Many different applications allow organizations to interact with their audiences. How do businesses keep pace in an ever-increasing digital landscape? Digital experience platforms or DXPs help connect organizations to their users without getting lost in the shuffle of the various technologies.  When you think about your marketing goals, it is fundamental to interact with your audience. All managers consider what to say, how to say it, and how often to hit them with more information. The more experiences your audience has with you, the better they understand your company and brand.  Most of all, you can understand your consumer's likes, dislikes, and what they need to satisfy their user experiences. A digital experience platform concentrates on understanding customers and bringing them a better overall user experience (UX). 

What is DXP?

Gartner defines a DXP as an integrated set of core technologies that support the composition, management, delivery, and optimization of contextualized digital experiences. It is easier to think of a DXP as the backbone of your digital stack of separate marketing applications.  It is challenging to have conversations with your clients and potential customers in today's world. Communication has increasingly become more complicated than sending emails and newsletters. It requires posting blog pages highlighting features and industry news, creating customer portals, tagging on social media, using VR devices within the Metaverse, in-store kiosks, and much more. These complexities are getting more considerable every year. DXPs bring these separate applications together to deliver a consistent digital experience to their customers. Here are some of the main elements of a DXP:
    • A content management system (CMS)
    • Customer relationship management software (CRM)
    • Marketing Campaigns - social, newsletters, email marketing, etc.
    • Ecommerce tools
    • Analytics 
All engagement capabilities are tied together in one platform. DXP marketing divisions can deliver an omnichannel digital experience to audiences.

Content Management System

CMS stands for a content management system; an application used to manage and publish web content. Perhaps your business is interested in maintaining a blog, setting up an e-commerce shop, or other types of content allowing multiple users to create, edit and publish.  The five primary features you want in a CMS are security, omnichannel marketing, customizable, analytics and scalability. A content management system lets you streamline these processes in one place. There are two primary components of a content management system:
    1. Content management application (CMA) allows users to easily add, manage, and modify content.
    2. Content delivery application (CDA) is the back-end of a web page. The CDA stores and manages the content eventually displayed to visitors.
It may seem that DXPs are just re-branded versions of a CMS portal, but DXP applications take a different approach. A DXP includes technologies within a centralized location to collaborate on developing and delivering campaigns across their lifecycles.  Traditional marketing management systems manage content for a single channel, such as a website or app. You can create, edit, and deliver webpage content; however, you cannot use a CMS to create and manage digital experiences across channels. 

Benefits to DXP

According to a 2020 survey, the average American had access to around ten devices connected within their home. Multiple computers and cell phones, tablets, speakers, etc. This number is estimated to grow 9% every year.  Now more than ever, individuals connect with others online, make purchases, and read content. Businesses are more invested than ever in their digital audiences. Therefore, DXP makes digital connections and integrations more streamlined.  A DXP system also allows an organization to stay consistent with its branding message. It is easier for marketing organizations to create and deliver personalized content with a unified voice across all touchpoints using an integrated system.  Finally, using a DXP a company can combine its various campaigns with analytics across all channels. This data can provide actionable consumer insights to help you make the most informed business decisions with the flexibility to change what isn't working. 

Conclusion

Let's say your marketing strategy includes things like running email campaigns in HubSpot, using WordPress for your website content, checking Google Analytics for your site traffic, and using Hootsuite to organize your social media. How do you understand your customer experience other than separately logging into each system? Even with all of these applications, many managers do not truly know their audience due to all of the logistics in managing the different software. DXP such as Adobe Experience Platform, Kentico Xperience, Liferay Digital Experience Platform, and Magnolia, transform the way businesses look at their customer data by displaying it on a single platform.   Data is the underlying fuel for creating business insights and campaign initiatives to create memorable content experiences. Employing a system that can prioritize data management standards will put you one step ahead in understanding your audience.    FINSYNC’s all-in-one platform ensures you have the best accounting software and cash management system to grow your business.  
The prospect of adjusting to a four-day workweek has many businesses apprehensive. But what if the data does not result in productivity and revenue graphs plummeting? Perhaps there are unexpected business advantages when considering this radical new trend.  Since we are well into Year Three of the pandemic, businesses are very much aware of the work-family dynamics that have challenged people and organizations everywhere. Parents have struggled to find child care, and conforming with the series of school-mandated COVID tests are just a couple of examples of employees needing a more flexible work schedule.  Business pressure to find skilled workers is amplified due to the tight competition and high demand. Many companies are considering a four-day workweek to attract top talent and avoid The Great Resignation This article will take you through the workweek history and intriguing facts that will explain why this new work craze is gaining traction worldwide. 

History of the 5-Day Workweek

"Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest," said labor activist Robert Owen in 1817. The Welsh textile mill owner and philanthropist did not know it would take over a hundred years before this eventually caught on.  In 1926 Henry Ford developed a new working standard for his automobile factories. At this point, the US government began to acknowledge the 40-hour workweek formally. However, Ford didn't do this for his employee's well-being. He realized that if companies were to profit, customers needed to buy things, which meant workers needed time off to shop.  The US has kept this standard ever since. Over 100 years later, this structure is still the norm for 8 hours a day, five days a week. Even with the tremendous technological advancements that have taken place over the past 30 years, workers still put in a 40-hour workweek.  Until now.

Leading the Pack 

Iceland began several large-scale research trials between 2015-2019 to track and record data for workers only working four days a week. This research was the first large trial of a shortened workweek within the public sector. The result? By all measures, it was an "overwhelming success."  Employees' well-being increased among a range of indicators such as stress, employee burnout, and work-life balance. This study was such an astonishing success that currently, 86% of workers in Iceland have the option of working just four days a week without a decline in their pay. Other countries are quickly following suit. Spain started a larger project that will encompass 200 companies reducing their employees' workweek to 32-hours without cutting pay. Scotland, Japan, Switzerland, New Zealand, the UK, Belgium, and many more have announced they would conduct similar trials without changing workers' compensation.  What began as a small trend is heating up fast and currently involves over 35 American companies (and growing) and over 20 countries worldwide that have started offering a reduced workweek. 

