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What is Google Page Experience, and Why Does it Matter?

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Have you heard of Google Page Experience?

If you haven’t, and you prioritize search engine optimization (SEO) as a strategy to support your business, you’re behind the times.

Google’s Page Experience is described as, “a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value.”

But what exactly does that mean for you and your site? And how should you prepare?

Google Page Experience: An introduction

Google Page Experience is Google’s latest attempt to improve search results for users. Basically, Google wants to reward websites that offer high-quality user experience while downplaying/de-ranking websites that offer poor UX design.

Related: 7 Best SEO Tools to Help You Rank Higher in Google

Of course, Google has always been interested in prioritizing the best web pages, listing them at the top of its search engine results pages (SERPs). But this new update is going to take UX design and overall user experience into account more than ever before.

Google announced this update more than a year ago, but only now is it going to take effect, to afford business owners more time to prepare. Google stated, “We recognize many site owners are rightfully placing their focus on responding to the effects of Covid-19. […] We’re providing the tools now to get you started (and because site owners have consistently requested to know about ranking changes as early as possible), but there is no immediate need to take action.”

We’re expecting to see the first ranking shakeups from Page Experience to begin around August of 2021. However, because it could take up to 28 days for the index to update with your latest changes, it’s important to start making changes as soon as possible if you want to benefit from the new standards.

Core web vitals

There are many important components of user experience according to Google’s latest criteria, but three of the most important are these core web vitals:

Largest contentful paint (LCP). LCP refers to how much time passes before a webpage is able to load meaningful content. You’re in bad shape if your webpage takes more than four seconds to load. A good LCP will be less than two and a half seconds.

First input display (FID). The FID refers to the time it takes for a website to respond to the input of a user. For example, if a user clicks on an interactive element, how long does it take to register that click and respond? Achieving response time of 100 ms or less is ideal, while more than 300 ms is a significant problem.

Cumulative layout shift (CLS). How much does your web content shift when a user interacts with your page? The fewer disruptions, the better. Metrics here measure both how much the content is shifted and how far it has shifted; you’ll strive for a CLS of 0.1 or less to comply with Google’s latest standards.

Related: Your SEO Checklist: 4 Steps to Optimizing Your Website

You can measure these core web vitals with the Core Web Vitals Report in Google Search Console.

Other signals to consider

There are other signals to consider as well. Many of these were in place before the rollout of Page Experience, but it’s more important than ever to address them:

Mobile friendliness. Mobile optimization has been important for about as long as mobile devices have been popular.

HTTPS. Secure browsing is one of Google’s highest priorities — which is why an SSL certificate matters.

Safe browsing. It’s your responsibility to reduce fraud and protect user privacy.

Intrusive interstitials. Annoying or distracting popups or redirects violate UX design tenets.

How to improve your site

If you want your site to be rewarded, rather than penalized, with the rollout of Page Experience, these are some of the steps you can take:

Use a responsive design. If you’re not already using a responsive design, now’s the time to upgrade.

Upgrade to HTTPS. Getting an SSL certificate through your domain registrar is easy (and relatively inexpensive).

Increase the security of your site. Work to achieve better standards for privacy, fraud reduction and overall security.

Remove popups. Get rid of anything that could be construed as an intrusive interstitial, such as annoying popups or redirects.

Clean up your backend code. There are several improvements to your backend code that can improve loading speed and overall user experience. For example, you can get rid of unused JavaScript, rely on modern file formats, and minimize your large JF libraries with local CSS and JS libraries.

Use a good caching plugin. The right caching plugin can store your site’s information so it loads much faster for repeat visitors.

Google Page Experience is going to be here for a long time — and it’s probably going to evolve significantly along the way. For now, your highest priority should be optimizing your site for this initial rollout.

Related: What Google’s Latest Update Reveals About the Most Important …

Originally found on Entrepreneur.com Read More




Embrace the Superpower of Simplicity

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

While technology is our friend (most of the time), the influx of social media, apps, digital ads and more has made our lives quite complicated. It’s estimated that the average person sees thousands of ads a day! Add to that our need to be “always on” because we have a fear of missing out, and we are spending a lot of our time looking at a screen, often multi-tasking. Studies now tell us that multi-tasking is actually counter-productive and can reduce your attention, comprehension and performance. This can culminate in burnout, depression and anxiety.

