July 29th, 2013

Should You Worry About the Promotions Tab in Gmail?

Should You Worry About the Promotions Tab in Gmail?

I’ve seen a lot of fuss about the new Promotions tab in Gmail. I started hearing about it before I saw the tabs in my own account, but once I got it, I could see why people were concerned. Emails you send to your subscribers may be banished to the Promotions tab, and who knows if your readers will actually check there? That’s a huge problem to consider.

These new tabs aren’t sorting my emails nearly as much as I have sorted mine already. I use filters extensively, so the one thing this is doing is showing me a few holes I missed or just haven’t gotten around to yet. Sorting emails is a huge help, but yes, it does mean certain types of emails are looked at only rarely.

There are, of course, many things you can do within your own Gmail inbox to handle this situation. You can turn the Promotions tab off by clicking the gear icon at the top right and selecting “Configure Inbox” then unchecking the box for the Promotions tab.

You can also drag emails in your Promotions tab into the Primary tab, and future emails from that source should go there. I’ve heard starring the email may also work.

None of this, of course, solves the problem for you in other people’s Gmail inboxes. You don’t have any control over that. But you can ask your subscribers for help. Given that Mail Chimp found that the Promotions tab drops open rates by 7%, this is something worth paying attention to. This is very early data, of course, but I suspect the percentage will get worse as time goes on. I could be wrong, but I think people may learn to ignore what’s behind that tab over time.

Mention on your subscription page that your emails will be more visible to Gmail users if they move them to the Primary tab. You may also want to note this in the emails you send, so that current subscribers start doing this. It’s just an inbox at a time, but that’s the only way you can really handle something like this.

I don’t believe there are any ways you can sneak your emails into the Primary tab by default, although I’m sure there are people looking for ways. The one way that works is to get subscribers to do it for you. If you can get your subscribers to do this, think about the huge positive. You got them to take an action to ensure the best possible chance that they will see and read your emails. That’s huge. They’re that interested in what you have to say to them.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

July 8th, 2013

6 Things You Should Do For Your Online Home Business This Summer

6 Things You Should Do For Your Online Home Business This Summer

Summer shouldn’t be all about slacking off on your online home business. It may be a slow time for many, but there’s still a lot of work to do. Don’t take the entire summer as a vacation (do take some) – take some time to get these important things done this summer.

1. Review Your Progress So Far This Year

It’s the middle of the year, and a great time to see how much progress you’ve made on your goals for the year. Are you ahead, behind or right on schedule? What’s not working out? What is?

2. Plan For the Second Half of the Year

Now that you know where you are, where are you going? Look at what you had planned already, and decide if that’s still the goal. What has come up to change things? How will you change them?

3. Catch Up

We all run behind on things – paperwork, emails, writing, etc. Be honest with yourself and find the things you’re behind on, then work on catching up.

4. Get Ahead

What can you work on ahead of time? This is especially helpful if you’re planning a vacation. You can keep things running while you’re away.

Blog posts in particular are easy to write ahead. WordPress allows you to schedule your posts, and there are tools that allow you to schedule some basic social media posts. You won’t be as responsive if you don’t pay attention to the things you schedule, but sometimes it’s nice to not have to stress over these things for a while. Just one word of warning – be prepared to reschedule if real world events make anything inappropriate.

5. Train Some Help

Have you been considering hiring a virtual assistant? Summer could be the perfect time to do so. If you have some extra time right now, why not use it to make your work life a little easier?

6. Don’t Slack Off Too Much

Just because summer is a wonderful time for a vacation doesn’t mean you have to take all of it off. Take the time your family needs, but make sure they understand that you need to work sometimes. A productive summer can put you ahead of the competition in the fall.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

July 1st, 2013

Do Network Marketing Companies Allow You To Have Your Own Website?

Do Network Marketing Companies Allow You To Have Your Own Website?

One of the best things you can do for your home business in most cases is have your own website. Someplace where you can be you, a place to stand out. That’s not something you can do much of if you just use the basic website most network companies offer their consultants. If you want to do better, you need to put your own personal stamp on your own website. Will your network marketing company allow you to do that?

That depends, and it’s something worth checking on. Some companies absolutely do not want consultants to run their own, separate website about their products. Too many liability issues. Others are fine with it, just pay attention to the rules.

What I mean by your own website, of course, is your very own domain name and control of all content you put on it, not the basic yourname.thecompanysname.com that so many opportunities give you. The control you have over such sites is minimal, and you aren’t going to have much luck getting search engine traffic to such a website. It’s too much like every other free page the company has given every other consultant.

