The travel bug has bit more and more people these days, but so has the stress of finances. Luckily there are ways to enjoy traveling without the stress of overspending. Here are several tips and tricks I learned while on my travels.

1. Do your research

I can’t stress enough how important it is to do your research. I have saved so much money just by sitting in front of my computer screen a few extra hours per day hunting for the best deals. A good tip I have learned from others is to go on the actual airline’s website and see if they have any specific deals.

2. Sharing is caring 

It can be a little intimidating to share a room with a complete stranger(s) for several days and/or weeks, but more and more people are actually turning to hostels these days. Hostels are accommodating. It is much better to think simply in terms of where you are staying. Don’t look into the petty details, just focus on what you plan to do outside of the room.

3. Package deals

Whether you decide to buy your ticket and room together or separately, just remember to look for the best deals. I have found from experience that a package deal can actually be less expensive. Also, make sure to choose a budget. We all know what we can afford, so in order to reduce stress during travel, make a budget and stick to it, trust me, you will feel much better if you do.

4. Take what you can carry

We all know packing can be a major pain, but the good thing is that we are able to take a large suitcase and a carry-on. It is important that you make as much space for as many items as you will need since you will have to consider the laundry part of your travels. It helps to have a packing list. Remember to check the weather prior to your trip in order to pack more appropriately for your destination.

5. Cash is important

It is always important to have some cash with you since you never know if you will need it. It is important to notify your credit card company of your dates of travel ahead of time, to avoid any issues while you are vacationing. It also helps to notify them so they that they are prepared to take extra precautions on your card, in case of theft.


6. WhatsApp

WhatsApp, Viber, etc, are great ways to keep in touch with family, friends and colleagues while you are away. Wherever you end up staying will probably have free wifi, so you can connect with anyone for free and avoid any charges. Talk to a representative from your phone carrier and see what they suggest. You can ask them about the least expensive way to use your phone overseas and they will certainly give you the answers you need.

7. Pack a picnic

Even though airlines kindly provide us with meals, it is important to bring some food from home. You can pack several snacks, sandwiches and fruit to accommodate you on your travels. It will help avoid having to pay crazy prices at airports and it also keeps you happy and energized as you head to your destination.

8. Destination save

So, now that you have found your cheap flight and hostel or hotel deal, you have packed enough to accommodate your needs, you downloaded WhatsApp and/or Viber to your phone, took out some cash to exchange and have packed a picnic, you are ready to travel.

9. Choose the cheaper route

As tempting as it is to take a cab all the way to the foot of your hostel or hotel, I recommend you try the train or bus instead. For example, the average cost of a cab in any city is 25-30 euros and that is expensive. Airports have great directions and services that will direct you to the nearest buses and trains.

10. Eating like a champion

Take advantage of complimentary breakfast options where you are staying, as well as cheaper options within your hostel or hotel. The challenge is eating out. I’ve learned from experience that tourist areas are the priciest. It is important to avoid these spots if you are budgeting, however, this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a nice meal. I once found a cute little mom and pop tapas bar hidden in the back streets of Barcelona for under 10 euros. It was delicious, filling and didn’t starve my wallet.

11. The art of budgeting

Art galleries, museums, parks, etc, are wonderful ways to learn more about your destination’s culture, painters, architects and musicians. For example, when I went to Barcelona, I was able to experience the beauty of Gaudi’s Parque de Gaulle for free. Yes, you heard me, for FREE. There is a large portion of the park that tourists are able to experience without spending a dime.


12. Walking is the best exercise and it’s free

Think about how far you can get by simply walking. Indulging in the art of walking means you are giving yourself a free scenic walking tour. Walking also gives you the option of being social. It is a great way to meet locals and share a smile, as well as connect, ask questions, ask for advice, directions and even make friends. You never know who you will meet.

