What Are ‘Google Penalties,’ and Why Do You Need to Avoid Them?

Many businesses have been sunk by Google’s algorithm updates. Don’t become one of them.

7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ever since Google started up in 1998, its core mission has been to deliver the most relevant search results tousers. This started with checking a user’s search query against several criteria, key among them being the frequency with which the search query appeared on any given web page.

Related: 4 Dumb SEO Tactics That Will Get Your Site Penalized

If the query appeared frequently, then that page would rank higher in search results. All well and good. But a big, big problem soon became obvious: Businesses caught on to how important it was to rank high in search engine results.  And that meant war.

The battle for rankings 

Owners wanted all the extra business and exposure that could come from ranking on the front page of Google, so they began stuffing their sites with stock phrases they thought would win them traffic. This “keyword stuffing” in turn negatively impacted Google’s core mission: People were attempting to trick Google’s algorithm.

So began the ongoing battle between Google and the people who know the most about SEO (search engine optimization).  

Google updates 

Google’s solution to this fundamental problem has been to periodically release updates to its algorithm. These updates are kept secret, often appearing suddenly, and they tweak the requirements for relevant, high-quality content.

As part of this, Google now takes more serious account of writing quality, looking at everything from sentence length to the level of good grammar. It also looks for signs of SEO tricks, like unnatural links coming from other websites to a business’s web pages, or unnatural use of language.

Meanwhile, website architecture remains, crucial for high rankings; audiences shouldn’t have to click through a dozen different links to find the content they want; this isn’t a high-quality experience. 

Related: How to Come Back From an SEO Penalty

That’s why Google’s updates have been good for businesses, in the improvement in the quality of search results they provide users, and in the emphasis they place on businesses providing quality content in exchange for the online exposure they receive.

The problem for many web developers, marketers, bloggers, and online businesses,, however, is that business owners can still be penalized by Google, even when they aim to do everything right. These Google penalties can send a site plummeting down the search result rankings, crippling its standing and ability to generate business. 

What does a “Google penalty” mean? 

A “Google penalty” is a loose term for what happens when a site or page is negatively impacted by a Google algorithm update or is manually penalized for an infringement on the search engine’s Webmaster Guidelines. While a site’s sudden dip in search-result rankings isn’t always easily explained, and could relate to any number of issues, you as the business owner can try to ascertain the nature of the update and adjust your website accordingly.  

To do this, check sites, like Search Engine Roundtable, which discuss new Google updates and related rumors. Though you’ll understandably be concerned about your site’s ranking, it’s important not to rush to make changes to your site or content, as you may exaggerate the negative effects.

Instead, take some time to find out exactly what happened with the update, check to make sure the update coincides with your changes in rankings and carefully analyze how your site may have fallen afoul of those algorithm changes.  

The other possibility is that your site has been manually penalized. This means that your site has likely been reviewed by a Google employee after being flagged for not meeting its quality guidelines. While these penalties can be serious, you’ll have the opportunity to resolve them, as they will appear in a report in your Google Search Console account. If you are not yet set up on Google Search Console, or just want a quicker way to check on your penalties, try this penalty checker that my company developed. 

What do you do when you’re hit by a Google penalty? 

If you receive a manual penalty, you can begin a resolution process from Google Search Console itself. Once you have addressed and corrected the specific problem, you will be able to request that Google re-index your site, hopefully reversing the damage that was done.

The most important thing is that you carefully address the problem and find a solution. There are many guides for specific penalty problems out there, so here is what you need to know about the usual suspects and what needs to be done when they occur.  

What are the typical problems? 

Thin content: This is one of the easier penalties to fix. Google will often penalize sites which have many pages that offer no real value and have low word counts. To fix this, start providing  more in-depth information and remove any auto-generated content. 

The use of free hosts: It is unlikely that you use free hosting services if you run a serious website, but businesses that do expose themselves to all sorts of spam advertising they can’t control. It’s better to use a paid hosting service and avoid the trouble. 

Keyword stuffing: If you have added too many keywords to your pages in hopes of ranking higher, Google can tell if this is unnatural. These days, it’s better just to be aware of your keywords and make sure you aren’t missing them entirely — but leave it at that. 

Virus hosts: Google will clamp down on any site that plays host to malware or spyware viruses. If there’s anything on your site which might be infecting visitors’ computers or phones, you need to get rid of it immediately.  

Bad redirects: If your site redirects traffic away from certain pages as a way to boost traffic numbers on other pages, you may get a penalty. Redirects like these will cause visitors to your site to leave quickly, as they have been served the wrong content. Don’t do it. 

Duplicate/scraped content: If your site features content that can be found elsewhere on the web, or has been outright copied, the result may be a penalty. Checking for duplicate content is one of the easier things Google can do, so make sure all your text is unique and up to date. 

Be aware: Dropped rankings aren’t always due to penalties. 

Remember, if your site drops in the search results, the reason may not be due to any penalties or algorithm updates. It’s possible that competitors are improving their content or perhaps have benefited from Google’s updates, where you haven’t. 

Trying to ensure you have the best content and do a good job of marketing it, is the best way to ensure you maintain your rankings.  

