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A Comprehensive House Buying Checklist

house and land packages

Buying a home is a huge decision and a serious financial investment – and for most of us, it’s the most expensive purchase we’ll ever make. There’s a lot to think about, so it helps to have a checklist so you don’t forget anything important.

Here’s a handy guide to the things you’ll need to consider before buying a house in Australia.

Finance Check

The first step in buying a house is to save up the deposit. This is normally 10% of the total purchase price, but there are advantages in making your deposit a higher percentage: you’ll have lower mortgage repayments or may be able to afford a better property.

The home loan business in Australia is very competitive, so it pays to shop around. Making the right home loan choice can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan, so you need to get it right. Each home loan has its own sets of terms and conditions, so ask enough questions to fully understand the details of your mortgage. Is there a redraw facility? Can you pay out your loan early by making extra payments? It might take 2-5 years to save up a deposit to buy your house, so starting as early as possible will put you in a better position. Ideally, you’ll also start researching property prices and lenders at least a year before you buy. Can you pay fortnightly, monthly or weekly? Will you need mortgage insurance? When in doubt, find out.

The deposit is only the start of your upfront expenses. In addition, estimate an extra 5% of the total purchase price to cover other costs, including:

  • Conveyancing or solicitor fees
  • Disbursements or inquiries (title searches, etc.)
  • Pest and property inspections
  • Identification survey
  • Strata records inspection (if relevant)
  • Stamp duty on transfer of title / on mortgage
  • Lender’s application fee
  • Valuation fee
  • Mortgage insurance (if required)
  • Adjustment of council rates
  • Home and Contents insurance
  • Other expenses might include changing the locks, carpet cleaning, removalist fees, connection fees for various services and costs associated with any urgently needed repairs.

Location Check

The neighbourhood you choose to live in will make a big different to how happy you are in your home. What are the local property values like? What about the burglary rates in that part of town? How close are the nearest shops, hospitals, restaurants, train stations or bus stops? Have you checked with the local council about any big developments planned for the area? Even though a house looks like it’s on ‘a quiet street’, it doesn’t hurt to check out what kind of neighbours you might be letting yourself in for. Do they have loud dogs, muffler-deficient motorcycles or teenagers with a tendency for throwing parties every Saturday night? Perhaps the house is surprisingly cheap because a massive 5-story apartment block is due for construction just behind your back yard!

In many areas, flooding and poor drainage can be a problem. A house on a slight slope and with a bit of elevation might be worth paying more for in some parts of town.

It helps to know if property prices are rising or falling in the area, so check pricing trends with the Real Estate Institute of Australia. New road construction or the proximity of factories, jails or sewerage works are obvious negative factors that you need to know about beforehand. When buying a house, there are two well-known sayings worth remembering: (a) “Let the buyer beware” and (b) “Buy in haste, repent at leisure”. Choose your house carefully, and don’t rush the decision. If there are sports grounds, bars, train stations or other noise sources nearby, that may affect your decision too.

On the plus side, does the house have a good view, access to a nice breeze in summer, some nearby parks or walking tracks, handy recreational facilities or a well-kept garden? If it’s close to your workplace you can save quite a lot of money on transport costs over time, so factor this into the equation too.

School for the Kids

If you have children, distance to decent schools is also an important consideration. How close are they and how will your children get there and back? Is public transport readily available? Is there a train station or bus stop nearby? If children are walking to and from school, is the route safe? If they’re getting to school by bicycle, are there bike paths?

It’s easy enough to get onto a school’s website to check them out in advance. If your child is involved in a particular sport, musical discipline or other activity, will the new school have programs in place to support this? If you’re a parent looking to purchase a house in a new area, it’s worth doing some research into available schools within a reasonable distance of your new home.

Public Transport

In Australia, we like to drive. Only about 1 in 10 of us regularly use public transport to get to and from work, but having buses and trains available near a new home can be useful: you may find it lets you get rid of one of your two cars, or saves you driving the kids to school, or make it easier to access the CBD.

With trains, the ideal is a station that’s close enough to conveniently walk to, but not so close that your house is subject to endless train noise. And for some people, walking from home to a train station or bus stop is a less stressful way to commute than sitting in traffic in their own car.

Title Search

A title search provides a potential house buyer with an official record of a property’s ownership history. It ensures the seller has the legal right to sell the property and that no liens or encumbrances exist that might prevent you from purchasing the property. Each state and territory has its own requirements and methods regarding title searches, so check what is required where you live. Your conveyancer can advise you about title checks.

As a Long Term Investment

Because of the current housing shortage in Australia, real estate represents a pretty good investment. If you are buying a house with the idea of renting it out you may be able to generate a reliable income stream or create tax savings through negative gearing.

However, you need to know what you’re doing. Ongoing maintenance costs, bad tenants and other issues can consume your time and money, so you need to make the same sensible decisions in purchasing an investment property as you do when selecting a house to live in yourself. Having a competent, professional property manager to deal with the month-to-month details as well as a qualified accountant can also help a lot. You can purchase specific insurance cover as a landlord to help protect your investment against incidents such as if tenants cause malicious damage or skip out without paying their rent.

Home and Contents Insurance

It’s a sad fact that many Australians are underinsured and this often comes back to bite them when their home is affected by storm damage, a bushfire, a leaky pipe that floods the house, a burglary incident, vandalism or some other unforeseen calamity.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, around 1.8 million Aussie homes There’s really no excuse for not having adequate home and contents insurance these days, because the industry is more competitive than ever. Read the Product Disclosure Statement before you purchase and make sure you understand exactly what your policy covers. (about 23% of all households) have no home and contents insurance, which is astounding when you consider that the average value of household contents in Aussie homes exceeds $60,0003.

There’s really no excuse for not having adequate home and contents insurance these days, because the industry is more competitive than ever. Read the Product Disclosure Statement before you purchase and make sure you understand exactly what your policy covers.

Building Inspection

Before you buy a house, have a thorough building inspection performed by a licensed and insured professional. Keep in mind that a building inspection report is different from a pest inspection report (although some companies can perform both for you). A building inspection will cost you a few hundred dollars but is worth its weight in gold. Here’s why:

Structural soundness

The last thing you want is to be buying a house with major structural issues. Aside from the safety risk to those living in the house, you could be up for huge repair bills. An inspector will look at the building’s structural integrity and check for rising damp, sagging walls, faulty roofing, water damage, etc.

Identifying safety issues

We all want a safe home, and an inspection will look for any obvious safety issues including the presence of asbestos, cracks in walls, loose balustrades and anything else that might pose a hazard to the occupants.

Budgeting for repairs

Real estate people love the term ‘fixer-upper’, but how much are all those repairs going to cost you? A proper inspection can help you determine what’s needed in the way of future repairs or replacements so you can better estimate the total cost.

Sheds, patios and other structures

Building inspectors also check things like garden sheds, pergolas and patios. If the previous owner built these without proper council approval, they might need to be torn down.

Price negotiations

Aside from letting you know about potential problems with a home, a building inspection can be used as a bargaining chip in trimming the asking price. For example, if the inspection shows you’ll need to perform considerable repairs, you may be able to negotiate a lower price for the property.

Aside from organising a professional inspection, you should always make your own personal inspection of a property. Check for damp or mould, and look for new-looking patches of paint that may have been used to cover up a defect. Open and close all windows and doors to make sure they don’t ‘stick’. Flush the toilet to see that it functions properly and check all bathroom, laundry and kitchen taps to see how long the hot water takes to make an appearance. Never buy a house ‘sight unseen’. Check for damp or mould, and look for new-looking patches of paint that may have been used to cover up a defect. Open and close all windows and doors to make sure they don’t ‘stick’.

