IFA Releases Franchise Reopening Blueprint

The IFA’s mission is to protect, promote, and enhance franchising. The current COVID pandemic has made this mission more urgent than ever. As part of their ongoing efforts to ensure the viability of franchise businesses, the IFA has recently released a Franchise Reopening Blueprint.

According to Robert Cresanti, CFE, President and CEO of the International Franchise Association, this Blueprint was created to provide “contextual practices for how franchise businesses can mitigate risk through education and practices necessary to protect the health of their employees, customers, and communities.”

The Blueprint was created after conducting interviews with franchisors, franchisees, and professional advisors across a variety of franchise sectors. It provides recommendations for opening and maintaining business as reopening begins to take place across the country and around the world. 

Recommendations are provided for Cross-Industry, Consumer-Facing, and Legislative actions. Additionally, because reopening and operational challenges will vary by sector, customized recommendations have been created for the following franchise sectors:

  • Automotive Industry
  • Commercial Cleaning Services
  • Education
  • Fitness
  • Hotel
  • Residential Services
  • Restaurant
  • Salon/Personal Care Services 
  • Senior Care Services

The IFA believes that these guidelines, when put into practice, will help to “instill confidence in businesses and rapidly restore our nation’s economy.”

Click here to view the full report

Update: Google is Reviewing Your Reviews

When the COVID-19 situation first started to impact businesses, Google announced that there would be temporary delays and limitations related to Google My Business (GMB) listings.

Recently, Google announced they have begun to loosen these restrictions and delays. Here’s what you can expect:

Reviews

Review replies are now available.

Any reviews or user photos submitted for your business during the past several weeks have been retained by Google. They are now in the process of reviewing recently submitted reviews. This process is being completed by business category and will take a few weeks to complete. Approved reviews will be published on a gradual basis as they work through the backlog.

Photos for Google Maps

The same process is being followed for any photos submitted to update your Google Maps listing. Businesses can expect to see new photos appearing over the next several weeks.

Business Information Edits

Critical edits are being prioritized at this time. Other types of pending edits may be delayed.

Newly Created Listings, Claims and Verifications

Additional delays may be experienced as Google continues to struggle with limited capacity to approve and publish new listings, claims, and verifications for some types of businesses.

More Information Regarding Google Ads Credits Released

In March, Google announced it would be supporting small and medium-sized businesses with more than $300 million in ad credits. This week, they announced additional information regarding eligibility and other common questions around the program.

Some of the questions answered include:

  • Who can qualify for the ad credit?
    Any small and medium-sized business with ad spend through Google in 10 out of the past 12 months AND in January and/or February of 2020 will be eligible.
  • How can I use the ad credit?
    Ad credits can be applied to future Google Ads spend in 2020. Ad credits cannot be applied to billed or past invoices, nor can it be applied to current spend. Ad credits can be used on any Google Ads platform including Search, Display, and YouTube.
  • When can I expect to see my ad credit?
    Ad credits will be rolled out in phases beginning in late May of 2020. Ad credits will be applied directly to the Google Ad account at which time eligible customers will be notified. 
  • How much credit can I expect?
    The amount of ad credit will vary by customer based on past Google Ads spend, the country of origin, and the currency where the business is established.
  • How long do I have to use my credit?
    Ad credits will expire on December 31, 2020. Any unused credits will be removed from the Google Ads account at that time.

You can find additional information on the Google Ad Credits here.

Facebook Grants & Ad Credit Updates: How to Apply and What to Expect

In March, Facebook announced it’s plan to award $100 million in cash grants and ad credits to help small businesses struggling due to COVID-19 and its effect on the economy. In the original announcement, Facebook said the goal was to help small businesses offset costs including rent, operational costs, workforce retention, and connecting with their customer base.

They’ve just recently released more information on these programs and how small businesses can participate. Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect.

Who is Eligible?

The program is open to up to 30,000 small businesses in more than 30 countries. To qualify, each business must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a for-profit company
  • Employ between 2 and 50 people
  • Been in business for over a year
  • Experienced challenges related to COVID-19
  • Be in or near a location where Facebook operates

Facebook is currently doing a rolling release for applications across the U.S.  New York City and Seattle were the first to be eligible starting on April 18. Companies in San Francisco were eligible to begin the application process on April 20. On April, 22, more areas of the county will be opened to eligibility. 

