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I have been attending (and speaking at) the last four Visitor Impact Task Force meetings. My purpose has been to bring to light the importance of local business to tourism. After all, local business provides the culture, the vibe, the fun, the uniquely Austin flavor that tourists love to experience. I have presented a series of compelling presentations pointing out why local business should be included in the considerations and, specifically, why AIBA is the organization to oversee this. Read the presentations here. But all is not well in Task Force Land. 

The City Council directed the task force to ”make recommendations to the City Council about how to best utilize all hotel occupancy revenue to impact tourism by April 1, 2017.”  What began as an objective overview of best use practices for Hotel Occupancy Taxes has eroded into the haves and have-nots. The two majority entities already receiving HOT funds are the Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB) and Cultural Arts. Both are represented on the Task Force (see all members here). Having these two powerhouses on the Task Force has enevitably led to the haves and everyone else—the have nots.These two entities control most of the HOT funds. Arts (represented by LuLu Flores) and ACVB (represented by Tom Moonan) have laid down the law that no one is touching their money and, to date, this has not been challenged. This is a tactic of bullying and intimidation. 

While the majority of the task force is just trying to do their job without confrontation, some have painted a picture with less than the truth. Since AIBA was the focus of these deceptions, I have informed the task force of the truth. Read AIBA's letter in the task force meeting backup material. Mr. Noonan made several erroneus statements regarding ACVB's relationship with AIBA (spoiler alert-there isn't one) and proclaimed that ACVB promotes the local business community, AIBA and the IBIZ Districts. Our recent survey says otherwise but more on that later.

It's time to show the City Council and the Task Force that local business is listening and we are not amused. Take action now. Come to the next Task Force meeting on May 23 at 5:30, Hyatt Regency on Barton Springs Rd, Foothills 2 Room when Citizen's Communication is scheduled. You don't have to speak but show our force. Write to your Council Member and tell them that local business is driver of tourism (and sales taxes). Go on Speak Up Austin and share your views on including and funding local business. But most of all, Be Vocal for Local.

OUTAGE COMMUNICATION
 
Austin Energy benchmarks in the top quartile for providing reliable power, but when the lights go out, it’s critical that we offer you quick, accurate information and updates. Austin Energy’s new Two-Way Outage Communication system will offer our customers clear, concise, mobile-friendly information and updates. This system will allow customers to report outages via SMS text messages and in turn, Austin Energy will proactively provide updates on restoration progress and estimated restoration times. Customers will be able to view information on an upgraded, mobile-friendly online outage map currently known as "Storm Center." Testing is scheduled to be completed in June, with a go-live date set for July. Contact your Key Account Manager for participation details.
 
POWER PLANT TOURS
 
We’ve set aside two dates for our customers to tour some of Austin Energy’s power plants. Please RSVP to Diane.Mercado@austinenergy.com if you’re able to attend, and she will send you more details.
• Webberville Solar on Tuesday, May 16 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
• Sand Hill Energy Center on Friday, May 19 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
 
ECAD REPORTING 
 
The City of Austin’s Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure ordinance requires commercial buildings within the Austin city limits that receive electricity from Austin Energy to calculate and submit an annual energy rating by June 1. The ordinance applies to commercial buildings 10,000 square feet or larger.
 
The building owner or the person who submitted ECAD data last year received a letter in mid-April explaining two the reporting options:
1. Use the unique Building Owner Key Code in the letter associated with the buildings you own or manage. Go to the website to acknowledge the property information and energy use data for your building(s), calculated based on size and property type.
2. For those wanting more detailed information, we encourage you to use the EPA’s Portfolio Manager tool. 
 
If you have not received information regarding the ECAD ordinance reporting process, please call 512-482-5346 or email us for assistance  
 
If you have any questions, or if you would like to receive outage alerts regarding your facilities, please contact Murray Jones at Murray.Jones@austinenergy.com. We value your business and appreciate the opportunity to serve you.

The Armadillo Awards were a smashing success with 300 in attendance! Great local food from Hoover's Cooking, Lucky's Puccias, Pasta & Co. and Wheatsville Food-Coop. Rick McNulty totally hit the music vibe for the evening and the Roller Girls were in the house! Of course Indy was there to pose with guests. Quack's 43rd St. Bakery donated an amazing Armadillo Cake to celebrate AIBA's 15th Birthday. Four raffle collections of items and services from local bsuinesses worth more than $7,500 were won by lucky audience members.

A very special thank you to our sponsors: Austin Energy, City of Austin Economic Development, Wheatsville Food Co-op, TXRD, Ideal ProductionsAuthorized Credit Card Systems, The Sleep Center of Austin, Mike's Print Shop, SystemSeven, The Bumper Sticker, AO Tours, COMNIO, Freestyle Language Center, RK Audiology and SOS Alliance.

