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India still doesn’t give SEO the importance it deserves

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We have all contributed, and been witness to the exponential rise of internet usage in India. The advent of the smart phone and affordable internet access has radically transformed the digital landscape in the country, and has spurred new behaviours in all areas of life. From being a space to look for information, to connecting with others via social media, to digital payments and making purchases for everything from a pin to a plane (well, almost), ordering food and online learning as well, Indians from all walks of life have taken to digital and how! It isn’t surprising then to see that digital marketing has also grown at an equally fast pace, and has become a regular part of most marketing plans today.

Digital Marketing in India today sees a YoY growth of 30-35% on an average.

With companies getting the desired results from digital, digital budget allocations are no more considered optional. However a point to note here is that for most companies, digital primarily revolves around maintaining a website, and paid marketing efforts. We see many companies investing heavily in building snazzy responsive websites, mobile apps and social media communities, then promoting these through paid search, display and social media. Paid efforts no doubt give quicker results, and agencies often push these to demonstrate the performance of their digital services. This also looks good in year-end reviews, no doubt! But in all of this, SEO, a crucial aspect in digital marketing, often gets sidelined or put on the backburner.

Understanding SEO, the underdog in digital marketing

SEO, an acronym for Search Engine Marketing, is a process by which you can optimize your webpages for better organic visibility on search engines, for a specific set of keywords. What this will do is that it allows your webpages to rank higher on search results for your industry / work, and this will allow your business to be seen by many prospects. A higher visibility on search will translate to a higher number of visitors to your website, a higher number of leads and eventually, more business. And all of this will continue to grow over time, so you can enjoy incrementally more unpaid traffic without having to rely on paid marketing efforts.

With all these advantages, it is only natural to wonder why SEO hasn’t gained its time under the sun as much as other tactics have.

Here is why SEO is not as popular with Indian digital marketers

Despite the host of benefits that SEO can offer, there is a small catch, and I wouldn’t even call it a catch.

  • With SEO, you need to go slow and steady

SEO is a time-consuming, technical process that takes time to start showing results. This could vary from a few months to over a year, depending on your category and objectives. And in this era of instant gratification, both consumers and marketers look for quicker results from everything they do. Organizations and marketers often end up losing patience in the slow but sure process of SEO, and are sold on the promise of instantaneous results that the paid marketing approach offers.

But once you start seeing results, there is no doubting the efficacy of this strategy.

  • It is not as glamorous as the other stars of digital marketing

There is an industry joke that refers to SEO as a behind-the-scenes performer that pales in comparison to the paid marketing stars on the digital stage. Most brand managers focus on the communication and the UI when it comes to their owned digital assets. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that almost 90% of their attention and efforts are in creating really good digital assets, and SEO is then left to the IT teams or agencies. In the ideal process, marketers need to collaborate with their digital agency to create a robust SEO strategy with a long term view.

In conclusion, you cannot afford to ignore SEO if you are looking for long term growth.

SEO is important for the exact same reasons that a website is important. While a website serves as your online presence, it will not be very helpful if your prospective consumers don’t know who you are or how to find you. Optimizing for search can help solve this problem, and can play an important role in brand building online.

This is not to say that SEO will only benefit online businesses. There are numerous examples and case studies of erstwhile and heritage brands using SEO to drive higher offline footfalls and sales. And these again, are just one Google search away.

Web search, then becomes the most valuable marketing channel that you can use for generating quality leads at a low investment. Not ranking high on search results for your category is akin to losing out prospective business to your competitors. SEO can also offer continuous, incremental growth over a period of time, and an ROI that is way higher than paid marketing.

So if you are a business owner or marketer who is invested in the long term growth of your company, you know what to do.

Kunal Shah is the director of Rank My Business. He completed his Bachelor of Computer Engineering from Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Technology Mumbai in 2006 and masters in IT from Melbourne. His company, Rank My Business, is one of the most successful digital marketing agencies of Australia (headquartered in Melbourne) and services over 400+ clients. The company expertise in SEO, Adwords, Google remarketing, website development, Youtube ads, conversion rate optimization. Kunal believes that the surest way to success is to see your clients grow.

