How Do You Improve Email Marketing? Start by Improving Your List.

This top-rated tool makes cleaning your email list easy.
August 15, 2020 2 min read
Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

Building an extensive email list is a hallmark of any small business and an incredibly valuable resource. Whether you’re using email to communicate with customers, turn visitors into buyers, or generate new leads, you need a sizeable, well-vetted email list to mount a successful email marketing strategy. But how do you know if your email list is really all that high-quality? You could have duplicate email addresses and a high bounce rate and not even know it. Bulk Email Verifier is the tool to help ensure your email list’s quality. Truemail identifies email addresses in your list that may be old, fake, abandoned, or duplicated. This tool quickly verifies each email address in your list in real-time before you send anything to your list, categorizing each address into valid, invalid, unverifiable, disposable, or unknown. Its advanced mail server verification also automatically removes duplicate and dangerous emails and faulty syntax at no charge prior to cleaning.

Whether you’re targeting consumers or representatives at small or large businesses, Truemail validates emails of all types. It checks domains for current live status and overall health and easily segments results for download. Truemail has native integrations with Mailchimp, Hubspot, Active Campaign, AWeber, Gist, MailerLite, SendPulse, Campaign Monitor, Drip, and many more email marketing apps. Plus, all of its data is encrypted via a 256-bit SSL protocol.

Grow your email marketing business by simply verifying your existing infrastructure. Right now, you can get a deal on a number of lifetime subscription plans. Score 10,000 email verifications per month for just $49, 25,000 email verifications per month for just $99, 35,000 email verifications per month for just $149, or 50,000 email verifications per month for just $199.

6 Ways to Improve Your Small Business SEO in 2020

Small businesses face immense competition from established brands, but there’s still plenty you can do to boost your SEO without substantial funds.
July 14, 2020 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Creating an SEO strategy for your small business demands time, research and investment. And although you might be able to manage the first two, money’s much harder to spare for SMBs — more than 80 percent of small businesses fail because of cashflow problems. That’s especially an issue today, as the U.S. and the world economy face the potential of a financial recession.

But there’s no getting around it: SEO is crucial to reach target customers and increase visibility. That’s why annual investment in SEO has reached $80 billion in the United States alone and is set to keep growing.

Yet good SEO doesn’t have to cost big bucks. Even the smallest business can still take advantage of various effective techniques and tools to build a quality SEO strategy on a budget. Here are some of the best ways to do it in 2020.

Why SEO’s crucial for small businesses

One of the biggest reasons why SEO is crucial for small businesses is that more than half of all website traffic is generated by organic searches, while paid searches account for just 15 percent.

Even if you’re in the paid search camp, it is worth recognizing that between 70 and 80 percent of people ignore paid results completely, and some even feel distrustful of businesses with sponsored listings.

An SEO focus also helps small businesses create user-friendly websites that incorporate smooth navigation, valuable content and make solving problems easy. This contributes to a stronger customer experience, which 66 percent of consumers consider more important than pricing.

And by increasing website traffic through effective SEO, businesses can gather more analytics data to understand their audience better over time.

Six things you can do to help your SEO

There are many things you can do to help your business with SEO. Experts can come up with an almost infinitely long list. Here are some of the most important places to start, though.

1. Start a blog

Any small business without a blog is missing out on the chance to extend its reach and increase traffic, as companies publishing blogs get 97 percent more backlinks than those that don’t.

Blogging is a simple way to add keywords to a website organically, and creating regular fresh content means search engine indexers will visit the site more often. They’re more likely to recognize the valuable content that builds over time and increase the site’s ranking.

Developing personas based on audience goals, age, buying habits, interests, etc. can help businesses maximize their blog posts’ relevance.

2. Optimize for mobile devices

Google started mobile-first indexing a little while ago, using the mobile versions of web pages to determine ranking. This is to ensure the growing number of mobile searchers find what they need conveniently and efficiently, as more than half of all searches come from mobile devices.

Small businesses on a budget can use Google’s free mobile-friendly test tool to assess how well-optimized their site is for smartphones. Reducing load times, enabling Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and reducing the size of media will all help to increase mobile performance.

3. Pay attention to metadata

There are many factors that influence an SMB’s ranking on Google. Metadata is still an important factor, even if it isn’t the only one.

Optimizing a site’s metadata involves tweaking titles, descriptions and URLs to increase visibility. Titles should include the page’s target keywords without impacting readability. Meta descriptions should be no more than 160 characters and provide a quick breakdown of a page’s content or purpose. Good URLs typically include keywords but are short, as longer URLs can leave search engines struggling to understand a page’s topic.