See the finalists and winners!

Thank you to all who came and enjoyed the Flavor of Local!

There’s a division at City Council that I find disturbing. Simply put, it pits workers vs. business. I’ve seen this on several issues lately, most recently the affordability plan. Discussions that began with construction workers now include all workers. Goals went from raising as many as possible out of poverty to every worker attaining middle class. None of us want to see anyone living in poverty. We all want doors open and a hand up given to those in need. America was built on opportunity and we need to stay vigilant to ensure we remain the land of opportunity for all.
 
But the workers vs. business mentality is a divisive and destructive lens through which to view a variety of issues through. Perhaps this is a reflection of national politics but it’s rather alarming on our own City Council. The tone and comments from Council Chambers at City Hall place this as workers=good, business=bad. This paints the picture of the big, bad businesses abusing the poor, vulnerable workers. Unfortunately there are big, bad businesses and there are poor, vulnerable workers. But this broad paintbrush paints every business as a menace. 
 
As Executive Director of AIBA, I find this perspective seriously inaccurate and offensive. The local business community is not made up of big, bad businesses yet in this simplistic division, we are the menace. Local businesses are responsible for 85% of the job growth in Austin, provide the cornerstone of our local economy, express and support our local culture and make this city thrive. Yet at City Hall, somehow local businesses are viewed as part of the problem for workers. Since most of our local businesses are small, I would submit further that we, too, are the workers. But we’re also the local businesses. Simplistic just got more complicated. 
 
I challenge the City Council to find ways to help local business hire more people and pay them more. AIBA has made numerous proposals over the past seven years to no avail. Big business gets tax breaks and red carpets. Local business gets roadblocks and more regulation. It makes headlines and puts feathers in caps when a company moves here with a thousand jobs. But local business adds jobs every week, every month, every year. How about local business feathers for caps at City Hall?
 
The world is rarely black and white. I would ask our City Council to cease and desist painting the local business community as the enemy of the worker. 
Central Texas studies show that companies who have sales in more than one international market earn 17% more profits than their peers and also stay in business 10 years longer, on average. These are both amazing figures and worth exploring! And actually your City of Austin’s Economic Development Department is actively working to attract international opportunities on your behalf. Our city is famous around the world for the quality of life that is defined by our shared values and a sense of place that is united by music, fun and a unique vibe for weird. 
 
The City’s Economic Development Department is leveraging this relatively new brand to make sure that companies, investors, and audiences for all Austin products are familiar with our location and business base around the world.  Austin may be the Live Music Capital of the World, but it is a great place to do business, too – and your Economic Development Department is looking for more opportunities to exhilarate your businesses opportunities at home by importing new and collaborative partners, while helping to export your products and services into different markets.  
 
How you can begin this exploration? The Economic Development Department has the resources to help you build your international strategy. The department, along with several of our community partners, such as chambers of commerce, universities and international organizations, came together as ATXBound several years ago. As a growing collaborative network for all things international, ATXBound can help you identify which international markets have similar profiles as your target markets and we have the connections needed to help you deploy your global action plan. 
 
We don’t want the words “international” and “global” to seem overwhelming or scary so, when you are ready, we have a variety of options available to help you pursue these endeavors for business development at your own pace. ATXBound partners offer annual trade delegations to different markets on an annual basis and provide a full agenda that helps to provide businesses with an orientation of each market, connections to business services in each market, and business-to-business meetings. Our services also includes elements of business coaching and incubation opportunities for a “soft landing” into a variety of foreign markets. 
 
You’ll have a lot of questions as you get going on this and the City of Austin and ATXBound partners are happy to help you navigate each of them through our connected and collaborative partnerships around the world. After you’ve got a clear picture of your customer profile pull out a map and give the City of Austin a call (512) 974-6416, casey.smith@austintexas.gov!
 
Casey Smith 
International Program Manager
Global Business Expansion Division 
Economic Development Department
City of Austin
Tourists bring millions of dollars in tax revenue to our City, and they also have a major impact on City operations and resources, as well as our economy as a whole. How should we best manage the tax dollars generated by tourism to benefit our community?
 
Austin welcomes thousands of tourists each year, and those tourists pump significant amounts of tax dollars directly into City coffers. Those tourists also have a significant impact on City resources. We’re trying to determine the right ways to invest tax money contributed by tourists back into the City. The Visitor Impact Task Force (appointed by the Austin City Council) is currently meeting (through the spring) to discuss how the City of Austin should use hotel occupancy tax funds paid by tourists. The task force will make recommendations to the City Council about how to best utilize all hotel occupancy revenue to impact tourism by May 31, 2017. This feedback could greatly influence their recommendations. 
 