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4 Virtual Office Christmas Party Ideas

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Virtual Office Christmas Party Ideas

Regardless of whether this would have been your company’s first Christmas party or the twentieth, you were probably putting plans in motion for a while now and hoping that COVID-19 would have been handled by the time the holidays arrived. However, seeing as how we are still in this situation where social distancing is recommended and many of us still work from home, your plans for the office party have probably changed. If you’ve decided not to cancel the cheer this year and opted for organizing a virtual party instead, you might be looking for some ideas and tips on how to make it a success even if you can’t all be in the same place. Keep on reading for some suggestions.

Socialize over cocktails

Even though you’re not all in the office or a place you’ve rented for the party, it doesn’t mean that you can’t set a time and date for the party and get fancy. Provide everyone with the platform you plan on using, whether it’s Zoom, Skype, or something else, and give them instructions on how to dress. You can either simply dress for a cocktail party or give the party a theme, such as wear your worst Christmas sweater. Seeing as how you’d be paying for drinks anyway, you should consider food and drink delivery to everyone’s home so that you can all have the same experience. When it comes to décor, allow the participants to do as they please, as it’s possible that some don’t celebrate Christmas or just don’t want to put up decorations. If you work in different time zones, it might not be time for cocktails everywhere so you can opt for coffee and snacks instead of drinks.

Play party games

Video calls also make it easy to play various party games. When planning the event, make sure to come up with these games in advance so that you know if there is anything that needs preparing beforehand. Luckily, there are many games that don’t require any preparation. For example, charades don’t require anything but a willingness to have fun. With a simple notepad and pen, you can also play Pictionary. Then, if your employees are a creative and talented bunch, you can organize a company talent show. Keep in mind that some workers are more introverted and might not want to take part in showing off their skills, so consider appointing them to be judges. Something else to take into consideration is giving out silly prizes to your team members – just make sure no one is overlooked.

Organize a Secret Santa exchange

If you were planning to do a Secret Santa gift exchange, you can still do that. You can find an organizer and generator online to help you get everything ready. When it comes to gifts, you should probably set a budget and rules as you don’t want some people to be disappointed by only getting a Christmas card and someone else getting a new laptop. Remember that you are also taking part in this and that you have to get a gift for one of your colleagues. If you get a female coworker you respect a lot, you should browse the internet for some Christmas gift ideas for her before you make a purchase. However, if you don’t know her all that well, a hamper full of sweet and savoury delights as well as a drink or two might be the solution you are looking for. Remind everyone to send their gifts on time so that you can all open them during your video call.

Make cookies together

Sometimes, a Christmas office party doesn’t have to be a party at all. If there are only a few of you in the company, you might be only looking for a way to spend some quality time together. One way to do that is by setting a time when you can all make cookies together. Maybe one of you is an expert at baking and is going to teach the rest how to make tasty treats for their families. Make sure you tell everyone which ingredients are necessary and what other equipment they might need. If you all agree on this, it’s essential that you are all relaxed as tension has no place at a Christmas party. In case someone can’t follow along, be patient and help them keep up. If baking is not your company’s forte, you can opt for other types of crafting projects, such as making your own decorations or gifts for other people.

While you can stick to the regular party setting and have everyone sip on cocktails from the comfort of their own home, you can also make the most of this new reality and come up with something new for your office holiday party. Who knows, maybe this new approach of baking together or playing games online turns into an annual thing.

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The fitness industry, the pandemic, and the future

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fitness industry during pandemic

In 2019 the fitness industry grew to ever greater heights. Buoyed on by global government  understanding of the value of a healthier population, and an increasingly wide gap between the  ultra-wealthy and the middle class, there seemed to be no stopping the march towards success. A  younger population less interested in drinking and smoking and a lot more interested in looking  good on camera. Fitness had become an affordable luxury and pursuit beyond simply having a  summer beach body.

The pandemic can be seen through the prism of the different sections of the industry. For example,  outdoor bootcamps were less immediately affected, and faster to open. Large box gyms, reliant on  inactive member bases, were quick to close, slow to open and faced financial impacts that could  shape the immediate future of the industry and beyond.

Then the pandemic struck and within the space of a few weeks the industry was suddenly plunged  into doubt and fear – indoor training seemed like it could be one of the easiest spreading  environments.