On top of technology creating an “attention deficit bubble,” we are also indundated with more choices than ever before. It’s estimated that over 30,000 new brands launch every year. This can make a trip to the grocery store, just figuring out which bottled water to buy, a paralyzing dilemma. Psychologist Barry Schwartz’s book The Paradox of Choice (why more is less) was written in 2004, but it’s even truer today.

So how do we get off of this hamster wheel and eliminate some complexity in our lives? Here are a few ideas.

Get outside regularly

Nature has been proven to help us reset, relax and recharge. Just don’t take your phone on a nature hike unless it’s to take pictures. You don’t need to make it a day trip, even just a walk around your neighborhood, local park or hiking trail will do the trick. If you have space for a garden, that’s also a great way to get outside and ensure you have high-quality vegetables (no pesticides). If you don’t have a green thumb, plant zucchini and mint, which will grow like crazy.

Practice mindfulness daily

Clearing your mind is a great way to start to embrace simplicity. Mindfulness helps you focus on the priorities that matter and eliminate things that don’t. Practicing mindfulness will bring a new level of awareness to how you spend your time and make it easier to focus and get high-value things done. Apps like Journify or Calm can help you get started. Just five minutes of meditation a day can improve your life — your mood, attitude and even your relationships.

Related: Why Mindfulness Is a Must-Have Mental Skill

Declutter

Most of us live in a state of constant consumption and collecting. It’s hard to simplify your life when you have lots of excess clutter around. Take a few hours and start with either your kitchen or bathroom — both usually big offenders. Get rid of anything expired (this goes for your beauty products too) and make a plan to use up what you have before buying more. Then tackle any excess furniture, files or paperwork that’s bogging you down. There are some great sites that you can use to give away things you don’t need. I like Freecycle — it’s a grass roots non-profit that lets you post items in your community that people may need. You’ll be amazed at how much lighter you’ll feel when you don’t have so much stuff around.

Look for products that multi-task

The beauty industry has done a good job of convincing us that we need a different moisturizer for our eyes, face and body — not to mention serums, cleansers, mists, spot treatments and more. The reality is there are some great products that provide multi-benefits, are simple to use, gender neutral (so the whole family can use them) and sutainable. My own product, MASAMI, was created to work for virtually everyone (because everyone needs hydration!), so you don’t need to choose between the right haircare products for color-treated hair, hydration, shine, volume or other benefits — you should get them all. This is true not just in beauty, but also in cleaning products, supplements, food and more. Just ask yourself next time you’re buying a “niche” product if it is really worth it.

Related: Here’s the Secret Sauce for Multi-tasking

Shop your values

I’ve started to focus my own buying on indie, female-owned, sustainable brands that share my values (and the values of my brands). Most of the brands I’ve discovered offer artisan, handmade, high-quality products that should last a long time, which helps you simplify too — buy quality over “disposable” goods. There are many marketplaces now that make this easy to do, and there are even some where you can select which values are important to you and search for brands that meet them. With just a tiny bit of effort, you can support small businesses and find new high-quality products to love, minimizing your consumption along the way.

While there are times in your life where complexity is good, most of the time, you’ll likely find it more satisfying to embrace a simpler approach to consumption and living. You’ll have a deeper sense of gratitude for what you have and an increased level of mindfulness around what (and why) you are consuming.

Related: How to Build a Team That’s True to Your Values

Originally found on Entrepreneur.com Read More




Why Bengals’ Tee Higgins plans to change his number after the 2021 NFL season

The 2021 NFL season will be the last during which Tee Higgins wears No. 85.

The Bengals wide receiver announced on a recent episode of Pro Football Focus’ “Fantasy Football Podcast” that he would be changing his number. Why? Because he’s tired of being compared to legendary Bengals receiver Chad Johnson, who was affectionately known as “Ochocinco” during his playing days.

“I keep seeing on Twitter, ‘Ochocinco 2.0,'” Higgins said, as transcribed by ESPN’s Ben Baby. “I don’t want to be a 2.0. No disrespect to Chad. He’s a great receiver, this and that. I just don’t want to be a 2.0 for myself, man. I want to be Tee Higgins, 1.0, No. 5.”

