SEO Article Portfolio

Small Business

Facebook ads are a great way to expand your business. They don’t cost very much, you can set a daily budget, and you can target your exact demographics. And in January, Facebook will sweeten the deal by offering a $50 coupon, just like Google is doing with their Adsense program.

You’ll need to have a landing page for the ads. All this means is when someone clicks on the ad, Facebook will send them to your landing page. This will sell them on the item or service you’re providing. It’s best to have a separate page on your website specifically designed for the offer.

For local ads, meaning a small geographic area, usually a metropolitan region, the cost per click starts as low as a nickel. The average is somewhere between 40 cents and 60 cents. You can bid lower than the Facebook recommendation, but the further you bid below the suggestion, the lower your ads will show on the page, if even at all. If you’re being really specific, like women between the ages of 35 and 45 who just got engaged in Dayton, Ohio, then be prepared to spend as much as $5 or even more per click. It just depends on your competition for those keywords and the demographics.

You can set a daily budget. I’d start off small, say $5 or $10 a day. Write 2 or 3 different ads and see which one pulls the best. Make sure you track sales as well as clicks. Sometimes one ad will generate a lot of clicks, but 1 or 2 sales, while another ad only attracts a few clicks, but 25% of them buy. After a few weeks, keep the one or two highest ranking ads. Rewrite the old ads, or write entirely new ones. Keep this up for a few months and your ads will be rocking your business. This is where most people fall down. This is the poor man’s version of split-testing, or A/B testing.

Lastly, you can target your demographics exactly. Who are you looking for – male, female, location, marital status? You can even target “engaged” as the marital status if you’re a bridal shop or jewelry store. Be prepared to pay through the nose for this demographic, though. Write down all the characteristics of your ideal customer, then just check off those boxes on Facebook.

 

There’s tons more information available for free online or through your library. Good luck on your new ad campaign!

Starting A Restaurant

Want to start a restaurant with no money? Here’s the best way. It takes legwork, elbow grease, and persistence, but hey, it’s better than paying McDonald’s a $250,000 franchise fee.

The biggest expense in opening a restaurant is equipping a commercial kitchen. So the thing to do find one. The best way to go about is is to find a bar that has a kitchen, but no food. Most bar owners don’t want to mess with running the kitchen – they have enough on their hands running the bar. You come in, offer to run the kitchen for them, and pay them monthly rent. That way they can offer food to their customers, but have no headaches and hassles running the actual food operation. Many times you can just step right in, pay the first month’s rent, and be running that weekend. Don’t offer the bar owner too much, as he’ll be pocketing extra bucks from selling drinks to all your customers.

There’s several advantages for you in this arrangement. You’ll be walking into a previously licensed kitchen, so it should only need a thorough cleaning to get it back up to health code specs. Hit local restaurant auctions to replace any equipment, or to get any specialty equipment you’ll be needing to cook your menu. You’ll have guaranteed customers, as the bar already attracts a steady clientele. Just make sure your menu matches the crowd – a beer and shot joint won’t be crazy about your made from scratch French sauces. And, most bars don’t open ’til late afternoon, so you’ll be able to work a day job until you get going. Or you can use the downtime to run a catering service or a mail order specialty service. You can fry burgers at night to pay the bills while you use the kitchen in the mornings and early afternoons to bake your delicious brownies that you sell on the Internet.

A couple caveats on this mode of opening a low budget restaurant. First, the restaurant’s kitchen is closed for a reason – try asking around to find out what it is. Sometimes it’s fixable (last guy to run it was a drunk and never showed up, wrong menu for the crowd), sometimes it’s not fixable, at least not for low budget affairs (grill needs a new hood and fire suppression system for $20,000). Your local health department and local fire department can help you out with copies of their last inspection, so you’ll know if there’s any regulatory obstacles in front of you that you won’t be able to surmount. Get a lease with an option, so the bar owner can’t kick you out two months after you built up the business when his brother-in-law gets laid off and decides he can cook a better burger than you. Make sure the lease is transferable so you can sell the business in a year or two if it’s not working or if you’re ready to make the leap and open up your own place. You want at least a year lease, with a 2 year option at your discretion. Lastly, have a lawyer give the once over to the lease just to make sure everything is on the up and up

After a few years, you’ll have a better idea of what works, what doesn’t, and if you’re ready to open a place of your own. Good luck!