The industry response was nothing short of incredible. Within weeks it had completely pivoted and  was now offering an online version of its classes and keeping members along the path to their goals  – and mental health. Beyond that, fitness classes became more than just about fitness and  represented often the only community contact that an attendee might have in a day during the  lockdown.

We have experienced three main stages so far – the immediate backlash, the response, and the  second wave of understanding. Hopefully, they will soon be joined by a fourth, but for the time  being here is what we’ve learnt so far and what it means for the fitness industry.

The immediate backlash

The first thing that we saw was that the fitness industry seemed very likely to be hit, and very early.  The second thing was that the industry was largely being ignored in favour of hospitality.

This seemed to fly in the face of mounting evidence that health and fitness largely dictated the  potential danger of the virus, with the obese and unfit hit most hard. If anything you could say that a  reasonable response to the virus would have been mandated weight loss boot camps.

Why was the industry so exposed?

Closed spaces

With rising rents and the popularity of small box fitness, the industry has been working in smaller  and smaller spaces. This was a bad sign and there were concerns over viability if class sizes were  reduced by a large amount. This immediately looked to impact the most customer-focused  businesses – small group and boutique classes.

This didn’t impact personal trainers in the same way, and with this an important revenue stream for  most businesses, many clients switched to this format.

Indoor sanitation and cleaning

Quite simply, the perception of many fitness spaces was that of bad hygiene. The reality is of course  quite different. Reputation is vital and most fitness spaces recognise that cleanliness and safety are  key parts of customer happiness and retention – and even beyond that the ability to stay open in the  face of regulations. You could say that the fitness industry was ahead of the game in this respect.

Demographics

Different types of fitness appeal to different age groups. Once it was clear that the virus was less  dangerous for younger clients, the immediate fears subsided greatly.

Level of sweat

An early South Korean study showed that low impact exercise like yoga and Pilates were actually  incredibly low infectivity risks. The study was based on two infected instructors who taught both a  high impact dance based class and also low impact classes on the same day. The clients who  attended the high impact class were infected considerably. The low impact class? Zero infection  cases.

In March 2020 most fitness businesses closed their doors with the future uncertain. In what will be  looked back on as one of the most incredible stories of the pandemic, most did not stop trying to  help their clients.

Response

The response of most fitness businesses was to ask:

• How can we help customers maintain their fitness

• How can we ensure the survival of our business

• What does that look like

There were only really two options for business owners – try to stay open and relevant, or shut down  for a time and try to survive.

In countries like the UK, this was greatly helped by grants that were made to the hospitality sector,  including the fitness industry. However, this was also tempered by the lack of help with rent  payments. So, effectively, grants were made to support private landlords. This meant that sitting still  wouldn’t be enough.

In shock, and in the space of about two weeks, around 50% of small fitness businesses had switched  to an online offering supported by software systems like TeamUp that pivoted to help their  community of users.

The response was amazing. Customers didn’t just embrace the new classes… they loved them. Communities coming together

Stuck in lockdown, many customers felt disconnected and lonely. Online fitness classes filled a  huge gap and even the before class chat became a key connection point.

Some fitness owners ran quizzes and fun sessions just to focus on that community aspect. Disposable income

Although many were struggling with loss of income there was also the flip-side with many fitness  customers on furlough. This meant more disposable income and combined with the boredom of  confinement a rise in impulse purchases.

Blended online and in-person

As studios started to re-open, new and exciting business models emerged. The main one being a  blended model where online classes now filled an important role in the consistency of training. Now  there were options for when a class had to be missed due to other commitments.

A second wave of understanding

Most gyms re-opened in the early summer of 2020. With smaller classes and continued online  classes, it felt like a short term break from what was coming next.

Gyms and studios emerged as one of the safest environments

A UK study found that in 300,000 cases there were only 72 confirmed cases of the virus in gyms.  That was incredibly low and testament to the safety measures that fitness business owners had put  into place.

Customers desperate to get back to fitness

A study run by TeamUp with one of their Pilates customers showed that 50% of customers were  desperate or willing to get back to in-person classes. This was tempered by the other half of  customers wanting or being willing to continue with online classes in some form.

Misplaced fears

As the second wave gained pace, the UK, like many other countries, implemented a tiered system  for determining how businesses should respond. They included gyms closing which provoked a  furious backlash.

