A new kind of click-fraud seems to be emerging. If your business is advertising online through a service like Google AdWords, your competitors could be employing an underground service that actually clicks your ads repetitively without giving you any traffic or sales. This isn’t the kind of click-fraud where a site owner intentionally clicks on the ads on his or her own site to generate additional revenue. Instead, it’s the kind where competitors click on your ads just to deplete your ad budget…and maybe replace your ads with theirs. It’s a new twist on an old trick. The service is called “GoodGoogle” and according to experts like Brian Krebs of KrebsOnSecurity.com, it’s anything but good for your business. On his site, Krebs writes : “The service, which appears to have been in the offering since at least January 2012, provides customers both a la carte and subscription rates. The prices range from $100 to block between three to ten ad units for 24 hours to $80 for 15 to 30 ad units. For a flat fee of $1,000, small businesses can use GoodGoogle’s software and service to sideline a handful of competitors’ ads indefinitely. Fees are paid up-front and in virtual currencies, and the seller offers support and a warranty for his work for the first three weeks.” Krebs says that a competitor would use GoodGoogle to get your ads off the Web early in the day and boost their own position or rank on the Google ad network. And if you’re advertising budget is gone early in the day, you may get a false positive. This could cause you to put more money into your Google AdWords budget, only to have your competitor quickly drain it again. You’d be getting the number of clicks you paid for but not really seeing any new customers or meaningful site traffic as a result. PC Magazine’s David Murphy explains : “Assuming the company has a daily budget for its AdWords advertising, one merely has to click a ton of the competitor’s advertising before the start of business. Once that budget is hit, the advertising campaign goes offline for the day. Rinse, wash, repeat.” You may not think a competitor would stoop so low. But Krebs writes that while the creator of GoodGoogle refused to discuss how his service works, he did point Krebs to a GoodGoogle discussion forum with many satisfied customers. Of course, Google already has a fairly swift and well-known approach for dealing with site owners who might be clicking on your links fraudulently just to boost their own revenue. But it remains to be seen how the company will deal with competitors using a service to click ads on other people’s sites just to deplete your ad budget. Stealing Photo via Shutterstock The post Are Your Competitors Stealing Your AdWords Budget? appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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When creating an e-commerce website, one of the must-have items is a standalone shopping cart. After all, how will your customers buy your products if they have nothing to put them in? Many may think that integrating a cart into your site is really hard work and requires a lot of programming. But nothing could be further from the truth. Many Web services out there – some well known and some not so well known – offer a complete shopping cart solution that you can use on your site in return for a share of your sales. Here are 45 possibilities that you might want to consider. Please note that there are many more out there but they are attached to a web template/hosting package, and therefore not “standalone”. Those who already have a Web presence on WordPress or elsewhere should check out these tools  instead. Paypal There certainly aren’t too many e-commerce sellers who haven’t heard of Paypal ? Although they get some bad press sometimes for freezing funds , they are still an easy solution for inserting a shopping cart into your website. Your customers don’t need a Paypal account, but obviously you do, and all the funds will go into Paypal first. Just insert the yellow HTML buttons into your site by copy-pasting the code provided. Easy as that. Google Wallet / Checkout Nipping on the heels of Paypal is Google who, as usual, wants to rule the world.  “Google Checkout” used to be its own thing but then it was folded into Google Wallet . Same service, different name. Customers can use the purchase button or can sign in using their Google+ accounts. Amazon Payments Alternatively you may want to go with the other big player in the field – Amazon Payments . Customers sign in with their Amazon account, and you can use “the same sophisticated fraud detection technology used by Amazon.com”. Amazon, being a big name, may give assurances to the customer that their payments are protected. When it comes to the customer getting their credit card out or not, it could make all the difference. ShopSite ShopSite claims that with its shopping cart software, you can “host your online store anywhere”. There are a variety of payment methods and the site says that your store will become “SEO-friendly”. TomatoCart Besides the great sounding name, TomatoCart is also open-source. This means that anyone with the programming know-how can crack open the lid and tweak the code. Zen-Cart This one has a very calming name, and, like TomatoCart, it is also open-source. The developer claims that anyone with “the most basic