Jumping Castle Business

Like working with kids? Like festivals? A jumping castle business may be perfect for you. Parents are always looking for something fun for their kids to do at festivals that doesn’t cost very much – a jumping castle fits that bill perfectly. To look for festivals, contact all the chambers of commerce in your local area – they’ll know about the festivals in their town. Also contact the arts and crafts organizations in your area – they’ll know of other festivals. Tourism boards, sometimes called convention or visitors boards, are usually run by your local county or sometimes a city, if it’s a bigger urban area. Most booth spaces run about $25 to $100 for the weekend. Standard size is 10′ by 10′, so figure out how much room you’ll need to determine how many spaces you’ll need to get. Ask the organizers if they have a special area for kids – this might end up being cheaper than renting 4 or 5 spaces. Ask the organizer what the expected attendance is – you don’t want to get stuck in some little podunk town of 3000 people where the same 50 kids show up all weekend – you won’t make any money. Be creative in looking for places to set-up. Does your community have a well-attended July 4th Fireworks? That would be perfect – lots of kids with their families, with nothing to do until dark sets in and the fireworks start. How about Memorial Day or Labor Day parades? Any big tourist attractions around that might benefit from having kids’ entertainment? There’s a restaurant near us that has homemade ice cream and features a petting zoo – a jumping castle would fit right in. Don’t forget about county and state fairs.

This is a very fun business to be in. You get to be outside every weekend, travel all around visiting towns and their festivals that you never heard of, and deal in an all-cash business. Go for it!

TECH

Computer Back-Up

If you’re using WordPress as the framework for your site, then sooner or later it will crash. This is how Backup Creator can save your life. All your data is safely backed upon an offsite host of your choosing, waiting for you to reinstall after correcting the problem. Hopefully it’ll be a simple fix – fixing a corrupt or an incompatible plugin, rather than an outright hacking of your site.

If you have your data backed up, then you don’t have to worry while you repair WordPress. While you complete a fresh install of WordPress on your hosting provider, along with your preferred plug-ins, your data will be safely backed-up, waiting until you get WordPress back up and running. WordPress usually crashes when an incompatible plugin has been installed or a plugin doesn’t work with the current version of WordPress installed on your site. Make sure you’re running the current version of WordPress – download the latest version from wordpress.org. Now install your plugins one by one. Check after each installation to make sure WordPress is functioning properly with the new plugin active. This will help you determine which plugin was the problem. If one plugin doesn’t work, uninstall it and go on to the next one. Keep checking your plugins one by one – don’t assume that just one was the problem. This is a good time to make sure you have all the latest plugins installed too – the WordPress.org site will give you the latest version of each plugin to download and will tell you if it’s compatible with the latest version of WordPress. Don’t forget to change all your passwords. Get rid of the default “admin” login and create your own username – that will help keep your site secure. How Backup Creator can save your life is simple – it backs up all your data files for WordPress offsite and securely saves them until needed.

If your site has been hacked, you’ll need to work with your hosting provider to install a fresh version of WordPress that hasn’t been corrupted. Don’t install your backup files until you’re working on an absolutely clean version of WordPress – you don’t want to just re-install your old problems! Once you have the site cleaned up and secured with new passwords, go ahead and reinstall WordPress, along with all the plugins, as described above. Then you can retrieve your data files from Backup Creator.

Backup Creator is affordable and easy to install. Your files are safely stored offsite in a place of your choosing, so you maintain total control of your valuable backup files. There’s lots of customer reviews and testimonials on what a great product Backup Creator is.