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No. 5 is the jersey that Higgins wore while at Clemson. It makes sense for him to change to that number, which is now open to receivers thanks to the NFL’s new uniform number policy.

That said, Higgins won’t be making the change in-season. He would have to buy the remaining inventory of his No. 85 jerseys if he wanted to do that, which seems cost-prohibitive even for a man on a four-year, $8.5 million contract.

RIVERA: Joe Judge looks to avoid a long line of Bill Belichick coaching tree flops

Higgins also noted that changing his number would open the door for the No. 85 jersey to be retired by the Bengals.

“I just feel like Chad’s done so much for this organization,” Higgins said. “I just got a good feeling that his number is gonna get lifted one day.”

NFL POWER RANKINGS: Big bumps for Steelers and Saints, but how about that NFC West?

Johnson spent a decade with the Bengals from 2001 to 2010. He had seven 1,000-yard seasons during that span and was named to the AP’s All-Pro first team twice. He is Cincinnati’s all-time leader in receiving yards with 10,783 and receiving TDs with 65.

Higgins will have a long way to go before he reaches that territory, but he’s off to a good start. The Bengals’ second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft has logged 71 catches for 966 yards and seven TDs in 17 career games.

Originally found on Sporting News Read More




College coach offers to buy beers for anyone who attends team’s home opener

Portland State football coach Bruce Barnum is bribing fans to attend the team’s home opener.

During an appearance on a local podcast, the 57-year-old coach extended an offer to buy a beer for anyone who shows up to watch the Vikings play Western Oregon on Saturday.

Both No. 3 Oregon and Oregon State will be hosting matchups in Week 3, which will make it more difficult for FCS Portland State to draw a crowd. In an attempt to attract more locals and beer snobs, Barnum extended the offer on the John Canzano BFT Podcast.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 3: Picks for all top-25 games

“I’ve got to get people to see my kids,” Barnum told Canzano on the podcast. “I’ve got a deal for you: Anybody who heard me on your show . . . just say, ‘I heard Barney on the BFT’ at the Barney Beer Garden and I’ll buy you a beer.”

MORE: Playoff Picture for Week 3

To sweeten the deal, the coach didn’t put a limit on the amount of beers he would purchase. When asked about how many beverages he would cover, Barnum simply replied, “All of them.”

MORE: Ten best candidates to replace Clay Helton at USC

Portland State is scheduled to play at 2:05 p.m. PT Saturday. The in-state battle between the Vikings and Wolves will take place in Hillsboro Stadium, where ticket prices range from $3.50 to $25. The stadium seats 7,200.

Depending on how many thirsty fans show up to the game, Barnum’s bar tab has the potential to fly exceedingly high.

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Originally found on Sporting News Read More




If You Don’t Have a Strategic Marketing Plan, You’re Setting Yourself Up for Failure

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Formulating the proper components of a marketing plan is critical to effectively help business owners set goals, turn their targeted audience into a steadfast and loyal customer base and assist with establishing a guide to organize and structure priorities. Within a marketing plan, it’s important to implement practical marketing strategies that can create a stable foundation for the overall flow of the company.

Understanding the need for a marketing plan will ultimately help business owners minimize risk factors and set actionable goals, which will eventually help the company’s position in the market advance. This applies to established businesses as well, as there is always room for improvement.

Now, let’s dive into what components make up a good marketing plan. Of course, some of the specifics will vary based on the types of businesses as well as what industry it falls in, but ultimately, here are some key elements business owners should consider.

Related: The Ingredients of a Small-Business Marketing Plan

Goals and procedures

Strategic marketing plans should list the company’s goals and procedures. These goals help justify the resources in production, distribution and marketing while the procedures assist with converting certain objectives into reality. For example, a goal may promote the intention of refining a company’s public brand or likeness while the strategic procedures serve to distinguish the most pertinent formulas and techniques necessary to achieve those favorable results.

Furthermore, these goals and procedures must be clear and concise for the employees to easily comprehend and deliver.

Define your target market

Breaking down your target market allows a company to examine and explore the groundwork necessary to maximize sales and the overall growth of the company. This helps develop effective marketing-communication strategies to foster the needs and characteristics that the company must have to attract the right audience.