Flush the toilet to see that it functions properly and check all bathroom, laundry and kitchen taps to see how long the hot water takes to make an appearance. Check under sinks for rusty pipes or loose fittings. Check light switches and inspect the fuse box – is there a safety switch? Outdoors, check the gutters, downpipes, exterior walls and overall condition of the roof. Evaluate the property’s drainage.

Pest Control Inspection

In addition to a professional building inspection, you should also have your prospective new home inspected for pests (especially termites) prior to purchase. Use a licensed pest control company. While there are some obvious signs of termite activity that you might be able to spot yourself (termite nests in trees near the house, blistering or bulging paint, rotten and half-eaten fence posts), the only way to be absolutely sure is with a professional inspection. A house can look fine at first glance but still be riddled with termites, which eat a home from the inside out and are exceptionally good at concealing evidence of their activity. A house can look fine at first glance but still be riddled with termites, which eat a home from the inside out and are exceptionally good at concealing evidence of their activity.

A pest control inspector will look for other pest issues too: ants, wasps, mice, spiders, clothes moths, cockroaches, etc. These are the sorts of things you definitely want to know about before you buy a house!

Appliances Check

One thing that home buyers might forget to check is whether all of the home’s built-in appliances work properly. This includes the hot water system, stovetop, oven, air conditioning, central heating system, etc. Just because a house ‘comes with’ certain appliances doesn’t necessarily mean they all work correctly. If the house is equipped with an alarm system, ceiling fans, an intercom system or electric garage doors, you should know whether these are functional before you buy the house.

 

Source: BUDGETDIRECT.COM.AU | A Comprehensive House Buying Checklist

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Here’s how to buy a home and keep your bank balance (and relationships) intact

house and land packages

Buying a home can be a daunting and difficult process — especially if you’ve never done it before.

Before you even get to the point of purchase, there are important conversations to have if you’re buying with someone else, paperwork to get in order, professionals to see and money to save.

Whether you’re steadily working towards buying your first place or simply curious about what it takes, we’ve pulled together a guide to highlight what’s ahead to help you avoid or overcome common stumbling blocks.

Saving a deposit and understanding what’s ahead

If you’re planning to buy in the next year or so, this timeline outlines what you could be doing 12, six and three months out to make it happen.

It includes speaking to a mortgage broker (here’s some tips on how to find one you trust), and setting a realistic savings goal — with a time frame that you can stick to.

How to save:

Don’t rely on willpower: It is hard to stick to saving goals, but there are strategies you can use when willpower is flagging, such as using automatic transfers that sweep money into a separate account every time you get paid.
Explore salary sacrificing: You can use salary sacrificing to help buy your first home by withdrawing up to $30,000 in voluntary super contributions, as well as the amount’s earnings.
Budget and plan: Ross and Sangita worked three jobs to save for a block of land west of Melbourne, and then followed these budgeting and planning steps to buy an investment property.
Get creative: Rentvesting is another way to enter the property market, but if you’re searching for more radical options to save for a home, try living in a shack without electricity or water.
Borrow the best amount for you: Here are three questions to ask yourself before taking out a home loan.

Buying with someone else?

The main thing when buying a home with a partner or someone else in your life is to have the right conversations about it beforehand, which includes the different ways you can own property together.

Other things to consider

Joint bank accounts: You may also set up a joint back account with the person you’re planning to buy with. Before you do, assess whether it’s right for your situation. Shared life goals work better for shared bank accounts.
Compare your money values: Ask your partner questions about money, such as, “Do we have equal say on how we use our money, no matter who earns more?”
Think carefully about co-ownership: Co-ownership can help you afford a home, but it can also be risky, especially when buying property online.

Checking out the market

Before you start inspecting properties, it’s a good idea to know the type of property you’d like to buy, the location and how to keep your wits about you when you see something you like.

House or apartment? What kind of property you buy might depend on how much you can borrow. Here’s a look at how lenders calculate how much they’re willing to loan you.
Inspection checklist: When inspecting properties to buy, there are five things you should always check that most people miss. Sussing out the neighbourhood is just one.
Stay focused: It’s easy to get emotionally attached when there are so many tricks real estate agents use to suck people in (cue scented candles and jazz tunes).
City or regional? Two couples shared with us the benefits and drawbacks of leaving Sydney for a regional town.

When it’s time to buy

There are a lot of people who will be involved in the home buying process — get to know who is who.

Finding the right financial adviser is a good start; you’ll want to make sure there are no potential conflicts of interest.
Learn from those who’ve already done it: Chat to your peers about what they discovered along the way. Take it from this first home-buyer, there are a bunch of things he wish he knew before he took the leap, including you don’t need a 20 per cent deposit, and pre-approval is no guarantee banks will give you a loan.
And think ahead: Thinking long term and planning cautiously is also good advice, says this Gen Y, who finally “caved” and bought a property in Sydney.

Taking care of yourself when life changes

It’s moving day! Cue stress and madness.

Packing and moving tips: We’ve got you covered with some tips from removalists on making moving house easy.
Plan for the worst, hope for the best? Of course things don’t always go to plan, and when you break up with someone after buying property together, it can get ugly. Keeping a level head is important, experts say.
It’s not easy to enter the property market and we hope this guide makes things a little easier, whether you’re able to take the plunge or simply reach one rung. Good luck!

 

Source: ABC.NET.AU | Here’s how to buy a home and keep your bank balance (and relationships) intact

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How to buy your first home: From saving to settlement

house and land packages

So, you’ve decided you’re at that stage in life where you’d rather be paying your own mortgage than someone else’s. Or perhaps you’re thinking about your long-term future, and owning a house is on your to-do list.

It’s time to jump into the property market and buy your first home. But how the heck do you do it?

Save for a deposit

Assuming you don’t have $600,000 sitting in your bank account, first things first: you need the cash for a loan deposit.

In an ideal world, you’ll need to save about 20 per cent of the property price, plus a bit more to cover any fees or extra costs like stamp duty (we’ll get to that later, because you might get lucky there). Banks will still lend if you don’t have 20 per cent, but you’ll have to pay more in the long run.

If you don’t stump up 20 per cent, you’ll end up paying lenders mortgage insurance (LMI). That’s a cost added to your loan to protect the lender if you can’t pay it off, and it can total thousands of dollars depending on the size of your deposit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t protect you.

If you have to pay LMI, there’s a good chance you’ll also have to pay a slightly higher interest rate. So, for a property worth $600,000, you’ll need to have at least $120,000 in the bank to avoid LMI and get the best deal.

Laura Higgins from ASIC’s MoneySmart said when it comes to getting a loan, it’s important to shop around for the best deal.

“It can be really useful to use a finance or mortgage broker because they can help you to find the loan that suits you and your life stage, but again shop around.”

Make sure you understand the costs involved in using a broker and keep information and records about your dealings with them. Consumer advocacy group Choice recently said people who go through brokers tend to borrow more and place themselves at higher risk of debt or default.

Get a loan

Ms Higgins said you need to balance your financial and lifestyle needs, which means you may need a savings buffer.

“You need to consider the other ongoing costs you’ll have to manage on top of your mortgage repayments — so you’ll need insurance, there’s council rates and utilities like water, electricity and gas, you may have extra transport costs or have essential renovations,” she said.

If the bank says you can borrow $600,000, that doesn’t mean you can actually afford it.

“It’s really important to understand what you can afford, which means understanding what your repayments look like if there is a change in interest rates,” Ms Higgins said.