Don’t wait until your WordPress site crashes before you try to do anything. The time to backup your WordPress site is NOW – before you have any problems. That way you know you’ll be reinstalling a clean site free of problems. Don’t forget to email yourself copies of your new passwords – don’t use your WordPress site emails, but rather a totally separate gmail or other free email account. This helps to protect your account and make it more secure. This is how Backup Creator can save your life – install it now, and have peace of mind knowing you have a secure, offsite backup of all your data.

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Installing WordPress

WordPress is the easiest software to set up and customize a website for the non-technical person. If you can turn on a computer and send an email, then you can handle installing WordPress on your site. Updating it is a breeze – it’s just like composing an email. And don’t worry about it being “blogging” software – many people run full-blown websites on WordPress with the help of some free plugins.

The easiest way to install WordPress on your site is to go through WordPress to find a web hosting company that supports WordPress. Go to wordpress.org and click on “find a webhost”. You’ll find a list of web hosting companies that support WordPress. Click on each one and find the one with the best deal for. Sign up and fill out the billing information. Register your domain name – it’s easier if you use the same company that’s doing your web hosting. Once all that’s done, go to your hosting dashboard – most companies use cPanel, but yours might use another product. Find the “install wordpress”, click, and follow the instructions – it should take about 5 minutes to install WordPress.

If you want to play around some, keep reading. If you want to start your first post, skip ahead to the next paragraph. You can install different themes – a theme is the framework upon which your website is built – different themes have different looks and customizations. Scroll through the different themes WordPress offers. When you see one you like, go ahead and install it. This is where you can play around with some of the looks on your website. When you have the theme installed, scroll down on the left hand menu – click “appearance” and then click the items you want to change. You can change colors, fonts, sizes, etc., as well installing a custom photo or logo at the top of your blog. I’d advise doing at least this, as you don’t want a blog/website looking like the other 50,000 that didn’t change the top image on their website.

Ready for your first post? Click on “posts” on the left hand sidebar, then click on “new post”. Write away to your heart’s content in the box that appears – it’s just like writing in a word processor. Make sure you save it. Edit and proofread it – there’s icons at the top of the post that will let you center, boldface, change fonts, and any other word processing commands that you’ll need. Once the post is to your liking, hit “publish”. That’s it – you’re live on the web. Don’t worry about making an error that you didn’t catch – you can always go back and edit your post.

There are plenty of free plugins that can help you customize your WordPress website – WordPress itself offers a lot, and any internet search will turn up more. You’ll definitely want ones that will help you backup your website, an SEO one, and one to help manage your comments. If you want to sell merchandise, look for a free shopping cart plugin. Ask around to see who’s using WordPress – everybody’s got their own favorite plugins. I’d stick with the free plugins (and themes, too, for that matter) until you get your feet wet. There’s no sense spending money until you’ve had a chance to play around and find out what features you really need.

May your new website powered by WordPress bring you and your business much success!

Protect Your Computer By Backing Up Your Data

You might be tempted to buy a 1 terabyte or a 2 terabyte hard drive with prices well below $100 for a new one off Amazon and use that as your primary backup. That’s all fine and dandy for the hard core games your teenager’s been downloading, your sweetie’s chick flicks from Netflix and the classic rock lp collection that you’ve been transferring over to digital media, but think twice before using that as your primary backup for your hard drive. Below are a couple reasons why.

 

The most important reason was a lesson I learned from my father, an insurance broker, a long time ago. Never keep your important papers (i.e., backup computer files) in your house. If your house burns down, where do you think your files are? If your house gets blown down by a tornado, where do you think your files went? You want an offsite backup for your files – FAR offsite. If a chemical tank car blows up at the local railyard, you’ll thank me, and Amazon or Mozy or whomever, that your files are safe and sound 3000 miles away in California. And in Argentina. And in England. Redundancy is the name of the game here. All these online backup services use multiple data centers in different countries to protect themselves against regional calamities. As an aside, this is also a good idea for some of your important papers – or at least copies of them. If your house burns down, you’re gonna need that dvd showing the video you took of the house and it’s contents to get your insurance company to pay up. Give a copy to your lawyer, stick one in your safe deposit box, and send one to your anal brother-in-law that lives 2500 miles away because he’ll triple file it and never lose it. Same thing with insurance policies, birth certificates, all that stuff.