computer skills” can install Zen-Cart quickly. It also offers a plugins directory with useful add-ons such as admin tools, language packs, and payment modules. SimpleCart(js) SimpleCart(js)  is particularly nice for its simplicity. It’s an open-source javascript shopping cart, and the demo on the front page shows you how it works. You simply click on the item and it “jumps” into the shopping cart above. Ubercart Ubercart is a shopping cart software which integrates with Drupal websites only. It markets itself as the solution for selling digital downloads and event registrations (such as concert tickets). FatFreeCart Another cart with an interesting name, FatFreeCart , this one integrates with your website or blog. It even works with MySpace. No registration is required, and installing it is just a matter of copying and pasting. It also works with Paypal and Google Checkout. SunShop SunShop provides a wide range of features on its payment processor page. These features include digital product sales, a sales platform for Facebook, Rewards Points programs, wishlists, and, more importantly, real-time shipping rates. If you have a lot of international customers, they will appreciate this feature. 3dcart 3dcart has a specially optimized mobile page for your customers on mobile devices including tablets. However, even though the developer says that you can add 3dcart to an existing website, there are scant details on the features offered, other than the mobile interface. AgoraCart AgoraCart emphasizes its flexibility and offers features such as multiple tax rates and custom shipping rules. There are also 10+ payment options, thank you pages, and no customer account is required to use the checkout. Squirrelcart SquirrelCart is a bit pricey, but it comes with a wide variety of features. These include the option of adding handling and order fees, sales tax and value added tax (VAT). And there are human verification options, security and SSL. Customers can also add multiple items to their cart from a single page. Mal’s eCommerce Mal’s eCommerce is free of charge, which may be good if you were scared away by SquirrelCart’s prices. It offers “Buy Now” buttons which you can add to your website so you can start selling your stuff. And the shopping cart is hosted on the developer”s servers, so you don’t have to do any complicated setup on your own site. Storesprite Storesprite offers 20 integrated payment gateways, including the familiar faces of Paypal and Moneybookers.  You can also offer your customers printable receipts, as well as invoices and delivery slips. Idut Idut is unique in that it only works for one payment provider: Google Checkout. It offers multiple language and currency support, and you can configure the delivery options. Ecommerce Shopping Cart Software Ecommerce Shopping Cart Software is a solution has a quite sizable list of features on its front page.  For example, customers can tell a friend about the products in their carts. There is also a forgotten password look-up. There are also 12 different payment possibilities including Paypal, COD, and check/money order. DPD DPD is a shopping cart solution for digital downloads.  They don’t take a cut of each sale, but they do charge a monthly fee for using the service (this starts at $10 a month with a 30 day free trial).  You need to upload your digital products to DPD, and then copy/paste the sale buttons on your own website. Then all transactions are done on the DPD servers, not yours. Bigcommerce Bigcommerce is an eCommerce platform with several different monthly payment tiers and no per-transaction fee. For $80 per month, you’ll get access to what they call “Omni-Channel Sales” that allows you to sell your products across multiple online platforms, including using Bigcommerce as a stand-alone point-of-sale system. ShopperPress This is a premium WordPress template that turns your site into a shopping cart. Once you pay for the service, it can be used on an unlimited number of websites you own. There are more than 20 template designs through ShopperPress. There are also more than 20 payment gateways built into ShopperPress. Spree Commerce Spree Commerce is an open-source shopping cart app allows you to accept multiple foreign currencies and works on multiple stores you may be managing. Spree Commerce also supports coupon offers on your sit and outside of a shopping cart, it’s a full eCommerce system, too. CubeCart CubeCart is a full-service e-commerce solution that allows you to set up an online store or even set up your products on a social media site like Facebook. There is a one-time fee of $126. This e-commerce app does allow merchants to sell digital products, too. Netsuite The NetSuite shopping cart feature allows you to publish different prices for products in your catalog based on where they’re posted. That means you can have different prices on your store site than you do on your website or blog. FoxyCart FoxyCart has no restrictions on where you can sell your products, either an online store or just directly on your website or blog. This app only starts applying fees when your products go live, allowing you to take your time and get all your products entered online before it starts charging. FoxyCart is integrated with more than 60 different payment gateways. LiveCart LiveCart is an open-source shopping cart solution. The