10 Financial Choices You’ll Regret in 10 Years

Avoid these bad moves.

Life is full of financial decisions, some simple, some complex, but all with the potential to make a real impact on your life. In a decade, your world can look quite a bit different than it is today – all because of these decisions.

Today I’d like to focus on some financial choices you’re likely to regret in 10 years. I’d like to save you from the pain, the chaos and the heartache that occurs when people make these decisions.

Put these on your not-to-do list. You’ll be glad you did.

1. Waiting to Start a Budget

Have you procrastinated on starting a budget? It’s time to sit down and get your spending under control.

The beautiful thing about a budget is that it not only keeps you on track with your spending, but it tells you what you should feel free to spend. Have you ever eyed a triple-scoop ice cream cone and thought to yourself, “You know what, I’m not sure I should buy this – perhaps I’m spending too much money on little things.”

No more, my friend. No more. When you have a budget, you know how much you can spend and still be OK.

The long-term benefits of having a budget are incredible. Think of all the money you’ll save, the financial goals you’ll fund and the peace you’ll have with your spouse when making financial decisions together. That’s worth it!

2. Not Paying Off Credit Card Balances Every Month

Credit card debt can pile up fast. If you’re not paying off your credit cards every month, you should start. The interest on credit cards can divert money from other important goals like buying a home or saving for retirement.

Budgeting can help you ensure you’re using your credit cards appropriately.

3. Buying a Financial Product Without Doing Your Homework

I know a woman who paid more than $3,500 in variable annuity fees and didn’t even know it. Don’t think it can’t happen to you.

If a financial adviser or insurance agent is selling you a financial product, make sure you educate yourself on the product before you sign on the dotted line.

4. Neglecting Your Emergency Fund

Emergency funds help protect you from the inevitable. You’re going to have a financial setback at some point. It could be a few hundred dollars, or a few thousand.

I recommend you have eight months worth of expenses in an emergency fund. After you use the fund for emergencies, make it your top financial priority to replenish it. If you let your emergency fund slip into the abyss, you might find yourself down the road with more debt than you can handle.

5. Buying a New Vehicle When You Can’t Afford It

Vehicles are important for many people, but they can also become a discretionary black hole. If you are planning on buying or leasing a vehicle when you know you don’t have the money, please don’t.

The ramifications of a car payment well exceed the financial hit of the price of the car, and you can end up spending your retirement away without realizing it.

6. Letting Hubris Get in the Way of Smart Investing

If you’re not a financial professional or haven’t been exposed to financial education, you really can make some huge mistakes by going it alone. That’s not to say some people can’t do it, but you may regret it down the road when you try to short a stock (a move that the pros make) and end up losing a huge amount of money. Investing in your own financial education by at least meeting with an adviser, however, is smart.

Financial advisers can save you a great deal of time and money, ensuring your investing strategy is relevant for your situation. There are many different kinds of advisers, so do your research on which kind is right for you and your goals.

7. Ignoring Your Insurance Options

If you were to die right now, would your family be financially OK? If not, you may need life insurance.

And, that’s just one example. There are a number of important insurance policies you should consider putting in place: disability insurance, perhaps long-term care insurance if you’re over 60 years old, maybe even umbrella insurance.

Insurance protects you from financial liability you wouldn’t be able to cover with your emergency fund alone. Don’t neglect it.

8. Putting Retirement on the Back Burner

Saving for retirement is critical. If you’re trusting Social Security to be your sole source of income, think again. It’s not likely that you’ll be able to maintain your lifestyle with Social Security benefits alone. If you would be able to, congratulations, you’re living pretty frugally!

9. Not Getting on the Same Financial Page With Your Spouse

If you want to crash and burn financially, not getting on the same page with your spouse about money is a surefire way to do it.

When you got married, you became one – one in purpose.

Why not align your financial goals? Talk through your differences, learn to compromise, sail in the same direction. It will be worth it – especially down the road.

10. Letting Recurring Expenses Rule Your Budget

Have a high smartphone bill? Paying too much for garbage service each month? How about that cable TV bill – how many channels do you have that you don’t really watch?

Ask these types of questions. They’re good ones, because they focus on recurring expenses. While certain recurring expenses may not cost much each month, they can certainly add up over time. Look for ways you can cut these expenses and just imagine how much money you can earn by investing what you save over the next 10 years – it’s probably more than you think.

Make smarter financial choices that lead to a brighter future. Even taking on just a few of these tips will make a significant difference in your life. Which ones do you need to work on next?

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Can Any Inbound Linking Hurt My Ranking?

The answer is simple – inbound linking cannot hurt your search ranking. How is this known for certain? Well, for one, if inbound were to hurt your rank, your competitors would continually link to your site from link farms. Such a scenario is beyond your control. For this reason, Google cannot penalize your site for any inbound linking.