AIBA has been attending the Task Force meetings to make sure local business is seen as the tourist attraction we are. We’ve been presenting a series focused on the impact local business has on tourism. Local business owners know the impact tourism has on their business. AIBA is proposing that a very small portion of the hotel occupancy revenue be dedicated to AIBA for the purpose of promoting local business to tourists. We want to see those tourism dollars going in your door and not a chain or big box. Please support AIBA in this effort. Would you please take a minute to comment on the city’s speak Up Austin website on this issue? 
Midnight Pitch LIVE in ATX – 2 days, 8 hours, tens of millions of Chinese consumers.
 
This May Texas small businesses will have an opportunity to launch their brands with the world’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba. Using live stream technology, a pitch event will be hosted in Austin to connect Texas businesses to thousands of Chinese retailers on Taobao Global, Alibaba’s solution that allows businesses from outside of China to reach Chinese consumers via buying agents. Brands selected and successful with Taobao sellers will have a chance to graduate and open a Tmall Global Store.
 
The Midnight Pitch LIVE in ATX event will be the first pilot event in the United States. Austin Mayor Steve Adler is delighted that a dream of helping small businesses is becoming a reality. “This is a result from conversations we started with Alibaba during our trade delegation mission to China last summer, and I’m thrilled to open the largest consumer market in the world to local Austin small businesses.” All small businesses throughout Texas are encouraged to apply.
 
Alibaba Group is the world’s largest e-commerce company with the mission to make it easy to do business anywhere. It is a gateway to China’s large and growing middle class of more than 300 million consumers -- expected to grow to 500 million in next 5 years. 
 
During National Small Business Week, selected applicants will do a 5-10 minute live presentation about their product/brand. Taobao Global buying agents will be able to easily and quickly select the products they are most interested in. 
 
This event is being hosted by the City of Austin Economic Development Department’s Global Business Expansion and Small Business Divisions in partnership with the Small Business Festival. Application deadline is Tuesday, April 21. Application and more information including suitable products can be found at www.smallbusinessfestival.org/apply.
WHAT: Midnight Pitch LIVE in ATX
WHEN: May 3 and May 4, 2017
WHERE: 800 Congress – Austin, Texas
TIME: 10PM – 2AM
APPLICATION & DEADLINE: April 21 at www.smallbusinessfestival.org/apply
 
About the City of Austin Economic Development Department (www.austintexas.gov/ecodev)
The City’s Economic Development Department (EDD) develops and leads innovative programs that increase the prosperity of all Austinites, our businesses, and our diverse communities.
About the Small Business Festival (www.smallbusinessfestival.org)
 
The event is organized by a group of seasoned professionals with backgrounds in business consulting and coaching, start-ups, technology, marketing, event programming and production, business development and community relations who are all passionate about entrepreneurship and small business.

AIBA fought the good fight to get Austin Energy to roll back the peak demand threshold to 20kW rather than the 10kW currently in place. We threw in the towel when Austin Energy said no three times and the City Council failed to make this policy change twice.

 

This effort was born from an attempt to get better electric rates for local, small businesses in the 10-20kW category (called Secondary 2). Originally there were 7,733 commercial customers caught in this category. Of particular note is the fact that this category of small users is paying more than twice the percentage of revenue above cost of service over any other category, including the big users. This is an unfair practice that AIBA works to correct.

 

Austin Energy has taken some steps to help. The use the average of the four summer months’ peak to determine peak threshold rather than one instance. This removed 1,300 customers from Peak Demand.

 

Austin Energy also instituted a load factor discount. This gets really complicated but it’s designed to give relief to a business that uses electricity in peaks and valleys vs. a business that uses a higher level of power but on a steady range. This program gave discounts of almost $7 million annually to small users.

 

In addition, the conservation programs now offered, and those being designed, better address the range of use conditions small, local business presents. Austin energy has met with local business owners to discuss their needs and it seems like they are designing programs to better meet those needs.

The Secondary 2 rate class still pays considerably more above cost of service than any other class but these programs do help some businesses. AIBA continues to work on reducing this disparity.

Local business drives our local economy, creates 85 percent of the new jobs, defines and reflects our local culture, collectively contributes the most to local charities and pays its full share of taxes (no breaks here). We built this city. We aren’t corporate giants—we’re your neighbors and family. Shopping at a locally owned business doesn’t help a corporate CEO buy a second or third vacation house. It helps a shop owner’s little girl get dance lessons, the owner’s son play soccer. And it’s money spent here in Austin, further driving the local economy. You’d think our City Council would be excited to support the local business community through policies and programs—but they aren’t.
 