4. Make a sitemap

Creating a sitemap makes search engines’ work easier by eliminating the risk of errors, especially for large websites or those with a small number of external links.

Sitemaps are easy to generate, and there are plenty of free tools available to do this for you. One you might consider is XML Sitemaps, but there are many. When the sitemap is complete, submit it to Google through the Search Console and add it to your site’s root folder.

5. Take advantage of inexpensive tools

There are some terrific free or “free-mium” SEO tools available for small businesses on a budget. One is SEMrush, which is immensely popular. It performs an in-depth SEO audit of any site and undertakes competitive analysis, topic research and more.

Another option is the free to try GrowthBar. It’s ideal for keyword and backlink research, studying domain authority and understanding traffic value, with a user-friendly dashboard accessible from search engine results pages (SERPs).

Finally, try Google PageSpeed Insights. This free tool checks the speed of any site and user experience with a simple score-based insight. Use this to identify slow pages and ways to improve their speeds.

6. Invite customers to leave reviews

Reviews help small businesses in a number of ways. First, they help build credibility and gain trust when they appear on SERPs. Seeing a company has five stars while the others have just four or three can make customer decisions easier, as 88 percent of people trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation.

Encouraging customers to leave reviews creates more fresh content related to your business, and if they contain keywords, all the better. Invite customers to write reviews after they make a purchase, whether on Google or a dedicated reviews site.

Follow these tips to build an effective SEO strategy on a budget in 2020. Small businesses face immense competition from established brands, but there’s still plenty you can do to boost your SEO without substantial funds.

Take advantage of tools and commit to publishing new content on a regular basis. Over time, even the smallest business can help increase its visibility and climb the SERPs.

The Relationship Economy and 10 Ways to Improve Your Professional Relationships

Relationships are everything in business.
April 24, 2020 10 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Over the last few years, our work and personal lives have been slowly evolving to exist within a growing digital society. There have been dramatic changes to our access to information, entertainment, and work processes.

Although these changes have added convenience and new opportunities, they have also altered how we communicate, interact and behave. With more people studying and working remotely, the digital era has made it difficult to form and maintain relationships with others. If you have children, you may havey noticed the difference even more profoundly.

Now, it may seem even more challenging to create and nurture relationships. But a movement labeled “the relationship economy” focused on driving a greater sense of community, inclusion and purpose despite the decrease in face-to-face interaction. Now more than ever, the relationship economy is on the rise to maintain human connections.

Defining the relationship economy

How do certain brands move ahead of other brands? Why are some companies and brands more successful than others? When examined with a discerning eye, we see that success in almost all business comes down to relationships. The connections that have been built with your customers and audience.

Good brands establish trust and gain loyalty. Companies that personalize their interactions and experiences retain customers and win new ones. All of those actions depend on relationship-building efforts.

The relationship economy uses connections, trust and human interaction as its currency. In the relationship economy, individual contributions are valued as essential to building that community. In the process of building a community, letting individuals know they are valued helps them feel cared for and connected, provides them with a purpose, and makes them feel part of this community.

While many aspects of work and life may now be uncertain due to the coronavirus, one thing is certain: the relationship economy is thriving.

Right now, people everywhere are struggling to understand and cope with world events. All of us are anxious. Many feel isolated. We must reach out and help each other by finding ways to improve all relationships.

Here are ten things you can do to improve relationships with your family and stakeholders — including prospects, customers and employees:

1. Connect with those in your contact list or database.

With the hectic day-to-day pace, it’s easy to lose track of the last time we checked on our network. It may have been a while since we asked our remote team how they are doing outside of the projects and deadlines that define current conversations. Or, maybe your customer base hasn’t heard from you since the holiday promotion rush.

You don’t have to make contact with everyone at once. Thoughtfully plan communication outreaches to each group and the individuals within that segment.

Be sure to spread out message distribution so you can respond to any messages you receive in a timely way.

2. Be consistent in words and actions to stay top of mind.

With mixed messages hitting your contact list from all channels, it can be confusing to see what’s real and who is genuine. Ask yourself if you are genuine? Show these “life” stakeholders that they can trust you. You can show your trustworthiness by always being consistent in word and action in your private life, as well as in business.

Right now, people are vulnerable and wounded, and it’s during times of stress when relationships need the most attention. If there are specific clients, partners, or other meaningful relationships that are struggling — think about what small gift would cheer them up at a rough time.