On the other hand, you can be penalized for illegitimate external linking. It is highly advised that you not link to any website or group of sites that may be involved in shady or unethical search practices. Doing so could result in being black-listed by Google, ultimately ruining your SEO strategy. Avoid this situation at all costs and ensure that all external links point to trusted and reliable sources.

Having been involved in the internet industry for a large part of my working life, I have spent a lot of time researching and browsing the internet and reading websites, mainly for client design research, but also for occasional personal use. The one thing that I find most disappointing, is the apparent lack of thought going into website creation and it’s purpose, which in turn creates a missed opportunity for many e-businesses to become successful.

My personal perspective on e-businesses and their websites, is that if they don’t take pride in their websites and show to their customers a passion for what they do, chances are, they won’t take pride in their products, and the passion for providing good customer service will also be missing.

What you must remember, is that your web site is a direct reflection of you and your business. The appearance of your site is the most important factor in determining your potential success rate. In short, if your site doesn’t look professional or pleasing to the eyes at first glance, the majority of people will assume your products and/or services to be of similar poor standard.

At the other end of the scale, you could fall into the trap of going overboard with the design and over complicate things with incorporating high costing flashy graphics. You may end up with a great looking and highly aesthetic web site, but the danger with this is that your site may prove unreliable and at times may take too long to load. There is nothing worse for a customer than trying to visit a slow loading site, and most will close the browser window in complete frustration. As i’m sure you will be able to work out, this will ultimately cost you business.

The other major consideration (if not the most important) when designing a website is your content. Not just links, but content with passion, relativity, and understanding to the customer. When someone is searching for something in particular and they visit your web site, they’re visiting for a reason. Your site has something they want, Whether this be your product, service, and/or information. If they are unable to obtain what they’re looking for, they move on to the next site and so on. To be able to get your visitors to stay and look around your website, you must give them a reason to. Providing them with quality content will achieve this goal.

There have been countless other lists and articles on the subject of website designing mistakes, but I have compiled my own list, from a designer’s perspective, of some pitfalls to look out for when considering either designing a website or purchasing a template. Remember that the simple, clear, informative and well designed sites are the most successful. If you are a current e-business and your sales aren’t what you had hoped, consider the above and take some time to look openly and honestly at your site. Spending money on improving your website is a much better investment than throwing money away on trying to advertise and market a site that just isn’t good enough to sell your product or services.

If you are looking for a template or a custom designed website, be aware of the above and be prepared to ask your chosen designer or template provider questions to ensure that your hard earned money doesn’t go to waste on an inferior design, which contains any of the above. Asking questions won’t cost you a penny, and in doing so could actually save you a lot of money over the long term. Getting your website right first time is vital in terms of saving money and time. The earlier your website is up and running properly, the quicker you will be able to reap the rewards of a successful e-business.

The prime mistake Newbies make is to put their website name into the Anchor Text. Unless your website contains your keywords this is a waste of a perfectly good link. Remember that Google puts a very big importance on those Anchor texts and they should always use your keywords.

The second mistake is trying to put every single keyword into your anchor text and give that to everyone. There are two mistakes with this technique. 1.) Google assigns weight to each word in anchor text so if there are a lot of filler words (common in long sentences), they will “dilute” your target words.

According to two recent surveys, conducted by Forrester Research and Gartner Group, ecommerce sites are losing $1.1 to $1.3 billion in revenue each year due to customers click- away caused by slow loading sites. If a page takes too long to load, your potential customer will not wait. Ultimately costing you business.

Make sure you include proper META tags in the HTML of each page of your web site. META tags are HTML code that enable the search engines to determine what keywords are relevant to a specific site. About 80 percent of all web site traffic originates from the eight major search engines. It would be a good idea to make sure you’ve done your homework and fully understand how to optimize your web pages prior to designing your site. This will save you a lot of headaches in the long run. For further information on META tags read the tutorial entitled, “Building Your Site.”

Be cautious when selecting your background and text colors. Busy backgrounds make text difficult to read and draw the attention away from the text. Always be consistent with your background theme on each page of your site. Your site should be nicely organized and uniform throughout. Keep in mind, colors affect your mood and will have an affect on your visitors as well. Bright colors such as yellow and orange, cause you to become more cheerful or happy, while colors such as blue and purple have a calming effect. Dark colors such as brown and black have a depressing effect. A good rule of thumb would be to use colors based upon the type of effect you’re trying to achieve.

Your main page should specifically let your visitors know exactly what you’re offering. How many times have you visited a site and never figured out exactly what they were selling? If your potential customer can’t find your product or service, they definitely won’t waste a lot of time looking for it. They’ll go on to the next site and probably never return. They’re visiting your site for a specific purpose. They want something your site offers. Whether it is information, a product or service.