First you’ll get pre-approval, which will give you an idea of how much you have to play with. Once you think you’ve found a place, make sure you contact the lender. If it’s a private sale, you can make an offer on a condition of finance, but you can’t do that at auction.

Househunting

Searching for the right place can be exhausting, and sometimes demoralising if you keep missing out.

Buyers advocate Amy Mylius, from Cate Bakos Property, said it’s important to familiarise yourself with the market in your area. Rely on your own research and not what the real estate agents tell you.

“A lot of first home buyers have really grand expectations and their expectations may not match up to their budget, and where they want to live may not match where they can afford to live,” she said.

Ms Mylius said most of the time first home buyers can’t compromise on their budget, but they can in other areas.

“Location is the first thing people can start considering compromising on, and that usually means moving further out from the city, perhaps going further away from public transport,” she said.

Buying something less modern, or even a renovation job, is another option but Ms Mylius said it’s important to remember renovations can often cost more than you think. Maybe start looking for two bedrooms instead of three.

“A lot of people want a property that’s, firstly, a home, but also a really good asset. Sometimes that’s doable, sometimes it’s not. If someone needs a home with a really big backyard or block of land, they may need to go a long way out to get that,” she advised.

“We might say that’s not the best use of money as an investment but if it’s non-negotiable then it’s still going to be a home for them.”

If you’re looking at smaller places, consider growth prospects like desirability, distance to the CBD and public transport, and making sure it has good owner-occupier appeal.

Auction

Before you make an offer, whether it’s private sale or auction, look over the contracts, which you get from the agent.

It’s a good idea to get them checked by a legal expert or conveyancer to make sure they’re sound, because sometimes the devil is in the detail. There may be restrictions on renovations, missing important documents, or other things you don’t want to discover after you buy.

Lew Toop, from Toop and Toop Real Estate, said it’s a good idea to go along and watch a few auctions first to get an idea of what goes on.

Mr Toop recommended getting someone independent to look through the home and make an assessment on any works or repairs it may need.

“You need to know there’s not going to be any great surprise, so you buy the property, settle the property, then find there’s major works needed in the roof,” he said.

It’s critical you don’t get carried away and swept up in the run of an auction.

“Often taking someone else with you when you bid can be a way to make sure you don’t get overexcited or overemotional on the actual day,” Mr Toop said.

You’ll need your loan unconditionally approved, not just pre-approved. So let your broker or lender know you’re planning to bid. You’ll need a deposit for the auction before you get the loan, so your mortgage deposit may end up being less that you thought. Keep that in mind.

Generally speaking, you will need to make a 10 per cent deposit on the day, but check with the agent. Because most people don’t have chequebooks and instead move their money online, and auctions are held on weekends, these days you can often make a flat deposit on the Saturday — like $10,000 — and then make up the difference on the 10 per cent the next business day.

In South Australia and Queensland you need to register to bid with the auctioneer or agent on the day.

You can sometimes make an offer prior to the auction, so again, ask the agent if that’s an option.

Private sale

Unlike an auction, a private sale allows you to make a formal offer in writing which includes conditions like subject to finance or building inspection.

“It gives you the option of having inspections and looking at finances after you’ve actually bought the property because you’ve got a cooling off period.”

But unfortunately, it’s harder to know where you stand.

“An auction is very transparent because when you’re standing there next to the auctioneer you can see who else is there to compete with, whereas a private sale you’re reliant on what the agent is telling you, and you’re unaware if there are any other interested parties or how many there might be,” Mr Toop said.

Stamp duty and grants

For the general homebuyer, when you purchase a property you also need to pay stamp duty, which is a tax scaled to the value of the property that ends up in state government coffers.

There are calculators online that can estimate how much you’ll need to pay. But a number of states have now acknowledged it’s really hard for first home buyers to enter the market, and have introduced concessions.

Some have scrapped stamp duty for first-time buyers altogether for homes under a certain price. There are also one-off grants available, often around $10,000 to $20,000. Each state is different, so you’ll need to check what’s available in your area.

Settlement

Once you’ve bought a property you need to negotiate a settlement period, which is essentially how many days between the sale and getting the keys.

Sometimes the seller will have a settlement period as part of the sale conditions, but other times you can negotiate.

They’re usually between 30 and 90 days. On the day of settlement you’ll be required to pay the property price in full.

Move in

This should be the easy bit, but it’s usually the most annoying.

But at least you’re a real life homeowner. Congrats!

 

Source: ABC.NET.AU | How to buy your first home: From saving to settlement

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First home buyer advice I wish someone had told me

home buying

Purchasing a property is often the single largest investment a person or family will make, but it can be a bewildering experience if you don’t really know what’s going on.

Having just bought my first home, I was left wishing I could find a course on “how to buy a house“, instead of having to learn by experience and blunder through with little understanding.

Some things might seem self-explanatory or obvious to people who already own property, but I found there was a lot of contradictory information out there.

Here are some things I wish I knew before I started looking to buy a home.

You don’t necessarily need a 20 per cent deposit

The 20 per cent deposit is ideal.

The prospect of saving a large deposit — say $100,000 for a $500,000 property — can be daunting but lenders do provide mortgages to buyers who have saved less than one-fifth of the purchase price.

But you will have to pay for it.

Buyers with less than 20 per cent of the purchase price will often be required to pay lenders mortgage insurance (LMI) which protects the credit provider in the case the borrower cannot pay.

It can be added to your loan, but the lender can also charge you a higher interest rate.

What the expert says: Laura Higgins, senior executive leader with ASIC’s Moneysmart, said while it was not essential, the 20 per cent deposit was “absolutely preferred”.

“If you have a 20 per cent deposit that could set you up for repayments that suit you better, afford more options around the kind of mortgage you could access and is absolutely the best option,” she said.

“That doesn’t mean it’s an option for everyone; there are other ways to get entry into the housing market and make arrangements for your finances.

“I think it’s a good thing to aim for, but it is aspirational for some people, I appreciate that.”

Banks will lend you a scary amount of money

Having visited a mortgage broker early in the research phase, it became apparent some institutions would have loaned double what my partner and I could afford to repay.

The broker entered our earnings, expenses and a modest deposit amount in a program, which returned the different amounts institutions were willing to lend us.

Some were offering to lend us well over $1 million, with repayments that would have been unachievable.

It could be easy to fall into a trap where you borrow too much to buy a dream home, and then struggle to make the repayments.

What the expert says: Ms Higgins said first home buyers should fully understand their budget, and what they can afford in order to maintain the lifestyle they want.

“I think it’s probably really being honest about what you can afford because of that emotional attachment that can often come along with falling in love with a house,” she said.

“And really understanding that if you don’t want to compromise your lifestyle, or there is a certain life you want to lead, you don’t want a mortgage to be the thing that makes you unhappy.

“It’s about being realistic about what you can afford, what that looks like day-to-day with the way you live and preparing for a change.

“Interest rates go down but they also go up, so being really prepared.”

There are a range of costs that come with buying a property here are a range of costs that come with buying a property.

Buying a house is not just a matter of saving up a deposit and then purchasing a house.

There are a range of other costs including stamp duty, transfer fees, government fees, charges for building and pest reports, LMI and conveyancing and solicitor’s fees that can add up to thousands of dollars.

These all chip into the deposit you have saved and reduce the amount you actually can put into the purchase.

What the expert says: Ms Higgins said it was important to fully research what costs were associated with purchasing a house and ensure there were no surprises when it came time to sign on the dotted line.

