SmartBiz Loans Milestone: $500 Million in SBA Loans for Small Businesses

Small business lending platform SmartBiz Loans has announced surpassing $500 million in funded Small Business Administration loans.

This milestone follows a series of recent successes for SmartBiz, including a fifth bank joining its software platform. The announcement also demonstrates the mainstreaming trend of such online lending marketplaces also including Biz2Credit, Fundera and others in the small business community.

SmartBiz Loans is a combination of a bank-enabling technology platform and an online loan marketplace.

SmartBiz Loans Milestone

Evan Singer, CEO and President of SmartBiz Loans shared the company’s enthusiasm about the milestone.

“We are proud to announce this milestone, as it means that we are helping generate increased access to SBA loans for small business owners. As alternative online lenders continue to raise rates and banks struggle to make smaller loans profitably, SmartBiz is connecting banks with small business borrowers in a way that is a win-win for both sides,” said Singer.

SmartBiz Loan’s software platform automates underwriting for banks in order to reduce time and costs associated with processing SBA loans under $350,000 by up to 90 percent, the company claims. As the company automates the underwriting process, SmartBiz Loans’ platform allows banks to provide low-cost capital to small business owners in a matter of weeks rather than months.

Having access to funds quickly can be vital to small business owners who need capital fast.

SmartBiz Loans says it ranked as the leading facilitator of traditional SBA 7(a) loans under $350,000 for the 2016 fiscal year. This means SmartBiz surpassed Wells Fargo and other major banks in relation to SBA lending.

The $500 million in funded SBA loans is representative, not only of SmartBiz Loans’ success and growth, but of the entire small business loan market.

Following the recession  in 2008, banks limited the loans they made to small businesses due to being unable to process them efficiently enough to make profit. By automating the process, SmartBiz is making the procedure more efficient and cost-effective for all parties, the company says.

SBA Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "SmartBiz Loans Hits $500 Million Mark in SBA Loans for Small Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends

Why Businesses Should Archive Text Messages

It may be tempting to delete all the text messages you’ve received in bulk to free up some space on your mobile device. But as a small business owner, you should think twice before hitting the delete button.

According to a new data-based infographic created by software company, TeleMessage, businesses should consider archiving text messages instead.

Wondering why? As it turns out, archiving text messages is critical to your company’s security and reputation. Not just that, it’s crucial to making sure you can trace text-based evidence and produce it in court, if needed.

Why Businesses Should Archive Text Messages

Here are some reasons why you need to archive all your text messages:

Meet Regulatory Compliance Requirements

Almost all industries have some sort of regulatory compliance policy in place with regards to retaining and producing content. These regulations make it compulsory for organizations to retain information such as communication with clients – including texts and chats.

Support Court Cases and eDiscovery

Archived text messages can prove useful if you get entangled in a legal case and need evidence to defend yourself.

It’s also worth noting that under the requirements of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, an organization has the obligation to search and produce electronic content, such as email, files and text messages.

Enable Employees to Access Older Content

An archiving process helps employees access older content without the need to store them on a live server or in the device’s storage. This, in turn, reduces the demand on your IT staff and helps you lower the cost and time for backup, upgrades and database tuning.

Retain Corporate Memory

With a proper archiving process in place, it becomes easier for you to maintain a record of your organization’s history.

It also helps you ensure your data remains secured and retrievable years from now.

To understand the benefits of archiving text messages in further detail, check out the infographic below:

Why Businesses Should Archive Text Messages

Images: TeleMessage

This article, "4 Reasons Your Small Business Should Archive Text Messages (Infographic)" was first published on Small Business Trends

Is Your Desk Work Killing You? New Medical Research Says It May

Do you run a small business which requires you to sit at a desk for long periods? Perhaps you’re a freelancer working from a desk at home, day in, day out? If you have a sedentary job, you may be working to the detriment of your health.

This is the finding of a study by the Annals of Internal Medicine. The research examined the association between sedentary lifestyles and mortality. It focused on adults aged 45 and over. Almost 8,000 adults participated in the study.

Sedentary time among the participants was measured using a hip-mounted accelerometer. The research concluded that sitting over prolonged, uninterrupted periods is associated with ‘all-cause’ mortality.

So, Is Your Desk Work Killing You?

The conclusion of the Annals of Internal Medicine study is that physical activity guidelines should be issued, targeted at “reducing and interrupting sedentary time to reduce risk for death.”

The research may have focused on the over 45’s but it sends a message to all who have inactive jobs.

It reiterates the importance for small business owners, freelancers, or anyone who works at a desk and is not active during their working day, to regularly get up from their chair and exercise frequently.