On March 2, the City Council Agenda included a proposal to address affordability in a comprehensive way. For the first time, local business was included in the conversation on affordability in Austin. Council Member Troxclair and her staff worked closely with AIBA to make sure local business was included and some of our issues were addressed. But not just the conversation, the Austin Affordability Action Plan included a section directly addressing small, local businesses:
 
Small & Locally-Owned Business Support
In order to address affordability issues facing Austin’s existing small and locally-owned businesses, the City shall convene a stakeholder process of locally-owned businesses and organizations to consider economic development policies, land use policies, incentives, and other programs to support our locally-owned, small businesses. The City Manager shall consider and make recommendations that include, but are not be limited to, the creation of a lead local business position in the Economic Development department, advertising and marketing locally-owned businesses and local-business districts to tourists, encouraging or incentivizing affordable lease or lease-to-own commercial space, and other policy options that will address affordability for Austin small and local businesses.
 
These initiatives are based on AIBA’s Local Business Manifesto and goals from our two Local Business Conferences. But you won’t see any of this because the City Council killed the plan. Worse, they voted to postpone it indefinitely with Council Members Troxclair, Kitchen, Houston, Flannigan and Mayor Adler voting for and Council Members Pool, Garza, Rentiera, Casar, Tovo and Alter voting to postpone.
 
Our City Council Members will tell you they love local business. That they shop locally as much as possible. That they support our local business community. Every one of our Council Members ran on a local business platform. All but our one most recent electees (we did not ask Alter in the 2016 election or Flannigan, who signed the pledge in 2014) signed our Local Business Pledge. Yet in more than ten years of advocacy at City Hall, this is the closest we’ve come to actual progress. And it failed. 
 
In the past year alone, we took a leadership role in three major issues:
We petitioned the City Council to return Austin Energy’s Peak Demand threshold from the current 10kW to the 20kW of the past to help small, local businesses escape the pain of Peak Demand Rates. The Council voted no.
 
We fought to keep punitive policies out of expedited permitting. The Council voted no. We were, however, able to achieve a staff-recommended policy that excludes small projects.
 
We championed the Austin Affordability Action Plan outlined above. The Council voted no.
 
Our advocacy extends far beyond these three initiatives. We visit with Council Members regularly, bringing local business issues to their attention and usually with a plan to fix or at least help the situation. 
 
In more than ten years of advocacy, one Local Business Manifesto and two Local Business Conferences involving more than 200 local business owners producing 26 proposals, programs and policies, we stand at zero results. We get exceptional and impressive lip service and nothing else. Austin can do better.
By John Leo Weber
Geek Powered Studios
 
Pay-Per-Click advertising (known more simply as PPC) is a type of marketing that allows businesses to place ads directly on Google search results pages. PPC is an effective way to reach targeted customers based on which keywords they are searching. 
 
PPC advertising is done through the Google Adwords auction platform, where different advertisers bid to have their ads show when a certain word or phrase is searched.  For instance, if you are a dentist in Austin, you can bid on the phrase “best dentist in Austin” so that anytime that phrase is searched, your ad can show up.  Other dentists may be bidding on the same keyword, so it is important to monitor your bids closely so that you can be competitive.  There are usually 3 or 4 ads that show at the top of the Google search results, so theoretically, the dentist with the highest bid would show first, the next highest bid shows second, and so on. There are many other factors that dictate where and when your ad shows, so it is important to fully understand the Adwords platform before spending money on a campaign.
 
Why Is It Called PPC?
This type of advertising is called Pay-Per-Click (PPC) because you only get charged once somebody clicks on your ad.  This is a very efficient system, because you are only paying for actual customers coming to your website. Compare this to TV advertising, where you pay for the ad without having any way to track how many people actually looked at your ad.
 
Want To Learn More About PPC?
The team at Austin digital marketing company Geek Powered Studios put together a quick video explaining how PPC works. The video breaks down how the advertising platform works, and will help you decide whether a PPC marketing campaign is right for your business! 
 
John Leo Weber is Director of Digital Marketing at Geek Powered Studios and can be reached at 512-369-3882.
We would like to thank Rebecca and everyone at AIBA for the chance to tell you a little about how the Austin Clubhouse is saving the lives of Austin citizens struggling with mental illness every day.
 
Austin Clubhouse is a local non-profit that helps those with major mental health issues re-integrate into society through our housing, educational, wellness and job programs. Our member's most requested program, Transitional Employment, has a long waiting list because we need jobs!
 
"Austin Clubhouse exists to provide acceptance and empowerment so adults living with mental health diagnoses can pursue personal goals and play a meaningful role as co-workers, colleagues, family members, and friends."
 
 
Our members can do anything! Our dream jobs are 6-9 months per member, 10-20 hours per week, and our staff provides absentee coverage at no cost to you! We also provide longer term, Supported Employment positions. Of course, if you fall in love with your member, you can hire them independently. Our TEs often get hired directly from the program and promoted!
 
Our community partners are vital to the success of our Employment programs which provide hope and a new life for our members.
 