“Often if you’re buying that house with someone else make sure you do that together or with friends, or speaking with family members about their experience as often that will trigger a really interesting conversation about stamp duty or how they managed those surprise expenses if they were a surprise to them,” she said.

Pre-approval is no guarantee of getting a loan

Many lenders offer a pre-approval service where they will weigh up your income, expenditure and amount of personal debt against your deposit to see if you qualify for a loan.

It gives you confidence to go ahead and make offers on properties within your budget, but it is no silver bullet.

The full loan approval only comes after the lender receives a signed contract, where they investigate and see if the property is a worthwhile investment.

What the expert says: Ms Higgins said pre-approval was good for gaining a realistic understanding of your budget.

“It’s really important at the beginning of the process so you know you’re looking at places you can afford, rather than falling in love with places and then trying to reverse engineer it to get the funding,” she said.

You need to take out insurance the day you sign the contract

After agreeing to a price with the seller, there is still a settlement period before the buyer can actually move in.

Even though it may be 30 days before you pick up the keys, you need to take out insurance on the property in the interim to protect against any damages.

The legal liability for damages varies between the states and territories, but some lenders will insist that buyers cover themselves before settlement.

It is probably wise to take the advice of your solicitor or conveyancer to learn of your position.

What the expert says: Ms Higgins said it was a good idea to protect your new big purchase.

“You need insurance when you sign up to that house, before you move in your things. You don’t want to lose that investment or be vulnerable,” she said.

Buying at an auction comes with a different set of conditions

Some agents prefer to sell houses via auction, but it can be a trap if you are unsure of your finances or have doubts about the building and pest reports.

In a standard conditional offer you can add a backstop, where if your finance does not get approved or the building has any issues you can pull out.

But you do not have that luxury with an auction, meaning if the reserve price is met and you win, you will have no option but to buy the property.

What the expert says: Auctions can be a trap for those who do not fully understand what they’re looking for, Ms Higgins said.

“Do your research, go to a couple of auctions and make sure the first auction you go to is not the one you’re participating in,” she said.

“It’s a lot of work to get ready to buy a house and it isn’t just about spending Saturday mornings wandering through the neighbourhood.

“It is a bit of practice as well so you can feel confident when you got to an auction you understand the conditions and what you’re signing up for and you’re prepared.”

The process can feel like a game with changing rules

Buyers and agents seem to be locked in a game of distrust where everyone is holding their cards close to their chest.

I naively thought honesty would be the best approach and was happy to discuss my budget and how much I was looking to spend.

When making an offer, I was at times told I was “in the ballpark”, only to find out the owner was looking for $50,000 more than I could pay.

Seemingly simple questions like “how much does the owner want?” were met with riddle-like responses like “the market decides the price” or “the owner has decided to go to market without a price as buyers have more information than ever and have a better handle of the value”.

While I was being honest, it took me a while to understand the agents probably believed I was not being fully truthful about my budget with them.

There appears to be little choice but to play the game, trying to slowly feel out the middle ground.

It’s also important to remember the agent works for the seller, not for you.

They will use sales tactics to try to eke out more from you to get more for the owner, and ultimately for themselves in commission.

What the expert says: Ms Higgins said buyers needed to make use of the vast volume of information online to gauge prices, and sift through all the mixed messages.

“I think we can understand the shape of the neighbourhood so much more easily, so again it’s about doing your research,” she said.

“If you’re interested in a house you can get to know that real estate agent’s properties, what they’ve told people and then what they sell for, and how closely they are aligned, or how far off they are.

“It is a lot of work, and it can be a really great fun project, but it does take time and lots of research.

“Ask lots of questions and really invest in the process.”

Source: ABC.NET.AU | First home buyer advice I wish someone had told me

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6 SEO Tips Your Business Website Needs to Know

National Small Business Week is a good time to remind yourself that building a digital business means knowing which SEO tips to implement first. No matter what they’re searching for, people typically turn to search engines first. The best way to grow your traffic, no matter what your business, is by creating a website with both search engines and your visitors in mind.

In today’s search engine-oriented market, SEO is the most effective way to drive traffic to your website without paying for advertisements. For small businesses with limited budgets, this can be a huge advantage when facing more established competition. SEO (search engine optimization) is a way of structuring your website to build traffic through organic search. As opposed to paid traffic, which comes from advertisements, organic search traffic comes from high rankings in search engines and creating quality content that captures your audience. In a world where 32 percent of people click the first Google search result, SEO is a crucial part of any business.

But optimizing your website all at once can be daunting for owners of small businesses who have a lot else to do. These six actionable SEO tips are the best place to start — small changes can transform your traffic.

1. Monitor all changes.

No matter which SEO tips you choose to implement first, the single most important thing to do is monitor those changes. If you’re not seeking professional help, this means accomplishing the following:

  1. Decide on a metric to use to monitor your traffic. Is it newsletter sign-ups, product purchases, keyword rankings, or percentage of people who return to your website?
  2. Start using at least one of the recommended SEO tools to help you rank higher in Google to monitor your progress.
  3. Implement one change at a time. How can you know what is working if you do everything at once?

2. Create a clear site structure.

It doesn’t matter how many SEO tips you implement on your website if it isn’t structured in a way that’s easy for search engine crawlers and users to navigate. For small businesses with new websites, this means creating a hierarchy that includes:

  • Pages
  • Categories
  • Subcategories
  • Internal linking that reaffirms the site structure
  • Headings

Crawlers and humans both love hierarchy: Having a clear site structure accomplishes your two main objectives. First, Google crawlers can quickly understand your content and rank it accordingly. Second, humans can navigate it easily, making them more likely to stay on your website, buy something from it, or return to it in the future.

If your site structure is unclear, Google crawlers could miss some of your content, making it impossible for people to search for it in the first place. Bad site structure also leaves your visitors confused and likely to go somewhere else. This will translate to less time spent per visitor, lower conversion rates for online retailers and less traffic as Google demotes your website based these statistics

3. Prioritize content creation.

Creating quality content is one of the top SEO marketing trends in 2019, whether you’re a small or large business. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Keep in mind that the ideal content for your website will depend on your type of traffic. Test out different styles and monitor traffic to see what your audience wants from your website.

4. Focus on building both internal and external links.

Building a network of internal and external links is a constant process. Whether you’re an entrepreneur with a less-than-perfect existing site or you’re a small business building a brand new one, one of the best SEO tips is to structure your links a little every day.

Use internal linking to create site structure: For starters, it’s important to internally link every new piece of content. Otherwise, it becomes orphaned content. This means that it’s disconnected from the rest of your site. Orphaned content is difficult for Google crawlers and visitors to find. If a piece of content isn’t connected to the rest of your website, crawlers can either miss it or will consider it less important, thereby ranking it lower.

More broadly, interlinking pages within your website accomplishes two main things: It helps crawlers understand and better rank your website and logical links make it easier for visitors to navigate (and therefore stay) on your website.

Build a network of high-quality external backlinks: Backlinks are a key factor that search engines use to evaluate your website. But today, backlink quality rather than quantity is more important than ever. Instead of spending money on cheap links that will negatively affect your traffic, website owners should create quality content that will solicit backlinks on its own and build relationships with businesses big and small in relevant fields that can help you grow your backlink profile.

Though buying links may have been an effective tool in the early days of search engine optimization, black hat SEO tricks like this no longer work. In fact, buying low-quality links in bulk is a sure way to have Google demote your website, which will decrease your traffic. When choosing your next SEO firm, make sure they’re not doing anything resembling that.

