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Category: Markethive

Blockchain: The Next Mortgage Industry Shake-Up?

Blockchain: The Next Mortgage Industry Shake-Up?

It has been quite some time since a new technology came along that holds the promise of revolutionising the mortgage industry. E-signatures and e-mortgages still offer the promise of a major technology shift, but 17 years later, adoption of e-mortgage technology has been anaemic

Along comes a new technology: Blockchain.

Will blockchain finally be the game-changing technology for the industry? I believe blockchain will be the next big thing. Although there were high hopes that e-signatures would be the solution that finally improves the process, the industry has been slow to adopt e-signatures as the core game-changing technology — and for good reason. Switching to digital mortgages requires substantial process and technology changes. Also, digital mortgages require the mortgage ecosystem — from the originator to the title company, to a closing agent, to a county recorder, to investor — to support the “e” process. This has been an almost insurmountable hurdle to overcome.

Although it has been close to two decades since e-signatures became legitimate under the law, e-closings are still not commonplace for mortgages. It’s no fault of the technology, per se — clearly, using e-signatures can make life easier for borrowers. Yet, the mortgage industry is still a paper-and-ink industry that requires mortgage teams and customers alike to go to the title company’s office and sign stacks of documents by hand. This is where blockchain technology comes in. I believe that blockchain will ultimately become the tool that enables wider adoption of digital mortgages.

What is blockchain, and why should mortgage lenders care?

Most mortgage professionals have heard of blockchain, yet no one knows for sure how it will impact mortgage lending. Many in the industry believe that blockchain will be used for digital currency or high-frequency trading. But the fact is that blockchain-based technology holds the promise of creating a completely new basis for the digital mortgage without any of the previous hurdles.

Blockchain technology that is correctly applied to documents and data provides the same level of preservation of information, document integrity and tamper seal solutions as the original mortgage without requiring a completely reworked “e” process. Blockchain technology can work with digital signing or with a paper signing. Notary seals, recordation information, e-notes and paper notes, and video recording of closings can all be tamper-sealed and immutably recorded.

Why is that so revolutionary for the industry? Because if you use the right blockchain solution, it helps overcome the three previously mentioned hurdles that stopped e-signatures in their tracks: With blockchain, you don’t have to have everyone in the mortgage ecosystem agree to an e-mortgage document process, nor do you need everyone to support the e-signed documents. More importantly, blockchain solutions will not require lenders to retool processes, as blockchain technology sits as a thin layer on top of the existing document management system. Blockchain technology, when properly applied, has the ability to freeze a copy of signed documentation to prove that it has never been altered — and, further, that the original document is in its original location.

An enabler, not a replacement, of e-mortgages

Will blockchain replace digital signatures? It certainly has the potential to change the way digital signatures are utilized, but no, blockchain will not replace digital signatures. The goal is to help facilitate their use by making blockchain the fundamental enabling technology. As we’ve seen through their slow adoption, e-signatures are not the right tool to be the lead player, but they are still an important tool in the mortgage industry’s toolbox.

What blockchain technology will do is shift the way that the industry thinks about an e-mortgage. In the past, an e-mortgage was envisioned as a soup-to-nuts digital file that contained only digital documents and e-signatures — a configuration that was extremely tough to implement because of the hurdles described previously. Blockchain brings something new to the table by offering the mortgage team and customer the same benefits whether signing digitally or on paper. Again, e-signatures will become the technology that makes some parts of the mortgage process better for the consumer and the lender, but it won’t be the underpinning technology around a digital mortgage.

Building on the blockchain backbone

As we look back over the past 17 years of the industry’s anaemic attempt to get widespread adoption for e-signatures, it’s important to reiterate that this wasn’t a failing of the digital signature technology itself. Instead, the failure was because e-signatures required clearance of too many significant hurdles. Within this environment, blockchain has emerged as a problem-solving technology that doesn’t require the same level of clearance of the industry’s hurdles.

Blockchain offers a completely different baseline technology on which to build the digital mortgage. Although blockchain is poised to ultimately become bigger than e-signatures and replace them as the core driving technology, the ability to sign digitally will still be hugely important in the mortgage industry. Tools such as e-signatures, electronic closings and e-vaults are vital components of the overall e-mortgage solution.