If you are interested in becoming one of our partners, please call or come by for a free homemade lunch and a tour of our beloved Austin Clubhouse!  Below is a short video that gives a better look at how our services can be live-saving for our members:
 
 
We are located at 610 E 45th Street, Austin, Texas 78751
Our hours are Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, Thursday's until 8pm.
 
Contact the Austin Clubhouse at (512) 925-5877 or contact
Kris Kavanaugh, Associate Director at (205) 331-7020.
Every year on Halloween night, October 31st, Planet K hosts a free Dias De Los Muertos Fireworks show for the community of Austin. We like to kick off this time of year honoring our departed loved ones with a month of giving. We use the fireworks celebration as a tool to spread awareness about some of our favorite local charities. We have raised tens of thousands of dollars in the past, and aspire to raise even more in the coming years. We have been working with Central TX Food Bank, House the Homeless, Meals on Wheels, Austin Harm Reduction, and Austin Pets Alive, taking in both monetary and supplies donations at all 9 of our Austin locations. We invite you to join our efforts to support these local charities, and all contributions made will be tax deductible.
 
By agreeing to participate in this annual and growing community event, you will also have the name of your business included alongside the charities in tons of outreach. We have several media partners, and facilitate advertisements through a number of avenues including over: 108,000 postcards, 1,000 radio spots, 200 television spots, 170,000 print circulations, 56,000 web page views and 5,000 views on social media.
 
If you would like to find out how to participate in this years Planet K Texas Dias De Los Muertos Fireworks Celebration, or if you would like more information, please contact Justine Carmack at 214-208-0055, or at PlanetKWordpress@gmail.com.
 
If you own and operate a retail store (whether your store is brick and mortar or an online store), I bet that you sold plenty of gift cards this past holiday season. Gift cards have become a very popular gift item, for Christmas, birthdays and other occasions (in fact, according to GiftCards.com, over $100 billion is spent each year on gift cards in the U.S.!). As an operator of a retail business, what should you know about selling gift cards? 
 
As a little background, all states have had escheat – or unclaimed property – laws for a long time. Banks have had to comply with the unclaimed property laws by filing reports and sending the money in unclaimed bank accounts to the Texas Comptroller. These unclaimed property laws have fairly recently been applied to gift cards. In addition, federal laws have been enacted that impose some minimum standards on gift cards, and laws have been adopted in almost all states that impose higher standards on gift cards. Here are a few highlights of these regulations that you should know about. 
  • Expiration date: If you want to set an expiration date for the gift cards that you sell, you can do so – but the expiration date must be within five years from the issue date. The expiration date must be clearly and conspicuously printed on the card, and you need to advise the purchaser that there is an expiration date when the gift card is purchased. 
  • When gift cards will be deemed abandoned: A gift card will be presumed abandoned and deemed unclaimed property on the earlier of the expiration date (if there is one) or the 3rd anniversary after the last use of the card. 
  • Remitting value of abandoned gift cards to the State: Once a gift card is deemed abandoned, you must remit the value of the gift card to the Texas Comptroller as unclaimed property.
  • Reporting requirement: If you sell gift cards, you must regularly report as unclaimed property the value of the gift cards that are presumed to have been abandoned.  
  • You must file a report with the Texas Comptroller on July 1 of each year, reporting all unclaimed property that you hold as of March 1 of that year and remitting to the Comptroller the value of all gift cards that are deemed unclaimed property.
  • Loyalty awards: Loyalty awards, such as a 10% off coupon or a $5 coupon given to customers, are treated differently from gift cards and are exempt from these regulations, as no value was exchanged for such awards or cards. 
  • Dormancy or inactivity fees: Be aware that there are special provisions relating to dormancy, inactivity or service fees and when they can be imposed, so be sure that you know what those restrictions are before you impose a dormancy fee on any gift cards that you have issued. 
 
Selling gift cards may be a great way to increase business and encourage customers to shop at your store or site – just be aware of your obligations. Good luck! 
 
Kathryn L. Turpin, licensed to practice law in both Texas and California, helps business owners with all aspects of starting and running a business, including drafting all contracts for a business, handling employment issues, reviewing leases, and buying, selling or closing down a business. Ms. Turpin has the skills to implement sophisticated solutions, but knows that sometimes the simplest solution is still the best solution!  You can reach Kathryn at kturpin@thefowlerlawfirm.com or at 512-441-1411. Kathryn is an AIBA Advisor for all things legal.
 

One of the most broad (and confusing) terms in online marketing is SEO. In addition to being a broad and confusing term, SEO is also a broad form of online marketing and encompasses lots of different types of activities.
 
The purpose of this post is to outline the basics of SEO, introduce you to the two types of SEO, and highlight some general best practices for both types of SEO.
 