Take, for example, cleaning tools or disinfectant sprays. While a traditional household will benefit from a clean home, commercials and ads tend to target the female head of the household. This strategy, however, doesn’t always work, as many times it’s the individual who benefits from the product itself that the company should focus more on.

We can also consider the example of children and toys. While parents ultimately have the final say on whether a toy is purchased, a child plays a significant role in persuasion. Therefore, if the targeted audience caters to kids, the likelihood of purchase also improves. This is why analyzing the targeted audience in such fine detail becomes extremely significant for the company’s progression as a whole.

You can start with market research, then analyze the demographics they belong to, and from there, you’ll begin to understand the consumer’s routines, needs, wants and lifestyle. Following your market research, you can test your findings and validate demand. This allows you to outline your marketing tactics more efficiently, and then you can focus on developing the product or service and eventually on the promotion of the business.

Related: Why Gratitude Is the Best Marketing Plan Ever

Develop a strategic marketing process

Strategic marketing processes are the applicable methods used based on a more categorical marketing plan. This plan spells out how a company intends to go to market, the avenues it considers on attracting and leveraging and the key components of the business that will be affected by any sort of marketing drives or initiatives. These processes essentially turn your marketing plan into a series of steps to help you recognize and reach your comprehensive marketing and sales objectives.

This can include identifying and defining your mission statement, which establishes the company’s core principles of its brand. You can expand even further by outlining a vision statement that works alongside it. This, in turn, will help convey the company’s purpose and value proposition: the primary reason why a consumer should consider purchasing a product or service from you.

Determine the ultimate channels for promotion

This is probably one of the most important facets of your marketing plan, where you aim to promote your product or service. You must be aware of what your customer’s needs and expectations are so you can target them wherever they are, be it at home on the internet, in their cars listening to a radio ad, watching a commercial on television or physically at a store.

What’s important isn’t so much focusing on all possible channels. It’s focusing on the right channels to maximize the growth of your business. Some channels like this may include but are not limited to websites, social media, print or online magazines, pay-per-click marketing, email marketing, SEO, press releases, chatbots, webinars, seminars and word of mouth.

Follow your marketing budget

While most business owners are aware that establishing a marketing budget is key to a business’s survival, following the budget set forth is even more important. Sometimes, business owners may overanalyze the competition by investing aggressively with expensive media ads, commercials or billboards in hopes of competing with their larger counterparts. However, making these types of potentially irrational decisions can harm the company more than help. It’s much safer to maintain a more conservative marketing budget, spread out over time, staying within the boundaries of the company’s marketing allocation, which will help the overall operating budget stay on track.

All in all, having an effective marketing plan is vital to the success of one’s business. While these points are nowhere near all of the steps a business owner needs to focus on to help a company remain intact, the plan itself does help the business owner and management team make more sound decisions, which allow the business to grow, increasing potential market share and profitability. It provides a roadmap to align the company’s functional activities — thus increasing operational efficiency. It builds a company’s foundation.

As a business expands, especially amidst ever-changing industries and world markets, the likelihood of it maintaining a steady climb relies on the strength of its foundation and structure. Therefore, if there’s a solid marketing plan in place, the company’s stability remains grounded and prepared for any obstacle ahead.

Related: 10 Marketing Strategies to Fuel Your Business Growth

Originally found on Entrepreneur.com Read More




Malware Attack on Aviation Sector Uncovered After Going Unnoticed for 2 Years

A targeted phishing campaign aimed at the aviation industry for two years may be spearheaded by a threat actor operating out of Nigeria, highlighting how attackers can carry out small-scale cyber offensives for extended periods of time while staying under the radar.

Cisco Talos dubbed the malware attacks “Operation Layover,” building on previous research from the Microsoft Security Intelligence team in May 2021 that delved into a “dynamic campaign targeting the aerospace and travel sectors with spear-phishing emails that distribute an actively developed loader, which then delivers RevengeRAT or AsyncRAT.”

“The actor […] doesn’t seem to be technically sophisticated, using off-the-shelf malware since the beginning of its activities without developing its own malware,” researchers Tiago Pereira and Vitor Ventura said. “The actor also buys the crypters that allow the usage of such malware without being detected, throughout the years it has used several different cryptors, mostly bought on online forums.”