app developer claims it has a “simple, web-based installation wizard” and that no programming experience is required to get you up and running. LiveCart also offers six months of support for free for new users. ProductCart Product Cart is a shopping cart app touts itself as being very SEO friendly. Any template designs for your e-commerce website are already optimized for mobile devices, too. Volusion Volusion has a free mobile app that allows you to accept credit card payments from your smartphone or tablet. So this is one big standout feature of its shopping cart software. Volusion offers a very competitive rate of 2.17 percent on all credit card transactions. Shopify Shopify  is one of the most recognizable names in e-commerce and shopping cart apps currently available. In addition to having an online storefront that also allows you to embed products from your store onto your website, Shopify also acts as a point-of-sale system, able to run on tablets, mobile devices, or computers. Infusionsoft Upselling and discount offers are available through this shopping cart app. Cart buttons are simple to add to your site and Infusionsoft also allows you to create an online storefront using its software. ZeusCart ZeusCart touts its user-friendly interface, something the developer claims is missing from a lot of open-source software available today. The shopping cart app through ZeusCart allows you to manage inventory, organize it by categories and has built-in features to allow you to create customer newsletters, offer gift cards, and more. Instant E-Store With Instant E-Store , a one-page checkout is all that faces your customers when they purchase products through this app on your site. Your customers don’t even have to sign up for an account, making the buying process that much easier. You can place carts at your website’s “borders” so your customers’ selections follow them in a cart as they browse your site. Magento Magento is no longer accepting new accounts for its Small Business Storefront product. It will shut down all Small Business storefronts on Feb. 1, 2015. Instead, the company is working on a Magento Enterprise Edition and Magento Community Edition, which it believes will be a more competitive e-commerce platform. OpenCart OpenCart users have the ability to place their products in an unlimited number of categories and can enter an unlimited number of products. OpenCart supports more than two dozen payment gateways, including PayPal and others. Customers who purchase from an OpenCart shopping cart on your site can also review and rate products. osCommerce osCommerce is unique in that it’s one of the few payment solutions that’s integrated with both eBay and Amazon. osCommerce also uses a “token” system that allows your customers to store a credit card through a gateway like PayPal so they don’t have to constantly enter their card information for every purchase through your site. Quick.Cart.Lite Open Solution’s Quick Cart Lite touts that it can have you running in just a few minutes. The company says more than 31,000 sites are using Quick Cart Lite already. 1ShoppingCart 1ShoppingCart supports more than 50 payment gateways. This is an option on our list suitable for service-based businesses. Customers can also make recurring payments or subscription-based payments using 1ShoppingCart. CS-Cart CS-Cart is a full-service shopping cart and e-commerce platform. In addition to serving as your shopping cart on your website, you can create product-based marketing solutions, including banner ads, newsletters and surveys. JShop Server JShop Server says it can handle business e-commerce shopping carts for companies with just a few or a few thousand products to sell. JShop Server’s “Send to a friend” feature allows your customers to share your product listing with their contacts on social media. JustAddCommerce JustAddCommerce says it’s compatible with all web hosts and that allows you to “create Purchase and View Cart buttons that easily drop on your existing web pages.” To make customizations to your shopping cart pages with JustAddCommerce, you’ll need some familiarity with CSS and HTML, though. LiteCommerce LiteCommerce is completely free and works with payment gateways like PayPal and Authorize.net, among others. This shopping cart platform features drag-and-drop support and gives your customers a chance to do a “quick look” on products they’re considering. Products also have a Facebook comments tab that allows your customers to share their experiences with their friends and contacts. Miva Merchant Miva Merchant handles the hosting of its shopping cart platform. And a Merchant plan (good for small businesses) starts at just less than $50 a month. Miva Merchant says its claim to fame is its longevity in the market and is one of a few shopping cart platforms that’s not funded by venture capitalists. If you choose Miva Merchant, you’re backed by 24/7 live phone support, too. Shopp Give your customers the opportunity to save money through Promo codes and give yourself a chance of improving sales with a “Related Products” search with Shopp . This cart plugin gives you both and includes a shipping and tax estimator. A Merchant account — good for one site — starts at $75. Pinnacle Cart Pinnacle Cart says its “scalability” allows it to grow with your business. If you’re not comfortable