One owner in Liverpool refused to close his doors, and was fined by the police multiple times. The  industry rallied behind his story and others, and the overwhelming sentiment led to the changing of  the rules around gyms, meaning they only had to close in the most extreme of cases.

The evidence supported this approach and it was another great example of the industry being able to  effect change.

The future holds different risks and opportunities for different sectors. The format and size of  classes is a key part of any response.

What does the future look like?

For each type of fitness business, the future looks different. Class size, membership models, facility  specifications and the demographics of their members are big factors.

Class size

Class size is a big factor in the success of in-person or online classes. If a business is not profitable  with small classes they might be unable to run them, or if they cannot help clients in a personal way,  then they will face competition from pre-recorded sessions.

Membership models

Memberships that are too inflexible risk cancellation if circumstances change. The same for  offerings that are dependant on a particular set of equipment that can’t be replicated at home.  However, some fitness offerings like pole fitness did not struggle to replicate their programs to keep  customers motivated and happy.

Facility types

Entrance size and physical safety of common areas are factors. Also, the shape and overall floor  space will likely dictate class size for a long time to come.

Personal training is less affected but the number of trainers on the floor and the extra time spent  cleaning will impact profits.

Member demographics

It goes without saying that the older the customer group, certainly for the first wave, the more  impacted a business will be. An outstanding example of a response to this is the Pilates industry  which, despite unfavourable demographics, found that their help extended easily through screens.

What does the future look like for…?

Depending on the type of business, there is also a very different outlook and set of opportunities. Box box gyms

Without a doubt, big box gyms are the most at risk. Despite having the space for larger classes and  occupancy, their financial model is not based on the members actually at the gym. With huge costs  including rent, equipment and cleaning, they are under a lot of threat.

There is also the perception of less safety in a bigger environment.

With customers at home they are also not close to the big gym they use near their office.

In an industry whose profits are based on membership fees for inactive clients and who naturally  have a less active community, the future is looking challenging. Of course there are outstanding  businesses in this sector who will find a way to thrive.

Boutique and small studios

In-person might vary in availability but the good news for the smaller class sector is that they have  shown themselves to be able to adapt quickly and customers being willing to accept change.

Coached online – small classes via platforms like TeamUp for Zoom. This is the perfect blend of  online and small group coaching. The industry has adapted and the quality of classes and delivery is  very high.

It’s clear that customers place their fitness relationship at the centre of their world and independent  fitness businesses who do the same will survive and thrive.

However, it is the time to adapt and blend models if these businesses rely on large indoor classes,  specialist equipment, or coach heavy training that cannot be replicated online. With a bit of  imagination and innovation, this shouldn’t present an impassable obstacle.

Home gyms and pre-recorded online classes

Home gyms and pre-recorded online classes are likely to boom for the foreseeable future. New  programs launching and equipment sales are at breaking point. The only thing stopping this sector is  the availability of global shipments. Even movie stars have jumped on this wave. However,  competition is high, and the problem remains that when you pay for a coach you pay for  accountability and results. Online interest tapers off quickly and results can be disappointing.  However, this is not true of coached online…

The conclusion

Whatever the immediate future holds, the fitness industry has shown itself to be capable of  incredible feats of change and adaptation. Fitness customers wanting results aren’t going anywhere,  and even with a more diverse offering of routes to their goals available, are never going to stop  needing accountability and support. The industry is ready for whatever comes next.

About the Author: The article has been written by Tim Green. Tim is the Head of Marketing and Partnerships at TeamUp.

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8 Finance Mistakes of First-Time Small Business Owners That You Should Avoid

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finance mistakes of first time business owners

Just started your own business? Congratulations! After years of sleepless nights, careful planning, and raw dedication, what was once a small idea in your head is now an income-generating machine you can count on

Running a business comes with a ton of complications and risks. Over time, you’ll eventually come face-to-face with many tricky situations, and the way you manage things can ultimately define your long-term stability.

Research shows that 20% of new businesses fail within the year due to finance and management-related issues. If you want to thrive in the years to come, you should start by taking note of the mistakes of others. The guide below will teach you how to avoid and overcome these common small business challenges.

  1. Not separating personal and business expenses

As you claim your clients’ payments, you may feel the urge to use that money for your ventures. But, before you cash out for your new car, it’s important to take a step back and remember what your priorities are. Always remember that cash generated by your company should go to the business first.