What Do You Put On Your Own Website?

If you can have your own website, don’t just imitate the pages of the free company sites you can have. The whole point of having your own website is to stand out – not just by the domain name, but by the content.

Start by reviewing company rules for individually owned websites. You don’t want to get kicked out of your business.

You should be able to talk about yourself at the very least. Give people reasons to like you as a consultant.

Hopefully you can also discuss the products. Share how you really use products. Be careful, however, in the claims that you make. Keep them real, things that can be proven. Don’t claim to cure things your product hasn’t been proven to cure.

Be careful with your disclaimers – do some research and figure out what you need to say. It may take a lawyer to get it just right, depending on the kinds of claims you’re making or information you’re sharing. At the very least, make your association with the company very clear, and that you make money on sales. Don’t hide it in the footer or in small print – these things need to be clearly visible.

Get Social

Check company rules on social media use as well. You may or may not be able to start a Facebook page for your business, for example, but you may be able to promote your business by posting a link to your site on your timeline or profile.

When you’re getting social about your business, remember to keep it interesting. Think about why people have friended or followed you. If it wasn’t specifically about your business, don’t post just about your business. Be the person you usually are, just with a business.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

April 8th, 2013

20 Quick Ways to Promote Your Online Business

20 quick ways to promote your website

Promotion is one of those things I’m not as good about as I should be. It’s too easy to think of it as something that takes a lot of time. Promotion doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Some promotional efforts take only a few minutes a day.

1. Use Pinterest

Individual posts and pages don’t take long to add to Pinterest, especially if you took the time to add a good image to them already. Pick the one of your pinboards that most suits the particular post, and add it.

2. Post on Your Facebook Page

Facebook is another easy choice. I suggest doing more than just adding the link to your post – have something to say, at least the title of the post. Some people find that the get better results without the preview of your post showing beneath it, while others say it’s better to post something and then put the link in the comment. The second one is harder on people using mobile platforms, who don’t see the link right away, however.

3. Share on Twitter

A few words on what it’s about, a link, and you have a tweet ready to go. Make it interesting – you know how fast things move on Twitter. Remember to use appropriate hashtags.

4. Add Posts to Google Plus

Google Plus isn’t all that huge yet, but if you think you can find an audience there, it’s worth the effort. You can have a personal page as well as pages for your websites.

5. Promote Old Posts

Promote some of your older posts on your preferred social networks. You don’t have to stick to your most recent work, after all.

6. Comment on a Relevant Blog

Keep your comment relevant to the subject at hand and make it interesting. “Great post” isn’t going to drive many people to click on your site. It’s best to stick to your real name rather than keywords in the Name section of the comment form too – some blogs will delete your comment if you do the keyword thing. No extra links in your comment unless they’re really relevant and you know the blog owner won’t mind.

7. Put a Signature in Your Emails

Most email platforms will allow you to have a signature automatically added to all your emails. Take advantage of that. You can include your name, URL, and relevant social media profiles. Think about what you most want to get in front of the people you’re contacting.

8. Participate in a Relevant Forum

This can be tricky, as not all forums will allow you to have a signature line with a link. Watch those rules when you join forums, and be very careful about promoting your site outside your signature. Also make sure that you aren’t getting sucked into spending an excessive amount of time on the forum, especially if you end up reading more than participating. As with blog commenting, keep it relevant and not to promotional. Most people aren’t on the forum to read an ad from you, and excessive advertising is one of the quickest ways to get banned on a forum.

9. Respond to People

Whether you’re replying to emails, blog comments, tweets aimed at you, Facebook comments, etc., take a little time to respond to people who have contacted you.

10. Write an Email Template

Got some questions you receive regularly by email? Make a template for your standard answer. This is a huge timesaver when going through your emails, plus you can really think out what your best answer is beforehand.

11. Review Your Analytics

While this doesn’t directly impact your website promotion, it can give you ideas for posts that are getting traffic, and the sites that send it. Knowing which of your efforts have been most effective is vital.

12. Do Some Keyword Research

While it’s a good idea to do keyword research when writing blog posts, it’s helpful to do it in general too. I find some good ideas just by really digging into different keywords I’ve considered.

13. Look For Ways to Interlink Your Content

Linking within your site to your own content gives visitors the excuse to keep looking around your site. Make it easy for them by linking relevant posts and pages to each other.

14. Link to Other Relevant Websites

Want to be a great resource? Link to other great resources. Not only are you giving your visitors more of what you’re looking for, other site owners will see you linking to them and possibly driving traffic to them, and may return the favor.