5. Delete anything that slows down your site.

One of the top SEO tips for gaining and maintaining traffic is improving site speed. Google has made it known that site speed is a factor in ranking websites. And research also shows that a half a second delay in page load time translated to a 20 percent decrease in traffic. For entrepreneurs, this means that cutting out elements that slow down your website is key to customer and search engine satisfaction. Some effective tools include:

  • Compressing images
  • Cashing your browser
  • Getting rid of unnecessary elements in CSS
  • Stop using JavaScript

6. Always consider mobile-first.

Google rolled out mobile-first indexing in the summer of 2018. But designing websites for mobile has been a focal point for web designers since mobile traffic outpaced desktop in 2016. Still, whether you’re designing a website or creating content, it’s important to design a responsive mobile website — even if you’re designing it on a desktop computer. This means placing even more emphasis on mobile UX and mobile-oriented site structure.

Optimizing your website can be a massive undertaking — but that doesn’t mean that you have to (or should) do it all at once. The best place to start is by focusing on key SEO tips and addressing issues within your website one by one.

No matter where you are in the process of optimizing your website, make sure that you approach it methodically. Monitor everything you do so that you can replicate your success with future businesses.

 

Blog Source: Entrepreneur.com | 6 SEO Tips to Benefit Any Business

 

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10 Shopify SEO Tips To Make Your Website Rank Faster

If you’re looking for a Shopify SEO guide to rank your website on Google and Bing quickly, you’ve come to the right place. Top search engine ranking is essential for helping customers discover your website and find your products – and this best practice guide helps you master Shopify SEO, fast.

Shopify SEO overview

For those new to SEO and running your own Shopify website, let’s quickly cover what SEO is and why it’s so crucial for your eCommerce store.

SEO stands for “search engine optimization” and is the process of improving the quality and quantity of visitors to your Shopify store from organic search engines such as Google and Bing. Search engine optimization of your Shopify website, helps search engines understand what you sell and determine how trustworthy your website is, so they can:

  • Boost your organic search result ranking – improving your visibility without advertising;
  • Display your website in relevant search results – increasing your click-through rate; and
  • Send you qualified leads – increasing your conversion rate and reducing your bounce rate.

Ultimately, good SEO leads to more customers, sales, and profit.

Shopify SEO tips for fast ranking

Fortunately, Shopify is a very SEO-friendly platform, making it entirely possible for your store to top the search results and receive high-volume organic traffic. And, while SEO is a long-term investment, the following Shopify SEO tips help you to achieve some quick wins for faster ranking and initial results.

1) Identify your keywords

Keywords are the building blocks of SEO, so they’re an excellent place to start. Keywords are the words or phrases that a shopper must type into a search engine for your website to display in the search results.

Create a list of keywords for your website and product pages by using a keyword tool to identify those that are:

  • Relevant to your brand and products
  • Regularly searched for by shoppers
  • Specific enough to be achievable

Bonus tip – achieve higher rankings and more qualified leads with a long-tail keyword strategy

2) Optimize for keywords

Once you have identified your keywords, you need to demonstrate to the search engines that these words are relevant to your store. Achieve this by using your keywords in content across your website, including:

  • Page titles
  • Meta descriptions
  • Page headings
  • Page content
  • Alt text for images and videos
  • URLs

Google and Bing will cross-reference all of this information, so keep your keywords consistent and relevant, and your copy readable and unique.

3) Organize your website

Your website’s architecture (also known as site structure) is used by search engines to determine how easy it is for customers to find products on your website. Make your store easy to navigate by:

  • Using a logical hierarchy of categories
  • Avoiding iframes (embedding an external website)
  • Adopting logical and straightforward URLs

4) Register your store with Google and Bing

The quickest way to get search engines to know about your Shopify store is by telling them that you exist and showing them what you have on your website.

Verifying your store with Google and Bing

To verify your store with Google and Bing, you must:

  • Disable password protection on your Shopify store;
  • Signup to Google Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, and choose to verify your store by meta tag or HTML tag;
  • Copy the generated codes;
  • From your Shopify Admin go to Online Stores Themes > Action > Edit Code > Layout theme.liquid;
  • In the online code editor, paste the generated codes on a blank line directly below the opening <head> tag, and click Save;
  • Click Verify on Google and Bing, and follow the on-screen steps.

Registering your sitemap with Google and Bing

Your store’s site map is a file containing links to all of your store’s content and is used by Google and Bing to return relevant pages in search results.

Shopify automatically generates and updates your sitemap at [your primary domain name]/sitemap.xml (for example, pauls-pants.com/sitemap.xml.)

Log into Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster and select the sitemap option to submit yours.

5) Activate an SSL certificate

Increase search engine (and consumer) trust in your website by activating your SSL (secure socket layer) certificate. From your Shopify dashboard go to Sales Channels Online Store Domains.

6) Boost your store’s speed

Search engines give preference to fast-loading websites. Increase your Shopify store’s speed by:

  • Using compression tools to reduce image sizes;
  • Using web-safe fonts such as Arial, Helvetica, Courier New, and Courier
  • Keeping external scripts or custom codes to a minimum
  • Using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) via plugins

7) Create content

Add more depth, interest, and authority to your Shopify store by creating content beyond your product pages. Blogs, articles, and guides are useful for shoppers and perform very well in search results, especially when:

  • You’re posting quality content relevant to your keywords
  • Trusted third-party sites are linking to your content (also known as “backlinks”)
  • Your posts are regular and of substantial length (at least 500 words)

8) Reduce your bounce rate

Search engines monitor their success by your bounce rate (how quickly a shopper returns to the search results). Reduce your bounce rate by engaging shoppers and increasing conversions using:

  • Exit-intent popups and offers
  • Dynamic product recommendations
  • Fast and free shipping

9) Optimize for mobile

We’ve already mentioned the importance of AMP for your Shopify store’s speed, but there’s plenty more you can do to increase your Shopify stores’ mobile optimization and ranking in mobile search engine results:

  • Use a mobile-ready Shopify theme;
  • Make your text visible and readable; and
  • Make a call to action buttons clear and large.

10) Increase traffic

Finally, you want to increase the overall traffic coming to your website, to encourage more direct searches. You can achieve this by:

  • Investing in Google ads for your listings
  • Expanding to multi-channel selling
  • Marketing on social media

Together, these top Shopify SEO tips will rank your website quickly and successfully – increasing your visibility, organic traffic, and increasing your sales figures.

 

Blog Source: Deliverr | 10 Shopify SEO Tips To Rank Your Website Fast

 

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GUIDE FOR YOUR PET’S DENTAL HYGIENE AND ORAL CARE

Don’t ignore your pet’s bad breath! Dental hygiene is often the cause of stinky breath, and it may indicate other important problems with your pet’s health. We understand how easy it is to miss. Many of the problems that stem from poor hygiene occur where you can’t see them – below your pet’s gum line.
The first line of defense is always home care. But while some animals (especially dogs) tolerate their owners handling their mouths and brushing their teeth, most (especially cats) will struggle or act out. That can always make oral care difficult at best, and ineffective at worst.

The best way to ensure your pet’s oral health is to have regular cleanings at our office. Discuss how often you ought to come in as well as a home hygiene regimen with your vet. This will also prevent dental issues from progressing to larger (and potentially deadly) internal issues, such as dysfunction or disease in the heart, kidneys, liver, or lungs.

In the wild, hiding pain, illness, or other weaknesses are survival instincts. Many times, your pet will have the same instincts, even in the safety and comfort of your loving home, so always keep an eye on your pet’s eating habits and behaviors. Recognizing the difference between normal changes in mood and red flags can be difficult sometimes. What you interpret as a persistent grumpiness may actually be a sign that your pet is in pain. New irritability, shying away from being touched (especially on the face and around the mouth or throat), sluggishness, loss of appetite or difficulty eating, and lethargy are all behavioral signs which may indicate illness.