Increased Productivity

It is counterintuitive to think that working fewer hours would produce more worker output, but this is precisely what the data has revealed. Reducing the number of hours worked forces companies to prioritize their essential tasks, remove superfluous meetings and other distractions, and use technology to automate business processes.  These changes make employees' work more accessible. A 2016 study by Ginger Research in the UK showed that the average worker only accomplishes less than 3 hours of work each day, regardless of how many hours they physically spend at the office.  The takeaway from this study and others is that overworked employees are less productive than those working fewer hours. A Stanford University study found that productivity during 60-hour weeks was less than two-thirds of when 40 hours were worked. In addition to increased productivity, a four-day workweek has been shown to decrease worker sick days, increase sales, improve employee retention, increase company loyalty, and produce more job applicants. 

Drawbacks

Even though the data for a four-day workweek has been overwhelmingly positive, there are still challenges that companies have to overcome. For example, many employers insist on the same level of productivity, which means the same work gets squeezed into fewer hours. The result can be hectic days and exhausted evenings. A condensed workweek allows less time for office socializing. Some respondents said this was a bonus, but many workers depended on the water cooler chats to help offset stress and anxiety.  Sometimes four days doesn't mean four. Trial participants said that a four-day workweek was four-standard, 8 hour days, and then a half-day to catch up. Some fear that it is only time before companies start paying less for the same output. Regardless of the drawbacks, there are many happy tales from workers with newfound freedom in life. They have more time to incorporate exercise, quality time with their kids, or catch up on doctor appointments and errands.

Final Thoughts

Issues of work-life balance are very much on people's minds when looking for a new job opportunity. But to make this trend more widespread, we need to have a significant shift in how we think about work and embrace the changes already in effect.  Many business owners and employees agree that a two-day weekend isn't enough time to recharge fully. The WHO recently announced that employee burnout is considered an occupational phenomenon, and this burnout is forcing business owners to prioritize their employees and their own mental well-being.  Also, the growth in AI technology will significantly disrupt every aspect of every industry around the globe. How and when we work is about to change drastically, and some say this transformation will happen much sooner than we think.  Finally, suppose workers can complete the same amount of work without diminishing the business's bottom line, or actually improving it. In that case, it is hard to come up with why this policy shouldn't be more widespread. At the very least, businesses should seriously rethink retention strategies such as a decreased workweek to avoid losing leading talent in an increasingly competitive labor market because the cost of replacing and training employees continues to reach new heights.   Try FINSYNC for free to see how the platform can help you easily improve your cash flow management and avoid those dreaded dips into the red.  
In the beginning, it was challenging to take Non-Fungible Tokens or NFTs seriously. It seemed impossible to pay for something that only exists in the digital space and would rack up a tremendous value. Well, they have, and NFT investors are revolutionizing the crypto market.  In January 2022, founders of OpenSea, Alex Atallah and Devin Finzer, increased their New York-based company's value by around $13.3 billion. OpenSea is a blockchain startup, and Blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions distributed across the entire network of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Now that investors are raking in millions, even billions of dollars, for buying and selling NFTs, we created a beginner's guide to purchasing your first NFT using one of the original and most popular marketplaces, OpenSea. 

Create a Digital Wallet

Buying a Non-Fungible Token should be as easy as buying a pair of shoes since it all takes place online. Yet, that is not the case for NFTs. To buy an NFT, you first need to open a crypto wallet, load the wallet with cryptocurrency, then use it to purchase your NFT. OpenSea uses the cryptocurrency called Ethereum or ETH. Coinbase wallet is currently the most popular app. Set up a Coinbase account and transfer your cryptocurrency into your new wallet. The app will also allow you to purchase cryptocurrency with traditional currencies like euros or USD. Please take note that it may take a few days for your ETH coin to appear in your wallet. An alternative to Coinbase is MetaMask. MetaMask only features support for tokens and digital assets on the Ethereum ecosystem. However, Coinbase hosts a wide variety of blockchain assets, including Bitcoin, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum Classic, XRP, Stellar Lumens, Dogecoin, and Ethereum.

Find Your NFT

Using OpenSea, you can browse their collections after creating a profile and connecting your crypto wallet. If you click on "explore," you can see thousands of NFTs currently available. You can filter your search and designate categories such as trending, collectibles, or virtual worlds.  When you purchase an NFT, you buy a token that provides proof of ownership to a digital asset. You own the NFT on a blockchain and can verify its ownership with a private key. This technology makes the NFT uniquely yours. The rarer and higher the demand for the NFT, the more valuable they become. Similar to the art industry. It is a good idea to check the price history, and you will be able to see what the previous person paid for the asset in addition to what they are charging now. This information is essential if you want to get into the trading aspect of the marketplace. It is like buying a car but knowing exactly the price they originally paid.

Buying an NFT

Sellers have two options for posting their NFTs. They can either set a fixed price or set up an auction where multiple buyers can bid on the product. Therefore, when you locate an asset you want to purchase, you will either buy it outright or place a bid. OpenSea charges buyers a 2% fee and sellers 2.5% for each purchase, also known as "gas fees." When you buy an asset directly, you will want to click on the "Buy Now" button. You are then prompted to review the details of your purchase before hitting "Checkout." You will want to read this carefully to ensure you are not transferring money to a scammer selling a non-original product.     To participate in the auction, simply click the "Make Offer" selection. You must specify the max amount you are willing to spend on the asset along with an expiration date. The NFT is transferred into your wallet and appears under the "Collected" tab on your profile page when the exchange is complete.

