Top 5 Tips for Local Businesses to Rule the Local SEO Competition!

More and more people using Google search are seeing more local results thrown up on the top. They are bombarded with local options for nearly everything they search especially when on a mobile device. Hence now it is more important for businesses with a local base targeting to target and top the local search metrics. Here we are listing top 5 Tips for local SEO to top local search results and boost their traffic and business.

1) Claim Your Online Listing: This is the first and the most important step. You need to claim your listing on Google Places, Bing Local and Yahoo Local. Once you fill out your details after creating an account on these platforms, you will need to verify your business details through a straight forward process of post card verification or a phone call. Once it is done you are ready for the next steps. If you don’t have a physical address on some location or don’t want people to know your real business address and have reason to keep it discreet you can use certain services which provide you with business mail forwarding and other services (please keep in mind that use of these services is in the grey area and should be avoided for all practical purposes.

2) Optimize your Listings: Putting in accurate and detailed business information such as address and phone number, is of utmost importance. Opening closing times and days of operation etc. are required. Description of your business activities is very important as well as using your keywords in the text as well. Use high quality images and videos of your business. This is of utmost importance as it plays a major role in enhancing user experience. Leaving any of the important field in the listings blank is not recommended. Accurate information that is optimized to help you rank well and also to attract your potential clients and impress them is the key to proper local SEO.

3) Online Business Reviews: Reviews are another important part of your local Listing. Reviews play a super crucial role in local SEO and most of the local listing sites are completely fine with businesses requesting their customers to leave a review. You should request your customers for writing a review through e-mails, invoices, contact form and thank you pages, among other places. Keep in mind any review is good for business, even negative ones. However keep in mind not to have too many bad reviews. No business is perfect and negative reviews are part of business life. Many businesses are afraid of bad reviews, but keep in mind no company can keep 100% of their customers happy. Another important thing to remember is that many potential customers may find it suspicious if a company only has positive reviews.

4) Optimizing your Website: Optimizing your website is also crucial. Display a local phone number prominently on your homepage and landing page in text format (don’t use image) and mention your local business address again in text format only. Make sure that the phone number is a real working local phone number with local dialing code mentioned and not an 1800/800 type of number. Also make sure to use the full mailing address of your business and make sure that the details are same as used on the listing and there is no difference. Make use of schema to optimize your website. Use multiple landing pages if your business caters to different geo locations. Optimize each page according to the targeted location.

5) Local Citations: It is important to list your business in the local directories and local classifieds sites. The search engine algorithms still depend on these to gather more information about the business and their popularity. So use sites such yelp, yellow pages etc. to list your business and help boost your local rankings.

These five top tips will help you in your endeavor to boost your online presence and help you beat the local SEO competition.

3 Tests To Qualify For A Small Business Loan

Banks and other lenders are really only concerned about one thing; getting repaid.

After all, that is how they still make the bulk of their revenue; making loans and getting repaid both interest and principal.

Thus, to qualify for a business loan, you simply have to demonstrate that your business can service the loan request – meaning being able to make the loan payments for the life of the loan.

Most lenders will perform the following 3 analysis calculations to determine if your business has the cash flow to service the proposed new loan.

1) Spread The Financials:

Banks / lenders will require three years of past financial statements at a minimum. The reason is to see if your business could have serviced the loan over the last three years. If it passes this test, then your business should be able to service the loan for the next three years.

Thus, they use your past business performance to determine what your future performance should be.

To spread your financial, most lenders will do the following for each past period that your business provided financial statements:

  • Take your net income (that is your net profits after all operating costs, taxes and interest payments).
  • Add back any non-cash accounting items like depreciation (deprecation is not an ongoing cash expenses but an accounting anomaly to reduce taxable income for tax reporting purposes only).
  • Add back any one-time charges or expenses – expenses that are not expected to reoccur in the future.
  • Then subtract out the interest charges for the proposed loan – only the interest portion at this stage as interest payments are considered regular business expenses.

This results in the true net positive (hopefully positive) cash flow of the business – cash flow that will be used to pay the principal portion of the business loan.

Now, if your business’s cash flow at this point can cover the principal portion of the loan, you have almost pasted this test.