What is SEO?
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is any online marketing activity that impacts how your website appears and where it ranks in organic search results.
 
The key takeaway from my previous sentence is "impacts" because there are ways to both positive and negatively impact your website through SEO, but that's a topic for another day.
 
Tracking your SEO
It's important to understand how SEO is tracked and measured, because if you're not tracking SEO, you're wasting your online marketing budget. Tracking your SEO helps us gauge if our efforts are working ("good SEO") or not working ("bad SEO"). Good SEO means your website is improving where it appears (organically) for a particular keyword.
 
Bad SEO means your website is not improving where it appears (organically) for a particular keyword.
 
Your website's rank is not where it appears on Google for you. Your website's rank is where it appears on Google for everyone else.
 
This is one of the more confusing things about SEO. You can't effectively measure or gauge your impact of SEO efforts without professional tools, like moz.com.
 
Google knows your browsing history, the device you're using, your online habits, and your current location — Google uses this information to custom tailor your search results.
 
That means when you search for a keyword on Google you're seeing potentially different results than what others may see.
 
Moz.com's Keyword Explorer is a great SEO tool that helps you do some basic SEO reporting.
 
Here's a simple way to track your SEO efforts using a spreadsheet. You'll want to create four columns:
  • Date: Enter the date you ran your report and took a measurement (take a new measurement every 30 days).
  • Keyword: Enter the keyword you're tracking. You'll track the same keyword every 30 days and hopefully identify new keywords to include as you progress.
  • URL: Enter the URL you're tracking (where the keyword appears). Remember, every page on your website can impact your SEO.
  • Page Rank: Enter the rank for the keyword/URL combo you're tracking.
An example of how this might look is below:
 
 
Now that we've covered what SEO is and how to measure it, let's learn about different types of SEO activities.
 
SEO falls into two main categories:
1. On-page SEO (SEO you do "on" your website)
2. Off-page SEO (SEO you do "off" your website — elsewhere on the web)
 
On-page SEO
On-page SEO includes anything you do on your website (or on a page within your website) to impact how your website appears (and ranks) within organic search results.
 
On-page SEO also helps you control how your search results are displayed. Your meta information (page title and page description) are used by search engines to display information about your site and specific pages on your site.
 
Some examples of best practices for on-page SEO, include:
  • Including a robots.txt file for search engine spiders. Search engine spiders are bots that crawl your site, indexing your pages and content.
  • Creating a sitemap.xml file for search engines to properly map links to your website (and the pages and content on your website).
  • Reviewing/updating page meta info (keywords, page titles, and descriptions) to include keywords related to your business.
  • Updating and expanding your website content with more keyword-rich content (images, blog posts, pages, etc.)
  • Hosting different types of content (videos, images, text) on your site — all related to the same keywords.
  • Monitoring how people use your website (i.e. Google Analytics) and optimizing the user experience.
  • Keyword-appropriate page names (e.g. https://comnio.com/services/website-management/)
  • Securing your website with SSL (Google shows favor toward SSL-secured websites).
Here's a handy guide to help you visualize how your meta information is used when displaying search results...
 
1. Keyword search
2. Paid search results (PPC ads)
3. Page Title and 4. Description for our website
 
 
In the above example, the first organic result for "On Demand Marketing | Experienced..." will likely always out-rank comnio.com because they have the keyword "on-demand marketing" in their domain name (ondemandmarketing.net).
 
The key to success with on-page SEO is maintaining your website's code and content on a regular basis. 
 
The other type of SEO is "off-page" SEO. 
 
Off-page SEO
Off-page SEO includes anything you do off your website to impact the organic search ranking of your website and specific pages on your site.
 
Off-page SEO involves far more variables, because it involves building online (and often, offline) relationships with other websites to create backlinks. A backlink is a link to your website, from somewhere else on the web.
 
Not all websites that link to your site are created equal. In fact, search engines use a lot of data to calculate the value of each backlink to your site. 
 
Here are some of the factors that can impact the value of your backlinks:
  • Relevancy (is the backlink to your Austin-based pet store, from a candle maker in Idaho?)
  • Trustworthiness (is the backlink hosted on a trusted site — those known for accurate/good content)
  • Location (is the backlink within the page content near the top of the page, or buried in the sidebar or footer?)
  • Anchor text (are the words forming the backlink, related to the keywords you’re trying to improve your rankings for?)
  • PageRank (Google's measurement of the value of the page where your backlink lives — is your backlink on a high-PR page?)
  • Association (is the backlink near backlinks to other high-authority websites? If so, good. Your website is considered an equal alternative!)
  • Uniqueness (are all of your backlinks from the same website, or do you have backlinks from several different websites?)
  • Not reciprocal (reciprocal backlinks are valuable, but not linking back to the other website is more valuable.)
Search engines also value backlinks based on whether or not they were paid for (i.e. paid placements) and if they are among many other backlinks on the same page/site, or if they are few and far between.
 