Source : http://www.lifehack.org


Categorized in Others

With deadlines for 2017 budgets just around the corner, columnist Will Scott discusses why local businesses should be allocating more of their dollars to digital marketing.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “You need to spend money to make money.” But for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), this is a particularly challenging mandate to follow when thinking about annual budgets every year. Now is the time they must take a hard look at their finances to determine how to spend less and make more.

So the million-dollar question is: With 2017 looming and budgeting priorities across the board, where will SMBs be putting their marketing dollars next year?

As a small business owner myself, I know all too well how essential it is to make a detailed plan that will tightly control my company’s financial performance. In my experience running an online marketing business, creating a process for budgeting is the single most effective means of keeping your business’s finances on the right track.

But even when times get tough, it’s imperative to remember how important the marketing portion of your budget is for survival. You should never stop promoting your business, even when resources end up being more limited than expected. When your marketing budget is small, you must make smart choices about your priorities to determine how much money you should devote not only to marketing in general, but specifically to the critical components of online marketing.

To succeed in today’s competitive and crowded world, here are three reasons why SMBs should consider online marketing a top budgeting priority.


1. The competition for online marketing is increasing

As more businesses devote their hard-earned dollars to online marketing, television and radio, the competition online is getting fierce. A recent CMO Survey Report showed that digital marketing spend is increasing over time, while spend on traditional advertising is falling.

From The CMO Survey Report: Highlights and Insights, August 2016

Similarly, a marketing trends survey by Selligent and StrongView conducted in late 2015 found that while business leaders increased their marketing budgets overall in 2016, traditional channels fell lower on the spectrum compared to online marketing channels.

Less than 14 percent of companies surveyed had planned to increase marketing spend for print, radio and television advertising, while a majority of businesses surveyed planned to increase spend in four key digital marketing channels: email marketing, social media, online display advertising and mobile marketing. And 42 percent of businesses surveyed planned to allocate greater marketing budget to search (SEO and PPC).

Social media marketing budgets are increasing as well. The 2016 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, released by Social Media Examiner, found that at least 63 percent of marketers plan to increase marketing activities on Facebook and YouTube.

SMBs who hope to compete will need to take a detailed look at their budgets to see how far they can stretch their online marketing dollars, with a focus on creating content customized for their clientele. As businesses continue to allocate more and more marketing spend toward digital channels, these spaces will only become more competitive.

2. The benefits of online marketing are plentiful

Online marketing opens up a world of advantages over traditional advertising. For example, online marketing can offer a higher return on investment than traditional approaches due to the relatively low cost of online channels like social media, as well as the ability to quickly adapt your strategy based on data available from Google and social media platforms. Online marketing has also been shown to reach the same number of consumers at a much lower cost when compared to traditional channels.

Consider the additional benefits of online marketing, too. Not only can you track specific metrics to provide valuable and specific feedback for each individual campaign, but any business, no matter the size, can be a strong competitor with a solid online marketing strategy. This is due again to the lower cost of online channels, as well as the near immediacy of paid advertising on search and social media. SMBs can achieve quick boosts to business through these channels versus the longer waits that often accompany traditional marketing.

Let’s also not underestimate the viral nature of the internet. In the traditional marketing world, for example, you have to wait around for your sales flyers to get passed around between your prospects and customers. With an avenue like social media, share buttons enable your entire message to be shared quickly.

3. More SMBs want to invest in online marketing

So why do some SMBs still refrain entirely from online marketing, or even traditional marketing? A recent LSA survey of 300 SMBs found that one of the primary reasons is a small budget. But when questioned about how they would proceed if they had a larger marketing budget, digital marketing dominated the wish list, with search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search (PPC) at the top of the list. The survey found that 50 percent of SMBs would spend their budget on SEO if they had double their current marketing budget, while 41 percent would prioritize PPC.