Businesses will have 2 weeks to send in their applications. Decisions will be made within a few weeks after the application window closes. Facebook has not released a guideline on how long decisions will take to be made.

You can check to see if your local area is now eligible, by clicking the See Available Locations link in the Who’s Eligible section.

If you are in an area that is eligible to apply, you’ll be directed to a new page to begin the application process. For those located in areas not yet eligible, you’ll have the option to enter your email address to receive future updates.

How Can Funds be Used?

If you are eligible for the cash grants and/or ad credits, you may be wondering how you can utilize these funds. Facebook has created this program to assist with a variety of costs and expenses. Just a few of the ways you can use funds include:

  • Assist with rent
  • Cover operational expenses
  • Keep workers employed
  • Connect with customers

How to Get Started

Even if these grants and ad credits are not available in your area today, it’s a good idea to start planning ahead and gathering the information you’ll need for the application. Here’s how the process will work.

Step 1: Check to see if grants are available in your area by clicking here.

Step 2: Verify your business is eligible and meets the guidelines listed above.

Step 3: To apply, you’ll need to supply at least one of the following documents:

  • Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN)
  • Business license
  • Official registration
  • Proof of incorporation
  • Partnership documents
  • Contact information 
  • A brief summary of your company

Step 4: Prepare a short write statement on how the funds will be used.

Step 5: Submit the application.

Following application submission, Facebook may reach out for additional information or to have various questions answered before notifying grant recipients that they have been award funds. You can find more information about the application process here.

Google To Support SMB with Ad Credits

On Friday, Google announced it will pledge $340 million to support small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with Google Ads credits. This represents just a portion of an overall $800+ million plus effort to support SMBs, health organizations and governments, healthcare workers, academia, and other organizations worldwide during this difficult time.

Google is committed to helping SMBs weather this difficult time. Providing support in the form of Google Ads credits allows many businesses to continue advertising even as they may be seeing a need to cut back on expenses. 

Continuing with a digital advertising program helps businesses to ensure their funnel of potential sales does not dry up during this difficult time, thereby putting them in a positive position for the future. Ongoing advertising also helps to ensure there is little to no “ramp up” period on the other side of this crisis.

Google will be communicating with advertisers who have had active accounts over the past year via their Google Ads account. Credit notifications will appear there and can be used throughout 2020 on any Google advertising platform.

More information on the ad credits for SMBs can be found here.

Google’s full commitment is made up of the following additional components:

  • Support for Health-Related Organizations. Google will support a wide variety of healthcare organizations including the WHO, NGS, community financial institutions, and government agencies through $270 million in ad grants.
  • Providing Access to Capital. An additional $200 million investment is being made to fund NGOs and other financial institutions that will provide support for small businesses around the world by providing access to capital.
  • Support for Academia and Research. A $20 million pool has been set aside to provide Google Cloud credits for researches and academic institutions pursuing potential therapies, vaccines, and other research related to COVID-19.

Funding for PPEs and Medical Devices. Google will be offering “financial support and expertise to help increase the production capacity for personal protective equipment (PPE) and life saving medical devices.”

Support for Business Affected by COVID-19

Both the US Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Association have released information for small businesses affected by COVID-19.

Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Applications

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced that small businesses owners across the U.S. are now eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000.

This program is designed to provide businesses with working capital to help them overcome temporary losses to revenue due to COVID-19. Funds can be made available within 3 days and the loan advance does not have to be repaid.

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program can also provide working capital loans for up to $2 million.

More information and links to apply for loans and loan advances can be found here.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Coronavirus Emergency Loans

The recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated $350 billion to support small businesses during this time. Designed to help keep workers employed, the Paycheck Protection Program provides 100% federally guaranteed loans.

Businesses who accept these loans and who maintain their payroll during the crisis or restore their payroll after this has passed will have their loans forgiven.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has provided this document with detailed information about eligibility, what information will need to be provided to qualify, how much can be borrowed, and more details on the forgiveness program.

Facebook Grant Supports Small Businesses Affected by COVID-19

As thousands of small businesses across the country are being impacted by the spread of COVID-19, Facebook has announced a new grant to help support these companies.

Today, Facebook announced a $100 million program to provide cash grants and ad credits to those small businesses affected. The announcement said, “We know that your business may be experiencing disruptions resulting from the global outbreak of COVID-19. We’ve heard that a little financial support can go a long way, so we are offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits to help during this challenging time.”