using source code, Pinnacle Cart features drag-and-drop design features allowing even more uninitiated users to have some control over aspects of their shopping carts. X-Cart If yours is a service-based small business or one that sells digital and downloadable products, you may want to check out X-Cart . It’s integrated with many of the major payment gateways and can also serve as a point-of-sale system. PHP PayPal API PHP PayPal API is a simple way to manage PayPal payments directly on your website. If you have a Website Payments Pro account through PayPal, you’ll be able to accept credit card payments through the platform, too. The company claims other features included with PHP PayPal API allow you to manage transactions, including refunds. Shopping Photo via Shutterstock The post 45 Standalone eCommerce Carts for Your Website appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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What do we mean by innovation? Why do companies struggle so much with innovation? This presentation explains.. Continue reading →

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Tasha Kornegay launched her startup, Oscar William’s Gourmet Cotton Candy , less than a year ago. But she’s already recouped her original investment 20 times over. And there’s one tool she credits with that success – social media. The company currently has more than 1,000 Facebook fans, and recently launched accounts on Twitter and Instagram as well. Kornegay said that 75% of all the company’s sales come from its Facebook page . She told CNN: “We post almost daily. We recap events, we give a shout out to our fans, we even do fun surveys asking for suggestions about new flavors.” Kornegay and her husband began selling cotton candy at a fundraiser for her HIV/AIDS awareness efforts in June 2013. Kornegay, who is a mental health therapist in Apex, North Carolina, had been writing grants in an effort to raise funds for the cause. But when she realized her grant writing efforts weren’t raising enough money, she needed to find another solution. Her son, who was 14 years old at the time, was a big fan of cotton candy. He’s the one who originally suggested selling the sugary treats online and at local events to raise extra money. The first fundraiser was a success. So a few months later, Kornegay and her husband invested $2,000 of their own money to officially launch their business. Today, the company continues to donate 10% of sales to HIV/AIDS awareness efforts. They sell certified organic and kosher cotton candy in more than 20 different flavors. And they continue to find customers for their product at birthday parties, weddings, corporate fundraisers, and other events. So how did they stumble upon social media and Facebook in particular, which still generates the majority of their sales? Well, the company had limited startup funds to work with and wanted to donate as much of their earnings as possible. So social media was their only real marketing option. Once on Facebook, Kornegay and her husband soon figured out it was not enough to just sign up for an account and hope that fans show up. Since using social media was a necessity, they had to make the most of it. So they got into the habit of updating the Facebook page often and regularly interacting with fans. It has been a recipe for success that has allowed their reach to grow exponentially within the first year. Image: CNN, courtesy of Oscar William’s Gourmet Cotton Candy The post Startup Uses Facebook to Sell Cotton Candy for a Cause appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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What type of company culture and environment is most desirable for job seekers? Recent research by iCIMS  polled more than 400 job seekers to find out what they look for when seeking a job. Here’s some of what they discovered about how to attract the best employees to your small business. The study defined four main types of corporate culture: clan, adhocracy, hierarchy and market : Almost 50 percent of job seekers prefer a clan culture, which is defined as a collaborative and team-oriented environment with a leader who is a facilitator, mentor and team builder, and which values communication, commitment and human development. About 21 percent prefer a market culture, which is oriented to competition, has a leader who is a competitive, hard-driving producer, and which values profitability, market share and achieving goals. Nineteen percent prefer an adhocracy, which is oriented toward creativity, with a leader who is an innovator, entrepreneur and visionary; and which values innovation, transformation and agility. Finally, 11 percent prefer a hierarchy, which is oriented toward control; has a leader who is a coordinator, monitor and organizer; and which values efficiency, timeliness and consistency. Got a Clan Culture? Congratulations! Since this appeals to the greatest number of job candidates, be sure to emphasize the nurturing, collaborative aspects of your culture in every stage of your hiring process, from creating want ads to interviewing and onboarding new employees. Don’t Have a Clan Culture? Don’t panic. There are people who like other types of cultures, too. Case in point: thousands of people want to work for adhocracies like Google and Apple.  