Determining NFT Authenticity

How do you know if your NFT is authentic? Here is where the Blockchain comes into play. Each asset sold lives on the Blockchain, and you can easily verify the authenticity by viewing the transaction hash. A transaction hash is a unique string of characters given to every transaction verified and added to the Blockchain. These characters represent data, including creation date, number of variants, and other bidders and buyers. In addition, it is an excellent idea to reverse-image search on Google and check the socials on the creator. Creators tend to be pretty active on social media advertising the newest releases. It is good to skim the comment sections to see what others are saying about the creator's work.  Check other marketplaces to ensure the artist isn't trying to sell the asset multiple times. A legitimate creator tends to choose one Blockchain and stick to it.  Avoid assets that are priced much lower than their appreciated value. These are almost always copies and not the original product. You don't want to pay for copied or plagiarized work.

Summary

Some of us have a harder time wrapping our heads around paying real money for something that doesn't genuinely exist. But currently clocking a $41 billion industry, at the very least, investors are paying attention.  But where the money flows, there will always be fraud. This week, hackers stole millions of dollars worth of assets from OpenSea NFT. This theft is leading to multiple lawsuits filed against the NFT marketplace, thus proving this new industry can be fraught with peril.  Overall, the NFT market is hugely speculative and driven entirely by “scarcity” and the new trend of the day. The future of these marketplaces is still unknown, and there is no guarantee the NFT you buy will appreciate with time. However, if you want to support an independent artist and have a good appetite for losses, NFTs can be an exciting collectible for your space in the Metaverse.   Grow in new and empowering ways when you combine innovative software with unmatched services at FINSYNC.  
Whether you have just started optimizing your website or you are a more seasoned SEO expert, link building continues to reign high in successfully increasing your site traffic.  SEO or search engine optimization applies methods and techniques to your website and individual posts to promote your company. When someone keys in a search request to Google, the returned pages are ranked according to how well they correlate to the search. SEO techniques are used to catapult web pages to the top of the search results so that more users will click on your page.   Since search engine algorithms are constantly changing, it can be overwhelming to keep informed of the current trends. This article conveys what link building is and how it helps drive free traffic to your business. 

What Is Link Building?

Link building is the process of connecting other websites to your own via hyperlinks. A hyperlink, more commonly referred to as anchor text or sometimes backlinks, refers to the clickable words used to link one web page to another. These words often default to a different color to indicate they are interactive.  For search engines to verify the site your anchor text is linking to, Google crawlers or bots will search your linked site to ensure you are referencing material related to your original page. Crawlers or spiders are simply programs that screen or crawl your website along with all related sites.  The actual text is what Google uses to determine authenticity and is similar to tabulating votes. If I create a link under the phrase "protein bars," the crawlers will expect the site I am linking to address protein bars. If others do the same with that same site, this increases Google's confidence that the page address should rank for "protein bars," which boosts the site's overall search ranking.  This very concept also explains the importance of backlinking. Backlinks are when another website uses our site in its anchor text. It is crucial to acquire backlinks from credible sources. You never want to pay for backlinks, as this would take your site down the "black hat" rabbit hole, which represents tactics that directly violate search engine guidelines. 

Internal Links

Internal links use anchor text to link to a different page within the same base URL. A proven internal linking method is to use blog posts to connect and highlight various aspects of your site.  An example would be to promote a page to showcase the different styles of dog collars you sell; create an article that describes how to choose a quality collar based on durability, comfort, and style that provides optimal value for the individuals researching this question. The overall strategy is to provide a link that easily connects readers to your dog collar products.  Internal linking helps the web page become discovered and crawled. After all, the goal is to get your pages crawled by Google bots as much as possible. Therefore, if a page has no one linking to it, it is less likely to be crawled, making it harder to find.  Creating an Internal linking structure helps Google understand that a particular page has a lot of "votes" that will enhance the equity a page has built up. How you structure your website and link one page to another is extremely important to make your site relevant and important to Google.  But don’t overdo it, 2-4 internal links per page is a safe target. If your web page includes too many internal links, this can actually hurt your ranking. 

External Links

An external link or outbound link is anchor text that points at an external domain, not part of your root URL. On average, websites with more unique root domains (five and under) outrank websites with fewer unique root domains. We will explain why. If you link to a credible site, it can add value to your page and possibly rank it higher in search results. You can think of external links like the bibliography page for a research paper. This supplemental information shows that you have already done the research, and readers can easily view it.  If everyone links to the sources we consider the best, we end up higher in the search results, and thus we all benefit. Therefore, selecting the specific anchor text that the site already ranks high on when connecting to an external site is critical.  An example would be writing an article that has tips on choosing the best bed and breakfast. It would be vital to use Airbnb.com in the external linking strategy. If you are not sure which sites rank highly on the terms you are using for your hyperlink, here is where premium SEO software like Moz, Semrush, and Ahrefs comes in handy. These tools show how often each page is searched and the traffic potential for any keyword you are anchoring. 