Of the remaining channels, 37 percent of SMBs said they would invest in websites, 29 percent said they would invest in social media, and 28 percent said they would invest in CRM tools. The survey results mirrored consumer behavior, as websites and search engines are still seen as the primary driver for consumers searching for local products or services.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, as SMBs finalize their 2017 budgets, they will likely find that the benefits to increasing their marketing budget far outweigh any short-term cost savings that come with reducing it. As more SMBs shift their dollars to online marketing, they will find more prospects and more loyal customers who will visit their websites, read about and rate their products and services, and purchase them and give feedback that will be valuable to the rest of the market.


With digital marketing, it doesn’t take very long for good publicity to positively impact the future of a fledgling business. It also provides a great return on investment. A recent survey of 200 retail marketing executives who were making allocation decisions showed that they favor online advertising. Over three-quarters reported a greater ROI with online advertising than with traditional advertising.

If your budget allows for only one or two things to focus on, remember that quality content — on your website, blog or social media channels — reigns supreme. I would love to hear your thoughts on impending 2017 budgets and how marketing will be impacted.

Author:  Will Scott

Source:  http://searchengineland.com/

Think you don't have the resources for an effective SEO program? Think again! Columnist Dianna Huff shares a case study detailing how a small business was able to make big gains with a limited budget. 

The small manufacturers who are thriving in the face of global competition and other challenges have spent the last five to seven years improving productivity and process efficiencies. This focus has often meant that marketing activity was next to nonexistent — with much new business coming from word-of-mouth.

Once a small manufacturer has their process down, however, they’re ready to begin a marketing program that includes SEO. The problem is, where to start? With so much information and so many moving parts, a small business owner can be easily overwhelmed. It’s much easier to simply focus on running the business.

Such was the case with one of our clients, a small manufacturing firm of about 30 people. The owner and his team had done a SWOT analysis and were ready to embark on a marketing program that included SEO.

The challenges, however, were pretty daunting: zero historical data, few backlinks, and building content and brand awareness on a limited budget.


Challenge #1: Zero historical data

When my company first began working with the small manufacturer in November 2015, we noted right away that the client’s website had a huge error with regard to the Google Analytics tracking code, which had been added to the website home page only. The low number of visitor sessions was a dead giveaway.


With our smaller clients, we see this type of UA code/analytics error on a regular basis, as well as others, such as the wrong UA code inserted into the HTML code or the client not having Admin access to Google Analytics. And then we learn that the person who did have access has fallen off the planet. When this happens, we often have to start fresh with a new Google Analytics account.

The first step in creating the client’s SEO program, therefore, was to ensure Google Analytics was properly tracking all web pages. An easy fix, but one that left us with zero data on which to base recommendations for moving forward.

Months of keyword guessing

Not having any Analytics or Search Console data meant we didn’t know the types of search queries people were using. And since the company hadn’t done much marketing in the past and had relatively low traffic volume, it would take months before we had any data that could tell us anything.

The client wanted to appear in Google for a few specific keywords pertaining to the services his company provided. However, the Keyword Planner showed few searchers were using these keywords in their searches.

Because we’ve worked with many small manufacturers and their esoteric products and services, we’ve learned the Keyword Planner isn’t always accurate, so we went ahead and optimized the website around iterations of these keywords plus others.

After a couple of months, it became apparent that those weren’t the right keywords based on traffic and other data.

We ended up making a new list and then carefully analyzing the SERPs for each keyword. We wanted to see how Google viewed the intent of each query and then choose the more transactional keywords — i.e., the keywords people would use when looking for the particular products and services the client provided.

In addition, we employed standard SEO tactics: ensuring images had descriptive alt tags using keywords whenever possible, creating internal links to key pages and writing descriptive title/meta description tags for all pages of the website.


Challenge #2: Few backlinks

For smaller manufacturers, the backlink profile is often limited, and budget and personnel constraints mean the company simply can’t take advantage of a full-fledged content and social media marketing program.