Wellness Programs

The research underlines the importance of companies implementing a wellness program into the cultures of their businesses. From starting a running club after work, to encouraging healthy eating habits at lunchtime, wellness programs are a great way to motivate employees into becoming more active and healthier and to help offset the potential damage to health their sedentary job could create.

Deskercize

You might run your own business and work on your own, or work in an office as part of a team. Either way, just about anyone can carry out exercises at their desks to ensure they get their bodies moving throughout the day.

Simply stretching and shuffling about at your desk can be a great way to help prevent ailments and health issues building up as a result of a sedentary job.

Back Pain Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Is Your Desk Work Killing You? New Medical Research Says — Maybe!" was first published on Small Business Trends

Is Your Desk Work Killing You? New Medical Research Says It May

Do you run a small business which requires you to sit at a desk for long periods? Perhaps you’re a freelancer working from a desk at home, day in, day out? If you have a sedentary job, you may be working to the detriment of your health.

This is the finding of a study by the Annals of Internal Medicine. The research examined the association between sedentary lifestyles and mortality. It focused on adults aged 45 and over. Almost 8,000 adults participated in the study.

Sedentary time among the participants was measured using a hip-mounted accelerometer. The research concluded that sitting over prolonged, uninterrupted periods is associated with ‘all-cause’ mortality.

So, Is Your Desk Work Killing You?

The conclusion of the Annals of Internal Medicine study is that physical activity guidelines should be issued, targeted at “reducing and interrupting sedentary time to reduce risk for death.”

The research may have focused on the over 45’s but it sends a message to all who have inactive jobs.

It reiterates the importance for small business owners, freelancers, or anyone who works at a desk and is not active during their working day, to regularly get up from their chair and exercise frequently.

Wellness Programs

The research underlines the importance of companies implementing a wellness program into the cultures of their businesses. From starting a running club after work, to encouraging healthy eating habits at lunchtime, wellness programs are a great way to motivate employees into becoming more active and healthier and to help offset the potential damage to health their sedentary job could create.

Deskercize

You might run your own business and work on your own, or work in an office as part of a team. Either way, just about anyone can carry out exercises at their desks to ensure they get their bodies moving throughout the day.

Simply stretching and shuffling about at your desk can be a great way to help prevent ailments and health issues building up as a result of a sedentary job.

Back Pain Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Is Your Desk Work Killing You? New Medical Research Says — Maybe!" was first published on Small Business Trends

5 PPC Tips for Small Businesses

PPC — it’s a staple for most small and medium-sized businesses, in one form or another. And it’s no wonder:  In their latest Economic Impact report, Google reports that “businesses generally make an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on AdWords.”

The entire process is getting smarter, too. Google’s 2017 AdWords product roadmap heavily features AI and machine learning, which they say is “critical to helping marketers analyze countless signals in real time and reach consumers with more useful ads at the right moments.”

This new technology promised to help brands track and measure the customer journey across channels, which will help ads be more relevant and yield higher returns.

At the same time, the process is becoming increasingly complex. Google is expanding their available programs, with new formats, the mobile AMP for Ads initiative, better audience targeting, the new Purchases on Google program currently in beta, etc.

PPC Tips for Small Businesses

All of this can leave SMBs floundering, and not seeing the kind of returns they expected. But there’s hope. Let’s look at five specific areas that often turn into real pitfalls for SMBs, so you can run a strategic PPC campaign that moves the right needles.

Get Real About Ad Fraud

Ad fraud is a reality that SMBs must understand and protect themselves from. Business losses from ad bot fraud are expected to reach a staggering $16.4 billion in 2017, and it’s only going to escalate from there. The Wall Street Journal reported that a single Russian ad fraud operation was costing U.S. businesses upwards of $3 million a day.

“While ad fraud is a somewhat well-known issue facing the online marketing world, it’s estimated that for every dollar marketers spend on online advertising, almost half of the value is lost due to ad fraud,” writes Stephen Hoops in SEMRush. “And while ad fraud can be committed by malicious software and human actions, the majority of ad fraud is carried out by automated bots.”

Many ad campaign managers, especially in SMBs, rely on Google and other search engines to detect fraud on their behalf.  I recently spoke to Clickcease Founder Yuval Haimov about why this might not be enough to protect your budget.

“Yes, Google does detect click fraud,” Haimov explains. “Google will typically credit AdWords account hours (or more) after the fraud takes place. Meanwhile, your ad budget is quickly exhausted and your ad could be offline for hours.”

The solution is to get a good fraud protection plan in place. For example, Clickcease offers real time reporting that highlights organic traffic versus suspicious clicks (shown in orange), automatically blocks them, and also automatically claims refunds from Google for any misspent budget dollars.