Domain Authority

According to the data, there is a powerful correlation between linking and rankings. However, internal and external linking is an example of overall SEO techniques. To get the most out of your linking strategy, it is essential to prime your website to increase your domain authority Domain Authority is a search engine ranking score developed by the SEO tools such as Moz, Semrush, Ahrefs, etc., that predicts how well a website will rank. This score ranges from 1 to 100. The higher the score, the better its ability to rank. The data accumulated to create a domain authority is primarily built on links.  Links from higher domain rating websites are more impactful than links from lower domain ratings. In addition, not having a recent site index, broken or orphaned links (pages not connected to your root site), not having relevant or quality content will all lower your overall website authority.  The SEO landscape has changed fundamentally over the last 10-15 years, and some practices were once applicable that have become obsolete. Follow this link-building guide, and you will be on your way to increasing your website and business traffic, and overall success.    Learn more about how you can set your business up for success. Check out FINSYNC's all-in-one, cloud-based accounting platform so you can start, scale and succeed.
It is hard to know which search engine optimization (SEO) techniques you want to deploy and which to avoid when optimizing your website. The suitable methods are represented by the term "white hat," and these are tactics in line with the terms and conditions provided by Google.  The more your webpage matches the user's search terms, the higher you rank on the search results. The goal is to get your website to the front page or the #1 spot. White hat is overwhelmingly the recommended solution in building your site authority with long-term, sustainable strategies. On the other hand, "black hat" represents the dark side of producing SEO strategies. These tactics violate search engine guidelines and are geared to boost the search engine results page (SERP) instead of the user experience.  Even though it is advisable to steer clear of black hat strategies, it is crucial to recognize if your website is using these techniques, perhaps because of short-term oriented search engine optimization professional. These tactics may only work short-term because new technology and updated algorithms render these practices obsolete. Since these strategies are strictly against Google's best practices, you could be penalized and banned from Google search results.

1. Keyword Stuffing

Circa 2008, websites that ranked high were filled with keywords that did or didn't match the searcher's intent. It quickly became a big business to stuff all web pages with as many words as possible that users were entering. Some would even use "invisible keywords," which hid these keywords using the same text color as the background to make them indistinguishable for the reader. This attempt to manipulate SERP was short-lived. Eventually, Google improved its algorithms and "crawlers." Web crawlers or sometimes called spiders or bots, are the programs Google implements that automatically scan sites identifying words that don't belong while tracking all links on each page. If links go to unrelated pages, this will penalize the ranking score.  A great way to avoid keyword stuffing is to create quality content related to the topic discussed. Quality content will naturally prevent keyword stuffing and remove the ability to use black hat SEO tactics.

2. Content Cloaking

Cloaking is an optimization technique where the information presented to the user is different from that supplied to crawlers. The goal of the tactic is to boost higher on the search engine results page (SERP). A page using this approach will provide lines of HTML text to search engines but show images or Flash videos to the user.  The most common reference to cloaking is clicking on a site that looks like a funny cartoon image from the search results, but when clicked on, the site produces adult content or a paysite. Regardless of what code is present, if it is radically different from what the user experiences, Google will flag and remove it entirely from search results.

3. URL Redirects

Many users have come across site redirects a time or two. This scheme occurs when a website uses Javascript to redirect and show content to the user that a search engine cannot see. Similar to cloaking, redirects present the users with a different experience than Google bots. Not all redirects are bad. There are several reasons a site may want to redirect, especially if the URL changed or the page was updated. The black hat approach is when the new link reveals content unrelated to the original website. Redirecting a user to a page with different content than what was made available to the search engine crawler penalizes the website.

4. Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is a black hat SEO technique where someone scrapes or steals large blocks of text across either the same website or various domains. When this happens across domains, someone is likely attempting to steal blog posts to outrank the original source. Another purpose for duplicate content is to create the same article with multiple location pages. This tactic is a way to gain website traffic on local searches, which is typically easier than nationwide or global searches. This approach is essentially the same content used, except for the city or other locational metrics. Search engines prefer unique content, so pages purposely duplicated across different domains are considered one of the worst black hat techniques.

5. Poor Content

Similar to duplicate contact, posting poor content can be a mark against your overall search ranking. When a website provides incorrect information or delivers little to no value to the reader, this is a problem for Google. Article spinning is a black hat phrase that occurs when hackers use plagiarism software to copy and paste multiple posts resulting in "unique" content. However, the flow of the article is often very choppy and rarely makes sense.  When you create content for your website, make sure it is your own and make sure it is good while supplying value to the searcher.

6. Paid Links

A backlink originates when one website links to another. You can think of it as a referral process where websites certify each other. By linking to another website, one site-owner vouches for the content of another being worth reviewing.   Backlinks are an excellent way for Google to ensure your site is trustworthy and can be considered the backbone of their search engine ranking system. Unfortunately, these links take years to accumulate, and many SEO strategists devise a way to pay for links to speed up their results.  These paid links, not seen by the users, are often from categories and industries unrelated to the site. This is why paying for links is against Google guidelines, and they have repeatedly stated they will penalize both the buyer and seller for such links.

7. Spam Comments

Our final black hat tactic is spam comments or user-generated spam. You have probably come across these when looking at social media comments, and someone randomly posts: "Check out our free weight loss tool here." These comments are created either by users or bots to create free backlinks. Usually, they provide little value for overall SEO results, which deems them almost entirely ineffective. However, there is a more ethical way to sell your site. After researching your market, you can locate the pages where your potential customers frequent. But instead of pasting a random link, provide thoughtful information that answers people's questions or how the site benefited you personally. There is a chance this technique could still hurt your domain authority; however, the more original and unsolicited, the more likely you are to increase traffic and backlink potential. 

Conclusion

The black hat tactics listed are just some of the prevalent strategies developers and hackers have implemented over the years. Regrettably, this dark art is constantly evolving, with more designs and techniques surfacing every year.  Thankfully, Google also identifies and disallows these unethical short-cuts to manipulate their engines. Producing high-quality searches for the users is their primary objective.  Most SEO strategists understand that toying with black hat tactics is always a risk. For many, any success they find is fleeting because sooner or later, the algorithm catches up and actually penalizes the site.   FINSYNC continues to support your small business with updated accounting and business knowledge to help you grow, scale and succeed.  
In the world of SEO or search engine optimization, there are the good guys, the ones that play by the rules, and the bad guys who try to trick Google’s algorithms to increase their site traffic. The term “white hat” represents the good guys and is also known as “ethical SEO”. Optimizing your site according to these procedures, your site will be less likely to be penalized by Google.   We will cover the bad guys or “black hat” SEO in a separate post. For the moment, this article focuses on the importance of white hat optimizations, techniques you can apply, and also its limitations. 