What’s changing is that e-signatures will be replaced as the core technology behind e-mortgages. These components will need to plug into the blockchain backbone, which will become the linchpin that drives an electronic mortgage. Shifting the focus from e-sign tools to blockchain as the backbone for compliance and document management is a win-win, as it still allows for the option to insert e-signatures as needed along the way. In short, blockchain is the transformation in technology that the industry has needed for nearly two decades — one that will finally allow e-signatures to become incredibly powerful.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Bitpay Gearing up to Test Extension Blocks

Bitpay Gearing up to Test Extension Blocks

Recently, the Bcoin team released the specifications and particulars for launching extension blocks for a blockchain protocol upgrade. They have now nearly completed implementing these extension blocks. Bitpay’s CEO Stephen Pair responded with an article on April 24 saying that Bitpay would be willing to test these “secondary blocks” on a testnet.  

Also read: Bcoin Developers Plan to Test Scaling Concept ‘Extension Blocks’

Bitpay Gearing up to Test Extension Blocks

Pair said, “The bcoin team has released specifications and working code for the developer community to critique. At Bitpay, we think this idea of extension blocks holds a lot of promise, and we intend to participate in its technical evaluation”.

This news of testing extension blocks comes at a time of great divide within the Bitcoin community over whether Segwit should be activated. Pair suggests that extension blocks could solve the problem because these “secondary blocks” act as a non-contentious hardfork. In a previous article, Pair said that the communities need to avoid initiating a contentious hardfork at all costs. He said:

“One very important challenge we must resolve is how to successfully upgrade Bitcoin in a safe, deliberate and non-contentious manner. And we must be able to upgrade Bitcoin because no organism can live in its own waste products.”

How Secondary Blocks are Non-Contentious; Pair’s Three Step Formulation

This “secondary block” or “extension block” upgrade is non-contentious and will disallow Bitcoin to wallow in its own excrement, because of the manner in which it solves the problem of filled block sizes. In Pair’s previous article, he outlines a three step outline on how extension blocks could be implemented. He said the nodes will acknowledge new rules for these secondary blocks, and thus they will start accepting data.

“In this step, nodes begin upgrading to support the new rules. Nodes will validate and relay valid data that can be included in the secondary block (imagine some new form of transaction, but it could really be any kind of data). These nodes will not relay data considered invalid according to the new rules.”

In phase two, Pair suggests that a second soft fork is performed. However, he mentions instead of adding new rules to the protocol, old blocks will be “deprecated.” This means that transactions will no longer be allowed in the old block.

Finally, in phase three, the protocol will start to shed its old skin and stop rolling around in its own filth. Pair clarified this step, “After the soft fork that deprecates use of the original block has activated, all transactions and data will be in the new secondary block. At this point we can schedule a hard fork that simply drops the old block and adopts the secondary block as the primary block structure.”

Pair seems confident that the “secondary block” or “extension block” plan is the way to go for a non-contentious fork and upgrade of the bitcoin protocol. Of course, others disagree.

Do you think a “secondary block” upgrade is the solution to the scaling dilemma? Let us know in the comments below.


Images via Shutterstock and fintech.nl


At Bitcoin.com there’s a bunch of free helpful services. For instance, have you seen our Tools page? You can even look up the exchange rate for a transaction in the past. Or calculate the value of your current holdings. Or create a paper wallet. And much more.

Chris Corey CMO MarketHive.com

By Sterlin Lujan

April 25, 2017

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Cryptocurrency Inflation V Deflation

cryptocurrency inflation v deflation

Cryptocurrency Inflation v Deflation
 

In the world of cryptocurrency, there are two main types of ecosystems. Either a cryptocurrency is inflationary — with new coins generated by mining or staking — or it is deflationary. A lot of people claim bitcoin’s deflationary status is a problem, and how minor inflation could alleviate these concerns. However, there are different aspects of either concept that need to be taken into account first.
 

1. DEFLATION
 

Most cryptocurrency enthusiasts are well aware of how bitcoin has a fixed supply cap of 21 million coins. It is expected the last bitcoin will be mined around the year 2140, even though a large portion of the available supply is in circulation already. Some financial experts claim bitcoin’s capped coin supply is a problem, as it makes the popular cryptocurrency deflationary. Since no additional coins will be brought into circulation from that point forward, there will be no more inflation for bitcoin.
 