Design your site to be easily navigated. Place your navigation links together at the top, bottom, left or right side of the page. Use tables to neatly align your links. If you are planning on using graphic buttons to navigate your site, keep in mind that with each graphic you add to your page, it will take that much longer for your page to load. If you only have a handful of navigational links, using graphic buttons will be fine. If you have over six links, it would be wise to simply use text links to keep your load time down.

If you must use frames, use them sparingly. Frames, if not properly used, can make your site look unprofessional. Avoid making your visitors have to scroll from side to side to view your content. This can be very irritating and cause your visitors to leave. If you must use frames, offer your visitors a choice. Frames verses No Frames. Try to keep the number of clicks required to get from your main page to any other page on your site down to four. Keep in mind, your visitors may enter your site from pages other than your main. Always have good navigational links on every page and place your company logo on each page.

Design a quality e-book to give to your visitors. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. If you can create a web page, you can create an e-book. The focus of your e-book should compliment your web site. Simply write about your passion. If your passion is sales, then you could share some of your knowledge and experience by designing your e-book to provide a complete sales training guide. If your passion is home based business, you could write an e-book about how to start your own home based business. If you’re writing about your true passion then you shouldn’t have any trouble coming up with something to write about. For further information on e-books, read the article entitled, “How to Create an E-book and Drive Massive Traffic to Your Site by Giving It Away.”

Having been involved in the internet industry for a large part of my working life, I have spent a lot of time researching and browsing the internet and reading websites, mainly for client design research, but also for occasional personal use. The one thing that I find most disappointing, is the apparent lack of thought going into website creation and it’s purpose, which in turn creates a missed opportunity for many e-businesses to become successful.

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The Importance of Anchor Text in Back-links

The importance of anchor text with respect to a linking strategy cannot be overstated. Back-links are a huge part of the search engine algorithm. When initiating a linking campaign, it is vital that external sites link using the appropriate keywords and terms in the anchor text.

Almost always, linking candidates will use the company name as anchor text. This does not provide any type of description of the target company’s products or services. Sure, it may be great for branding purposes, but it isn’t usually needed. In most cases, companies already rank very high (if not first) for searches that incorporate their brand.

Here is an example using fictional company “Acme Plumbing Supplies”:

Most people will link simply using the terms “Acme”. This is alright, but it does not describe the company’s products or services, nor provide any context. By adding the word “plumbing” or term “plumbing supplies” (i.e. “Acme Plumbing” or “Acme Plumbing Supplies”), you may be able to drive additional traffic that may not have otherwise attained the corporate site.

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Absolute Links vs. Relative Links – SEO Value

The debate between absolute links and relative links continues to live on in the SEO world. The individual significance of each has been contested, but it is widely regarded that absolute links provide better SEO value on the whole than relative links.

Many believe that absolute links have less potential for getting messed up when search engines index your page. It shouldn’t really make a difference, but many conclude that this is reason enough.

Furthermore, content scrapers and RSS services may ‘repurpose’ your content legitimately (or not). In either case, shouldn’t a proper back-link be attributed to your site? This situation favours absolute links. Although this is a minor argument, it’s still worth considering.

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The One Thing You Should Do to Get More Out of Your Email List

How to Get More from Your Email List

Let’s start off with a tough reality — most business owners aren’t getting as much as they could be from their email list.

It’s not that they’re not working hard or seeing good results. In fact, for many, email is already their biggest driver of new and repeat business.

But there’s one thing that many small businesses aren’t doing that could help take things to the next level.

Luckily, adding that one thing to your email marketing strategy is a lot easier than you might think.

It starts with understanding a term you may have heard before — segmentation.

Segmentation is the process of organizing your contacts into different groups, so you can target them with content or offers that are relevant to their needs or interests.

Rather than sending the same message to your entire list and hoping the right people see it, segmentation makes it easy to create emails that you know specific groups of contacts will be interested in — improving the chances of them opening, clicking, and acting on the content and offers you send out.

One of the biggest reasons people ignore emails or unsubscribe from email lists is because the content they receive isn’t relevant to them.

While you may have people who read and act on every email you send out, if you’re not taking the appropriate steps to segment your audience, it’s likely that you already have potential customers or donors who are tuning you out.

Plenty of small businesses and organizations are already using segmentations and have seen some impressive results. See for yourself.

If you’ve never segmented your list — one of the questions you may be asking is “how can I get started?”
Using an email marketing provider like Get Response makes it super easy to segment your contacts.

You can create separate lists for different groups of contacts, or use a feature called Tags that makes organizing your master list a lot easier.

But before you can start organizing contacts into different groups, you’re going to need some information to work with.

If you’re like a lot of businesses, the amount of information you have available may be limited to name and email address.

But there are also details like: job title, company, address, birthday, interests, and purchase history, which could be used to your advantage.