Available for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses across 30 countries, the grants would average $3,333 per business. More information is forthcoming along with information on how to submit applications. 

Facebook says its goal is to help small businesses offset costs including rent, operational costs, workforce retention, and connecting with their customer base.

You can find more information about this grant program here.

Additionally, Facebook has put together additional resource tools that you may find valuable as you move through this challenging time. 

Best Practices for Optimizing Your Website for Search Engines

Search engine optimization can be a tricky field for marketers. On one hand, SEO is never easy, it takes a lot of time to get right, and it doesn’t usually lead to immediate results. On the other hand, many marketers believe that, when successful, SEO delivers the strongest returns of any digital marketing channel.

That explains why one recent study found more demand for SEO services than any other type of digital marketing!

Whether you’re hiring an SEO service or optimizing in-house, your site will need to follow the same basic set of best practices. At their core, those best practices will depend on the design of your site, how you target keywords, your meta information (including things like title tags), and the overall quality of your content.

How to Optimize Your Website for Search Engines

Mobile-Friendly, User-Centric Design

Today, roughly twice as many Google searches occur on mobile devices as on desktops. That’s why Google recently switched to a mobile-first search index.

So when Google scans your site to calculate its search rankings, it doesn’t look at your desktop website. Instead, it bases its rankings on your site’s mobile version. And if Google determines that your site doesn’t work well on mobile devices, you’ll plummet in search rankings.

The lesson here is simple. If you want to rank well on Google, you need a mobile-friendly website. That means designing your site from a mobile-first perspective. And it means keeping your site as fast and lean as possible.

You also want to make your site easy for users to navigate. Your most important pages should be easy for users to find. Your menu should be simple and well-organized. And your pages should have key features in intuitive locations.

Also, make sure that you’ve got a complete and accurate sitemap! This will make it easier for Google to crawl your website, and it will give your site a small-but-appreciated bump in search results.

The Right Keywords in the Right Places

Keywords have always played a crucial role in SEO. In recent years, that role has changed significantly thanks to RankBrain and other search advancements.

But if anyone tells you that keywords no longer matter, they’re kidding themselves. While Google no longer requires exact match keywords to appear on your page, that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for keywords in your content.

Instead, Google’s algorithm is doing something much more complicated. When a user types a query into Google, the algorithm parses the intention behind the user’s query. Then, Google maps out the language on your page to see if your website satisfies that query.

To do that, it doesn’t just look for terms that the user typed into Google. It also looks for related terms and phrases and examines how they relate to one another on the page.

So if you want to appear at the top of search results, you need to identify the keywords that searchers use to Google your business. But you also need to think about which other words Google expects to find in your content, where it expects to find them, and how they relate to one another on the page. 

Unique Title Tags, Meta Description & URLs

When your website’s content appears in search results, users see three things. First, they see the title of your page. Underneath, they see a preview of the page’s URL. Finally, they see its meta description — a short blurb provided by the page or generated automatically by the search engine’s algorithm.

When they’re on your website, most users will pay little attention to your page title or your URL, and they can’t see your meta description. But in Google search results, they’re the only elements that users see. So if you want people to actually click through to your site, you’ll need to make these elements as compelling as possible.

These elements also play a crucial role in optimizing pages for specific keywords and queries. Using keywords (or close synonyms) in your title tags and URLs will boost your rankings for these search terms. Also, any keywords that a user searches for that are in your meta description will be bolded by Google, making your pages more visible.

Content that Meets E-A-T Standards

One of Google’s most important ranking signals is something called E-A-T.

This tidy acronym stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. These three qualities play a big role in how Google calculates the quality of your on-page content. And the higher Google perceives the quality of your content, the higher your pages will rank in search results.

So how can you optimize the quality of your content? Here are a few strategies from Google’s own guidelines on the subject:

  • To optimize for expertise, try to write content that satisfies search intent as fully as possible. 
  • To optimize for authority, you’ll want to generate things like backlinks, social media mentions, local listing citations, and online news coverage. (Just make sure that mentions of your brand are mostly positive!)
  • To optimize for trustworthiness, your site will need things like a secure domain, a clear privacy policy, and accurate contact information on your website. You’ll also want to boost your brand’s online reputation.