Whatever type of company culture you have, the key is to be honest about it. Highlight the positive aspects of your particular culture during recruiting, interviewing and onboarding. That way, you’ll attract people who are a good fit. What Types of Managers Do Job Candidates Prefer? Managers are a key factor in creating corporate culture: Over 40 percent of those surveyed say they want to be managed by someone who is more like a coach or a mentor. About 30 percent prefer managers who are hands-on. About 12 percent prefer a democratic manager. While “flat” organizations without middle managers are widely touted as trendy, fewer than 10 percent of job seekers prefer not to have a manager. Just as with corporate cultures, not every job candidate likes the same type of manager. And, as with corporate cultures, the key to finding a good fit between candidates and their future managers is being open about what you’ve got. iCIMS suggests you: Introduce managers early in the hiring process, such as having them participate in or conduct interviews. Include your managers’ photos, a brief bio, and tips on their management style and expectations on your company’s website. Put videos of your managers discussing their management philosophies on your website. Good news for small businesses – the survey found that workers of all ages are slightly more interested in working for small employers. In particular, workers aged 45 to 60 are substantially more likely to prefer small employers. About 70 percent of workers in this age group would rather work for small or very small companies. That means there’s a big pool of experienced talent out there for you – if you know how to sell your company culture the right way. Google Photo via Shutterstock The post How to Attract the Best Employees to Your Small Business appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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We invite you to our weekly interactive forum — to read and collect your comments on “An Innovator has an Obligation to…” We hope you’ll join the conversation! Continue reading →

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The idea that Google’s Web browser Chrome is draining your laptop battery is beyond urban legend. The company admitted recently that Chrome does put a strain on your laptop’s battery power, namely its ability to hold a charge for very long while it’s running. And recently, Google said it has assigned a team to come up with a fix for the bug and is working on a solution. The problem was first brought to Google’s attention in 2010 by a contributor at Forbes.com . A thread on the Chromium bulletin board has nearly 3,400 comments on the issue. The first problem on that thread was posted in September 2012. Some users are irate that it has taken so long for Google to address this issue. The problem is that the browser fails to return your laptop’s processor to an “idle state” when it’s just running in the background. That would happen if, for example, you have Chrome open on your computer but you’re working on another app, like Office or something else. The problem with batteries draining occurs when you run some power-intensive website, for example watching videos on YouTube. Chrome increases your computer’s system clock tick rate to 1 millisecond but never goes back to a lower rate when you’re off the site. Other browsers will lower that rate once you’re done watching a video or doing some other intensive online activity. PC World reports : “By comparison, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer only ramps up the tick rate for processor-intensive tasks such as YouTube, and otherwise returns it to the default rate of 15.625 milliseconds. According to Microsoft, setting the tick rate consistently at 1 millisecond can raise power consumption by up to 25 percent depending on your hardware configuration.” Google hasn’t provided a timetable for the fix on Chrome, though. So if you’re using the browser for business purposes and you find yourself frustrated by a shortened battery life, you may want to consider another browser until Chrome is fixed. This bug shouldn’t be an issue if your laptop is plugged in more often than not. Another workaround for the bug would be to close Chrome when you’re not using it, especially if your laptop is unplugged. Battery Photo via Shutterstock The post Your Chrome Browser is Draining Your Battery appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Offering a quality product or service is essential for success in any business. But if you run a local business, that alone might not be enough. You also need to create an atmosphere within the business that customers will want to be a part of. That’s the aspect of business that Phil Jaber focused on when launching Philz Coffee in San Francisco in 2002. He told WeWork: “I visited over 1,100 coffee shops and five-star restaurants to figure out why people went there, what they were looking for, how the employees interacted with the patrons – it wasn’t to see how they made coffee. I wanted to know how they were building a culture around it.” Now, there are 14 locations throughout the Bay Area. And at each one, Jaber manages to create a one of a kind experience for customers. His goal is to create more than just a place to have coffee, but a place for people to meet, socialize, and enjoy a sense