15. Find Places to Guest Post

Writing a quality guest post should take more than a few minutes, but doing a search for places to consider can be done quickly. Search for sites in your niche that allow others to write for them. Read through the qualifications, subscribe to the RSS feed of the site or otherwise make sure you can keep up on what’s getting posted. I keep a list of sites to consider.

16. Answer Questions on Q&A Sites

Sites such as Yahoo Answers and Quora can be excellent for promoting your site – just don’t overdo it. Be relevant, especially when you include links to your own stuff in your answers, don’t be afraid to link to things you don’t own if they’re the right resource, and remember that you don’t have to include a link every time. You don’t get the best attention on Q&A sites by answering a lot of questions – you get it by providing the best answers.

17. Post an Ad on Craigslist

This won’t work for every site, but advertising on Craigslist can be effective if you have a product or service to promote. Make sure you aren’t using affiliate links or otherwise going against the Craigslist TOS.

18. Prepare Flyers For Local Promotions

Do you know anywhere in your local area where you can post or distribute flyers? Get some ready. It can be as simple as some information about why someone should visit your site, with an easy to tear off URL to help people remember, or a stack of flyers so that people can take the entire sheet.

19. Make a Magnet For Your Car

A magnet with some information about your business attached to your car can help you promote your online business. Keep it quick and simple – you don’t want to distract other drivers too much.

20. Celebrate an Unusual Holiday

There are “days” and “months for just about anything. April, for example, is National Humor Month, International Guitar Month, Keep America Beautiful Month, Lawn and Garden Month, Mathematics Awareness Month, National Poetry Month, National Pecan Month, National Welding Month, Records and Information Management Month, Stress Awareness Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and many more. Today is Draw a picture of a bird day and All is Ours Day. Yesterday was better, being No Housework Day. Just search for unusual holidays and see what’s coming up.

For that matter, you can make your own pretend holiday. It won’t be anything official to anyone else, but it could give you something fun to celebrate on your site each year. Make it fun enough, and people might start talking. But if you choose something like “My *$&#@$!#* Computer Crashed Day,” try not to repeat it next year.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

March 5th, 2013

How Can You Keep Tax Time From Being Too Hard on Your Home Business?

Tax time is coming, and it’s dreaded by many people. It’s harder yet when you have a home business. There’s a lot to do throughout the year and at tax time to keep things easier.

Choose the Right Business Structure

There are advantages and disadvantages to running your business as a Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, LLC or other type of corporation. Take a look and decide what’s really going to work for your situation. Then make sure you follow the rules for that kind of business structure.

Pay Your Estimated Taxes Quarterly When Necessary

Paying quarterly income taxes is a pain. You have to be ready for them, however, along with any other taxes your home business may be required to collect and pay regularly.

Make sure you’re saving up for these every month, so that it’s not a big hit at the time they’re actually due. Don’t skip paying them until the end of the year either, as you can get hit by penalties if you aren’t making appropriate payments throughout the year. Make sure you know the right way to handle this for your business structure. This is where an accountant, bookkeeper or tax professional may come in handy.

Keep Track of Income and Business Expenses

This is where having a business account can make your life much simpler. You won’t have to sort out business expenses from other expenses. With some business structures, it’s required to keep things separate from your personal accounts.

If you make a lot of purchases online, make sure you keep a record of what you bought, just as you would for any paper receipts. You can print them out if you’d like, but I’d still recommend having it saved on your computer, and back that up as well. Backing up business information that’s on your computer in general is a good idea. You don’t want to lose vital information if your hard drive goes bad.

Don’t just throw it all in one spot year after year. Make a new file on your computer for each year, so you can easily look things up at need.

Hire a Professional Accountant or Bookkeeper

It’s not always smart to handle all this yourself. Even though you will still have to gather all the paperwork and make the payment yourself, hiring a professional may save you money, as they may think of deductions you didn’t realize you could take.

Know Your Deductions

In general, business expenses can be deducted. Just don’t stretch too far in defining them. If you’re taking the home office deduction, for example, make sure your home office really fits the definition.

Know the Tax Forms You Need to File For Any Employees or Freelancers You Hire

If you have employees or pay freelance workers, you may need to file tax forms for the money you’ve paid them. Know whether you need to send a W-2 or a 1099 for each. Usually, if you’ve paid them more than $600 during the year, you have to send them a tax form.

And most of all, check the IRS website or whatever authorities handle taxes in your country, or check with a qualified professional if you need any help at all. This stuff really is important to get right. This is just general advice, for specifics you need knowledgeable help.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.