 

Secondly, what if it’s your power supply that went bad and fried your hard drive? You’re thinking, “Hey, no problem, I’ll just hook up my handy dandy backup terabyte drive and reinstall my data.” Well, guess again. Your power supply just fried your nice new 1 tb drive from Amazon – and no, you can’t return it for a refund. Let Carbonite or Amazon Web Services worry about the logistics of your backup. It’s nice having the convenience of an external backup hard drive at home or work, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Get an online service.

 

The third reason isn’t so much a backup as it is cloud computing. You back up your hard drive with Mozy or Amazon, then access it from where ever you are. if you fly off to California to land a big client, wouldn’t it be nice to know that the presentation you worked 16 hours on is backed up on Carbonite? Always be thinking about Murphy’s Law – it’s gonna happen to you – your hard drive is going to die and it’ll be 15 minutes before the appointment. If you think you’ll be accessing your files remotely on a regular basis try out Dropbox. The basic service is free and should give you a good idea if it’s something you can use. You can always upgrade to the paid service. It can also function as an online backup for small amounts of data.

 

If you only have a small amount to backup, most online backup sites will give you up to 5 gb free. Mozy, for instance, will give you 2 gb free. If you need more storage, Carbonite will fully back up your home computer for $59.95 a year. Small business computers will run you $229 and up. The external drives are nice for storing your big multimedia files and handy to have for sharing files on your home network, but for backing up your essential files, don’t go with them. Go with an online backup site – and if you’re really paranoid – go with two backup services – I do. If I never use the 2 backups, well, it’s just one dinner out a year that I’ll miss. But if it saves my butt just once….well, I’ll let you figure out how much having 2 backups of your irreplaceable files can save in money, time and aggravation.

You can stop reading now. Google Mozy, or Amazon Web Services, or Carbonite and get cracking on your online backup pronto. Your mother will be so proud of you.

FINANCE

Payday loans are a last resort for people with bad credit. If you’ve exhausted all your other possibilities, hocked all your stuff at the local pawn shop, sold the rest at a yard sale, and hounded all your friends until you’re blue in the face, then it’s time to look at a payday loan. As long as you have a regular source of income that pays you by check or direct deposit, a payday loan company will advance you money for a fee. The company is supposed to make sure you don’t already have a bunch of payday loans out, but a lot of them don’t follow throw. The amount they advance is based upon the size of your regular checks. The bigger your check, the bigger the amount they’ll advance you. They’ll charge you a fee, generally about $10 to $15 per $100 advanced. You pay the fee when you pay back the money. Have a plan ready so you can pay back the loan entirely in 2 weeks, whether it’s working overtime, selling some items on Craigs List, or babysitting.

TRAVEL

Good Eats in Aruba!

Interested in exploring some of Aruba’s culinary heritage, but can’t decide where to eat or drink? Well, there are many food and wine festivals where you can stroll along and partake of the island’s cuisine while enjoying a nice glass of wine.

Every June, there’s an “Aruba Food Wine & Art Festival” in Pago Pago. The main draw is a Best Chef competition on opening night. Other features including wine tastings, art shows, and a gala finale on the last night. The festival is held at the Westin Hotel in Pago Pago. More information and ticket pricing is available by contacting the hotel directly.

Another fun festival is the weekly “Food and Wine Festival at the Village”. This is held every Wednesday night from 6 pm until 10:30 pm. Up to eight restaurants participate, with each one showcasing their finest culinary efforts. This festival is perfect for those who can’t make up their mind as to which restaurant to try, or if time is a constraint. Each restaurant offers bite-size munchies, so you get a nice range from all the chefs. Gift shops are also open so you can shop for the friends and family back at home. The festival takes place at The Village Mall which is located right across the street from the Radisson Resort.