3. Keep messages simple and personal.

Remember that you don’t need to ask all the questions right now. You don’t need to share all the information you want to get out there in the first message. Make a touch-point connection so your people know you are thinking of them. The connection you’re making need only be a few words, but it lets someone know you are there.

Although most people are seeking more content and messages to feel connected, your contacts may also be getting inundated. This is not that.

Rather than overwhelming and bombarding your friends and contacts, keep the message simple with one thought in mind: I care about you as a person. Preferably, you can express something that shows you had them personally in mind when you wrote the note.

For example, if it’s an employee, ask them about their family. If your contact is with a valued customer, inquire about conditions in their city. Find out how their community is handling the extended disruption.

4. Respond and acknowledge.

Moving so much of our communication to the digital world has created a strange behavior and the attitudes keep emerging. Many of the messages sent out get no response or acknowledgment. The deafening silence on the other end of the communication leaves the person who reached out first wondering if the recipient even got the message.

Have you wondered if the recipient didn’t think the message was important enough to acknowledge? I have. In an age when people are focused on connecting, receiving a zero-contact reply (meaning zero, zip, nada) can send a very disconnected message. Especially true when we have tools that report the message has been read.

You can strengthen your relationship with others by letting them know you received their message. If you don’t have time to write a full response, save the message, and then write back. You can answer questions or send a positive response to show your appreciation for the communication.

Heck, if you’re busy, just send a smiley, letting the sender know you “got it and get it.” Responding creates the sensation of connection — plus, it’s an excellent way to maintain dialogue over time.

5. Deliver valuable information across all channels.

Many companies have restarted Intranets and added portals to offer their remote workers a place to get information and training for the new work environment. Other businesses use tools like Slack to create channels for conversations and collaboration. More video conferencing is also helping drive the need for face-to-face conversations to sustain and nurture relationships.

Social media and websites are essential to continually add valuable information that can help customers and prospects during the coronavirus pandemic. The social channels can include content that explains how you can help them, or media can be quick-tips on dealing with the new way of living and working.

Show you care about your people by doing what you can to make their life easier, despite the circumstances.

6. Get to know your stakeholders better.

Relationships get better as you learn about the other person. Companies and most people spend the bulk of their time talking about themselves. The association then feels one-sided. Customers and employees may not see the point of a relationship that has yet to include their opinion or perspective.

Have you taken the time to ask your stakeholders questions? What have you learned about them? What unique viewpoint or conclusions can you use in your own life?

Use existing channels to post questions to create a discussion group or produce a survey with incentives to respond. Once you get responses, return to your stakeholders with additional questions that show your interest and desire to get to know them on a deeper level.

When your contacts recognize that you, as a person and company, care for them, a quality relationship can begin to develop. Your contacts need to know that you want a deeper connection with them. Some will respond — others may not.

The work here is not merely to get information. The point is to make yourself available to build, serve, and support each other, especially during these strange times.

7. Act on the insights you gain.

Relationships thrive on communication. Your contacts will undoubtedly notice that what they said had an impact on you. As you continue in your personal growth, you can point out where you have incorporated a change in your behavior and how you have acted on the information they shared with you.

Companies can deploy this same mechanism of sustained relationship-growth with their employees and customers. Once you have insights from surveys and online discussion groups, find a way to make changes and take action on what’s been requested. When stakeholders see you “walking the talk,” they have a more significant reason to buy into your brand or strategy.

8. Show empathy.

A company doesn’t have to take specific action all the time to prove their commitment to a stakeholder relationship. Instead, showing empathy during a difficult time is often enough to strengthen the bonds.

Be sure to share your understanding of what this current situation feels like for them. Have you humanized your brand? Have you shown your genuine concern for people and their well-being?

9. Be flexible.

Options are more critical than ever to stakeholders who most likely feel a loss of control over how much their lives are changing. Currently, it’s an opportunity to provide various solutions for others. When you can offer insights into actionable choices that help, you’re building the other person and the relationship. The ability to have choices serves as a stabilizing force for all people. Everyone has been accustomed to having many choices, and those alternatives are diminished at present.

Determine how you can be flexible in your business model, including offering more payment terms, deferring payments, and providing at-home deliveries. To assist your employees, see how you can offer new ways of working, more benefits or other perks to show your appreciation.