Deflation in the traditional financial ecosystem is a bad thing. Then again, cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin cannot be compared to any other currency in the world, thus making it a rather moot point. It is also a clear indication of how most economists are stuck in their old ways of thinking. Deflation is often associated with economies that not performing all that well. In most cases, deflation leads to falling prices. If that were to happen to bitcoin, things could go from bad to worse rather quickly.

 

One thing to keep in mind is how during times of financial hardship, consumers are not investing but flocking to liquid currency. For bitcoin, that could be a good thing, as it may even lead to future prosperity. From a long-term perspective, deflationary currencies are by far the better option. In bitcoin’s case, deflation will — probably — cause a rise in value. There is no real reason to think deflation is bad for bitcoin by any means.

 

2. INFLATION
 

Every major traditional currency known to man is inflationary. There is no hard limit as to how many US Dollars, Euros, or Pounds Sterling there can be at any given time. Central banks can use a technique called “helicopter money” to introduce more bills and coins to an ecosystem if they see the need to do so. With more money to go around, they hope to improve the financial situation for their specific region.

 

Inflation also has a nasty side effect that most people tend to overlook. As the supply of an available currency continues to grow, it makes the previously existing supply worth a bit less. In the world of cryptocurrency, there are two types of inflation: proof-of-work and proof-of-stake. The first option makes bitcoin an inflationary currency until all 21 million BTC have been generated. Proof-of-stake allows for a virtually unlimited coin supply even when there are no longer mining rewards to be distributed.

 

Although a lot of people see no harm in inflationary cryptocurrencies, it provides a bit of a problem when it comes to estimating a coin’s value. Since there are more coins every day, inflationary cryptocurrencies cannot be labeled as a store of value per se. Interestingly enough, some of the major cryptocurrencies have decided to take the inflationary approach, including Ethereum — switching to proof-of-stake soon — and Dash. Other currencies, such as Litecoin, have taken the same model as bitcoin, effectively limiting their supply. From a store of value point-of-view, deflationary cryptocurrencies are the better option, by the look of things.

David Ogden
Entrepreneur

 

Contributor JP Buntinx

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Bitcoin Price Soars Toward $1,275 in 45-Day High

Bitcoin Price Soars Toward $1,275 in 45-Day High

Bitcoin price is pushing on with its bullish gains as the cryptocurrency continues to reach the dizzying heights scaled in early March during the lead-up the SEC decision of the Winklevoss bitcoin electronic traded fund (ETF).

It has been a month of continuing gains with a positive trend for the world’s most prominent cryptocurrency. Having started April at $1,068 on the Bitstamp Price Index (BPI), today’s trading shows price reach a high of $1,274. Bitcoin has now gained nearly 20% in value since the turn of April.

BPI data reveals trading on Monday begain at $1,241 and a sustained trading period has seen an upward climb for the value of the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin prices were hovering above $1,250 at the start of Tuesday (midnight UTC) into the early hours of the day. At 07:30, a surge spurred prices from $1,252 to $1,260 in a 2-hour period. A more notable spike followed in the next 2-hour period as price pushed upwards of $1,270 to peak at $1,274 at midday.

 

// Get exclusive analysis of bitcoin and learn from our tutorials. Join Hacked.com for just $39 now. //

At the time of publishing, bitcoin price has trailed off slightly with bitcoin trading to the dollar at $1,266 on the BPI.

Global average prices, according to data from BitcoinAverage shows prices at $1,271.97 at the time of publishing, with a day’s high of $1,275.

April has played host to a number of positive developments for the bitcoin adoption. The cryptocurrency saw acceptance as a legal method of payment in Japan on the very first day. It was soon revealed that large retailers were working alongside bitcoin companies to enable as many as 260,000 Japanese storefronts to begin accepting bitcoin by this summer.

Elsewhere, Russia and India have both begun acknowledging bitcoin at an early stage. Whispers from Russia, in particular, are pointing toward the possible recognition and regulation of bitcoin in 2018, in a country that previously debated imprisoning bitcoin adopters less than a year ago.

A committee put to task by the Indian government is rumored to recommend the approval of bitcoin as a legal instrument in the country, with proposed regulation and taxation.

Bitcoin’s total market capitalization is back above $20 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.

For a live BTC Price chart, click here.