The key to a successful off-page SEO strategy is building and nurturing relationships with the people who manage the sites where you want your backlinks included.
Ross Clurman is Co-founder of Comnio, affordable, on-demand marketing and is an AIBA Advisor. 
 
SEO is an effective form of online marketing for many businesses. Hopefully, this information helps you better understand SEO.
Austin by Austin is a celebration of local businesses and creative communities during SXSW, March 11 - 19, 2017
 
Austin by Austin (AXA), presented by The Austin Chronicle and co-sponsored by Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA), aims to showcase the incredible range of Austin’s creative and local business communities during Austin’s biggest festival, South by Southwest.
 
Each year SXSW brings tens of thousands of visitors to town, all eager to check out what makes Austin different from the rest of the country. Austin by Austin will give both visitors and locals a chance to explore AIBA’s IBIZ Districts and participating businesses that make Austin a unique, vibrant city. From musicians performing in vintage shops to artist installations in favorite local bars, Austin by Austin will spark ideas and bring creative collaborations into local neighborhoods.
 
AXA is a chance for artists, makers, entrepreneurs and innovators to show what they do best, and give the local community and visitors a chance to support local businesses and find the best hidden treasures Austin has to offer.
 
Any local business in Austin can participate! All local business are invited to join AXA and showcase local artists, musicians, and creatives in their space. You must be locally owned and be a member of AIBA. What? Not a member yet? Join us! The Chronicle and AIBA have teamed up to offer you a special advertising and membership package. You can participate with a listing of what your business will be doing for free or take advantage of this amazing deal. For more details or to participate in Austin by Austin, contact: axa@austinchronicle.com.


We're declaring February Love Your Locals Month. Share the Love!
 
AIBA has created this Love Your Locals program to build identity and customer loyalty for you with February as the kickoff of a year of love.
 
Take advantage of this free promotion now.
AIBA members can showcase their business online! Send us a photo and 100 words to promote your February specials and offerings. We'll post it to the website and promote your business through all our social media. It's just one more benefit of membership in AIBA. This program is is for retailers and consumer services only. Email your photo and text to Rebecca to participate.
 
What? Not a member! Join us now to take advantage of the Love Your Locals promotion and all the other benefits of membership.

The Power of Local, a one day retreat for local business was held yesterday and was a huge success. This was AIBA's first all-day event and attendees gave rave reviews. Every panel and speaker brought wit and wisdom to the event. We will soon have videos of each presentation available on Youtube. I'll keep you posted on when this is available.

"Just wanted to THANK YOU and your talented team for all of the hard work and efforts with the event yesterday (and all year round). You all did an AMAZING job! Although It was extremely well coordinated, perfect venue, very informative, fun and did have great value!  Count me in for the next one."

"My favorite thing was being surrounded by so many local business people willing to talk and give advice."

"So many good ideas!"

"Such a supportive atmosphere. Loved the variety of businesses on the panels."

"It was fantastic to listen to the panelists, hearing local stories and struggles and successes and their advice."

A very special than you to our sponsors:

       

It’s easy to overlook the benefits of accepting credit cards at your business. As a line item, credit card processing fees may cause small-business owners frustration. However, credit card processing fees are the cost of doing business and come with their own benefits.
 
Why Do Credit Card Processing Fees Exist?
To process credit cards, merchants must have specialized card-reading equipment and a credit card processing company to manage payments and send them to the corresponding credit card company, whether associated with a bank, such as Bank of America, or a national provider, such as American Express. Instead of managing relationships with each of these companies, merchants have a credit card processing company do it for them.
 
Credit card processors have specialized infrastructure to accept payments and verify the authenticity of the cards. Credit card processing fees cover more than just the infrastructure required to accept payments. They also accept a lot of the liability associated with credit card usage, so merchants and credit card companies have less risk.
 
Buyers Expect Credit Card Acceptance
Many buyers no longer carry cash with them, as most of the places they shop accept credit cards. They expect merchants to accept multiple forms of payment. Large and successful companies accept all types of payments, as they strive to accept payment in any form. They see processing fees as a part of accepting payments from customers.
 
Credit Card Seller Benefits
Credit card processing isn’t just beneficial for buyers. Using a credit card processing company is also beneficial to the merchants that rely on them. First, merchants have a centralized point of contact for processing payments instead of having to work with a large number of banks and credit card companies. There’s also a considerable amount of protection processing companies provide to merchants against fraudulent payments.
 
While it may not seem like it at first, credit card processing fees do exist for a reason. They pay for the infrastructure required to process payments from credit card readers. They make it easy for customers to make a purchase online and in retail stores. They even provide a service to sellers.
 
