On August 1, 2018, many websites took a tumble in their Google rankings.
On that date, the most popular search engine in the world announced a “broad core algorithm update.”
Who benefited from this update? According to Google, “pages that were previously under-rewarded” saw a benefit in their rankings.
For sites that dropped in rankings, Google offered some advice back in March when the search engine giant released a similar update:
“There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well, other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.”
“Great content” is a huge clue to what Google is searching for. Search engine optimization (SEO) experts suggested that Google is rewarding websites that follow their E.A.T guidelines: Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness.
In An E.A.T. Online World, Reputation and Credibility Might Matter More Than Ever
Google recently updated their Search Quality Rater Guidelines to include the phrase “reputation of the creator of the content” as a guiding metric for its human “Quality Raters” who comb the internet rating websites.
It follows that Google would start including those signals into its algorithm updates.
That brings us to Google’s preference for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (E.A.T.) when assessing a site.
During this latest update, SEO experts noted that websites from health and finance were particularly impacted (both positively and negatively).
For example, medical organization sites with diet articles are now outranking general diet sites. It appears Google is rewarding content created by—what it deems—more credible sources.
Another Factor in Search Quality: Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)
Health and finance websites fall into what Google calls “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) category. Google considers these sites to have the potential to significantly affect someone’s life and wants to ensure that search engine result reflects that importance.
According to the Search Quality Rater Guidelines, YMYL Categories include:
Shopping or financial transaction pages: web pages that allow users to make purchases, transfer money, pay bills, etc. online (such as online stores and online banking pages).
Financial information pages: web pages that provide advice or information about investments, taxes, retirement planning, home purchase, paying for college, buying insurance, etc.
Medical information pages: web pages that provide advice or information about health, drugs, specific diseases or conditions, mental health, nutrition, etc.
Legal information pages: web pages that provide legal advice or information on topics such as divorce, child custody, creating a will, becoming a citizen, etc.
News articles or public/official information pages important for having an informed citizenry: web pages that include information about local/state/national government processes, policies, people, and laws; disaster response services; government programs and social services; news about important topics such as international events, business, politics, science, and technology; etc.
Other: such as “hobby” topics, child adoption, car safety information, etc.
As you can see, many sites—and businesses—would fall under YMYL categories.
Even if you don’t fall under the above categories, it’s important to realize that Google is strategically looking to rank high-quality pages higher than low-quality ones.
What’s a Small Business To Do To Improve Their Website Ranking?
The Search Quality Rater Guidelines provide ways a small business website can master E.A.T. and give Google (and their quality raters) signals.
Below are suggestions for your Website and your reputation:
Provide Quality Content
Webpages on your site should present enough main content on a topic to satisfy a visitor’s needs and purpose.
Google says to create great content and pay attention to the reputation of the content creator.
If your website features authoritative content, be sure it comes from a credible source.
If you’re creating your own content, get known for providing expert advice in your field by working on your E.A.T. factors.
Be Thorough and Accessible
Your website should feature an About Us, Contact or Customer Service page.
Establish Your Credibility
Here are ways you can build your authority and reputation:
- Post a bio on your website and link to it from every article you write
- Be active—and responsible—on social media
- Work on putting out authoritative PR
- Be available to be interviewed and quoted by media outlets
- Continue to create quality content that makes a positive difference in your target market’s life
Reach Out for Help
We understand that many businesses owners and managers are too busy to create quality content. If that describes you, then consider delegating.
Give Business Solutions Unlimited a call at (904) 429-4588 and let us get to work on your E.A.T. content today.
States now have the ability to apply sales tax to online purchases even if the online retailer doesn’t have a physical presence in the state.
The U.S. Supreme Court case of South Dakota v. Wayfair changes a previous court decision which established a physical retail presence was necessary to collect sales tax.
With this 5 to 4 decision in June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court allows states to level the playing field between online purchases and local retailers. The burden of collecting sales tax may now be shared across all retailers if a state decides to take advantage of the decision.
How Online Sales Tax Works Today
If an online retailer has a physical presence in the state, they must collect sales tax from purchases made by residents of that state.
Amazon has distribution centers in Florida and collects sales taxes from state resident purchases. Other online retailers, like Wayfair, do not have a physical state presence and are not obligated to collect sales tax.
Floridians, like residents in most states, were technically supposed to voluntarily pay sales tax for their online purchases. However, in many cases, consumers don’t.
Research from the Federal Government Accountability Office estimated that states lost between $8.5 billion and $13.4 billion in sales taxes in 2017.
Sales tax funds government functions ranging from infrastructure maintenance to public education.
Basically, state residents who made local retail purchases were carrying more of a tax burden to fund government services than residents who made online purchases even though those government services are shared by all residents.
What Changes with this Court Decision?
States now have the ability to collect sales tax from online purchases. However, it’s up to the states’ Legislature and Department of Revenue to implement the sales tax.