Importance of White Hat SEO

The goal for all types of SEO is to get web pages to the top of Google search results to drive organic traffic to the optimized websites. Since there are millions of pages on the web, search engines need a way to differentiate and rank these pages in order of the ability to answer the search.  If your page is not on the first page of results, and preferably in the top 3 results overall, you’re not going to get meaningful organic traffic. When someone types in their search query into search engines a list of sites appears on the search engine results page (SERP). SERPs typically contains two types of content – “organic” results and paid results.  White hat strategies influence the organic results that appear according to the search engine’s algorithms. If you are applying strategies based on giving value to your audience then you are in the white hat lane.  There are several advantages to getting traffic from white hat approaches. First of all, it is cheaper since you do not need to repair violations that have been penalized by Google for applying black hat tactics. Another advantage is consistency. Rankings that originate from a more stable, legitimate approach are more long-standing than quick tricks that Google eventually catches up to.  Finally, relevancy is probably the biggest advantage of white hat strategies. Because you are targeting and providing value to the individuals who are more likely to be looking for your material, there is a strong possibility they will engage and convert. 

White Hat Techniques

    1. Provide quality content - The phrase, “content is king” is more relevant today than ever before. Providing your audience with materials and knowledge they are seeking is invaluable. Blog posts are used by 86% of marketing teams today.
    2. Keyword research - Choosing keywords that your audience is currently searching for is nearly a surefire way to get them to click on your content. At the same time, many people struggle with SEO because they choose to rank on keywords that are too competitive. If you research long-tail keywords, which are keyword phrases with three or more words, you can find phrases that are not as competitive and are still a popular search. You can use free sites like Uber Suggest and Answer the Public to locate long-tail keywords.
    3. Page speed - Does your webpage load in under 3 seconds? If not, it is time to condense videos, reformat images and install plugins to get your page speed down. Users get frustrated when sites do not load quickly; as such, Google ranks your page lower because it is not fulfilling the user experience.
    4. Mobile-friendly - Out of the 8.5 billion searches on Google every day, 63% of them originate from a mobile device. Fortunately, it is not difficult to make your website mobile-friendly. Google even released a simple mobile testing app where you can evaluate if your website is being penalized for mobile users. 
    5. On-page - This practice refers to the content and HTML source code of a page that can be optimized. Adding things like metadata, alt tags, anchor text, headings, and sub-headings are just a few examples of applying on-page SEO strategies.
    6. Quality link building - Backlinks gained organically versus paid links have become a hallmark of SEO practices. Most linking will come from content and social media. If you are starting from square one and do not have many backlinks, you will need to do a lot of email outreach to websites that provide similar content for your users. 

White Hat Limitations

Even though white hat SEO is typically more cost-effective than black hat, the barrier of entry is often too steep for many companies to implement. The recommended optimizations above certainly work, but there is a great deal of complexity and time needed to modify the technical aspects of your website. Another challenge with white hat tactics is the amount of time it takes a website to rank to the first page of Google search results. Many organizations give up before the front page is realized. But if you consistently create strong content that your audience uses over time, you will surpass this barrier eventually. The biggest limitation with white hat optimizations is competition. In certain industries you are up against many companies that have highly-optimized websites ranked purely with white hat techniques. In these aggressive markets to avoid waiting, sometimes years to reach the front page, you can either pay for advertising or create more digital strategies that enhance engagement. Overall, white hat SEO strategies focus on providing your users with high-quality and relevant content that optimizes the user experience. By focusing on quality and user experience, it is only a matter of time before your website beats out the competition and is catapulted to the front page.   Knowledge is power, especially for your business. Learn more tips and tricks by visiting FINSYNC’s blog to grow your business with less time and better results. 
The sales funnel is a great relationship-building framework that will take an individual that has never heard of your business and guide them along the way until they become a happy and loyal customer.  Sales funnels are a graphical representation to illustrate these customer experiences as they can often be challenging to visualize. We will take you through these individual stages while detailing the advantages of developing a sales funnel for your organization. 

How Sales Funnels Work

Today, many business sales cycles are long and don’t deliver a new customer right out of the gate. There is so much competition and opportunity to set yourself apart from others. One has to explain, shape, even mold the users to comprehend how you are different and what you can deliver where others fall short. By utilizing a sales funnel or sometimes called a marketing funnel, you are offering your potential customers a map to learn about your organization. The funnel provides all the tools and data necessary to take them through the process while nurturing a relationship with your business. This journey begins when they first learn about your company until they become dedicated customers. A sales funnel is composed of three stages: awareness, consideration, and conversion. As we move down the funnel, our number of leads decreases because we aim to target those more likely to convert, which inevitably reduces the pool.

Know Your Audience

Before defining the funnel stages, it is important to understand the way your business acquires new customers. Maybe your prospects find you on social media, paid ads, or by a google search that utilizes search engine optimization (SEO). The important thing is to understand where they originate.  Creating a sales funnel works most effectively when you understand your target audience’s habits.  Once traffic origin is confirmed, the sales funnel stages will guide prospects through a series of data and communications that makes it easy for them to learn more about your company. 

Awareness

Prospects at the first stage typically don’t know much about your products or services. This stage is called the awareness stage, which is at the very top of the funnel.  Awareness content should have a very low barrier of entry and will appeal to a broad audience. Adding materials such as a landing page or infographic that is simple to follow can help entice your target audience It is crucial to include a call to action or CTA, which will make this newly formed association more solidified and urge them to continue down the funnel.  A great approach is to provide free content in exchange for an email address. Providing free beneficial information could be in the form of a video, blog article, or ebook. Those who complete an action at the top of the funnel will move on to the next stage. 