The threat actor is believed to have been active at least since 2013. The attacks involve emails containing specific lure documents centered around the aviation or cargo industry that purport to be PDF files but link to a VBScript file hosted on Google Drive, which ultimately leads to the delivery of remote access trojans (RATs) like AsyncRAT and njRAT, leaving organizations vulnerable to an array of security risks. Cisco Talos said it found 31 different aviation-themed lures dating all the way back to August 2018.

Further analysis of the activity associated with different domains used in the attacks show that the actor weaved multiple RATs into their campaigns, with the infrastructure used as command-and-control (C2) servers for Cybergate RAT, AsyncRAT, and a batch file that’s used as part of a malware chain to download and execute other malware.

“Many actors can have limited technical knowledge but still be able to operate RATs or information-stealers, posing a significant risk to large corporations given the right conditions,” the researchers said. “In this case, […] what seemed like a simple campaign is, in fact, a continuous operation that has been active for three years, targeting an entire industry with off-the-shelf malware disguised with different crypters.”

Found this article interesting? Follow THN on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to read more exclusive content we post.

Originally found on Feedzy. Read More




If You Want to Scale, Give the People You Hire Freedom to Succeed

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Sean Brown, founder and CEO of GO VC

Who are you and what’s your business?

I’m Sean Brown, founder and CEO of GO VC, a venture capital and early-stage investment company. When I started the business, our earliest investments were in tech startups. We funded marketing, software, and other online-based companies because that’s the world that I came from. But as we’ve grown and new opportunities have appeared, our scope has expanded organically and we’re working with organizations in many different niches and verticals.

What inspired you to create found GO VC?

I’ve been starting businesses and investing in other people’s ideas for well over a decade now, and GO VC was a natural step to take as my personal network grew and various ventures started to gain traction.

I have a background in digital marketing, and my “aha moment” was probably when I realized that the methods and strategies we used to help clients at my agency were even more potent if you applied them within a broader growth and investment framework.

That’s been a real differentiator for GO VC — we don’t just invest capital, we invest the knowledge that we’ve accumulated from our own businesses to help startups succeed.

Related: Tecovas Founder Paul Hedrick Started the Warby Parker of Cowboy Boots. Here’s His Morning Routine, Favorite Business Book and To-Do List Hack

What has been your biggest challenge during the pandemic and how did you pivot to overcome it?

I think the biggest challenge of the pandemic, especially early on, was the uncertainty and fear that everyone was living with. Most of us, when we go to bed at night, we think we know what the world is going to look like in the morning. But when the pandemic began, that feeling of security was shaken, and it hasn’t fully returned yet in a lot of ways.

On the business side, I didn’t need to pivot too much because we were already comfortable with remote work. Half of my team was already joining our weekly meetings via Zoom, for example, so switching to remote-only wasn’t a big leap. And personally, working remotely gave me more time with my wife and two kids, which was a benefit and a blessing that made any work-related worries fade quickly.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?

When we’re considering new investments, the ones that stand out are when there’s a level of passion and personal synergy behind the ideas. The business plan and fundamentals need to be right, obviously, but we get the most excited when someone comes in and we know that we want to work with them, not just invest because the numbers are good.

Related: How These Teen Sisters Make $20 Million a Year in the Beauty Biz

To translate that into advice, I’d say that entrepreneurs should incorporate the “why” behind the business idea whenever and wherever possible. If we’re going to provide the capital and knowledge you need to help move your organization forward, we want to know that you have a compelling reason to be in this business so you’ll stick it out when adversity strikes.

What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?

It’s kind of funny — I know a lot of people who have created businesses and invested in startups, but none of them have the word “Entrepreneur” on their office door or business card. They’re CEOs, or founders, or consultants, or all of the above.

I think being an entrepreneur is more of a mindset than a job title. It means that you have the freedom and resources to leverage opportunities that others aren’t aware of. It means you’re willing and able to pursue ideas and gaps in the marketplace that others don’t see or wouldn’t consider. And it means you’re willing to take risks when those ideas, and the passion behind them, resonate with you.

What is something many aspiring business owners think they need that they really don’t?

A lot of business owners like to keep a close eye on day-to-day operations and tasks, especially those who start small. But that approach really doesn’t scale.