Related: Facebook and Google Will be Punished With Giant Fines in the U.K. If They Fail to Rid Their Platforms of Toxic Content

If you do experience a sudden traffic decline, however, carefully analyze what might have gone wrong, and ensure you are following the guidelines laid out in Google’s Webmasters Guidelines. You should then have little trouble from Google updates and penalties in the future.  

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5 Automated Email Marketing Messages All Ecommerce Businesses Should Use

Email marketing automation can save you time and increase revenues. Here are five messages you can set up and start using now.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you own an ecommerce business and sell products or services through an online storefront, then you should be using email marketing to acquire leads, convert them to sales, and turn them into repeat customers who drive word-of-mouth marketing for your brand.

In my book, Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business, I explain how automated email marketing works. One benefit: Many tools make it easy for you to create messages that send automatically when contacts on your list meet a pre-defined condition. Another perk? Automated email marketing can save you a lot of time because you set it up once and it runs until you stop it.

The goal is to leverage active behaviors and related emotions at specific times in the marketing funnel and consumer buying cycle to improve your business’s relationship with recipients, increase revenue or push consumers further through the marketing funnel. If you email relevant information to consumers at the right time, it stands to reason they’ll be more likely to notice that information and act upon it.

If you’re looking to get started with automated email marketing, here are five essential messages that every ecommerce business should consider using.

1. Welcome Message

Your welcome message is sent immediately after someone joins your email list. This is the first contact between your brand and new subscribers, so ensure the message is consistent with your brand promise and sets accurate expectations. It’s a good idea to explain how often consumers will receive messages from you, what kind of content you’ll include, any special benefits they receive as subscribers and how to contact you if they have questions.

In addition, you can include links to your company website and social media accounts. You could also include a special discount as a thank-you for subscribing with a link to your online store. Just be careful not to make the message entirely self-promotional, or you might annoy your new subscribers.

2. Abandoned Cart Message

Re-marketing can be very effective in pushing people at the bottom of the marketing funnel to make a purchase decision and buy. If someone visits your online store, puts items into their shopping cart and then leaves your site before completing their purchase, you want to encourage them to follow through on a purchase decision. You can do this by setting up an automated email message to encourage them to complete the purchase.

For example, your message could include a special offer such as free shipping or a discount on their entire purchase. The key is to understand that people who abandon their shopping cart almost completed a purchase. Do your research and try to figure out when people abandon their carts. The problem could be with your checkout process, your shipping fees or something else entirely. Until you can address the problem, you can try to recapture people who abandon their carts with automated email marketing messages.

3. Cross-Sell Message

When a customer purchases something from your online store, which of your related products or services might naturally complement their purchase? Identify those groups and pairings, then set up accompanying automated email marketing messages that go out when a customer purchases a product.

For example, if a customer buys puppy food from your online pet store, it may make sense to send an automated message offering puppy treats, toys or carpet cleaner. You can include a discount with these items if you want to try to increase conversions, but it’s always a good idea to test cross-sell messages with and without discounts to see if discounts actually convert more successfully. (There’s no reason to lose money on discounts if you don’t have to.) 

4. Anniversary and/or Birthday Message

If customers have provided you with their birthdays, you can set up an automated message to wish them well every year by way of a special discount or offer. You can do the same thing on the anniversary of their first purchase with you or, if they haven’t made a purchase, the day they subscribed to your mailing list. 

These types of automated messages can help deepen your brand’s relationship with customers. Acknowledging birthdays or thanking people for being a customer or subscriber every year can lead to increased loyalty, additional sales and brand advocacy. 

5. Re-Engagement Message

If subscribers on your email marketing list aren’t opening your messages, then you likely don’t them on your list. Why? Unengaged subscribers can hurt the deliverability of all of your email marketing campaigns, meaning your future messages will make it to fewer inboxes overall. You need to try to re-engage your subscribers or remove them from your list to increase deliverability.

How often you send a re-engagement message depends on how often you send messages to your subscribers in general. If you only send one message per month, then setting up a re-engagement message to go to any subscribers who have not opened a message from you in six or 12 months is reasonable. If you send messages weekly or more often, then you could shorten that timespan to three months. The goal is to remove people from your list who aren’t interested in your content or offers because their lack of engagement could be keeping your messages from getting into the inboxes of people who are interested and will buy. 

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How Much Should You Spend on Social Media Marketing?

It’s a valuable tool, but don’t forget about these other (sometimes free!) ways to reach your clients.

4 min read

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Q: When it comes to customer acquisition, how important is paid social media compared with other digital channels? — John L., Houston

Social media has created a beautiful opportunity for entrepreneurs: It’s never been easier to get your message in front of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people. But if you want to reach all those people, it’s going to cost a lot.

It’s a simple case of supply and demand, and social media platforms are limiting the supply. Organic reach — that is, your ability to speak directly to the audience that chooses to follow and interact with your business — has dwindled to almost nothing. On Facebook, for example, organic reach touches less than 5 percent of your audience on average. Facebook simply doesn’t show your posts to most of your followers … unless you pay for the privilege. That’s one of the reasons why advertising inside social media has become increasingly expensive, as brands outbid each other in a competition for users’ attention.