All time references are in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

Featured image from Shutterstock. Chart from BitcoinWisdom.

Chris Corey CMO MarketHive Inc

Samburaj Das on 25/04/2017

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Cryptocurrency Inflation vs Deflation

Cryptocurrency Inflation vs Deflation

 
 
 
 

In the world of cryptocurrency, there are two main types of ecosystems. Either a cryptocurrency is inflationary — with new coins generated by mining or staking — or it is deflationary. A lot of people claim bitcoin’s deflationary status is a problem, and how minor inflation could alleviate these concerns. However, there are different aspects of either concept that need to be taken into account first.

2. DEFLATION

Most cryptocurrency enthusiasts are well aware of how bitcoin has a fixed supply cap of 21 million coins. It is expected the last bitcoin will be mined around the year 2140, even though a large portion of the available supply is in circulation already. Some financial experts claim bitcoin’s capped coin supply is a problem, as it makes the popular cryptocurrency deflationary. Since no additional coins will be brought into circulation from that point forward, there will be no more inflation for bitcoin.

Deflation in the traditional financial ecosystem is a bad thing. Then again, cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin cannot be compared to any other currency in the world, thus making it a rather moot point. It is also a  clear indication of how most economists are stuck in their old ways of thinking. Deflation is often associated with economies that not performing all that well. In most cases, deflation leads to falling prices. If that were to happen to bitcoin, things could go from bad to worse rather quickly.

 

One thing to keep in mind is how during times of financial hardship, consumers are not investing but flocking to liquid currency. For bitcoin, that could be a good thing, as it may even lead to future prosperity. From a long-term perspective, deflationary currencies are by far the better option. In bitcoin’s case, deflation will — probably — cause a rise in value. There is no real reason to think deflation is bad for bitcoin by any means.

1. INFLATION

Every major traditional currency known to man is inflationary. There is no hard limit as to how many US Dollars, Euros, or Pounds Sterling there can be at any given time. Central banks can use a technique called “helicopter money” to introduce more bills and coins to an ecosystem if they see the need to do so. With more money to go around, they hope to improve the financial situation for their specific region.

Inflation also has a nasty side effect that most people tend to overlook. As the supply of an available currency continues to grow, it makes the previously existing supply worth a bit less. In the world of cryptocurrency, there are two types of inflation: proof-of-work and proof-of-stake. The first option makes bitcoin an inflationary currency until all 21 million BTC have been generated. Proof-of-stake allows for a virtually unlimited coin supply even when there are no longer mining rewards to be distributed.

Although a lot of people see no harm in inflationary cryptocurrencies, it provides a bit of a problem when it comes to estimating a coin’s value. Since there are more coins every day, inflationary cryptocurrencies cannot be labeled as a store of value per se. Interestingly enough, some of the major cryptocurrencies have decided to take the inflationary approach, including Ethereum — switching to proof-of-stake soon — and Dash. Other currencies, such as Litecoin, have taken the same model as bitcoin, effectively limiting their supply. From a store of value point-of-view, deflationary cryptocurrencies are the better option, by the look of things.

Chris Corey CMO MarketHive Inc

April 25, 2017

 

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Breaking: SEC Will Review Decision of Winklevoss Bitcoin ETF Rejection

Breaking: SEC Will Review Decision of Winklevoss Bitcoin ETF Rejection

The securities and exchange commission has granted a request by the Bats BZX Exchange, Inc. to review its decision of disapproving the bitcoin ETF back in March this year. According to a document signed by Eduardo A. Aleman, Assistant Secretary at the SEC:

“The petition of BZX for review of the Division’s action to disapprove the proposed rule change by delegated authority be GRANTED; and It is further ORDERED that any party or other people may file a statement in support of or in opposition to the action made pursuant to delegated authority on or before May 15, 2017.”

Aleman is the person who, through delegated authority, made the decision on March the 10th which some in the bitcoin community saw as an intentional slap. In a fairly angry article back then, I wrote

“How can one man have so much power? We were told there will be a vote, but apparently, the SEC commissioners didn’t think this decision was important, delegating it to Aleman. Then, what’s the point of the commissioners?… Delegating this decision to a faceless bureaucrat is an insult. For them to hide behind an Assistant Secretary, not even a Secretary, is an intentional slap.