However, if you note any of the following physical changes, contact your vet immediately:

  • Red and swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums, especially when eating or when having teeth brushed
  • Swelling around the mouth
  • Oral abscesses
  • Abnormal chewing
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Crusted build up at the edge of the gums
  • Persistent bad or fetid breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Weight loss

Remember, preventing oral infections and diseases will help your pet live a longer, healthier life. Furthermore, caring for your pet with regular cleanings now will save you money later. In 2013, VPI Pet Insurance priced the cost of treatment for dental diseases at more than $530 on average. Our prices for regular cleanings are much less than that!

Anesthesia for procedures

We always recommend and utilize the use of anesthesia for all dental procedures.
There are always risks when using an anesthetic, however, these risks are outweighed by the fact that this makes all procedures safer for your pet, safer for the vet, and ensures efficacy. Attempting procedures without anesthesia can present other dangers to the animal or vet. Especially when work needs to be done under the gum line, any movement could mean harm to your pet from our dental equipment.
After all, your pet cannot have a reasoned discussion with our staff the way you can with your dentist. Procedures are likely to make them afraid, and they will probably try to getaway. Animals who are in pain will act defensively and are likely to bite. Even when they’re healthy, most animals cannot hold still enough or hold still long enough for procedures like X-rays to be completed correctly.
Advances in the latest anesthetics mean that for most normal procedures, your pet can go home on the very same day. Your pet may remain groggy, but behavior should return to normal the next day.

Procedures we offer

The procedures we use to treat your pet’s mouth are very close to the procedures a dentist uses for you. An examination is performed before any procedure.
Your pet’s health is as important to us as it is to you. That’s why we provide a full offering of dental procedures. These include:

Hygiene:

  • Scaling (removal of plaque and tartar above the gum line)
  • Polishing
  • Filing
  • Cleaning plaque and tartar below the gum line
  • Examining below the gum line for signs of disease (X-ray)

Oral Procedures:

  • Endodontic therapy (Root canals)
  • Tooth restoration
  • Orthodontics
  • Periodontal disease treatments
  • Infection treatment

Surgical procedures:

  • Fracture repairs
  • Extraction of teeth or dental pulp
  • Oral cancer or cysts treatment
  • Cleft palate treatment
  • Tooth abscess treatment

 

Blog Source: Companion Animal | DENTAL HYGIENE AND ORAL CARE

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PPC Tips to Effectively Boost Your Google AdWords Campaign

Google intentionally makes it incredibly easy to get started on AdWords. In most cases, it’s as easy as selecting a handful of keywords, writing an ad, and of course, adding credit card information.

To give you an idea, nearly 80% of US search ad revenue is earned by Google!

Given this number and the simplicity factor, establishing a good AdWords campaign is one of the smartest moves you can make in your marketing mix. There is practically an unlimited amount of opportunities out there to start drawing more exposure and boosting revenue.

Here are 15 tips to help yield impeccable PPC results.

1. Choose the Right Bid Strategy

First and foremost, the bid strategy is what lays the groundwork for your entire campaign. Therefore, it must be chosen wisely.

Start by defining your goals.

Are you mainly interested in increasing your website traffic?

Getting people to take action on your platform?

Boosting your brand awareness?

All of the above?

AdWords provides a number of bidding strategies to help accommodate your needs.

Conversion-Based Strategies:

  • Target Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) – This one is meant for those simply looking to increase their website conversions. Using this approach, you can base your campaign around a specific CPA.
  • Target Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) – Also designed for boosting conversions, this strategy is meant to be created around a certain ROAS.
  • Maximize conversions – The name pretty much says it all with this strategy. If you’re sole focus is gaining the most conversions, you can simply bid on this factor alone.
  • Enhanced Cost-Per-Click (ECPC) – To get a bit more streamlined, this strategy is an optional feature that automatically adjusts your bids to gain as many conversions as possible.

Impression-Based Strategies:

  • Target Search Page – This approach provides an automated system of which sets bids in an attempt to give your ads a better chance of appearing at the top of the search results.
  • Target Outranking – Another automated strategy, this one lets you choose certain domains you would like to outrank on the SERPs. You can easily provide the number of times you would like to be placed higher on the results page, and AdWords will meet your request.
  • Cost Per Thousands Viewable Impressions (vCPM) – This one is a manual bidding strategy. If your ads are primarily designed for increasing brand awareness, and not so much for clicks or traffic. You can set the maximum amount you will pay for every 1000 impressions. If you have a goal that involves a direct response from customers, this strategy is probably not for you.

Click-Based Strategies:

  • Maximize Clicks – This strategy is perhaps the easiest way to bid for clicks. The automated system requires you to set a daily budget, then it manages your bids to bring you the most clicks.
  • Manual Cost Per Click (CPC) – This strategy lets you manage your clicks independently. You can select bids based on each ad group within your campaign, or a few specific keywords.

Views or Interaction-Based

  • Cost Per View Bidding (CPV) – This strategy is meant for video ads. You simply enter the top price you want to pay for each view or any other form of video interaction.

Take your time in choosing your bid strategy. If your goals are murky going in, it will be much harder to pinpoint the right approach and see the results you need.

2. Show Ads at the Right Time

As many marketers will attest, the name of the game is putting the right messaging in front of the right eyes at the most opportune time.

Picking the right ad schedule all comes down to how well you know your target audience. What times are the most active? B2B-oriented companies have it easy, as most of their clientele are most active during regular 9-5 business hours. Consumers, however, can be a bit more difficult to read.

When starting out, set your schedule to 24/7. Yes, this will cost a bit more at first. But you can always scale it back when you get the reporting and find the most active timeframes.

Ad Scheduled Overview

Once you’ve nailed down the most optimal times, you can make bid adjustments to power down the campaign during certain times or days. The times you decide to run the campaign can have either a higher or lower average CPC.

3. Rotate Your Ads

If you have created a number of ads, you obviously cannot display them all at once. So, you need to create an ad rotation. In AdWords, you have four options for optimization:

  1. For Clicks – This one optimizes your rotation for the ads that have garnered the most clicks in the past and are more likely to be displayed in the future.
  2. For Conversions – Similar to clicks, if one of your ads has been producing a good deal of conversions, it will be shown more often down the road.
  3. Even Rotation – This one doesn’t choose favorites. Regardless of the results they bring in, each ad will enter a similar amount of auctions. However, it’s not a guarantee each will meet the standards to get the impression. The kicker with this option is after 90 days, if the ads are going untouched, they will be optimized for clicks or conversions.
  4. Indefinite Rotation – Same as even rotation, except nothing happens after 90 days.

When in doubt, optimizing for conversions is a good place to start. It’s quick and simple to test. If you are dead-set on giving each of your ads exposure, better go with an even rotation, as opposed to indefinite.

4. Target Locations Carefully

The Google AdWords system knows when to show certain ads based on an individual’s IP address or GPS location.

Google Adwords - How to set up location targeting

Choosing a target location is relatively easy. Take a look at your operation. If you are a brick-and-mortar store, you would obviously want to target your city.

If you are a national business, you would want to select the entire country. This can get a bit tricky – as buying behaviors can have a bigger variety the more ground you cover. Based on your market research, you can select certain radiuses around a location for your ads.

Here is a chart to help give you an idea of how meet your business goals:

chart gives you an idea of how meet your business goals

While you should always be strategic with your chosen geographic locations, don’t be scared to take risks to expand your area. You never know, you might discover a whole new market!