of community. Since launching the first Philz Coffee location back in 2002, he seems to have succeeded in that goal. He’s gained somewhat of a cult following among coffee lovers in the Bay area. And couples have even gotten married in his shops. So how does he manage to create this community in each local shop? Part of that secret lies with Jaber himself, who has had a passion for both coffee and entrepreneurship from a young age. He began selling coffee to passersby from his family’s front yard at the age of eight. Then he helped his dad run a market while growing up, spending his spare time experimenting with coffee blends and conducting market research for his future shop. But another part of Jaber’s success lies in the hiring process. Jaber said he makes sure to hire employees who have the same values and tastes. And then he gives them enough freedom to be creative, provided they treat customers with respect. Employees are called “Artists” instead of Baristas and are encouraged to provide personalized service to help build that sense of community in each location. But the one part of the business that Jaber said has helped build a sense of community more than any other is, of course, the quality of the product. Jaber insists that if a product is great enough, it can create a one-of-a-kind experience that makes people happy. And that, in turn, helps foster a sense of community in the business. He said: “When people try your coffee, it’s important to make them happy, and make it a better day for them. That’s the kind of experience I want to offer to our society – the people who will walk to, drive to, and even fly to for quality.” Image: Philz Coffee The post This Coffee Shop is Selling More Than Just Coffee appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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You may not realize you have an image. And the image that exists for you may not be ideal. The goal of reputation management and personal branding is to intentionally and authentically put together a business image that is coherent, consistent and compelling. What distinguishes your business image from your personal brand or reputation? Your image is more diffused. It encompasses much more about you, although it plays a big role in your personal brand and reputation. You may be very surprised that how you earn your living – is the LEAST important aspect of your image. I have described my new concept to many of my coaching clients, and they are surprised at what matters to recruiters, hiring managers, and even their bosses and co-workers – much less all their contacts. So I created a simple way for everyone to think about the image we hold in our heads about you and the other people who pass through our lives, businesses, networking events and more. I – What Are You IMPROVING? What can you say you are actively learning about, studying, seeking more information about, and otherwise trying to add to or modify about yourself? Could be something like learning a language. Or something smaller, like learning good manners for cross-cultural business etiquette. M – What Are You MANAGING? What financial matters, education courses, workload, community commitments, family circumstances, and more are under your control? You are your Chief Life Officer, after all. What would we be impressed to know you manage now? A – What Are You ADVISING Other People About? What expertise, knowledge, or special skills are you imparting to others? Do you do some informal or formal mentoring? Could you be a resource on a topic that another person or business needs to know about? Do you use social media to get out that information for free, or perhaps do you exchange services or even do it for free (right now)? G – What Are You GIVING? Where is your social philanthropy, your cause-oriented work, your support for people in need, pets in need, the planet itself or simply in your own family and community? E – Finally, How Are You EARNING Your Living? What are the large (and small) jobs you have and have held in the past? Do you do more than one thing? That’s so good for us to hear. Perhaps you hold down a full time job and do freelance work in another field. I have a client who manages a small business, she does bookkeeping for it and another company, plus she is a dance instructor. How impressive is that? That’s real multi-tasking. When you fail to let us know these great things about you, something’s missing from your business image. We may overlook you, just because someone else IS prepared to talk about these major dimensions of their life and personal brand. Pepper your conversation with all these dimensions of your image. Republished by permission. Original here . Image Photo via Shutterstock The post Do You Know What’s Wrong With Your Business Image? appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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We thought it would be a fun summer activity to pull together a list of the top innovation personalities and information sharers on twitter. We know we follow a lot of great innovation people on twitter (including a lot of the great Innovation Excellence authors) and we are curious to see who you follow or who you think people should investigate to learn more about. Continue reading →

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