The decision document mentions a specific date, data analyzed by the 28th of February. That’s almost two weeks ago. Could he have not released the decision then? Did he have to allow so much speculation? Was it an intentional insult to the entire bitcoin community for this clearly already long ago made decision to be released at the very last hour? Who knew of the decision before it was released? Did any of them trade the market?”

Aleman’s reasons for rejecting the ETF was because he wanted a surveillance sharing agreement between exchanges and because he said much of the trading was carried out in unregulated Chinese bitcoin exchanges.

The latter part was out of date even at the time of the decision. PBoC has moved in, laying out some red lines for Chinese exchanges. Aleman further said Gemini lacks liquidity, but that’s mainly because traders naturally go to exchanges with futures and margins, two necessary facilities that CFTC continues to deny to regulated American exchanges such as Gemini and Coinbase.

It is surprising, however, that the decision is now to be reviewed. Even more so because the person who rejected the ETF, Aleman, has approved the review of his own decision. It is still too early to say how this review will be carried out, but one thing I hope we can say for sure is that Aleman will have no further part in any of it.

That’s for obvious reasons which do not even need to be stated. One can’t review their own decision in an institutional context. It’s like carrying a judicial appeal in front of the same judge who clearly has already reached a decision against you.

This review should be carried out at the commissioners’ level. To them, I say what I said just a day before Aleman’s decision, a day when I thought it was the commissioners who were to decide, specifically the acting chairman of the SEC:

“Dr. Piwowar, open the doors for business. Welcome innovation. And not by default approval. Stand in front of the world and show that America has two parties, show that this administration means free market capitalism, hail the geniuses who bring new things to this world, lift the spirits of this great nation.”

Chris Corey CMO MarketHive Inc

Andrew Quentson on 25/04/2017

 

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Tips for Combining SEO and Content Marketing

Tips for Combining SEO and
Content Marketing

  

Gone are the days when search engine optimisation was enough

to land your website onto Google's good graces. Now you must to add content marketing to your arsenal of digital marketing tool if you want to gain search engines’ approval and ultimately win the heart of online users. Given the important role content marketing now plays in the success of an online business, it's time that SEO ties the knot with content marketing.

The two digital marketing tools that were once viewed as separate entities are now an inseparable couple, promising to inch businesses closer to the proverbial “overnight success. ”The amazing duo can greatly help your online business reach the pinnacle of success and outwit your competitors. Here are ways you can ensure that the two digital marketing tools work in harmony:

Set common goals.

Setting common goals is the first step to make SEO and content marketing work together to bring additional revenues. Ask yourself what activities overlap between the two digital marketing techniques. Is it increased online traffic, rankings or links? How can you align the activities to achieve common goals? The answers to these and other similar questions will give you a starting point in creating an integrated SEO and content marketing strategy with clear and focused goals and strong communication.

Establish key performance indicators.

Another way to optimise synergy between SEO and Content Marketing is to establish key KPIs that will track performance, and ensure that it is on track for achieving common goals. These KPIs include content sharing, links to content, online user engagement, call-to-action conversion rates and several others. 

Understand your target audience.

Understanding your audience is the key part of an SEO and content marketing strategy. Create personas of the target audience and develop a unique digital marketing strategy for each group. The personas can be based on age, location, gender, hobbies or interests. Don’t undertake any digital marketing activity without considering what your audience wants, and also what you want them to do in return of fulfilling their demand.

Create SEO-optimized content.

Google places great emphasis on quality content. You can make the content more relevant for the search engine by incorporating high-impression keywords. Optimising the content in this way will allow your Web pages to become visible to online users by appearing in the search results. Avoid overstuffing keywords into website content. In order to play it safe, limit the keyword density to 1 percent or less. This will ensure that your site doesn't get penalised by the search engine, decreasing online traffic.

Research high-impression and relevant keywords.

Include high impression and relevant keywords in the website. Each keyword that you select should be researched properly using online tools such as Google Planner, Google Trend, Word Stream and other similar tools. optimising your content in this way will ensure that your online content is able to attract maximum number of online users.

Attract online consumers through link building.