If you bring someone in to manage operations, or accounting, or marketing, you should have the confidence in your own decisions to give them the freedom to do the job you’ve hired them to do.

In my experience, the right people will reward your confidence in them and help your business grow in ways you might not have expected — and you’ll have a better relationship with your teams too.

Related: Meet 16 Teen Founders Who Are Building Big Businesses — and Making Big Money

Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?

There are two sayings that I always circle back to, both for myself and other business owners that I meet with.

The first is to “Trust the timing,” which comes up more often than you’d think. When I encounter a business or investment opportunity, there’s no guarantee that that same offer will still be on the table in a week or a month. I’d rather get the ball rolling now than have to backtrack and rebuild that momentum later.

The second saying, which is almost the flip-side of the first, is “You can’t be afraid to fail early.” No startup or investment is ever a sure thing, especially in the world we’re living in today. This isn’t a new idea for most entrepreneurs, but it’s an absolute must if you’re going to move forward as a business or a brand.

Originally found on Entrepreneur.com Read More




The Canopy Bistro + Bar is Now Open

The Canopy Bistro + Bar in Ellenton is now open!

Family owned and operated by Manatee county natives, The Canopy is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Offering a selection of delicious snacks and handhelds–think sliders, tacos, cuban sandwich, flatbreads.

The Canopy Bistro + Bar is a great place to bring your friends and family for a meal al fresco. Both indoor and outdoor dining is available.

The Canopy’s outdoor beer garden boasts a gorgeous oak canopy that you can sit under and enjoy the Florida weather. You’ll find a unique selection of craft cocktails and beer at the bar area. With a rotating craft beer list and new creative cocktails always in the works, there’s always something exciting to try.

The Canopy Bistro + Bar has live music every Friday night from 6:30 – 9:30 and special events such as markets, workshops, tastings, and much more.

Check our website for a full live music and event schedule: www.thecanopybistroandbar.com/live-music




Virtual Terminals: How Businesses Use Them and Best Options

Virtual terminals are web apps that allow a computer, tablet or smartphone to process card payments without a card reader or point-of-sale hardware. They are primarily used by businesses that receive orders by phone, fax, email or mail — transactions where the customer is not present. After the customer’s credit card details are manually entered, the transaction is submitted for processing via the internet.

Most payment processors offer some form of virtual terminal that doesn’t require any special equipment. Determining which is the most cost-effective for your businesses will depend on the number and dollar amount of manually entered transactions you do each month.

What businesses use virtual terminals?

Businesses that accept payment information from customers who are not physically there — card-not-present transactions — use virtual terminals. It’s also an option when a mobile terminal is required or when customers prefer contactless payments.

Mail-order and telephone-order businesses

Mail-order and telephone-order businesses, also called MOTO businesses, sell their products through direct mail and media ads. Because customers can’t visit a physical location, a virtual terminal can be used to enter a customer’s credit card information and process the payment. Even MOTOs that are set up with a virtual storefront (a website that allows a customer to order and pay online) may still want to offer customers the option to place phone orders.

Restaurants, diners and cafes

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have increased their use of takeout and delivery options. Virtual terminals allow restaurants to process credit card payments for their customers who want contactless service and to pay over the phone.

Delivery-based businesses

Businesses that offer their products for delivery and have call-in orders use virtual terminals to process credit card transactions. Some examples of common delivery-based businesses include specialty food and beverage stores, florists and gift shops.

Mobile businesses

Businesses that travel to fairs, farmers markets and other events — or mobile businesses such as food trucks, mechanics, tutors, pet groomers, personal trainers, landscapers and photographers — can use virtual terminals if an internet connection is available.

Remote freelancers

Web designers, artists, writers, SEO specialists, bookkeepers, translators and other freelancers often work remotely. A virtual terminal allows them to enter their clients’ payment information manually for processing.

How do virtual terminals work?

After setting up an online account with your payment processor, you’ll log in and navigate to the virtual terminal. There, you’ll enter a customer’s credit card information into an online form, submit the transaction for processing, and receive payment.

The exact information needed varies, but most transactions require the following:

Card number.

Expiration date.

CVV/CVV2 number (the three- or four-digit number on the back of a card).

Customer name.

Billing ZIP code.

