds true for other business management issues. Taking classes or attending seminars can help a business owner develop better management skills.

Once a small business owner with a struggling business realizes that he or she needs to be proactive and make some changes to help the business grow, there are many different options for getting that needed boost. Asking an expert in the field to take a look at the business and make suggestions and re-visiting the business plan are two great ways to figure out what needs to be done to get a small business growing again.