Consideration

The consideration stage represents the middle funnel. We now produce content that should align with the users’ interests. Here we lean into cultivating the relationship by earning their trust and drilling down on their pain points.  Retargeting ads are a great way to increase brand awareness. Retargeting is serving an ad to an individual who has already seen your business and has been previously marketed to in some fashion. A retargeting ad could be as simple as an email that answers common questions. Include additional product features along with successful case studies. Make sure to include your next CTA.  It might even be the right time to introduce a special offer and let them know how you can help them alongside their journey. The goal for the mid-level funnel is to get prospects to take the next step and for you to gain authority in the subject you are representing. 

Conversion

The conversion stage or bottom of the funnel is the last stage where prospective customers go before they convert. By now, these individuals are more familiar with the brand, offerings and recognize how you provide value.  At this stage, these prospects are more likely to have the intent to purchase. It is crucial to make the final action as easy and seamless as possible. You want the idea of becoming a customer to be the next logical step. Time to get direct and specific about what you do and what you can provide. Create price comparisons, testimonials, and information around common objections. Leave multiple CTAs and easy buttons to connect, like social media and website links. Now is a great time to schedule a demo, set up a free trial, and get them set up. 

Summary

The continued follow-up with potential buyers is a great way to organize traffic and increase conversions. The sales funnel creates a process around those interactions. As your business continues to drive strangers through your funnel with multiple campaigns, perfecting and optimizing, you will be able to identify what messaging is working for your audience and what isn’t.  As you develop a relationship throughout the customer experience, it makes their eventual conversion easy and expected and your sales more predictable. Why? Over several weeks, months, even years, your prospects have become fully educated on your business offerings and how your organization is aligned with their needs.   Lastly, make sure you are tracking your results throughout the entire process. Understanding metrics such as cost per acquisition (CPA), lifetime value (LTV), and conversion rates will increase your sales funnel success.    Learn more tips and tricks in how to simplify your financial management system and other ways to increase your sales and revenue; visit the FINSYNC blog
It was only a matter of time before someone began monetizing our digital culture. NFTs are currently shaking up art, gaming, and other digital platforms selling items up to millions of dollars. This begs the question, are NFTs a short-lived trend, or are they here to stay? In 2021 alone, $22 billion was spent on trading NFTs. As the industry expands with new art assets generated and more widely-accessible platforms created, many believe this number will increase. But how can a market exist at all when nothing is physically sold? What are NFTs, and how are they related to popular cryptocurrencies? We will answer these questions and more as we dive into this relatively new space that boasts dazzling promises of making its investors very rich. 

What Is a Non-Fungible Token?

An NFT or non-fungible token is a digital asset of sorts that represents digital items such as art, photographs, and videos. Think of an NFT as a sort of digital title to something. As a digital creator, you can create an NFT that establishes ownership of your digital creation. If you’re a graphic artist, your NFT would reference a particular JPG creation in a similar way to how a deed references a particular piece of real estate. These digital items can be used within gaming platforms, on social media, or just stored on a computer with the hopes that the digital creation to which the NFT “title” has been created will appreciate in value.  These tokens are one-of-a-kind assets that can be bought and sold like any other piece of property. However, these items have no tangible or physical form, and they exist only as code within the digital space that references the digital item/object owned. Each NFT is unique and ideally, should be the only “title” to a piece of digital work. For example, in less than ten minutes, William Shatner sold 125,000 non-fungible tokens containing digital photographs of the actor's memorabilia. One of which was an x-ray of his teeth. Most non-fungible tokens are part of the Ethereum blockchain. A blockchain is a list of transactions that anyone can verify. Somewhat comparable to a property title search, a blockchain additionally guarantees the fidelity and security of a data record without any third-party verifications so tracing the ownership of an NFT through multiple sales can be accomplished without a visit to the local county records.

Tied to Cryptocurrency 

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Etherium, and Dogecoin are all fungible. Meaning another identical item can replace them.  If you trade one bitcoin for another, you end up with the same item. However, if you trade one Bored Ape card for another, you would end up with something completely different. Both the art and its value would differ since owning one of these “unique” cards unlocks a membership into an exclusive club.  The pushback for Bored Ape and other “unique” digital assets is the ease with which very similar versions can be created. Alter a few pixels in a JPG and you have a new work of art that could have its own NFT.

How to Create an NFT

To create a token, you must first inscribe some metadata about a piece of art, such as a link to a video or image, onto the blockchain of Ethereum cryptocurrency. This metadata gives the creator a contract after the required "gas fee" is paid. Gas fees are the transaction fees from Ethereum. Once the gas fee has cleared, Ethereum puts a timestamped permanent metadata record onto the blockchain. You are the owner, and now your new, non-replicable (theoretically), an original digital asset can be sold if desired.  Also, non-fungible tokens have a nifty feature that allows the original creator to continually get paid a percentage every time the token is sold or changes hands.  Christie's remains the top non-fungible token seller to date. They sold one digital asset called Everydays: The First 5,000 Days for over $69 million. 

Duplication Is Okay for Now

The non-replicable piece mentioned above is challenging as well since any image found on the internet can be copied, screenshotted, etc., and saved by anyone else. Perhaps we’ll see businesses cropping up to help identify unauthorized use of digital creations for which an NFT exists. There are endless copies, prints, photos of the Mona Lisa, only the original holds value. NFTs are similar, and the metadata timestamp acts as an electronic receipt; therefore, it has only one owner.  Since digital images can easily be "right-click copied" again and again, this doesn't decrease the value of the original image. On the contrary, the more attention an asset gains, the more likely the value will increase. Just like traditional marketing strategies, the hype will increase the demand. On the flip side, there have been recent lawsuits for copyright infringement involving non-fungible tokens. Quentin Tarantino sold tokens created from Pulp Fiction, and the assets included the original screenplay, "secrets" about the film and his process as a creator. Miramax has since filed a suit against Tarantino, stating they own all the intellectual property for Pulp Fiction. 