Related: The 5 Things Entrepreneurs Should Never Post on Social Media

Suddenly, social media isn’t such a great deal. If you’re on a budget, all of this can brutally limit your growth and acquisition opportunities. 

That’s not to say you should stop using digital platforms altogether. Paid social is a hotbed of marketing insight. With just a small amount of cash, you can easily test headlines, imagery, and offers on different audiences. That’s valuable research. However, if your entire acquisition strategy depends on paid media, you could pay your way right out of business. 

But there is another way! You just need to diversify. In the digital world, there are many ways to acquire customers: paid social, paid search, email acquisition, organic social, organic search (earning traffic through content), public relations, influencer marketing, and earned media. Start by identifying a few channels where you want to focus most of your efforts. (Ideally, at least some of those channels will not require the spend of ad dollars.) This way, you can test what’s working while building an omnichannel approach that will pay off down the road. 

Related: How to Get More From Your Influencer Marketing Investment

At my marketing agency, we start with data and consumer insights, then use that to support tactics that allow clients to win at SEO through organic content. (Social media may be the ultimate toy for idle hands, but Google is still a business’s best friend.) Then we tie that to a strategy that makes it easy to acquire email addresses. Then we focus on paid social to amplify direct selling.

For example, we have one CPG client for whom we created 40 original articles, designed to drive traffic to its website. On the surface, this might not seem like a way to grow revenue. But within two years, those 40 articles allowed the brand to rank for more than 12,000 keywords (up from 2,000), landing in the top three Google results for nearly 400 different topics and searches.

Related: Is Your Marketing Working? You Won’t Know Till You Test It

This influx of traffic made it easier than ever to directly sell on the article pages and add thousands of email addresses to the company’s database, which they used for email marketing. This was a combination of smart SEO planning (knowing what keywords to target), strategy lead generation (creating pop-ups or other opt-ins to the site visitor), and positioning product offerings on specific article pages (like native ads that sold products related to the topic of a specific article). This way, the traffic was technically “free” — and so were the added emails, which we could now upload to social media platforms and directly sell to consumers with ads based on their known interests. 

If you put all your eggs in the paid basket, you underestimate and undercut the long-term growth of your brand. And when you push on all levers at the same time, you make it increasingly hard to know which acquisition channels have the highest ROI. But when you diversify and segment your strategy, the opportunity for growth can feel limitless. 

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How to Use Video in Your Email Marketing

People love videos, and videos boost engagement rates. So try embedding a video into your next email.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Millions of people around the world are watching YouTube every day. Wouldn’t it be awesome if your emails had that kind of engagement? Well, they can. By simply adding video into your email marketing, you can turn those boring messages of yours into entertaining experiences for subscribers. Proof? MarTech Advisor says that adding videos to your email content can boost click rates up to 300 percent. 

Related: Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Email Marketing

Still. be forewarned: If you want to use video in your email marketing, there’s a right way (versus a wrong way) to do it. By following the best practices for using video in your email campaigns I’ve described below, you’ll likely see better engagement, which of course can lead to more traffic to your website and increased conversions. 

Here’s how to use video in your email marketing. 

Add “video” to your email subject lines. 

Imagine spending time creating an awesome video for your email marketing campaign, only to find out that your email messages aren’t even getting opened. What a waste of effort! If you want your email subscribers to watch the videos in your emails, you first need to let them know they’re there by adding the word “video” to your email subject lines. 

A great email subject line will grab the attention of your email subscribers and encourage them to open your message. If those users see “video” in the email subject line, they’ll know that they’re getting something extra special from you. In fact, according to MediaPost, when marketers used the word “video” in an email subject line, open rates rose 7 percent to 13 percent.

Embed the video into your email. 

It shouldn’t be hard work for your email subscribers to watch your videos. So, instead of having users click a link that leads them to a landing page to watch your video — an extra step — embed the video directly into your email. This will save users that extra click and improve the user experience. Increasing the number of views your video will receive in turn increases the odds that your subscribers will convert. 

Many email marketing services make it easy to embed video directly in your emails. Some can even pull a thumbnail image from your videos from YouTube or Vimeo as well as overlay a “play” button icon on top. This is important because without this icon, some of your email subscribers may mistake your video for an image. 

Speaking of thumbnails, let’s move on to the next tip. 

Use an eye-catching thumbnail. 

Even if your video is directly embedded into your email, if it looks boring, users won’t watch it. That’s why it’s important to use an eye-catching thumbnail. The thumbnail is the first thing users will see and it’s what will encourage them to hit that “play” button. So, it needs to include some interesting imagery and text that grab the attention of your subscribers. 

Related: How to Write Cold Emails That Get Opens and Get Sales

Check out this example from Patagonia. The thumbnail is dramatic and eye-catching. The company also uses text on the thumbnail to describe what the video is about. 


Image source: Useproof.com Blog

Remember to create an original thumbnail using your own images or stills from the video. If you use stock photos, your subscribers will see right through it and it will come across as inauthentic. 

Set up your video. 