5. Use Effective Device Targeting

The world is going mobile. Ads need to be presented in a way that accommodates each chosen device. A few years back, Google unveiled its enhanced campaign capabilities of which allows businesses to target users on certain devices. In turn, bidding strategies and campaign structures must be properly adjusted.

There are a number of tactics to keep in mind in terms of device targeting.

  • Create Mobile-Only Ads – ads look different from screen-to-screen. In AdWords, you can select a “Device Preference” and choose certain ads as mobile-preferred. This allows to you gear your content and CTAs respectively.
  • Call-Only – These appear for the sole purpose of making phone calls, as opposed to directing users to a landing page.

google search result page for car insurance query

  • Mobile Text – This option runs simple, plain text ads on the mobile display. While they look similar to the text ads you’d see on a desktop, you can show fewer ads per page on mobile.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is if you are directing users to a landing page, that page MUST be mobile-friendly. A recent survey found that 42% of consumers won’t convert on a poorly designed website. If your mobile landing pages are ill-conceived, you are fighting an uphill battle.

6. Apply Bid Adjustments

This concept is relatively easy to grasp. Bid adjustments are meant for you to change the frequency of how your ads are shown based on factors like location, time, and methods people use to conduct web searches. With your market knowledge, you can change the percentage of a bid.

For instance, if most of your audience is searching on mobile, you can increase your bid for when people conduct a search on their device.

increase your bid for when people conduct a search on their device

While this task is simple, making the proper adjustments is an extremely important task in your marketing mix. Be sure you are reading your reports correctly to make effective decisions. The main goal is to find the places where conversions are the best. Then make the proper bid adjustments to match. As time goes on, you will be able to refine your PPC spend.

7. Optimize Bids to Achieve the Best Ad Position

Optimizing your bids and ad positioning is a constant task you should be working towards throughout your entire PPC campaign. Doing so successfully can require a great deal of time and close attention to detail. Keeping tabs on your performance and analytics should be a daily routine in order to find the best ways to make each dollar go farther.

Be sure you stay true to the main goals you previously established for your campaign. Keep in mind, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for successful bidding.

Once you have pinpointed patterns for optimal ad positioning, there are two prominent bid optimization approaches to consider.

  1. Manual – The most basic method for managing bids. Here, you can either add or subtract simple bids based on “if” or “then” logic (Boolean) to reach a specified number of clicks, conversions, or retargeting objectives. This strategy can get tedious with the more keywords you use.
  2. Algorithmic – This is more advanced and combines the elements of control and automation. Given the current state of marketing, this is the preferred option. It takes all the basic factors you would use in manual optimization while incorporating more in-depth business factors such as budgetary needs, constraints, and long-term/short-term goals.

This process is a never-ending part of your PPC efforts.

8. Use Single Keyword Ad Groups

Single keyword ad groups are, you guessed it, ad groups containing just one keyword. Chances are, you already have a good circle of keywords in your groups. Google recommends you have 10-20. The tough part about this is creating a good ad relevant to each. If you’re really struggling, your Quality Score can suffer.

With a single keyword ad group, there is only one term of which can trigger an ad. This way, you don’t have to work extra hard to create ambiguous ads that must apply to a multitude of keywords.

Doing so will give you a better chance of improving your quality score. The higher you rank, the lower your cost-per-click.

Now, you don’t want to put EVERY single keyword into a single ad group, as this will take way too much time. Be careful and prioritize. Once you have pinpointed your most valuable terms, it will be much easier to create meaningful ads relevant to your keywords.

9. Use DKI to Improve CTR

Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) is a fantastic way to improve your click-through-rate (CTR).

To give you a better idea of what DKI is, let’s say you have a myriad of keywords in your ad group such as: leather coat, winter coat, black coat, wool coat, etc. In your ad copy, the DKI code is: Buy>{Keyword:Coat}. If someone were to search for “black wool coat,” the code would then be replaced with that term – making your ad appear as “Buy Wool Coat.” The result, your ad is now closely related to the search query.

This is a great strategy to improve your results and help people find what they need. Just be sure nothing is misspelled and your keywords aren’t too broad!

10. Use Ad Extensions

The primary function of ad extensions is to give people more information about your business to help them make a decision. These are typically known to boost CTR. Extensions include things like phone number, address, links to landing pages, and more.

These extensions give your ads more visibility on the SERPS, which means more value. Setting them up is typically a manual task. However, AdWords will sometimes show ad extensions automatically, if it thinks your performance can benefit from them.

Keep in mind, just adding an extension does not guarantee it will show on the ad. Your ad rank must meet certain criteria and the extension must provide value.

The best part about doing this is it’s completely FREE!

11. A/B Test Your Ads and Landing Pages

Digital marketing, in general, is a constant game of testing and optimizing. PPC ads are no exception. Performing these tests gives you an idea of what is working well, and what can be scrapped.

Luckily, the process of A/B testing variants in PPC is usually simpler than other forms of split testing. But, it does not mean you should take this task lightly.

Typically, there are four major areas in which you should be testing your copy.

  1. Headline
  2. Body
  3. Link
  4. Keywords on the ad display

Throughout your tests, look for patterns in how certain keywords are more effective in terms of CTR, conversions, raising awareness, etc. Some might be great for one component, but horrendous in other areas. This just means some words are working at different levels of the buyer’s journey. This does not mean one is more valuable than another. They are simply serving different functions.

The more you test, the better the bank of keywords you will have for your campaigns.

12. Select the Most Valuable Keywords

While this one seems obvious, it’s not quite as easy as it sounds.

The most important thing to keep in mind is you don’t want to grab for the top shelf, not yet at least. These terms are usually costly and highly competitive. Don’t go too broad. Look for the ones performing best within your niche audience. Selecting the best keywords takes finesse. In other words, they should be effective, but not too effective to the point where a user enters the term and a plethora of similar ads will pop up before yours.

Also, be sure you are using ones for each stage of the customer journey.

What would people be searching when they are casually conducting research in relation to your business?

What about when they are beginning to get serious in narrowing down their options?

Validating their decision?

Building your keyword list for PPC takes time and planning. Finding the perfect balance of terms will be one of the most vital elements in your strategy.

13. Pause Under-Performing Keywords and Match Types

On the flip side, a good piece of advice to keep in mind with keywords is not to fall in love. You’ll notice that certain keywords can go from high performers to completely irrelevant rather quickly. If the numbers are lower than you would like in terms of CTR, conversions, or impressions, it can be extremely easy to pause without hesitation. However, there are a few things to consider before pulling the trigger.

For one, look at ALL the device patterns. Some might only be underperforming in one area and be doing well in another.

Pause Under-Performing Keywords and Match Types in Adwords

Second, look at positioning. If you’re paying top dollar for a keyword-triggered ad to be positioned at the top of the list and it’s unprofitable, it might be wise to try and move it down a couple spots. Sometimes, people tend to skip over the ads at the very top of a page.

Third, consider your ad group structure. Some keywords can trigger ads completely irrelevant to your business. For example, you might bid on a keyword like “leather shoes,” but it prompts an ad that mentions something completely different, like “cow leather.” These combinations have no chance at success. If this is the case, go back and re-evaluate your ad groups and create ones that are more niche-focused.

Fourth, choose keyword match types based on your objectives. It’s best to start with either an exact match or phrase match keywords. Personally, I prefer the Phrase Match. Once you get better at AdWords and gain confidence in identifying search patterns of your customers, start using the Broad Match Modifier, which will help you increase the reach of your campaigns.