Wrap Up

NFTs will be around for the foreseeable future, and it is no wonder other companies are jumping on board to create an accessible landscape. Samsung announced earlier this week they plan to release their new smart TV line, and their interface will allow users to purchase non-fungible tokens.  Other brands will follow as new Metaverse platforms align. But don't expect it to be a smooth ride. After all, the idea of paying real money for a digital asset that may not actually be that fun to own or unique may cause wild fluctuations.   FINSYNC continues to support your small business with updated accounting and business knowledge to help you grow, scale and succeed.
Facebook recently changed its name to Meta, a reference to the sci-fi term metaverse, to describe their vision of working in the virtual world. Since this announcement, searches on Google for “metaverse” have soared. But everyone seems to have their unique interpretation of what this word means.  What is the Metaverse? This article tackles this very question and the companies involved, and what it could mean for the future of small businesses and our society as we know it. 

Defining the Metaverse

Neal Stephenson first coined the term Metaverse in his 1992 novel, Snow Crash. The book centers around life-like avatars who meet up in a 3D, holographic, virtual-reality world.  But we don’t have to visit a dystopian world to experience this virtual reality world.  If we think of the internet as something we look at, the Metaverse is what happens inside. We will explore this new realm with an avatar, a virtual representation of ourselves that we control and interact with others.  Available in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), or your standard screen, this virtual universe promises to combine our digital and physical experiences to enhance our lives. This new spatial construct has one ultimate goal, to be immersive. 

The Players

Since the Metaverse term originated, online community platforms have grown immensely within the last 30 years. Currently, several businesses are first movers, who realize the potential to create the most return. Here are a few:

Meta

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, acquired the VR headset company Oculus in 2014 for $2 billion. Meta envisions digital avatars connected through work, travel, or entertainment using VR headsets. 

The CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has confidently stated that Meta will transform the internet as we know it. They are constructing a haptic glove that allows the user’s hand to feel the objects touched within the virtual world. 

Epic Games

Video games probably have the lowest barrier to entry for a virtual experience as users are already accustomed to avatars and interacting in a digital environment. Epic Games is developing photorealistic digital humans so that one day you can customize your digital clone in games like Fortnite. 

Additionally, Epic has already held VR concerts, movie trailers, and a re-imagining of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech. 

Microsoft

The software company is developing virtual meeting rooms where businesses can train new employees or have virtual meetings on Mesh, part of Microsoft Teams. 

Since the pandemic, we learned two things about working from home: remote workers are far more efficient than most business leaders imagined, and they miss the spontaneous opportunities to build relationships with colleagues. 

In 2022, Mesh will enable users to send chats, collaborate, and share documents with an avatar. Many believe this will be the gateway to this virtual world.

Nvidia

Unlike the three companies listed above, Nvidia isn’t designing their piece of the Metaverse. Since all versions will be more graphically intense than your typical 2D interactive platforms, we need a killer GPU or graphics processing unit to render simulated users, plants, buildings, and other responsive objects. 

Nvidia has already heeded the call. It currently occupies around 83% market share for GPUs and is the largest maker of graphics and artificial intelligence chips globally. 

In addition, Nvidia has focused on what it calls the omniverse, a technology based on its computer chips. This tech brings engineers and designers together virtually to make mechanical products.

The Metaverse is shaping up to be a modern age space race. Instead of rocket science, companies battle with VR headsets, ultra-fast graphics cards, cryptocurrencies, and a copious amount of computing power.

Business Implications

Many are not even questioning the massive popularity this new augmented reality world will attract. Millions of people are already spending hours per day in virtual worlds such as Roblox and Minecraft.  Imagine combining this technology with E-commerce.  The ability to shop for shoes using an avatar that tries them on and walks around in them might make you more likely to throw down the cash for those Nike Air Zoom GTs. We can only assume that this emerging technology will affect nearly all digital industries. Especially the marketing world. Looking at the data, we can verify that the current trends in marketing initiatives that elicit a consumer’s emotional connection to a product are working spectacularly. This virtual world will allow companies to target audiences in an entirely new way. NFTs are currently a $17 billion market. Gucci developed a virtual luxury shoe called Gucci Virtual 25. These sneakers sell for $12.99; however, they are used only within partnered apps like Roblox and VR Chat. In May 2021 Gucci and Roblox partnered to create the Gucci Garden, a virtual reality experience that allows users to purchase digital products. 

The Future

Imagine walking into a restaurant and putting on slim AR glasses, which allow you to view the menu and reviews from your friends and family—or having coffee with a friend and noticing the woman’s shoes at a nearby table. Envision yourself identifying the shoes by looking at them (with AR glasses) and then placing an order before your cappuccino arrives at your table. While great-looking glasses are not available yet, you can get a feel for this technology with Google’s Lens app. Of course, these future predictions are only an artistic impression, not necessarily accounting for every technological advancement. In truth, it could be 5-10 years before the technology can make these types of scenarios real.  More realistically, 2022 will most likely introduce us to the VR world bit by bit by providing us with a richer, more immersive version of what already exists today. Soon interacting within the Metaverse will be considered normal as life in the everyday world carries on. Is there an opportunity for your business in the Metaverse? It might be worth exploring.   Stay up-to-date with the latest trends and other tips and tricks FINSYNC brings to small businesses.
Changes happen: pandemics, Google algorithm shifts, new cyber security issues, and other variations in our physical and digital world that upend the pre-paved path. It would be nice to look into a crystal ball and predict the challenges that lie ahead in 2022.  Fortunately, many experts agree that 2022 will be an excellent yet volatile year. Below are eight predictions likely to happen in 2022 and the associated small business risks. 