Patagonia’s video above also demonstrates the importance of setting up your video. Don’t just throw a video into your email without any explanation. You’ve got to let your subscribers know why they should watch the video and what it’s all about. If they know exactly what they’re getting, they’ll be more likely to watch. So, set up your video in the email. 

Above or below the embedded video, include a short description of what the video is about, what users will get out of watching it and a strong call to action. 

Try using GIFs and cinemagraphs. 

Aside from traditional videos, don’t forget about using GIFs and cinemagraphs in your emails too. GIFs and cinemagraphs are just as entertaining as videos. Plus, users don’t have to click “play” in order to view them. 

What’s the difference between a GIF and a cinemagraph? A GIF is typically a short frame of a video or animation on a loop. Cinemagraphs on the other hand, were created by two photographers, Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck, and are a mixture of video and photography. They’re like living pictures and the quality is top notch. 

For example, check out this cinemagraph. 


Image source: Cinemgraphs.com

Cinemagraphs are an art form, so you’ll probably have to hire someone to create one for you. But, GIFs are fairly easy to make using free online tools like Giphy and are sure to impress your email subscribers. 

Related: How to Make Millions Using Video Sales Letters

Over to you.

Email marketing isn’t dead; but yours needs a makeover. Adding video to your email marketing will breathe new life into your campaigns. Remember to track your results and analytics so that you know if your video strategy is effective and to find ways to continue to improve it for the best results.

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Resources to Help You Start and Run a Successful Bakery

bakery business resourcesThis article is part of our Bakery Business Startup Guide—a curated list of articles to help you plan, start, and grow your bakery business!

If you’re starting or running a bakery, you have a practically endless array of resources right at your fingertips. To give you a head start, here are some of our favorite sources. So, whether you’re yearning to open your own micro-bakery, or become a chocolate artisan, we’re willing to bet there’s something here for you.

Have your own favorite resources to share? Let us know on Twitter!

Listen and watch

Dessert Network on YouTube

This YouTube channel is a great resource if you’re looking for tutorials on baking and decorating. You’ll learn some handy techniques so that when you finally get down to baking and decorating, you’ll be a pro!

Gretchen’s Bakery

Gretchen Price is a professional pastry chef with over 20 years of experience in the baking industry. Her YouTube channel is packed full of recipes and step-by-step baking tutorials. To get you started, here is a great playlist of how-to videos.
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International Dairy Deli Bakery Association

Begun in 1987, this international nonprofit association is a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in the baking industry.

Whether you’re looking for networking opportunities, learning resources, or a way to take part in public policy advocacy, it’s worth spending some time getting to know the site.

The American Society of Baking

The ASB is a professional industry association dedicated to helping people in the baking industry connect and network.

From bakery business owners and the bakers themselves, to those involved in baking technology, this is a useful place to network no matter what stage of business you’re in. Be sure to check out their list of national associations and resources.

Learn from the experts

Jessica Pedemont, the chocolate artisan

Jessica Pedemont is not just a chocolate artisan and a professional baker, but also a fantastic resource for bakers worldwide. Particularly interesting resources include cooking show episodes focusing on where to find the best ingredients, and some great baking recipes.

The Kitchn Baking School

If you’re interested in educational resources that will help you sharpen your baking skills, renowned food website The Kitchn has a 20-day, free course that serves as a sort of online baking school—recipes and homework assignments included! You can access the course assignments at any time, to fit your schedule. 

The BabyCakes story

New York Magazine published this fascinating case study of a New York City bakery called BabyCakes, owned by Erin McKenna.

What makes it so useful? Well, Erin hasn’t held back on the finer details. You can find out more about how she got started without a bank loan or much money.

BBC program on micro-bakeries

If you’re interested in getting your start in your kitchen, this program and the accompanying how-to steps will be very informative.

Do you have any of your own favorite resources? We’d love to know! Be sure to connect with us on Twitter and share your ideas. 

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Angelique O'Rourke

Artistic + intellectual pursuits. Social justice. Actress. Model. Musician. Eugene // Portland.

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Why You Should Develop a Personal Ethics Statement

This statement can differentiate you from other businesses and entrepreneurs in your space.

2 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As an entrepreneur, it can be helpful to create a personal ethics statement. A personal ethics statement is an assertion that defines your core ethical values and beliefs. It also delivers a strong testimonial about your code of conduct when dealing with people.

This statement can differentiate you from other businesses and entrepreneurs in your space. It should include information regarding your position on honesty and be reflective of how you interact with others. You can use your personal ethics statement or video on your website or when speaking with clients.

When you create it, you should include information about your fundamental beliefs, opinions and values. Your statement will give potential customers some insight into what it’s like to do business with you. You should also talk about anything that’s happened in your life that has impacted your ethical stance. Were you wronged in the past or affected by some injustice you witnessed? How did that shape and define you?

Remember that you’re basically telling clients why it’s better to do business with you than other entrepreneurs and communicating what you value as a person. Give creating a personal ethics statement a try. It’s a wonderful exercise and can provide value to your customers.