Optimize in Partnership with Experts

If you can implement the four best practices listed above, you’ll start seeing better rankings in search results. But if you want to consistently rank on page one, or if you’re targeting competitive search terms, you’ll need to go deeper. Much deeper.

That’s where the experts at Qiigo can help. Our SEO team has worked with multi-locations brands across a wide range of industries, helping our clients get more out of Google and other search engines.

We can help you implement mobile-friendly design, generate keyword-rich content, and optimize your meta information — all while packing your site with more E-A-T than Google can handle. 

Are You Down with OTT/CTV?

Until recently, television dominated the world of advertising, routinely outperforming print and radio. Things started to change in the 2000s, as digital ad spending began to climb. However, it was only in 2017 that on digital ad spending finally surpassed TV ads.

While TV’s no longer king of the hill, it remains a potent force for advertisers. Yet too many brands remain stuck on old models of TV advertising, serving ads exclusively through traditional broadcast channels. In doing so, they’ve more or less ignored the rise of streaming TV and its advertising potential.

Things are starting to change with the adoption of OTT/CTV ad platforms. These platforms give brands a way to serve video ads before, during, or after streaming TV content.

With OTT/CTV ads, brands can combine the advantages of TV and digital ad formats. By pairing ads with users’ favorite TV programs, brands make a stronger impression on consumers. Meanwhile, they can take advantage of the precision targeting and data-rich analytics of digital campaigns. 

How OTT-CTV Advertising Works

Before we explain how OTT/CTV ads work, here’s a brief primer on the terms “OTT” and “CTV” — both of which refer to options for streaming television.

OTT stands for “over the top,” and it refers to streaming formats that go “over the top” of traditional TV infrastructure. If you’re streaming a TV show on your smartphone, through your laptop, or using a peripheral device like an Amazon Fire TV Stick, you’re viewing OTT TV.

CTV, meanwhile, stands for “connected television.” A connected TV has been built to connect with the internet by an Ethernet connection, wireless capabilities, or both. As with OTT TV, it allows you to stream video content. But instead of needing a separate device, you can stream directly through your TV.

OTT/CTV advertising allows marketers to serve video ads through OTT peripherals and CTV sets. This way, your ads are seen before, during, or after TV shows and movies, just like traditional TV commercials. But at the same time, you’ll be running much more precisely targeted and data-driven campaigns.

Why Brands Are Moving to OTT-CTV

The core appeal of OTT/CTV advertising is the prestige and impact of TV advertising, combined with the targeting and insights of digital campaigns. So let’s unpack what that means for brands and why so many marketers are making the switch to OTT/CTV. 

Consumer Impact

Television ads have a longstanding reputation for their impact on consumer preferences and behaviors. This can be partly attributed to the immersive nature of video. But the success of TV ads is also linked to the context in which these ads are viewed.

Think about the relationship that the average TV viewer has with their favorite shows. Then think about how that connection transfers to ads shown before, during, and after TV programs.

Traditional TV ads have been able to harness the power of these relationships for decades. And now, thanks to OTT/CTV, marketers can combine the advantages of digital ads with the emotional power of TV advertising.

Precision Targeting

As a digital ad format, OTT/CTV comes with powerful targeting capabilities. These capabilities are similar — and in many cases identical — to the targeting methods used for programmatic display ads.

  • Addressable targeting can serve ads to viewers in a defined geographic area, whether that’s an entire city, a particular neighborhood, or a specific street address.
  • Behavioral targeting serves ads to viewers based on behavioral data gleaned from other digital devices, including search, browsing, and location data.
  • Demographic targeting allows you to serve ads to users based on a range of demographic variables, including age, educational attainment, income levels, and more.

Compare this to traditional TV advertising, in which the exact same ad is served to thousands or millions of viewers, based entirely on the program and timeslot.

Data-Driven Campaigns

OTT/CTV campaigns not only harness the precision targeting of digital ads but also take advantage of their tracking and monitoring capabilities. This allows brands to operate data-rich campaigns on TV ads, directly measuring the effects of ads on viewers.

This is made possible by logging unique data points — such as account information, IP address, or physical location — when someone views your ad. These data points will allow you to match that user with activity on other digital devices, including whether they visited your website after viewing your ad or visited one of your locations.

Once again, compare this to traditional TV ads, where you have no way of knowing who watched your ads or how they interacted with your brand afterward.