Keith Miller started working in the processing industry in 2001 and founded Authorized Credit Card Systems in in Austin in 2006. He learned first-hand that many card processors were not interested in the client’s experience and created a company that puts its customers first. Keith Miller is an AIBA Advisor for all things involving payment processing. 

Changes are afoot at AIBA World Headquarters! AIBA will be returning to our two newsletter format to better serve you. You have been receiving the AIBA Community newsletter every other week. It's great. It's huge. It's full of important and fun information for businesses and consumers alike. In fact it's too full! Beginning February 1, we will separate our newsletter into two—one for local businesses and one for consumers.

AIBA Community will tell you everything you need to know about what AIBA is doing for you, upcoming events, notices and more. As a local business, it's essential reading. You'll receive AIBA Community on the first of every month.

IndieAustin will tell consumbers about you. Where to go, what to do, where to shop and more will be included so customers can keep up with all things indie biz. don't forget to submit your announcements and happenings to Latest From Your Locals by the 10th of each month to be included in IndieAustin on the 15th of each month. We'll send IndieAustin to our local business subscriber list too so you can see how we are marketing you to the public. And we all shop local too. Right?

By Michael J. Kallstrom, Nature's Treasures
 
All fossils are rocks, but not all rocks are fossils.  Once-living organisms can become preserved and, under the right conditions, the organic tissues of the organism can slowly become replaced by minerals such as calcite or quartz turning the remains into stone.  This process applies to wood as well as the better known ammonites and dinosaur bones most people think of as fossils.
 

Petrified wood can occur in any number of colors due to trace elements that find their way into the replacement minerals.  Because this process occurs atom by atom, many of the wood structures and textures can be perfectly preserved including bark, knots, and even tree rings!  Sometimes the knots and hollows of a limb will fill in with druzy quartz.  Although most petrified wood ends up replaced by the chalcedony member of the quartz family, some specimens have been known to form from hematite and even malachite replacement.  This process can take thousands of years to occur after the decades to centuries of life represented by the wood itself.
 
As one would expect, petrified wood has been adopted by the New Age community as a talisman representing new beginnings and ancient wisdom because of its transformation from a mortal state to an immortal form.  The strong association with trees that the petrified wood comes from means that it can help one to appreciate nature and the nature of time.  With this appreciation one recognizes the cyclical patterns of life, death and new life, which can then be applied to transform oneself and begin a new season of one’s lifetime.  The grounding properties of petrified wood provide us insight into our familial and spiritual roots.
 
There are plenty of places that you can go rock-hounding for your own petrified wood.  Toledo Bend in East Texas hosts petrified palm wood, the state stone, representing a time 100 million years ago when Toledo was beachfront property due to a shallow sea that spanned across most of the state. See fossils and more at Nature's Treasures, 4103 N. IH 35, 512-472-5015.

Human Resources  can have a huge impact on employee attitudes.  If your workforce isn't happy then it typically shows in their performance resulting in loss for the business.  It is important for HR leaders and business owners to  set goals that support a positive workforce atmosphere.
 
Here are some places to start making improvements  to help your business succeed:
 
1. Payroll- If your employees are not getting paid effectively and efficiently this greatly effects morale. Having the right time and attendance tools as well as efficient reporting and resources in payroll takes the stress and worry away from the HR leader and business owners. This function is often outsourced giving more time for the business owner to focus on growing.
 
2. Performance Incentives- designing a benefit and incentive plan correctly is a great way to motivate employees. While there are a lot of small businesses who can't afford to offer Group Health plans there are a lot of other options such as Flexible Spending Accounts, Supplemental Insurance, and other pay incentives that are tangible for most businesses, providing motivation and often times a break in a percentage of payroll tax.
 
3. On boarding and Exit Policies- the way employees come into a business and leave a business have a great effect on the rest of your staff and your company image. New hires need to feel welcomed and  given the resources to be succesful. If either of these 2 things arent done effectively it could have a domino effect. When an employee exits a company it can be for various reasons but not ending the relationship correctly can cost you financially and with your reputation, not to mention the rest of your existing staff.
 
Goal setting and planning in these 3 areas is a great start to helping your workforce flow smoothly. Using industry experts to help make an effective plan or review your current model is a good idea. Kazdon helps companies overcome these workplace challenges. Your success depends on your employees and our success depends on you! Happy goal setting!
 
Holly Acosta GBA, MSP is Vice President at Kazdon, Inc. based in Austin, providing Payroll Services, HR, FSA, Benefit Administration and Education. With 20 years experience in the Consulting and HR industry she is valued for her broad expertise in leading HR initiatives including benefit administration, compensation, compliance reporting, handbook development, HR audits, and training and development. Holly is an AIBA Advisor on all HR issues.