Need some help with this, or have other questions? Book a consulting session with me on Entrepreneur’s Ask an Expert platform. My schedule is always up to date, and you can even record the meeting if you’d like. Hope to speak with you soon!

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How to Reduce Shrinkage: Loss Prevention for Small Businesses

loss prevention small business

Shrinkage—or loss of inventory due to employee theft, error, shoplifting, or fraud—is an issue no small business owner can afford to ignore.

In fact, a 2018 survey from The National Retail Federation found that shrinkage accounts for 1.33 percent of retail losses every year. It might not sound like much, but all together, it accounts for a whopping 46.8 billion dollar loss across the retail industry annually. 

These statistics aren’t meant to scare you, but to shed light on an issue that’s been plaguing small business owners for decades. Here are some simple steps you can take to prevent retail inventory shrinkage from putting a dent in your business’s bottom line.

1. Hire carefully

There’s no getting around it—the idea of retail work doesn’t shine with the same luster it did in its glory years. Once lauded as a highly sought-after profession, retail work has become dogged by tales of long hours, rude customers, and low wages. 

Yet with 4.6 million Americans working in retail salesthe business is not as much of a bust as some would lead us to believe. But a job market that’s on the upswing also means job-seekers can afford to be choosier, which is one of the reasons why there is high employee turnover in the retail industry. 

This alone can make it tough to find trustworthy and capable staff. It can be hard to carve out the time to do background checks and make reference calls. But the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re entrusting your life’s work to capable workers may very well save you money on training and lost customers over time. 

While you can’t insure your employees will never catch a customer having a bad day, you can make your small business one your employees are proud to be a part of. 

Forbes reports that 70 percent of retail employees are “actively disengaged,” which is a huge problem in an industry where your floor staff’s product knowledge and enthusiasm can make or break the customer experience. 

Invest in training and make sure your employees are as passionate about your small business as you are, so they will want to stick around for the long haul–– reducing the need for short-term or part-time employees who don’t have time to familiarize themselves with your inventory.

2. Crack down on theft

Even if you’re sure you’ve got the right people, you still need to be on the lookout for internal theft– especially with newer workers who haven’t been on your payroll very long. American businesses lose an estimated 5 percent of their annual revenue to employee theft each year, and Forbes contributor Ivy Walker says small businesses are most at-risk.

“Small business owners often have a false sense of security about their insider threat risk,” she says, mostly because they feel they know their employees well enough to give them their full trust.

Establishing a clear no-tolerance policy (and putting it in writing for all your workers) is a solid way to gently inform new staff that employee theft is constantly on your radar.

Shoplifting and organized retail crime are also a major culprit of retail shrink due to external theft, so place security cameras in high traffic areas—like the cash register, entrance and exit, and outside of fitting rooms. 

Make them clearly visible, and alert shoppers they are being monitored with easy-to-spot signage. Even something as simple as a mirror can help thwart a would-be customer theftIt’s easy to install and provides a fairly cheap and effective way to let customers know they’re being “watched”—making them less likely to steal. 

3. Rethink your store layout

An aesthetically-pleasing store layout seems like small business 101, and it’s a well-known fact that an eye-catching window display and product layout can help drum up business and keep people coming back. What you may not know, however, is that the layout of your store can play a key role in loss prevention.

A free-flow layout is ideal for if you are aiming for an upscale feel with maximum visibility to prevent shrinkage. A free-flow layout can also create open sight lines throughout your shop—drawing customers’ eyes to specialty items and displays while allowing your workers to discreetly keep an eye on their surroundings.

The placement of your checkout is also critical in preventing retail theft. Smaller, less expensive items are easy to steal and can be a costly way to lose inventory. Placing those impulse items by the counter makes them tougher to swipe. 

Even the position of the cash register can deter potential thieves. A checkout near your store’s entrance can reduce theft and provide a straight line-of-sight to the door for employees.

4. Be proactive about fraud prevention

For better or for worse, paying with cash is quickly becoming a thing of the past. A 2018 survey by payment processor TYS found that a mere 14 percent of consumers preferred making their purchases with cash, while debit cards are actually quickly becoming the preferred method of payment for the average convenience-seeking shopper.

With more payments being processed virtually, it’s becoming easier than ever for scammers to get away with millions a year in retail theft. The idea of monitoring your customers’ every virtual move may seem daunting—especially on top of all the other duties a small business owner shoulders daily. Thankfully, there are companies that exist solely to take that burden off of your shoulders.

Since there are multiple types of retail fraud to be aware of, you should train your staff to be vigilant about fraud-prevention practices. It’s also important to encourage and incentivize them to speak up if they see something out of the ordinary. Payment Depot argues that “empowering (your associates) to use the correct practices and recognize potential fraud can prevent fraud from the beginning and put an owner’s mind at ease knowing the staff has been trained well.”

5. Avoid costly administrative errors

Let’s face it: Human error is pretty much unavoidable. Since the vast majority of retailers have transitioned from paper to digital record-keeping, something as simple as a typo or a misplaced decimal point can lead to a costly mistake.