There’s often an area on the screen to write a note to the customer, as well as an option to email or text a payment confirmation.

Processing fees are deducted from the payment before the transaction funds are transferred to your business account.

How much do virtual terminals cost?

Depending on the pricing model used by the processor, a virtual terminal could include some of the following fees:

Monthly fee.

Terminal fee.

Processing fees.

Interchange fees.

Margin fees.

Assessment fees.

How much you will pay each month depends on the processor you select and your volume of credit card transactions. Often, if a processor requires a monthly fee, they will charge a lower transaction fee than competitors. For example, one processor may require a monthly fee of $25 and charge 2% plus 10 cents per transaction, while a competitor that doesn’t require a monthly fee may charge a higher transaction rate of 2.5% plus 20 cents.

What are interchange rates?

Interchange rates are transaction fees charged by credit card networks, such as Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover, for processing a debit or credit payment. The seller is responsible for the fees. These rates vary by transaction and card type. Typically, they’re a percentage of the charged amount plus a set fee for each transaction. For example, as of April 16, 2021, the Core rate for Mastercard key-entered credit transactions is 1.89% plus 10 cents.

When setting rates, payment processors generally account for this expense in one of three ways:

Setting a flat processing fee to cover interchange fees.

Charging the business for the direct cost of the interchange fees, plus a fixed per-transaction fee and a monthly subscription fee.

Marking up or increasing the interchange fee to cover the expense, often with a fixed per-transaction fee.

Interchange fees for manually entered payments are higher than those for swiped transactions. They are considered a higher risk by credit card companies because the customer is not standing in front of you with the card, making it more difficult to ensure the transaction is legitimate and increasing the likelihood of fraud.

What to look for in a virtual terminal

If you already have a point-of-sale system for your business and you want to add a virtual terminal for limited use, then your best option would generally be to use your existing provider. On the other hand, if more than about a quarter of your transactions are entered manually, a payment processor offering a robust virtual terminal could be a smart choice.

Price is important

The cost of the processing service is important when evaluating your options. There are a variety of pricing models, such as flat-rate, interchange-plus and membership plans. Because each payment processor has different pricing, it’s not easy to make a quick side-by-side comparison.

You can get a good idea of the cost of each plan based on your volume of manual transactions. Start by estimating the number of manual transactions you do each month and the total dollar amount. Next, based on the processor’s pricing model, calculate how much you would be charged for your transactions. Finally, add in any additional fees to get your total expense for the month.

For example: Say a processing service charges $100 monthly to use its platform, and its virtual terminal option is free. Its processing fees are 2% of the transaction total plus 10 cents per transaction. And it doesn’t charge any interchange fees because those are included in the processing fee. If you do about 80 manual transactions a month for a total of $4,000, you would pay the monthly fee of $100 and processing fees of $80 (2% of $4,000) plus $8 (10 cents x 80 transactions) for a total of $188.

Typically, a company with a high volume of phone orders would benefit from a membership-based model with lower processing fees, while a business that does a small volume of phone orders may pay less with a flat-rate model and no monthly fee.

Other things to consider

Although price is important, there are other options to weigh when evaluating services:

Payment speed. You want to get your money quickly from your transactions — ideally the next business day, with an option for the same day. If there’s a fee for same-day payments, remember to add that into your calculations.

Customer support. At a minimum, you want support available during the hours you’ll be submitting transactions. Getting 24/7 support is ideal.

Integration with other apps. It will save you time if your virtual software works with your accounting software. If a third-party service is necessary for integration, add that fee to your calculation.

Best virtual terminals

The following payment processors offer virtual terminal options suitable for businesses that regularly enter credit card transactions manually. They have different pricing models, and the true cost of each service will depend on sales volume. Payment speed, customer support and app integration are also important in determining which virtual terminal is the best fit for your business.

Square

Square offers a robust virtual terminal without the need for special equipment or devices. You access it through an online dashboard, and because it’s browser based, it’ll work on both Mac and Windows POS systems. However, Square’s point-of-sale option for swiped transactions is only compatible with Apple iOS and Android devices. Some free features include recurring payment options, customer profiles and purchase histories, and a library of products, taxes and discounts.

Square virtual terminal fees:

Monthly fee: $0.