At the same time, keep eye on your search terms data and add negative keywords into specific ad groups or campaigns to eliminate waste of marketing dollars.

14. Build a Negative Keyword List

Negative keywords essentially instruct the search engines to NOT show ads for certain terms. This way, you can designate which types of searches trigger your ads.

For example, if you strictly sell high-end wooden furniture, there are many potential searches that can lead to fruitless results. Terms like cheap, free, old, restored, etc. might not be relevant to your business goals. Therefore, it’s best to add those to your negative keyword list.

There are many benefits to this tactic. For one, it helps you steer the most interested customers in the right direction. Two, it weeds out irrelevant traffic, saving you time and money in the long run. Three, if you have multiple PPC campaigns going at once, using negative keywords can help avoid cross-promotional matches.

For some assistance in this area, WordStream has a free negative keyword tool to give you a better idea of which words to include (or exclude) on your list.

WordStream - free negative keyword tool

 

15. Keep on Experimenting

Big data is quickly becoming one of the most valuable resources in the world. Businesses are now able to use it for making more accurate and educated decisions. With so much information out there, the trick is finding the right metrics to mine and glean insights to improve future performance.

When looking at any form of digital marketing, you must approach the task with the mindset that your strategy is an ever-evolving entity. There will always be new trends and consumer preferences emerging and dying by the hour. The best way to navigate the constantly-shifting landscape is to get your hands dirty and experiment. In terms of PPC, don’t be afraid to take risks. Think outside the box. True, some of your attempts will be duds. But in the process, you will learn what works and what doesn’t. Use your past experiences and results to provide the grounds for your next plan of attack. You may even find something completely revolutionary!

Blog Source: E2M Solutions | 15 PPC Tips to Fuel Your Google AdWords Campaign Performance

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Tips for Voice Search Optimization

Recent studies indicated that by the year 2020, up to 50% of all internet queries will be made via voice search. Even as of 2018, an estimated 1 billion voice searches are performed per month. As voice-enabled “assistant” devices such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home become more popular, it’s clear that voice search must be taken into account within today’s digital marketing strategies.

 

Of course, it’s a basic principle of SEO that website content should target the keywords and search phrases that people might use to search for your business online. Heck, that’s the whole idea! A fully-optimized website has valuable, effective, and relevant keywords generously sprinkled throughout the site content. Your site might even feature pages or posts with titles and content based on the specific queries made by your customers — such as a page titled “Benefits of Dedicated Hosting” or a blog article titled “What is Dedicated Hosting?”

 

Titles like these target not only a specific keyword but also a particular search phrase. Highly specific keyword phrases such as “Benefits of Dedicated Hosting” or “Hosting Provider Near Me” are referred to as “long-tail keywords,” and they’re an absolute must for voice-based search optimization. Why? Because users search differently when speaking their query out loud versus typing it into a search box, and are more likely to phrase their query as a question (e.g., “Google, where is the closest Italian restaurant?”) instead of a string of search terms (e.g., “Italian restaurant duluth mn”).

 

Furthermore, voice search is often used with devices that also feature location-based search functionality, such as cell phones or “smart” devices like Amazon Alexa. Queries that include terms like “near me,” “closest,” “directions to,” etc., have increased steadily over the past year as more customers perform searches while “on the go.” Targeting potential customers who make location-based voice searches like these is another “must” for your SEO strategy, as searching for a particular business nearby means they’re interested in making a purchase now.

 

So, we’ve covered some general concepts about the importance of optimizing for voice search. Now, here are three practical tips you can take right away to get started!

 

1. Incorporate Long-Tail Keywords into Your Content

 

Aside from being a great way to optimize your site for voice search, another benefit of long-tail keyword phrases is how they can be used to target highly specific audiences and interests. The keyword “bike shop” might attract a wide range of visitors, but many of those visitors might be looking for something different than what you offer. On the other hand, the long-tail keyword phrase “mountain bike repair shop in Duluth” targets a more specific audience, and offers much better optimization for voice search. If you’ve been focusing on short, generic keywords, work on developing a list of longer keyword phrases that highlight what sets your business apart from others.

 

2. Ensure Your Online Geographic Presence is Up-To-Date

 

As mentioned, voice search often works in tandem with location-based services to help users find a business in their geographic area. This means it’s especially important to ensure that your business’s overall online presence makes it very clear where your business is located! Review your listing on platforms such as Google Maps, Bing Places, and Facebook for accuracy, as well as the contact information provided on your website itself. Also, keep in mind that search results for specific locations tend to highlight reviews other users have provided for each business. There is no such thing as too many good reviews, so encouraging your customers to offer some feedback online can do wonders for your overall online presence.

 

3. Incorporate Voice Search Into Your Own Website

 

It’s clear that more and more users are becoming comfortable with performing searches by using their voice. By incorporating voice search functionality into your own website, you can offer your customers the same convenience. Plus, by tracking the voice search queries your customers make on your website, you can gain some insight into how they might be using voice search to find your business in the first place, and use that information to further optimize your website.

 

Whether you’re a current marketing client or are simply interested in learning more about optimizing your website for voice search, Faster Solutions would love to chat with you! Contact our marketing team today to get the conversation started.

 

Blog Source: Faster Solutions | 3 TIPS TO OPTIMIZE FOR VOICE SEARCH

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Buying a New Fireplace Wisely

On the market for a new fireplace? Here’s the inside scoop on how to select the perfect model for your home’s needs.

  1. Decide on the fireplace’s main purpose.
    Is it heat-efficiency, aesthetics or a combination of both? By communicating this information to the fireplace salesperson, your options will narrow and your selection process will become much easier.
  2. Don’t buy a fireplace with the intention of heating more than one room.
    Trying to save on heating costs in this way will result in an overheated main room, forcing you to keep the gas fireplace off much of the time.
  3. If you’re looking for heating efficiency, consider a thermostat-controlled, self-modulated fireplace.
    This way, the fireplace will automatically turn up and down while regulating the room to the temperature you desire.
  4. Research the fireplace trim options to determine which would best suit your décor.
    Once you’ve decided on a specific fireplace insert, ask the salesperson to review the trim designs that are available. Often the brochure will feature options not seen in the showroom, and you’ll surely find something that blends seamlessly with your existing decorating style.
  5. View the fireplace while the flames are inactive-not just when they are turned on.
    Since the fireplace won’t be running 24 hours a day all year long, it’s important that you are sure you like how the unit looks when it’s not fired up.
  6. Avoid choosing a heating insert that relies on a fan to push the hot air out into the room.
    The best fireplaces are efficient without a fan. Using one does help with circulation, but will only marginally improve the heat output and there will always be some noise. If you do have a fan, make sure you have a separate control for it so you can turn it up, down, or off, as needed.
  7. When choosing a decorative log set, choose one that easily fits into the fireplace area and leaves some breathing room.
    Having ample space around the log set looks better and ensures that the valve will not overheat.
  8. Determine how you want to operate your gas fireplace.
    There are a number of options available, including wall switches, remote controls, and thermostats. You can also operate many fireplaces manually.
  9. If a gas fireplace is not an option, consider an electric fireplace.
    Electric fireplaces are now available in a variety of sizes and styles with lots of different trim options. They require no venting, so you can install them anywhere in the home.
  10. Find a fireplace retailer who will arrange to have a licensed and insured HVAC contractor take care of the installation.
    How the fireplace is installed can impact its overall efficiency operation and durability.

 

Blog Source: Reader’s Digest Canada | What You Need to Know Before Buying a New Fireplace

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