For local retailers with only a brick & mortar presence, they will continue to collect sales tax as before. Retailers with an online presence are currently under no obligation to collect sale tax from out of state purchases.
Once a state implements an online sales tax policy, all retailers will be obligated to collect sales tax.
Staying Current with Business Changes
The sales tax decision demonstrates that the environment that small businesses operate in can change quickly and dramatically. How do busy business owners and managers keep up? Delegate.
A virtual assistance firm like Business Solutions Unlimited could help you stay one step ahead of changes that could impact your business. Feel free to give us a call at (904) 429-4588 and let’s see how we can help your business.
In 2017, the grocery store chain, Winn-Dixie, lost a lawsuit alleging that their website violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Specifically, the grocer’s website was found not accessible to a blind plaintiff according to Title III of the ADA mandates.
Winn-Dixie was ordered to pony up $250,000 to conform their website to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0AA. Plus, the Plaintiff’s Attorneys were going to pursue legal fees from the grocer.
Website accessibility lawsuits against businesses surged in 2017. While these ADA Title III federal lawsuits occurred nationwide, New York and Florida businesses took the brunt of the legal action:
- New York with 335 lawsuits
- Florida with 325 lawsuits
Below, we’ll explore what ADA compliance means to a business’ website and suggested steps to remediate the site. However, keep in mind this article is not legal advice. It’s an effort to make you aware of a potential legal (and financial) issue that’s impacting businesses across the county.
What is ADA Compliance and How Does it Impact Your Website?
Title III of the ADA legally directs all businesses open to the public to remove access barriers that would hinder a disabled person from enjoying the business’ goods and services.
You’ll find the result of ADA compliance in the disabled parking spots, service counter heights, and ramps for wheelchair-bound individuals.
In recent years, ADA compliance attention has migrated from a business’ physical presence to their digital presence.
Courts have ruled that any website offering goods and services be considered a place of public accommodation. Regardless if the business has a physical presence or not.
How do courts determine if a website is accessible? They’ve used a set of guidelines that determine if a website is ADA compliant: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
What is WCAG?
It’s globally recognized guidelines compiled by the World Wide Web Consortium that have set the technical standards for website accessibility.
Accessibility guidelines are divided into four main principals:
Criteria for accessibility is provided based on:
Level A: Criteria affecting the largest number of potential users—basically the minimum level of conformance.
Level AA: Satisfying Level A criteria plus deals with the largest and most common barriers for disabled users.
Level AAA: The highest and most complex challenges of website accessibility.
Courts have focused on Level AA for their rulings.
Accessibility guidelines for websites concern at a minimum:
Page structure: Making sure content uses a semantic structure to help user’s and devices understand page hierarchy
Navigation: Provide means to easily navigate the site and web pages using a keyboard and skip navigation.
- Allowing assistive technologies to read the page, for example, ability to scale text 200%.
- Make sure text clearly communicates instructions in a way that the disabled can understand
- Text instructions in forms should be easily understood
Links: Make sure links to make sense when read out of context. For example, instead of “read more” or “click here” be specific like “read more about ADA compliance here” or “Click here to download this guide.”
Images: Make sure that each image on your page uses alternative (alt) text to accurately describe it. If you use images with text, be sure the alt text communicates the text.
Videos and Audio: Provide captioning and transcripts for videos appearing on your site.
More About the Lawsuits
As mentioned above, 2017 saw a surge of lawsuits regarding website accessibility. While Winn-Dixie had a large financial impact, small businesses were impacted as well.
In California, Whisper Lounge Restaurant was ordered to make its website comply with WCAG 2.0 AA. Also, the court ordered the restaurant to pay $4,000 in statutory damages.
For most small businesses, the legal fees defending a lawsuit and paying damages could be costly.
In 2018, the ADA Education and Reform Act was passed in the US House of Representatives that could offer some relief from frivolous lawsuits—but businesses should still be wary.
Demand letters from law firms can still be sent to businesses found in violation of ADA compliance. If the business does not respond within 60 days that they are correcting the problem, a lawsuit can be filed.
It might be prudent for businesses to be proactive and start the process of making their website ADA compliant. That way, if they do receive a letter, they can show their progress to remediate the issue and, hopefully, negate any potential legal action down the road.
Do You Need a New Site or Can You Modify Your Current One to make it ADA Compliant?
The majority of sites developed with current technologies shouldn’t have many challenges in updating their site. However, in some cases, it will take a team of web developers and designers plus content creators to ensure your site meets the Level AA guidelines.
If you have an older site, a new site might be easier to make compliant.
An accessibility audit might be necessary to determine your specific website’s needs.
Reach Out for Help with a Free Consultation
We understand that businesses are busy and researching the details of ADA website compliance and coming up with a strategy can be daunting.
Give us a call at Business Solutions Unlimited, (904) 429-4588, to discuss options and see how we can help you today.