Another way you can make SEO and content marketing work together is through link building. Link building is a pure SEO strategy that results in a distribution of online content to a large number of targeted, qualified audiences. You can greatly increase your content’s effectiveness through these efforts. The links pointing to the published online content is placed on various high authority and high page ranked sites. These sites attract thousands of online visitors that can be diverted to your site by placing targeted links on the site they first visited. Enlist SEO professionals to enhance your link building strategy. Here are some reputed SEO companies, based on user reviews:

  • TIS India
  • SE Media Online
  • Anpee Media

Focus on internal link building.

Internal link building works wonders in increasing your website’s ranking along with your published content. Moreover, creating internal links will also result in improved user experience due to easy navigation around the site. Internal link building is simple to implement and should be part of your digital marketing arsenal. This will help to improve your ranking and guide users with the content that is relevant to them.

Optimise your website content’s title and headings.

Your website content’s title and headings should also be optimised using relevant keywords and phrases. The title is displayed on top bar of the browser, and headings are included inside the content. Your title should be descriptive, persuading users to click. Headings should be catchy enough to make the content readable. Both must also be SEO-optimized to make your content more visible in the search results page.

Measure your results.

Make use of various online tools to measure the outcome of your combined SEO and content marketing efforts. Google Analytics can track changes in search volume over time. You will also know which pages and content attracts the most visitors, and the keywords they type to enter the website. The information gathered can help you fine-tune your content.

Keep your efforts going.

Combining SEO and content marketing must be an on going effort that should not stop at any time. Make the most of the opportunity and watch the extraordinary combination of SEO and content marketing work wonders for your organization or client. It will position you perfectly on the fast track to success.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Essential SEO Strategies to Incorporate in 2017

Essential SEO Strategies to
Incorporate in 2017

Essential SEO Strategies to Incorporate in 2017

If you do great work with your search engine optimisation (SEO), it could mean a significant amount of revenue for your business. At the same time, however, it is also an ongoing initiative. Once you generate a steady stream of traffic from SEO, you need to constantly be maintaining and improving your SEO in order to keep those rankings you worked so hard for.

Generally, the two most important items needed to rank well in search engines are links to your website and content — the hard part is creating great content and generating those links. It is also important to note that Google, the largest search engine, has hundreds of ranking factors with some factors having more weight than others.Here are important SEO strategies outside of the basics, that are critical to getting to — or staying at — the top of the search engines in 2017.

Create an influencer who is a subject-matter expert.

An influencer is someone who people listen to online. When it comes to search engine optimisation, having an influencer in your corner will mean more people link to your website, share your blog posts and trust your content. If possible, have an influencer who is a subject-matter expert head up the content creation on your website. This person can be you, someone from your company or someone you align with.

Develop a content marketing strategy.

Every website should have a content strategy focused around your top keywords. When you create content such as blog posts, videos, whitepapers, research reports and webinars, it gives people something to link to. In addition, the content you create can rank by itself in the search engines. For example, if you write a blog post on “How to Pick an SEO Company,” there is a possibility it will rank for some of the keywords you use in the title and in the body post, especially if the post gets linked to from other websites or shared a lot on social media. It also helps if your website as a whole already has significant high-quality links. 

This results in high domain authority, which translates into better rankings for all of your content. In addition, regular content creation shows Google that your website is alive and active. By sending this fresh content signal to Google on a continual basis, it will result in better rankings for your website as a whole.

Generate powerful backlinks to your site and pages.

Having an influencer and content marketing strategy will help you develop backlinks to your website, but it is also important to actively be seeking ways to get people to link to you. Some of the best ways to do this are to write for a large publication, do industry interviews and recommend your powerful content to people who matter. You can also hire a public relations (PR) company or an SEO company that has a strong digital PR division to help you with this initiative.

In addition, you can also use tools like Majestic SEO to see who is linking to your competitors. Once you identify the links to your competitor’s sites, you can analyse these links, learn how they got them and implement a similar strategy for your website. For example, did they donate to a charity causing the charity to link to their site? You can do the same thing.

Get your website mobile-ready. 

In 2015, there was a major Google update known as a Mobile addon. This meant that if you did not have a mobile version of your website by April 21, 2015, you lost a significant amount of your rankings in the mobile version of the Google search listings.

Moving into 2017, your website needs to be mobile-ready. There are three types of accepted options for a mobile site in Google’s eyes: responsive design, being set up on a mobile subdomain or use dynamic serving. Google also now ranks websites higher that apply SEO for their apps. So if you have an app, make sure you are taking the time to implement application SEO.