Remote processing fee: 3.5% plus 15 cents per transaction.

Additional features:

Get paid as quickly as the next day or faster, for a fee.

Free phone support is available weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT, with 24/7 support for certain products.

Integration with QuickBooks, Xero, Stitch Labs, IFTTT, TaxJar, SumAll, Fresh KDS, Shopseen and ShipStation

Stax (formerly Fattmerchant)

Stax offers a flat monthly subscription model on its all-in-one platform. You pay a subscription fee plus the applicable interchange rate for each card transaction, and a fixed fee of 15 cents per keyed-in transaction. A virtual terminal option is available with no additional hardware needed. You can automatically send out receipts to customers and also set up recurring payments for them. There are three plans to select from, and each includes up to $500,000 in annual processing.

Stax virtual terminal fees:

Monthly subscription fees: Grow: $99, Pro: $159, or Ultimate: $199.

Interchange fees: Direct cost with no markup.

Margin fees: 15 cents for keyed-in transactions; 8 cents for in-person transactions.

Additional features:

Same-day access to funds, including holidays and weekends, as an add-on.

Connects with QuickBooks Online for two-way data sync, as an add-on.

24/7 support and online knowledge base.

Dharma Merchant Services

Dharma Merchant Services uses an interchange-plus pricing model for payment processing. The service includes free access to its virtual terminal, MX Merchant, with every account. You’ll get a database to store customer information, and you’ll have the ability to set up recurring payments for repeat customers.

Dharma virtual terminal fees:

Monthly fee: $25.

Margin fee: 0.2% plus 11 cents per transaction for Visa and Mastercard.

Assessment fees: 0.12% to 0.14% plus 2 cents per transaction for Visa and Mastercard; different rates apply for American Express.

Interchange fees: Direct cost with no markup.

Account closure fee: $49.

Additional features:

Guaranteed two-business-day funding for card-not-present transactions.

Transaction data can be exported to an Excel file for QuickBooks.

Offers 24-hour phone help.

Originally found on Nerd Wallet Read More




Colts to be first team featured on in-season edition of HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’

The Colts will be the first team featured in an in-season edition of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” it was announced during the “Thursday Night Football” game between the Giants and Washington.

The inside look at Indianapolis’ late-season run will premiere Nov. 17 and continue every week through the end of its season. This will be the first time the Colts have been featured on any edition of “Hard Knocks” since the show was introduced in 2001.

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What is ‘Hard Knocks’?

“Hard Knocks” is a reality sports television documentary produced by HBO Sports and NFL Films. It began airing in 2001 with the Ravens and has followed NFL teams every year since 2007 (except 2011) after a hiatus from 2003-06.

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The series, which is narrated by Liev Schreiber, shows the personal and professional lives of NFL players, coaches and staff. It also follows important storylines, such as rookies or journeymen on the team, as it progresses through training camp and preparation for the season.

Who was on ‘Hard Knocks’ this year?

The Cowboys were featured on “Hard Knocks” for five episodes through the 2021 preseason.

Among the chief storylines was the journey of offensive lineman Isaac Alarcon, who is part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program. He is signed to the team’s practice squad.

The series also showed segments of player development, including this teaching moment between veteran wide receiver Amari Cooper and second-year wideout CeeDee Lamb.

The Cowboys’ final episode of “Hard Knocks” aired Sept. 8. It featured former outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware giving advice to rookie linebacker Micah Parsons on how to play against Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.

Who was previously on ‘Hard Knocks’?

Here are the NFL teams that were previously featured on “Hard Knocks”:

Team
Year
Baltimore Ravens
2001
Dallas Cowboys
2002
Kansas City Chiefs
2007
Dallas Cowboys
2008
Cincinnati Bengals
2009
New York Jets
2010
Miami Dolphins
2012
Cincinnati Bengals
2013
Atlanta Falcons
2014
Houston Texans
2015
Los Angeles Rams
2016
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2017
Cleveland Browns
2018
Oakland Raiders
2019
LA Rams, LA Chargers
2020
Dallas Cowboys
2021
Indianapolis Colts
Fall 2021

MORE: Chase Young called for roughing Daniel Jones; Twitter has usual takes about NFL being ‘soft’

Originally found on Sporting News Read More