Have your employees looked at their withholding allowances on the W-4 lately?
For that matter, when was the last time you checked your withholding allowances?
If you or they typically itemize deductions and haven’t checked withholding amounts, now is the time to do so.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) went into effect this year making major changes to what we pay in taxes and the IRS encourages everyone to perform a Paycheck Checkup.
They even provided an updated online withholding calculator to help you determine the proper payroll withholding amounts for 2018.
Below, we share a link to the calculator plus tips on how to use it.
But First, Let’s Explore How the TCJA Changes Could Impact Your Withholdings
Tax law changes that affect withholding include:
- Reduced tax rates
- Elimination of personal exemptions
- Changes to itemized deductions
Additionally, the new tax law increased standard deductions to:
- $12,000 for singles
- $18,000 for heads of households
- $24,000 for married couples filing jointly
Those who claim the Child Tax Credit will see the following increases:
- $2,000 per qualifying child
- $500 for other qualifying dependents
Who Should Do a Paycheck Checkup?
If you itemize deductions, you should do a paycheck checkup. More specifically, if you:
- Are part of a two-income family
- Have two or more jobs at the same time or who only work part of the year
- Claim credits like the Child Tax Credit
- Have dependents age 17 or older
- Have high income or a complex tax return
- Have a large tax refund or tax bill for 2017
It should only take a few moments to check your withholding allowances with the calculator and make adjustments to your W-4.
How to Use the Updated Withholding Calculator
As a taxpayer, you should check at least yearly how much you’re overpaying or underpaying the government. Experts say you should withhold an amount of your paycheck that’s as close to your final annual tax bill as possible. The withholding calculator can help you determine that amount.
By the way, the calculator doesn’t ask for any identifying information like:
- Your name
- Your Social Security number
- Your address
- Any bank account numbers
Additionally, the IRS does not save or record information you enter into the calculator.
Before using the calculator:
- Gather your most recent paystubs—be sure to check that it shows the federal income tax amount you’ve withheld so far in 2018
- Get a hold of your most recent income tax return—your completed form 1040 could help you estimate your 2018 income
The IRS reminds calculator users that the calculated results are only as accurate as the information you enter. Plus, recheck your withholding amounts if your circumstances change during the year:
- Getting married
- Having a baby
Once you’ve determined your withholding amounts, download the W-4 Form and fill it out.
Need Help with Payroll, Bookkeeping or Other Business Accounting Topics?
Business Solutions Unlimited Virtual Assistants are ready to help. Give us a call at (904) 429-4588 and let’s discuss how we can help your business.
During a networking meeting, someone expressed frustration that their Facebook ad campaign wasn’t getting the results they expected.
The Facebook ad was performing well by driving traffic to their website…but their phone wasn’t ringing.
Assuming the Facebook ad campaign was targeting the right demographics for their business, it might not be a Facebook ad issue. Instead, it might be the destination of the click—the landing page on their website.
It’s been our experience that many small businesses focus primarily on design and copy when it comes to building websites. While those are important, businesses should also consider their conversion funnel. Mainly, how to simply and quickly convert a visitor to a prospect or customer through an effective landing page.
Build Your Landing Page to Convert
Below are simple tactics you can use to help improve your landing pages to better convert visitors.
Make Sure It Loads Fast
Ad clickers are fickle. They expect an almost immediate response for their action (the click). A one-second delay can result in 11 percent fewer page views.
Site speed matters. Make sure your images are optimized. Be sure your website hosting is up to the task of delivering your site quickly.
Keep your page simple—complications can task the speed of your site.
Keep it Uncluttered, Focused and Beneficial
Speaking of simple…
Many times, I’ve clicked on an ad only to arrive at a landing page showing everything about the business (including the kitchen sink), and many times that destination is the home page.
When people click on your Facebook or Google ad, they’ve expressed an interest in your initial message. The destination page should reward that visitor by continuing just that message.
Everything on the landing page should focus on the message. Anything else is just a distraction for the visitor. A distraction is an opportunity for the visitor to leave. Keep your copy focused on message and benefit-oriented. The beneficial copy and images should help drive the visitor to an appropriate call to action.
A/B testing can show you what works and what doesn’t on your landing page.
Don’t hesitate to try new colors, images or copy. See if a different headline increases how long people stay on your page. Maybe a video will increase conversion. How does a green button work compared to the blue one? Change one element at a time on your landing page or create two landing pages and have your ad automatically split where the visitors go.
The data you gather from A/B testing will be invaluable to improving your landing page conversions.
Reach Out for Help
An effective landing page can drive the customer to your business, but it takes time to find out what an effective landing page looks like for your target market. If that’s time you don’t have, consider delegating. A Virtual Assistance Firm like Business Solutions Unlimited can provide the expertise and talent to build, test and manage your landing page.
Give us a call at (904) 429-4588 to discuss what we can do for you today.