Move your website to HTTPS, a secure site.

Google’s Gary IIIyes sent this tweet on August 18, 2015, saying that, “If you're an SEO and you're recommending against going HTTPS, you're wrong, and you should feel bad.” The “S” in HTTPS stands for security, and if your URL leads with HTTPS (https://example.com) instead of HTTP (http://example.com), then your website is secure. Google wants you to move your site to HTTPS so badly that they are now giving a ranking boost to websites that are secure. As we move into 2016, we will be seeing many new websites transferring to HTTPS. 

Add schema.org markup to your website.

Schema.org is a type of markup that you can put in the code of your website. Using schema.org, you can tell Google which picture on your site is your logo, where your reviews are, where your videos are, what type of company you are, where you are located and much more. Google has hinted over the last year that schema.org will help your website rank better in Google search. Recently, Google’s John Mueller said in a Google Hangout on Sept. 11 (at the 21:40-minute mark) that “over time, I think it [structured markup] is something that might go into the rankings as well.”

When it comes to SEO in 2016, these are some of the most important items you can focus on. Make sure you are adding fresh, high-quality content and generating backlinks. Also, make sure your website is mobile ready and fully secure. Outside of this, it is also important to follow normal SEO best practices. Good luck to you in your SEO in 2017.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Steps to Building a Winning Brand Strategy

Steps to Building a Winning Brand Strategy

In their book Start Your Own Business

In their book Start Your Own Business, the staff of Entrepreneur Media Inc. guides you through the critical steps to starting your business, then supports you in surviving the first three years as a business owner. In this edited excerpt, the authors explain the three-step process of creating a branding strategy for your business plan.

In addition to all its other parts, your business plan should include a branding strategy. This is your written plan for how you’ll apply your brand strategically throughout the company over time. At its core, a good branding strategy lists the one or two most important elements of your product or service, describes your company’s ultimate purpose in the world and defines your target customer. The result is a blueprint for what’s most important to your company and your customer. Don’t worry: Creating a branding strategy isn’t nearly as scary or as complicated as it sounds. Here’s how you do it:

Set yourself apart.

Why should people buy from you instead of from the same kind of business across town? Think about the intangible qualities of your product or service, using adjectives from “friendly” to “fast” and every word in between. Your goal is to own a position in the customer’s mind so they think of you differently than the competition. “Powerful brands will own a word—like Volvo [owns] safety,” says Laura Ries, an Atlanta-based marketing consultant and co-author of The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding: How to Build a Product or Service into a World-Class Brand. Which word will your company own? A new hair salon might focus on the adjective “convenient” and stay open a few hours later in the evening for customers who work late—something no other local salon might do. How will you be different from the competition? The answers are valuable assets that constitute the basis of your brand.

Know your target customer.

Once you’ve defined your product or service, think about your target customer. You’ve probably already gathered demographic information about the market you’re entering, but think about the actual customers who'll walk through your door. Who is this person, and what is the one thing he or she ultimately wants from your product or service? After all, the customer is buying it for a reason. What will your customer demand from you?

Develop a personality.

How will you show customers every day what fulfil’s promises and provide value and service to the people you serve. If you promise quick service, for example, what will “quick” mean inside your company? And how will you make sure service stays speedy? Along the way, you’re laying the foundation of your hiring strategy and how future employees will be expected to interact with customers. You’re also creating the template for your advertising and marketing strategies.

In the Loop

Many companies large and small stumble when it comes to incorporating employees into their branding strategies. But to the customer making a purchase, your employee is the company. Your employees can make or break your entire brand, so don’t ever forget them. Here are a few tips:

Hire based on brand strategy. Communicating your brand through your employees starts with making the right hires. Look to your brand strategy for help. If your focus is on customer service, employees should be friendly, unflappable and motivated, right? Give new hires a copy of your brand strategy, and talk about it with them on a regular basis.

Set expectations. How do you expect employees to treat customers? Make sure they understand what’s required. Reward employees who do an exceptional job or go above and beyond the call of duty.

Communicate, then communicate some more. Keeping employees clued in requires ongoing communication about the company’s branding efforts through meetings, posters, training, etc. Never, ever assume employees can read your mind.