Clerical and stock-keeping errors are a common culprit of retail shrinkage. Thankfully, it’s also one of the easiest to avoid. Pairing a solid personal inventory management system with a trusted point-of-sale system is a good way to combat shrink and stock-mismanagement by catching any inconsistencies before they wreak havoc on your business’s budget. 

No matter what type of business you’re in, integrating a POS system will help make life easier for you and for your employees by catching inventory errors and data inconsistencies that would have otherwise gone unnoticed until it was too late. 

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Bringing it all together

No amount of shrinkage is a good goal, and in an ideal world, the loss prevention steps above would lead to a zero percent loss for all businesses across the board. The National Retail Federation found signs in its 2018 annual survey that shrinkage rates are slowly declining–– proving that retail loss prevention tactics like stricter employee screenings and better attention to detail in payment processing and returns are starting to show returns. 

While it’s true that criminals are becoming increasingly savvy and digital discrepancies can make you more susceptible to inconsistent data and fraud, a virtually shrink-free business could very well be in your future, provided that you hire carefully and use the right tools.

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Jasmine Glasheen

Jasmine Glasheen is recognized as a leading influencer, writer, editor, and brand representative providing both online and video content. She is a frequent contributor to many publications including prominent retail magazines and news sites, tech blogs, and numerous fashion and lifestyle trade shows. She is a contributing editor to RetailWire, content lead at Retail Minded, and is the author of numerous ebooks and whitepapers for private clients. Glasheen also provides fresh thought leadership in the form of live video content, webinars, and podcasts.

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The 3 Types of Freedom Affluent Shoppers Are Craving

By tapping into a rich person’s need to give up some control in order to eliminate stress, you can make your target market happy and improve sales. Find out how.

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Dan S. Kennedy’s book No B.S. Marketing to the Affluent. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Apple Books

There are, I think, three kinds of liberty: day-to-day liberty, lifestyle liberty and mental or emotional liberty. I’d like you to consider each one as something you may be able to deliver through your products, services or business.

We’ll begin with the day-to-day. The affluent are highly stressed. More than 75% of all affluent business owners and self-employed professionals work 60 to 70 hours a week. The average affluent household with children has each child involved in at least three to five separate, organized activities each week, requiring transportation, supervision and parental involvement.

Add to this the ever-rising intrusiveness and constant connectedness imposed by technology and the ever-increasing complexity of everyday life thanks to burgeoning choices in every shopping category. Also, the more affluent a person is, the more financial responsibilities, decisions and seemingly endless paperwork flow he confronts. Together, this equals high stress, low liberty — the feeling that he has no time for himself, that he’s constantly chasing and never catching. You might think of them as desperate affluents.

Related: Making Loyal Customers Out of Self-Made Millionaires

On the rare occasions desperate affluents find someone of demonstrated, reliable competence to whom they can transfer some responsibility, they’ll do so eagerly and pay generously for the relief. These desperate affluents often overpay people by normal or traditional standards but consider the liberty being purchased a bargain. One desperate affluent businesswoman I know has a person who comes to her home twice a week and does the laundry, changes the bedding, goes to the grocer’s and takes and picks up clothes at the cleaners — for which she pays $500 a week. Too much? Or a bargain? What price the liberty to enjoy an evening out or be able to come home and relax at the end of a high-pressure day instead of having to wash clothes and find nothing in the fridge for dinner?

In his book The Art of Selling to the Affluent, Matt Oechsli wrote, “When people are under a lot of stress, they look for relief. They initiate many major purchase decisions to reward themselves for their hard work and as a stress release. The last thing they want is a hassle.” He spells out seven drivers of significant buying decisions by the affluent:

  1. They want to be respected for the level of success they’ve achieved.
  2. They’re successful because of the professionalism and competence they apply to their work, and they expect no less from others.
  3. They’ll react strongly to any attempts to deceive them, and when (they feel) that happens, they take their business elsewhere.
  4. They define value in their own terms.
  5. Instead of striving to keep up with the Joneses, they want to be different from the Joneses.
  6. They experience enough tension and hassles in their daily work life — they want to be free from all that when dealing with people who’d like to sell them something.
  7. They’re willing to pay for the best infor­mation and products, the highest level of competence, and the best professional service available.

Next, consider the magnification of this, to lifestyle:

  • The affluent are on a life and lifestyle quest.
  • They’re on a quest for respect.
  • A quest for integrity.
  • A quest for status and value meaningful to them.
  • A quest for relief from stress and difficulty and responsibility.
  • Most of all, a quest for competence.

Related: The 21st Century Affluent Woman and Her Marketing Needs

They often arrange their lives in ways reflective of this quest. They delegate and transfer a lot of responsibility, even though, by nature and experience, they tend to be control freaks. The desperate need for relief from a myriad of overwhelming, stressful responsibilities supersedes their preference for hands-on control of everything. Consequently, many put some or all of their personal wealth under others’ management. They hire personal chefs to choose and prepare the foods and meals they eat. They let a clothier choose their wardrobe. A personal shopper chooses gifts for others. In all these instances, they’re not just attempting to buy a little time or convenience—they’re seeking to buy lifestyle liberty, or a sense of liberation from the mundane and time-consuming.