However, even on a budget, some things can be done which are easy and cost-effective: One of our first steps was to create a Google My Business page, get the company listed in the YP.com directory and create a LinkedIn corporate profile page.

To begin creating a few high-quality links that would also start building awareness (Challenge #3), the marketing plan for the year included sending out two press releases, as well as pitching three article ideas to trade publications (and writing the articles should the pitch be accepted).

The first press release and pitch resulted in two publications running a case study and an application note respectively. The case study appeared online; the application note appeared in the publication’s print version and online as well — a huge win for any company, but especially nice for a smaller firm.

In addition, we continued to add content to the Resources section of the website. For small companies on a tight budget, creating a Resources section is a cost-effective way to create content. This content can then be posted on the corporate or personal LinkedIn profile, added to e-newsletters and most important, optimized to attract search traffic and links.

For our client, we created application notes, FAQs and other types of information of interest to the target audience. As a side note, one of the application notes was repurposed for the industry print publication article — a good example of how small companies can get maximum bang for the marketing buck.

Challenge #3: Creating content and building awareness

One of the tactics the client had wanted to implement from the beginning was a monthly e-newsletter. The client already had an internal list, so we created a new account in MailChimp, imported the list and developed a template.

We created a new topic for each month, but midway through the campaign, the client suggested a topic we could break down into multiple articles — and which would be of high interest to the target audience. That’s when we hit paydirt.


Although e-newsletters generally don’t fall under the purview of SEO, they do play a role in that they assist in conversions and inquiries over time.

According to Gardner Business Media’s 2015 Media Usage in Manufacturing Report, 68 percent of survey respondents view e-newsletters as an effective method for finding solutions-based info, application stories and information on new products and processes.

And 93 percent of respondents indicated they click on companies whose name they recognize in the search results — making e-newsletters an effective way to reinforce brand awareness over time (even if subscribers delete the email after quickly skimming it or don’t read it at all some months).

Based on Analytics data we’ve seen with other small manufacturing clients, e-newsletters often play a role in assisting conversions over time and are one of several channels searchers use in their path to conversion.

This is why we like to focus on new and returning visitors to the website, conversions and conversion paths rather than open rates.

One trick we used, which helped indirectly with SEO, was to repurpose each newsletter article for the website. Then, in each newsletter we added links to this material — which drove people back to the website and gave us more content we could optimize.


Results: Slow but steady traffic growth and conversions

The chart below shows the All Channels traffic data (adjusted for referral spam) for January through September. Of this, organic accounts for 69 percent, direct 22 percent and referral three percent.


More importantly, however, the work we’ve been doing is resulting in conversions. The chart below shows the goal completions for new and returning users for the Q3 period for the website form only; the client has also been getting email and phone inquiries, which his team tracks in-house.


What I find exciting is that while the website content we’ve been creating is being found by searchers, the e-newsletter also is driving new and return users to the website — and recently, a few conversions as well.


Although the numbers are small, we now have data we can use to create a more finely tuned marketing and measurement plan for year two — a plan which can now include SEO KPIs and targets. The data also gives us a baseline for a discussion on whether to budget for an AdWords campaign in order to determine which keywords drive clicks and inquiries and increase traffic.

In conclusion

Starting an SEO program from scratch for a smaller company on a budget can be a little daunting, as the expectation for fast results lurks in the background (especially given all the hype and misinformation regarding SEO).

The key to success is to set realistic expectations and have patience: for smaller companies on a tight budget and/or limited resources, it can take up to a year to see results from SEO and content marketing.

I would also add two other success tips. The first tip is to be consistent. Regularly create pieces of content for the website and optimize it, publish the e-newsletter each month, post to social platforms even if only one platform is being used and so on. Over time, these efforts create momentum which begins to snowball.

The second tip is to employ a little ingenuity; make things do double and triple duty so that you can leverage multiple channels without a whole lot of additional effort.

Source : searchengineland

Categorized in Business Research

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