How can you find the information you need? Here are a few quick ideas:

  • Use what you know: Even if you don’t have a ton of information about your contacts, you should be able to quickly scan your list and recognize a handful of names. You can add a tag for VIPs, or create a separate list and send them exclusive offers to reward them for their loyalty.
  • Update your sign-up process: While you may only want to require people to give their name and email address, you can also add optional fields like address or company name.
  • Use a survey: An online survey is a quick and efficient way to collect information from your email contacts. You can provide multiple choice questions to help gauge people’s interest around a particular product or service, and can also provide open-ended questions for people to fill out their own information.
  • Host an event: Collect information when interacting with attendees face-to-face, and also use an online registration tool to collect important details before the event.
  • Use your reports: Use your email reports to see which contacts are opening your emails each month, and export a list of people who have clicked on a particular link. This is a great way to identify your most active readers, and can also be used to learn more about the content or products your audience is most interested in.

With the right information, you’ll be ready to start segmenting your list!

Take some time to think about the different groups of contacts you have on your list.

Consider things like:

  • Location: Do you have groups of contacts that live locally and others that visit from out of state?
  • Customer Status: A lot of the people on your list will be customers, but you may also have a sizeable audience of potential or new customers, as well.
  • Interests: Use your click-through data to create interest-based lists.
  • Questions/Needs: Use survey data or questions you’ve received in-person to group contacts, and follow up with more information.
  • Length of time on your list: Creating a separate list for new contacts, and sending them a few introductory messages, is a great way to engage people right from the start.

There are plenty of ways you can use segmentation to get more from your list.

Remember that growing an effective email list isn’t just about adding names and email addresses to your database.

These are people who have opted-in to receive updates from your business. It’s your responsibility to offer an experience that meets their needs and inspires them to take action.

Get started today! Get Response has the tools you need to manage your growing contact list.

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How To Use Email Marketing To Create And Grow Customer Relationships

How to Use EMM To Create and Grow Relationships

When you’re a small business, you have one distinct advantage over the big guys: customer relationships.

Every time you’re talking with a customer in-store, emailing someone who has a question, or answering the phone, you’re building a relationship. It’s almost impossible for bigger companies to establish the same connection with customers (that’s why those that do really stand out).

It’s never been easier to grow the relationships that are so crucial to your business’s success.

Email marketing is a cost-effective solution that gives you the power to reach customers in a place most people visit every day — their inbox. Email makes it easy to build customer relationships because you’re able to stay top-of-mind and build trust and loyalty with the people who matter most to your business.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that 66 percent of consumers have made a purchase as a result of an email marketing message (Direct Marketing Association, 2013). Or that email is almost 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined in helping your business acquire new customers (McKinsey, 2014).

With a little bit of planning, you can use email to deliver the right message, to the right people, at the right time. This will help turn new visitors into loyal customers, and turn new customers into loyal advocates for your business.
Follow this 3 step plan for building long-lasting customer relationships with email marketing.

  1. Ask for permission

Before you add a name to your contact list, ask the customer for permission.

When you ask permission, you’re able to build a list of people who are interested in your business and are excited to hear from you. They’re more likely to open your email, less likely to mark it as spam, and will stay with you longer than contacts that are added without consent.

Permission-based email marketing is the best route to developing long-lasting customer relationships that can drive repeat sales and valuable word-of-mouth for your business. These practices also keep you in compliance with legislation like the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).

  1. Treat your email contacts with care

Chances are you already provide a great experience for your customers when you’re face-to-face. Let email marketing extend that experience.

When someone takes that step to subscribe, they’re saying, “I’d like to get to know you better.” They’ve invited you into their inbox. You don’t want to abuse that relationship by constantly promoting your products and services.

Instead of making your newsletter all about you, think about how you can offer your subscribers something of value. Whether you choose to send them useful information or a special offer, having their interests in mind will show you care.

  1. Create a compelling newsletter

You want to create a newsletter with content your subscribers aren’t going to get anywhere else. What this information is depends entirely on your industry, your company goals, and what will move your readers to action.

Think about what your readers will find interesting, useful, or otherwise entertaining. Stuff that could stand on its own even if you had nothing to promote. Encourage subscribers to connect with you beyond your newsletter by linking off to a recent blog post, a useful video, or a social media channel that your business is active on.

  • Email marketing allows you to control the message, when it goes out, and who receives it.
  • Subscribers have actively made a decision to give you permission to contact them, which means they’re interested in what you’re offering.
  • You’re able to build stronger relationships with your audience — and people do business with or help people they know, like, and trust.

Put these tips to work!

Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or a small business owner with little marketing experience, Get Response has the easy-to-use tools, KnowHow, and coaches to get you started with email marketing. Best of all you can try it free for 60 days.

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