There’s a monthly gala called “The Food & Wine Festival” that takes place at the Cozy Arawak Garden. All the restaurants are open with their chefs providing special treats. One eatery even showcases a live cigar-roller for that after dinner smoke! Admittance to the Garden is free – your only cost is the food and beverages. Festivities start at 5 pm and are located in the Cozy Arawak Garden, which is right across the street from the Occidental Resort. For more information, contact Pepia Est, Romar Trading, Compra or Aruba Wine and Dine.

The biggest festival is the Aruba Carnival, taking place from January 1 until Ash Wednesday every year. The locals work for months on costumes and floats. The entire island is wrapped up preparing for the event. Every weekend features entertainment, dances, contests, food and wine tastings and more. It all culminates in the Grand Parade. On the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the locals take to the streets in an hours-long parade. The celebration is held in the streets of Oranjestad.

Other food and wine festivals to be on the lookout for include the Bon Bini Festival, held every Tuesday at the outdoor courtyard at Fort Zoutman in Oranjestad. Hours are from 6:30 to 8:30 and the cost varies from $3.00 to $10.00 depending on what the entertainment is. On Wednesdays you can go to the Watapana Food and Art Festival, held on the street between the Hyatt Regency and the Occidental Grand. The fun starts at 5 pm – for more information, contact either hotel. For music fans, there’s the Annual Aruba Soul Beach Music Festival, held in late May. The Aruba International Film Festival, held in mid June every year, is an up and coming industry convention. And for the athletically inclined, or those who just like to watch, windsurfers take to the seas in the annual Aruba Hi Winds Festival. This sun-baked oceanside festival takes place in late June every year.

Enjoy the festivities!

The Culinary Caribbean

Just imagine – you can travel the culinary world without ever leaving your seat in your favorite Caribbean restaurant. Come with us while we tour the world while sipping on a pina colada.

While cooling off while drinking that pina colada, are you thinking of where the rum in that drink came from? The Spaniards who came roaring through the Caribbean five hundred years ago brought sugarcane with them. It was soon discovered that fermenting the cane led to this wonderful libation called rum! While we’re touring Spain, why not try anything with eggplant, cilantro, onion or garlic in it? These all came from Spain and other European countries. For dessert, how about a rum-soaked fruit salad with mangoes, oranges, and limes. Yes, these, too, all came from Europe.

Next stop on our global culinary tour is Africa. For appetizers, how about a salsa with pineapple? This was introduced by the slaves from Africa. Give them thanks for bringing over the jerk style of cooking as well. This was invented by African hunters who needed a way to preserve the game meat they killed on the hunting forays. Other African imports include okra, plantains, taro, breadfruit and callaloo.

If you don’t want to travel so far on your culinary journeys, how about Mexico? Their contributions to the Caribbean cuisine include papaya and avocado? Mull that over while you’re drinking your hot cocoa, as the cocoa beans were brought over by travelers from Mexico.

The Chinese immigrant laborers brought over both foodstuffs and cooking techniques. Caribbean cuisine has borrowed stir fry cooking and barbecue techniques (think Chinese spare ribs) from the Chinese. Many sauces are based on the brown soy suace and the sweet and sour sauce. And you can find many chow meins flavored with jerk seasoning in the Caribbean. And let’s not forget the dry rub spices – most of the spices and the whole concept of dry rubbing the meat came from China. Other foods include the many varieties of noodles that China is famous for, both rice and wheat based.

Traveling overland to India, start your meal off with the many varieties of bread borrowed from the Indian cuisine. From the breads sitting on your table that you nibble on before the appetizers come, to the flat breads that the main courses often are served on – these all come from India. Although you would think the rice would have come from China, the rice in Caribbean cuisine was actually brought over by the Indian laborers. The curry that is often used in the rice and vegetable dishes in Caribbean cuisine was also brought from India. The curry is derived from the Indian spice mix marsala, which is a specific blend of spices that the cook mixes together to complement the dish he is preparing. Prepare to be amazed at the variety of curries available in the Caribbean and think back to the boring choice of just the one available, pre-blended at most American supermarkets. You’ll never be able to go back to that one.

I hope you’re hungry after that global culinary tour through the Caribbean – now let’s go eat some jerk chicken!

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