Which arrives at the third liberty they seek: mental and emotional liberty.

Napoleon Hill, legendary for his book Think and Grow Rich, wrote a lesser-known book titled Grow Rich with Peace of Mind. That title has a double meaning: that the ultimate aspiration, achievement and wealth is peace of mind and that you need peace of mind to be truly rich. The affluent have enormous demands assailing them, and look, above all else, for breathing space. A multimillionaire client recently told me of buying a very expensive “cabin” in a relatively remote area near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He showed me a picture of the area around his place, just miles of snow-covered emptiness. Mostly, he talked of enjoying the sense of isolation from people and their demands on him.

Beyond this, the affluent are seeking liberty from critical judgment and guilt. This nation attacks its affluent relentlessly, in the media, in politics, in public and private discourse. The affluents’ Spidey-sense detects envy, jealousy, resentment and disapproval emanating from most of the people they interact with and from the public at large. It comes from close family members and distant relatives. It comes from the endless charities, causes and others at their doorstep asking for or, in some cases, nearly demanding handouts. It’s a shared angst of the affluent.

Related: 6 Key Things to Know Before You Begin Marketing to the Ultra Rich

How to make yourself magnetic to the affluent

If you truly understand this quest of the affluent, it’s not difficult to see what’s required to make yourself magnetic to them — and to their money. Not necessarily in any priority order, there are three big things to do.

One, develop, display, and convey a profound position of expertise, good judgment, understanding, professionalism and competence. Present yourself as the most trustworthy of advisors. The most trusted advisors relied on by the affluent automatically and certainly become very affluent themselves.

Two, relieve your affluent clients of time, pressure, anxiety, stress, day-to-day hassle, tasks they’d rather not do or even think about or that should be below their own time’s value. Create privilege and luxury-level convenience for them.

Three, give them acceptance, approval and applause. They’re extremely responsive to those who celebrate their success and respect it as earned. Become known as a supporter and advocate of achievement and affluence. Take philosophical positions that counter the constant criticism they receive from most other quarters.

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This Banana Chip Company Saw Early Online Success, But Soon Realized Its Branding Wasn’t Ready for Retail

Bubba’s Fine Foods originally sported a bearded man on its packaging, but have since switched to a more appealing monkey in a fedora.

4 min read

Jeff Schmidgall learned how important branding is the hard way. Since its founding in 2014, the savory snack brand he co-founded, Bubba’s Fine Foods, has sported a bearded man as its mascot. The thinking was to have a more masculine-styled brand, like those found in the jerky section, to stand out in the natural snack set.

It didn’t work.

“Despite our branding, 85 percent of our consumers were still female,” Schmidgall said. “It maybe should’ve been obvious to us, but it was a lesson learned.”

Related: Kraft Rebrands Ranch Dressing as ‘Salad Frosting’ to Trick Kids Into Eating Vegetables

So Bubba’s has recently undergone a rebrand, replacing its bearded dude with a fedora wearing monkey — who can resist an ape in a hat? — and playing up its key differentiating factor: savory banana chips as the base of its snack mixes.

Image Credit: Courtesy of Bubba’s Fine Foods

It’s what got the brand this far. Bubba’s products can now be found in 1,800 retail stores across the U.S., and the company says it’s experienced 100 percent year-over-year growth for four years. Its top-selling products are its Savory Original Snack Mix, Grand Garlic Parm Nana Chips and Blazing Buffalo Nana Chips.

Schmidgall co-founded the company with his brother-in-law, Jared Menzel (whose nickname is Bubba), both of whom, according to Schmidgall, are “byproducts of the standard American diet.” The former developed Crohn’s Disease while the latter developed type 2 diabetes. After improving their health by switching to better diets, they still craved salty snacks. Menzel then made his own snack mix using banana chips.

“When he made this snack for me, I immediately knew that the market was craving and needing something just like it,” he said.

Being in a “natural food desert” of Iowa, as Schmidgall described it, he was used to buying food online, so that’s the route he decided Bubba’s should pursue.

Related: The Entrepreneur Behind This Million-Dollar Protein Snack Brand Says Patience Is the Key to His Success

“I had no consumer packaged goods experience prior to starting this company,” he said. “The initial idea was just to do ecommerce and not even do grocery at all.” 

But after about two months, Bubba’s had proved a hit with its customers, and a chain of Hy-Vee stores called and requested the product. The brand didn’t even have a nutrition label yet.

“I’m a big proponent of initially doing a ready, fire, aim approach just so you can get something out there and start to get messy with it and figure out what the reactions are,” Schmidgall said. “If you can do that with a somewhat limited amount of capital, you can learn so much by trial by fire. That’s probably the fastest and best way to learn things.”

Image Credit: Courtesy of Bubba’s Fine Foods

He added, “That’s simply what this Hy-Vee experience was. We just got the product into people’s hands, and all of the sudden doors of opportunity started to open.”