Your branding strategy doesn’t need to be more than one page long at most. It can even be as short as one paragraph. It all depends on your product or service and your industry. The important thing is that you answer these questions before you open your doors.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Low-Cost Marketing Strategies Every Business Should Know

Low-Cost Marketing Strategies Every Business Should Know

 Low-Cost Marketing Strategies Every Business Should Know

Let’s be real. Marketing can get expensive. With such a strong emphasis on digital marketing, it can seem like the only way to be successful is through buying ads or paying for SEO. While both of those are very popular and useful ways to market a business, there are also many marketing strategies that come at a low cost, if not for free. These four low-cost marketing strategies create organic traffic and exposure for your business, and they all place an emphasis on the most important factor of marketing: the people you’re targeting.

Network

Networking is one of the most effective marketing strategies that everyone has access to, and there are plenty of ways to do it. First and foremost, LinkedIn is a platform entirely devoted to networking. As a rule of thumb, you should be adding everyone you shake hands with or speak with, including customers, a similar business, and more. In building a personal brand through LinkedIn, you can promote your business brand. To make networking even easier, you can make a group page for your business, or join a local business group and participate with the existing members and audience to boost the exposure of your business.

LinkedIn is far from being the only way to network. Networking is a mindset and an approach that prioritises people rather than positions and businesses. In putting people first, you can determine who matters most that you need to get to know and what you can do for them. Then you can market your business to a broader audience in a less obvious, more effective manner. The best part about networking is that you can essentially do this anywhere, at any time, with anyone. Is there a local business association that holds meetings? Join it. A chapter of a marketing association in your city? Join that, too. Start utilising any and every opportunity that brings you in contact with new people.

Build a partnership.

Ever heard the saying “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine”? That’s exactly how a partnership works.  Let’s say you own a car dealership and there is an auto detailer and repair shop down the road. If you partner with the auto shop, you can refer people there for maintenance and keep their business cards or flyers in your dealership. In return, the auto detailer can refer people to your dealership when they need to buy, sell, or trade their vehicle and they can also keep business cards or flyers in their shop. Maybe there’s even a discount if they mention that the partnering business referred them.

Building a partnership can market your business to the customer base of another business, and vice versa. This works especially well for local businesses, as it fosters a sense of unity and support within the community. People are exceptionally receptive to recommendations that come from businesses they already trust and have had positive experiences with, and you can use that to your advantage through a partnership. It’s cost-effective, marketing-savvy, and will build your reputation.

Ask for reviews.

The only things people pay attention to more than what it says about your company on Google are the reviews that previous customers have left you. I once found a rental property I was interested in, and upon searching for reviews of the real estate agency I found an entire Facebook page dedicated to very passionately written bad reviews about the company (and that was in addition to a low Yelp score). I was horrified after reading all the negative experiences other customers had with the agency, and have since warned many friends to avoid renting or buying any properties from them solely based on those reviews.

What your customers have to say about you is the clearest indication of the kind of experiences future customers will have with you. By asking customers who have had positive experiences to write a quick review on Facebook or Yelp, you can accumulate endorsements and vouchers. Plus, if someone is willing to take the time to write a review, it’s likely that they’ll recommend your business to their friends and family for future needs. All of this comes at little to no cost and lets your customers do the marketing for you. According to Carlos Fearn, a Marketing Consultant at Rankology, “Consumers trust online reviews nearly as much as if it were a recommendation from a friend. It is imperative in today’s online society that a business encourages their customers to leave reviews on the major social networks and portals to show their satisfaction with your company.”

Blog.

Helping people before they actually need anything from you is a marketing tactic that A) might not even be a “real” marketing tactic and B) has great returns. An easy way to do this is by adding a blogging component to your company’s website where you can offer useful tips and insights about things related to your business. The only thing it will cost you is time, and by blogging about the topics you’re already knowledgeable about, you can market a friendly credibility that’s in the interest of the customer. For example, if you’re a bakery, share some easy recipes around the holidays, or offer tips on baking for people with food allergies. By providing a real utility to the kind of customers who have a use for the information you’re providing, you create a relationship that establishes your business as a helpful authority. People tend to value helpful over pushy and if someone has used tips or recipes from your bakery’s website, you’ll probably be their first thought when they need a sweet treat on their lunch break.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member