Most lenders will not just want to see if your business’s cash flow meets the minimum principal portion of the proposed loan but would like it to cover 25% or even 50% more. The reason is that should your business have a slow period and revenues decline by say 25% or 50% – your business’s cash flow would still be sufficient to make the loan payment.

Example: Your business requests a $100,000 loan for three years with a monthly payment of $3,227 – broken down as interest of $449 and principal of $2,778.

Therefore, your monthly cash flow should not only cover the $2,778 in principal but say 1.25 times more or $3,473.

Also, keep in mind that this cash flow figure should not only cover the proposed loan’s principal but the principal payments of all the business loans the company has.

Principal payments are not income statement items and are not accounted for based on normal operating income and expenses but are balance sheet items and are paid out of net income (after all operating expenses).

Interest charges from loans are an operating expense and accounted for when the financials are spread.

Financials could be spread monthly, quarterly or even annually – depending on the types of financial statements requested or the policies of the lending institution.

If you can past this test via your past business performance, then it is highly expected that your business will do the same in the near future.

2) What If Scenarios:

Here, the lender will perform a series of “what if” scenarios on your financial statements.

For example, they may take your total revenue per period and reduce it by 10% or 20% – keeping all other items (your expenses) the same.

Then, spread those numbers again to see if your business could still service the proposed loan – e.g. still have the cash flow to make the payments.

Again, reassuring the bank or lender that your business would still be able to repay them should your business hit a slow period.

3) Debt-to-Equity Ratio:

Lastly, while your business may be able to service the proposed loan’s payments, banks also want to ensure that your business is not over leveraged – meaning that your business does not have too much debt in comparison to its equity.

Let’s say that the entire market declines or crashes and your revenues fall so low that you are forced to shut down the business. In this situation, would you still be able to repay all your lenders – including this proposed loan?

Thus, lenders look to a safety measure known as the debt-to-equity ratio.

Measuring your debt-to-equity is simply taking your Total Liabilities and dividing them by your company’s total equity.

The higher this ratio, the more risk the business has as it is relying on too much outside debt financing.

A ratio over 3 (meaning that the business has three times the debt as it does equity) is too much risk for most lenders to feel comfortable with.

Most businesses will have a debt-to-equity ratio between 1.5 to 2 and are considered safe to their prospective lender.

Now, if your business does not pass all these tests with flying colors and you still need a small business loan to grow, then it is up to you (the business owner) to manage your company in such a way to bring your business in line with these tests.

It all starts with your understanding of your business and the measures it has to pass to qualify.

A Small Business Loan

A small business loan is one of the most treasured commodities in the business world. It is still very hard to get despite the claims and promises of banks, credit unions, and other lending institutions that they want to help American small business to survive and grow. In fact it sometimes seems that banks and other lenders want to see small businesses fail and only support those that survive the battle for customers, revenues, and finances during their first two years.

Getting a small business loan is most difficult during these first two years, when most businesses face a myriad of challenges involved with not only opening their doors, but hiring and training staff and meeting the demands of customers, clients, suppliers and vendors. The main reason that the banks use for not granting many loans during this period is like the same reason that a student can’t get a job coming out of school. They don’t have the experience.

The other major reason behind that first reason is that the banks think that many small businesses are simply too great a risk to offer them a small business loan. On that front they do have a point. The majority of small businesses open and close their doors for good during that first year and from the banks’ perspective they don’t want to risk losing their investment during this period.

But after a small business survives those first two years of struggle the banks are much more accommodating. By then the business not only has experience and has proven its capacity to overcome adversity, it also has a track record of being in business. This will include having a financial statement or income tax return prepared twice as well as a record of how well they have been paying their bills to other businesses, suppliers and vendors.

The banks are able to access this information by doing a business credit check from any one of a number of business credit reporting agencies. They can also access a company’s payment record by reviewing their Paydex Score which is available from business reporting company, Dun and Bradstreet. Whenever there is an application for a small business loan, all lenders will review this information before even looking at the rest of the loan application.

If all the business credit checks and reports come back okay the banks and other lending institutions may look further into the business requesting a small business loan and this often includes a personal financial check on the owners or operators of the company. They may ask for business references to follow up with and they may even ask for a personal guarantee or collateral before granting a small business loan.

Agencies like the Small Business Administration can assist small businesses to obtain a small business loan since almost all of the monies provided to small businesses are guaranteed by them even before the bank loosens up its money strings.