1. Financial Institutions Will Increase Spending for Innovation

Banks will reach double-digit spending growth on tech in 2022. The US and China are taking the lead, putting a higher demand on technology talent to fill these competitive positions. Fintech, or financial technology, is used to augment a streamlined and digitized banking system. If you have ever deposited into your bank account by taking a photo of a check, you have utilized fintech software. As technology has flourished, banks can keep pace or be left behind. Providing a state-of-the-art digital experience has become necessary for financial institutions to adopt.  DXP or digital experience platforms are on the rise and succeed at meeting bank customers’ needs and lowering their transaction costs. 

2. AI Integration

South Africa granted the first patent to an artificial intelligence system this year, revolutionizing the way we think of creative machines and legally recognizing their innovations. New developments in AI have set the stage for further results and future patents expected in 2022.  Banks continue to implement AI to decrease backend processing and reduce fraud. But AI integration is happening in nearly every industry.  Perhaps the most significant AI achievement will presumably commence in 2022: AI-supported software development.

3. More Targeted, Personalized Ads

We have seen personalized ads increase steadily over the past decade. In 2022 targeted ads will become the norm in identifying and capturing new potential customers and clients. Companies not directly scrutinizing their customer’s buying activities will be left behind. We live in an age where our data is ubiquitous. After we make a purchase, it is recorded, stored, and analyzed by hundreds of companies, all with one goal in mind, to place ads in front of you where you are more likely to act. Television has historically been the top-dollar producer of advertising campaigns, and Deloitte Global predicts that TV ads will become more personalized in 2022 in a phenomenon known as “connected tv.” Much like social media has been doing for years, households can expect to see different ads based on their buying habits when watching their favorite TV shows.  In 2022 alone, personalized TV ads are estimated to bring in around $7.5 billion globally, and this number is over 40 times higher than was forecast in 2012. Even though viewing hours are in decline due to apps like Netflix, TV advertising prices continue to increase.

4. Time Spent with Traditional vs Digital Media Marketing 

Over the last decade, overall media consumption has risen by 20.2%. This increase is mostly due to digital media expansion. In 2021, US adults averaged around 463 minutes of digital media per day.  Digital media firms like Media Beyond are dominating the advertising space. Traditional media has been on a slow, steady decline. In 2022, traditional media will be 30% less than where it was in 2011.   We are only at the beginning of media availability. In 2022 the first low earth orbit satellites (LEO) will change the lives of billions of people worldwide. These satellites have an end goal of providing affordable broadband to every corner of the planet. 

5. Brands Competing with Marketplaces

E-commerce sales continue to break sales records every year. Of course, this is great news if you operate a large marketplace such as Amazon. Shopify recently disclosed a 46% increase in sales between 2020 and 2021.  However, for small boutique retailers, using a marketplace to sell items can be a love/hate relationship. In the past, it was a vendor’s dream to partner and sell their merchandise with a large marketplace under the expectation that sales would increase dramatically. Due to tight profit margins and lack of customer interaction, smaller brands will turn the tables on these large enterprises.  By implementing global order management software, brands have discovered they can do a lot of the heavy lifting themselves while enhancing direct relationships with their customers. Small companies can implement order management, conversion rates, subscription billing, and inventory control. These smaller brands are empowered to have a voice in today’s E-commerce world. Thus, these brands can retain their profit margins while expanding and growing their business the way they want. 

6. Heightened Security Attacks

We have already seen how cryptocurrencies attract cyber-attacks. But this is just one example of internet security flaws that have recently fallen victim to attack.  In 2020, 27.8% of companies reported 20+ supply chain disruptions, an enormous increase from 4.8% in 2019. Firms are now trying to make their supply chains more resilient by changing their course from offense to defense.  Implementing third-party tools to prevent security breaches also means more security attacks are likely. Small businesses can coordinate their safeguards by employing tools to help with risk assessment, supply chain mapping, and real-time business intelligence.  In addition to small business security breach increases, consumers are also victims of identity and data breaches.  With Facebook whistleblowers and Google’s decrease in security and privacy, customers now think twice about willingly sharing their data.

7. Sustainability 

Understanding the value of sustainability is more prominent within the public sector. Europe is leading the environmental initiative, and many other countries are close behind. There is an increase in awareness of the importance of sustainability perceived by job-seekers, investors, and consumers alike. This trend puts pressure on companies to increase their transparency with regard to their environmental friendliness. The 2021 IPCC Report from the UN clarifies the critical need for immediate and drastic climate action. Numerous reports of this nature combined with public pressures have made many organizations flip their climate and sustainability stance. 

8. COVID Is Not Going Away

“When is the COVID-19 pandemic going to end?” “When will things get back to normal?” These questions have plagued us for almost two years now. For a while, they became so common that many of us have stopped asking them. It is easier to accept the big takeaway that we now live the new normal. Fortune has predicted that by 2022 COVID will become endemic. Meaning the pandemic will not end with the virus disappearing altogether. However, as enough people gain immune protection from the vaccine, there will be less virus transmission. Hopefully, effective new treatments will lower deaths, and it will soon become a more manageable threat. COVID is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. 

Summary

The future is always uncertain. But with the coronavirus not going away and our ever-changing societal landscape in constant turmoil, our connections with each other and our customers will continue to thrive in the digital world.  A world of untapped possibilities is just around the corner.  Hang on.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride.   Want to keep abreast of common accounting knowledge and strategies for your small business? Visit FINSYNC to help navigate the hurdles and put your accounts in sync. 
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