Considering how much of your ad budget is likely going to waste, the investment you’ll make in a service like this will be well worth it.

Go for the Long Tail Keywords for Best Results

Much of your success in PPC campaigns will come down to choosing the right keywords.  And it can be a challenge to get it right.

The first think you’ll want to do is look at some long tail keywords, instead of draining your budget in a flash with the highly competitive short tails. As search algorithms and search users get more sophisticated, long tail keywords are getting 70% of search traffic.

“For example, I would use the following long-tail keyword ‘short black cocktail dresses’ instead of ‘black dresses,’” explains Ronald Dod in this post on long tail keywords.

Take advantage of the free tools you can use to help undercover the right keywords. SEMrush has a great one that lets you type in your main keyword, then gives you a report of related keywords and matching phrases, along with current bid rates and search volumes.

One way for really understanding the complexities of all of this is Tim Soulo’s Ahref’s Guide to Keyword Research.

Soulo explains that your own keyword research will depend on several factors, including your website’s authority, size, your goals, budget and the competitive landscape.

It’s also important to remove underperforming keywords from your campaign as you go. You might find that only about 20% of your keywords are driving in the bulk of the revenue. Once your campaign runs for a few months, download the report and delete any that are delivering very low conversions. If you aren’t sure you want to delete them, you should at least put them on pause for a while, to avoid eating up your budget with wasted clicks.

Optimize Landing Pages

After protecting yourself against fraud, and getting the right keywords into your campaign, there’s another place to check to see if you’re wasting money.

Your campaign landing pages are often a place where the best planned campaigns can go off the rails. Several factors can come into play that will impact your bounce rate. Pop-up ads, poor page design, long load times and irrelevant content can all cause visitors to bounce. And those bounces hurt, because the cost of those clicks has already been charged to your account by the time they arrive.

Not sure what a decent bounce rate should be? Try checking your own bounce rate against your industry’s benchmark, using Google’s benchmarking tool. If you find it’s higher than it should be based on your industry or niche, the following fixes might help:

  • Make sure the content is highly relevant to the keyword.
  • Check your page load speed and take the recommended steps to improve it.
  • Get rid of pop-up ads; this is often a reason for fast bounces.
  • Make sure any links on your page open in a new window.
  • If you’re doing lead gen on your site, make sure you optimize your sign-up forms as well.

Continue to monitor your bounce rate and tweak those pages until it improves and at least meets – but ideally beats – your industry benchmark.

Get Your Budget Right

The first step in setting your PPC budget is to understand your goals.  How much do you expect to earn from new leads? What is the expected lifetime value of the customers you hope to gain? Understanding the end game will help you decide how much to spend to drive those clicks.

You’ll also want to take steps to avoid blowing through your budget too fast. This usually happens when your keywords aren’t specific enough (see above choosing the right keywords). Make sure to turn off the “broad match” option in your campaign settings, to avoid getting less targeted and less relevant traffic.

Also consider setting up some negative keywords. Adding these to your campaign will prevent your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase. The classic example of this is the word “free.” If you do not give free samples, free trials, or free downloads, for instance, you might not want your ad to show when someone includes “free” in their search. You can do the same for certain industry terms that are close, but not a good match, to what you offer.

At the end of the day, you have to spend enough to make an impact. It can be hard to convince yourself to do this before having any proof that it will work, but it’s a double-edged sword: You have to put a big enough commitment into to know if you’ll be getting a reasonable return.

Monitor, Test, Tweak

Finally, as in all marketing and ad campaigns, you must be disciplined about monitoring results and tracking ROI. It’s not easy: Hubspot’s State of InBound 2017 report shows that proving the ROI of marketing activities is among the top challenges business face:

Again, it goes back to understanding your goals. Are you looking for leads? You should be measuring how well they are converting. Looking for direct sales? Check revenue from those clicks.

PPC can be tough to get right, and ROI is also not the easiest thing to get a handle on.

“In paid search there are a lot of rough Adwords accounts out there,” writes Joanna Lord in MOZ. “You’ve seen them I’m sure. I know I’ve worked on them. We get brought in to assess the situation and make some big decisions around whether an account has potential or whether it would be better just to start fresh.

“This is one of the most common questions we get asked — how am I doing?” Lord continues. Moz recommends the AdWords Performance Grader, a free, quick and insightful tool that will help make sense of it all.

In spite of the ad fraud, the challenges and the discipline required to do it right, PPC still has good potential for most SMBs.  But the potential pitfalls can cost you, in a big way. With some sound strategy and the right technical support, you’ll soon be able to maximize your ROI.

Hand on Mouse Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Wondering How to Make Your PPC Rock? Read This" was first published on Small Business Trends