Related: This Pancake and Waffle Company Dedicated Years to Getting Its Branding Right and Now Makes 8-Digit Revenues

Since then, the Bubba’s co-founders have also learned that the old adage of “you have to spend money to make money” applies to packaged foods. One of Schmidgall’s recommendations is to pay stores to feature products at the end of aisles or by checkout to boost visibility. This strategy goes hand in hand with keeping your distribution footprint to a minimum, at least at the start. And of course, spending money early on to have good branding can end up saving funds later.

Bubba’s new branding just hit shelves, so the company doesn’t know what impact it will have, but it’s already used the new design to open conversations with retailers.

“Branding is a really big deal,” Schmidgall said. “It’s the only thing the consumer sees when products are on the shelf. I used my cousin to design the packaging. [But now I know that] the most important investment right off the bat is to get your look nailed down.”

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How Digital Marketing Changed the 2016 Presidential Race and Will Change 2020’s.

As an entrepreneur, there are certain candidates and changes you want to see succeed. How will the digital world you use everyday be a factor?

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In 2016, some were surprised when President Donald Trump won the presidential election, beating Hillary Clinton by 77 electoral votes. There are dozens of reasons people believe Trump won; however, one of the biggest was his digital marketing campaign. After all, Trump’s Twitter account, @RealDonaldTrump, has over 52 million followers, making him the number one followed world leader account on Twitter.

Related: Breaking Down the Tactics and Tools the Presidential Candidates Are Using

With the 2020 election just kicking off, all this is newsworthy again. Because, while digital marketing wasn’t the only reason behind Trump’s win, it did play a large role in his success. In fact, digital marketing has had a huge impact on all presidential candidates in recent elections and will continue to have an impact on this one.

Digital marketing, in fact, has changed everything about at least the last two presidential races — and will do again for 2020. How so? Think about how digital marketing has allowed candidates to build support through direct access to voters, improved analytics and personalized  messaging, for starters.

Everything from “how it’s run” to “how it’s won” has changed and because as an entrepreneur there are certain candidates and certain changes you want to see succeed, you’ll want to pay attention to how “digital” influences the run-up to 2020. Here are the details on how digital marketing is changing politics:

Direct access to voters

In past campaigns, presidential candidates relied on television and radio ads, snail mail, cold calls and representatives to spread the word about their candidacy, their positions on issues and their goals. Because they couldn’t reach individuals directly, they had to generalize their message and hope it was conveyed the way they wanted it to be through the grapevine.

With digital marketing, candidates can reach voters directly through efforts like SEO, pay per click (PPC), blogging and more. They can ensure their message is exactly what they want, answer questions directly, make comments and interact with voters.

Personalized messaging

With direct access and the ability to customize messages instantly, presidential candidates can personalize the content they send out. Thanks to big data, candidates can see where a voter stands and tailor the message they send. For example, if a voter is on the fence, a candidate can let him or her know about a shared concern on an issue, propose a plan to address that concern and hopefully sway that person’s vote.

Related: 4 Digital Marketing Wins From This Year’s Presidential Candidates

Increased engagement

While it would be ideal to have every voter engaged in every election, especially those as important as the presidential race, “engagement” always varies. In the 2016 presidential election, there was a 60.1 percent turnout, up 1.5 percent since 2012, and it could be argued that that increased engagement was due at least in part to the digital marketing strategies employed.

Thanks to digital marketing, candidates can conduct more accurate polls, engage in Q&A events over the web, make comments, like comments and more. As candidates connect with voters more often, they can engage more throughout the election process — not just during debates and rallies.

Actionable analytics

For presidential candidates, digital marketing takes the guesswork out of social media and content development. Analytics is key to any type of campaign — presidential or otherwise — since it makes it possible to see what is being done well and makes adjustments to subsequent strategies to strengthen the campaign. For example, thanks to digital marketing, candidates can ensure the hashtags they use are relevant and popular. If a hashtag isn’t getting results or becomes associated with something against a particular candidate’s values, a faux pas can be avoided. 

Digital marketing has even let candidates know what days and times are best for posting on social media. For example, the best day and time to post on Facebook, intriguingly, is Wednesday at 11 a.m. or 1 p.m., according to Sprout Social data pulled from thousands of customers to track engagement across major networks. 

Bigger budgets

Running for president can cost a lot of money. Whether candidates use their own funds, money they’ve raised or a combination of the two, they must always work to optimize their budgets. Digital marketing helps; although it still costs money, there are lots of free or cost-effective options that beat the alternatives. 

Not only can digital marketing save candidates money, but it can also help them fund-raise to get the money they need to keep their campaigns moving forward. By the end of 2016, Clinton had raised $1.4 billion, and Trump had raised $957.6 million for their respective campaigns; although not all of it was raised with the help of digital marketing, digital tools undoubtedly helped each candidate raise those all-important funds.

Marketing matters

As the upcoming election takes place, digital marketing will play a large role in how candidates reach and interact with voters to build their campaigns. Because it is now possible for candidates to reach voters personally, expect to see digital marketing efforts ramp up, geared toward earning your individual vote.

Related: 4 Ways Technology Has Impacted Presidential Elections

Of course, by the time the election actually rolls around, you may be sick and tired of campaigns’ ads and outreach. But their digital strategies will nevertheless make it easier for you to make an informed decision and then go out and vote. 

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