10. Show optimism and encouragement.

While you don’t want to deliver false hope, relationships are bolstered through positivity, including optimism and words of encouragement. Everyone needs some degree of support, especially with the isolation and anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Let your stakeholders know you are there, and share positive news when it happens. Remind others of their own resiliency and their inner strength. Even after the pandemic is over, we will most likely continue to work and live within a more physically and emotionally distant digital world. The need for encouragement may not be as strong when things around the globe appear brighter, but continuing to be positive will advance your improving relationships.

Use your currency for a valuable return in the relationship economy

Enacting these ten actions will leverage your currency of time and energy that you have available. We are in an extraordinary situation at this time in the world’s history. It’s an opportunity to invest in the relationship-currency that surrounds us. The return on this investment is sure to be like no other. Let’s invest in a vital relationship economy together.

3 Strategies to Improve Your Customer Service Experience

Three tips that can help you retain and form relationships with your customers.
March 13, 2020 4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Customer service is an area that small business owners can easily overlook when they’re trying to balance priorities. Aside from making sure their company is responsive to inquiries and helpful over the phone and chat, they’re often not focused on offering a truly remarkable customer service experience. But the importance can’t be understated. Common statistics tout that it’s actually around five times more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain a current one. Taking care of the customers you currently have is critical for your business’ bottom line.

Related: 10 Reasons Why Good Customer Service Is Your Most Important Metric

So, even if you think your business is performing adequately in the customer service department, there’s likely room for improvement. According to Salesforce statistics, 72 percent of customers will share their positive experience with others, so every company has significant potential for positive word-of-mouth marketing simply from a stellar customer service experience. Here are three small implementations that can get you there.

1. Incorporate customer feedback

Because many customers contact customer service with a concern, it’s important to take the moment to truly listen to what the customer is saying. They’re offering valuable feedback about your product or service and what can be approved. Thank the customer for bringing their feedback to your attention, then thoughtfully incorporate the feedback into your business.

Related: Customer Service Is Ground Zero For Success

When a customer’s feedback directly impacted you changing a policy or adding a new service, email or call them after the change has been integrated and thank them sincerely for bringing it to your attention.

2. Be proactive rather than reactive in serving customers

Waiting until a customer speaks up about an issue or idea isn’t enough. Be proactive in your customer service experience by continuously asking for feedback and ways to improve. The customer feels taken care of and like their opinion matters, and you can nip any evolving issue in the bud.

Related: 5 Trends That Will Reshape Customer Service Over the Next 5 Years

A company that does this well is Rent the Runway. In their unlimited option, customers can rent four clothing items at a time. The moment the item is returned, the customer is asked online or in their app to provide easy feedback — if they “loved it,” “liked it,” or “it was just okay.” Choosing one of these options leads to the opportunity to share more, which makes the user feel like their experience is important.

3. Build a long-term relationship with the customer

In the same vein of speaking with customers and integrating their feedback, find small ways that you can build a relationship with a customer as if they’re a friend you want to keep in contact with.

As your company scales, these relationships can seem hard to manage. Rely on data and see if you can recognize any customer trends. Another way to build a long-term relationship is to follow up a month or so after a customer service email or phone call to see how things are going, creating a more casual, conversational relationship with the customer rather than waiting for them to have a question or problem.

Over time, these three implementations can make a big difference in your company’s reputation and your customer base’s happiness. They’re all worth trying and taking to heart.

Related: 7 Tactics That Show You’re Getting Customer Service Right

Want to Improve Your SEO? This Technical Training Can Help.

Improve your SEO strategy by getting technical.
December 27, 2019 2 min read
Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

Traffic is crucial to any online business. You can rely on your paid marketing efforts or leaning into a variety of social channels, but if you aren’t capitalizing on organic traffic, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Organic search accounts for 53 percent of all traffic online, so if your business doesn’t have a solid search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, you’re missing out on a lot of potential income.

In The Complete Technical SEO Course, you’ll learn how to optimize your site’s pages to be more search engine-friendly so you can draw in more prospects and get more conversions.

This course will give you a deep, up-to-date training in technical SEO, the behind the scenes components to SEO that can make the difference between ranking on page one of results or never being indexed at all. You’ll learn the important components to a technical audit and how to start one yourself to identify how your pages are lacking. You’ll also learn how to optimize on-page content with the right keywords, structure URLs correctly, and understand how to use JavaScript frameworks to influence technical SEO. And you’ll discover how to easily create XML sitemaps to help you better understand content and index rates.

After this course, your websites and pages will be ready to soar to the top of search engine result pages. Right now, The Complete Technical SEO Course is 90 percent off at just $49.