Many first-time entrepreneurs make the common mistake of not separating their personal and business expenses, and this behavior can be consequential in the long run. Not being able to draw the line paves the way for bad spending habits and will give you a difficult time determining your actual financial standing.

With this in mind, you should start by creating separate bank accounts. Having everything in one place or using one credit card for all your transactions may feel more convenient, but making a clear distinction will make all the difference in your accounting.

  • Mismanaging cash flow

For your business to maintain its stability, you need to have a positive cash flow. Many new entrepreneurs make all sorts of accounting mistakes, and this ultimately gets in the way of their day-to-day operations. Hiring someone else may do the trick, but if your budget says otherwise, you need to take matters into your own hands.

Luckily, cash flow mistakes can be solved with some diligence. Monitoring your accounts religiously and making sure that your partners understand your payment terms will lead to seamless transactions. If you feel the need to hone your financial management skills further, you should consider taking online classes. 

  • Expecting income to arrive instantly

Everyone knows the age-old saying, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” Your clients and customers may owe you some money in the months to come, but this doesn’t mean that you should bolster your spending.

Given that daily business life is unpredictable, don’t expect your clients to settle their balances on time. Money that’s promised to you shouldn’t count as an asset just yet.

  • Immediately making big purchases

It’s normal to feel excited once you win a big client. After they’ve officially closed a deal, you may want to provide new laptops, replace old work equipment, or upgrade to new software as soon as possible. However, don’t let the rush cause you to make an irrational decision. Making a big purchase without care will strain you more than you like.

Similar to how you divide your monthly income for food, electricity, and rent, you need to keep the same approach when it comes to your business expenses. Given that you’ll need to spend on work equipment, monthly salaries, affordable marketing strategies from your partner agency, and so on, a guide to follow will ensure that your spending doesn’t go overboard.

Note: Saving money? Don’t trim your marketing budget! Boost your promotions and take note of these simple ways to create marketing.

  • Not paying yourself

Many business owners tend to forget about their efforts. They treat their businesses as if it were their own children, but neglect themselves in their effort to sustain it. Because of this mentality, it’s easy to be misled into thinking that you have gained profits when, in fact, you are working for free.

Even if it’s your business, don’t forget to pay yourself.  Always consider that if you are not there to handle these responsibilities, you will need to hire someone else to take your place. To help you calculate your own salary, think objectively of the work requirements and determine how much you will compensate another person for doing this job.

  • Not seeking professional help

As the head of your company, it’s natural to want to stay in control of everything. However, there are times where the best course of action you can take is to seek help from others. Running a business will take more than just sheer will power, and finding the right partners can make an incredibly huge difference.

If you’re unfamiliar with tax laws, seeking the services of a CPA can save you from hefty fines. If you’re dealing with an intellectual property issue, having a lawyer can save you a lot of trouble. Professional fees may look unattractive, but they can save you more money in the long run.

  • Failing to create an emergency fund

If there’s one thing all business owners can take away from COVID-19, it’s the fact that building an emergency fund has turned into a must. Your business may be flourishing at the moment, but you’ll never know when a crisis will strike and turn things upside down.

Without preparation, you may need to look at credit providers for a way out, or worse, you may be forced to shut down. 

Having extra money set aside can save you a lot of trouble. Financial experts recommend that your emergency fund should be at least three to six months’ worth of your monthly income. While this may not be enough to curb your losses, it’ll keep you from incurring debt and enable you to stay afloat for the meantime.

  • Careless hiring

Compare your business to a car. You may be the one steering it, but your employees are the components that allow you to run at full speed. Without the right fuel and parts, you can expect things to break down sooner or later.

Always screen candidates with the utmost care. You may be excited to fill your vacancies, but hiring carelessly can be one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Settling for anyone just to address your requirements is problematic, as it won’t just cause operational and service quality issues; it can also be a tough blow financially.

As you go about recruitment, always remember that getting talented people will naturally take more time and money, but it should be worth it.

Preparation is Key

It’s common for new ventures to run into challenges, so you must have a plan for when you need to face them because one wrong decision can make or break your business. While you should take some time to unwind and enjoy the fruits of your labor, it’s important not to get distracted. After all, starting a business is one thing; maintaining is another.

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