Bookkeeping Money-Saving Tip # 14: Making Money with Your Website (Part 2)

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In the last BOOKKEEPING MONEY-SAVING TIP # 13: Make Money With Your Website (Part 1), I discussed two ways that you can supplement your income with your business blog.  As promised, here is another tip that anyone can do to make money with their business website.  However, today I am only going to focus on one main money-making idea because it is such an important and valuable way to make money.  It is your business blog.  With a business blog, you are basically getting free advertising (for really only the cost of your time to write an article), you are creating a relationship with your customers (whether you know it or not), and you can build a community that will only help your business in the business world.  Here’s why the Business Website Blog is so important:

Blogging: If you haven’t noticed lately, one of the biggest trends going on in businesses today is blogging.  It seems like anyone and everyone has a blog, and even an eBook.  There’s a reason for that.  (In fact, there are multiple reasons for that.)  It’s one of the cheapest ways to advertise and to build lasting relationships with your customers – and since you’ll want to save money on advertising…

Having said that, here are some of the most profitable reasons to add a blog to your website:

  1. Blogging is the Sharing of Free Information AND a Person/Company’s Personality: I don’t care what anyone says – Companies have personalities.Maybe that personality is to be “a Big Bad Corporation” or maybe “an Environmentally-Friendly Non-Profit.”  Either way, there is a mission involved and a way that company has of sharing information.  Blogging is the best way for any person or company to share their personality and information, while also educating a customer about the products they sell.  It doesn’t necessarily matter what information you share or how you share it (i.e. words, podcasts, videos, etc.), so long as you share who YOU and your Company are in the process.
  2. Constant Blog Updates Lead to Lots of Traffic: New blog information should be added on average of once a week or more, which means the website is constantly changing.  Since the website and blog are constantly changing, people have a reason to return to the website again and again, which reminds people that there are products to buy.  Constant visits increase the likelihood of “Impulse Purchases, which obviously helps the company’s bottom line.  (On the other hand, websites without blogs are only visited when people are looking for something in particular to buy, which can end up being “rarely.”)
  3. Lots of Traffic Leads to Popularity and New Customers: The more often people visit your blog, the more popular your site will become.  The more popular your site, the higher your website will rank in a Search Engine’s Ranking List.  That means when a customer searches for your product, you have a better chance of being the website that Google or Yahoo! recommends.  The end result is that new customers will begin to visit your website as well, recommended both by your current customers, and the Search Engines.  And thus…
  4. New Customers Leads to New Additional Sales.
  5. Finally, Customers Will Keep Coming Back: As crazy as this might sound, people want to buy from people they know and feel comfortable with.  Even if they don’t buy from your website every time they visit, every blog you post cements you as an “Expert” in their mind, and someone they “just like.”  Thus, they will come to you first when they need advice regarding your industry or when they need your products.  Every blog – whether you make money right away or later – will lead to building customer relations and eventual sales.

Thus, if you haven’t started a business blog, you really need to consider it.  Especially because a blog is the best way to bring traffic to your site again and again, and it will help you make even more money later on.

Come back next week as I talk a bit more about adding Google Adsense to your blog, and how to use it correctly.

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Quick Note: In the month of September, I will be doing a very intense 30-day online workshop on How to Turn Anyone’s Business Blog into a Money-Making Blog. The intent is to teach people how to supplement their income no matter their industry. The cost is $20 for the online workshop, and everyone who joins will receive a $20 gift certificate to Elance.com so that they can hire help for any aspect of their business or website development.

If you would like to know more, you can click the “Workshop” tab above, or Click Here.

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Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper: Deletions and Voids

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

Dear Diary,

Let me just premise this entry by saying — crap crap crap crap crap.

I got a phone call from the accountant today.  It’s tax time, and the accountant wants to meet with me to go over the books.  Since I’ve never worked with this accountant before, I have no idea how closely they are going to want to look at the books.  I can’t help but fear that the accountant is going to figure out what I’ve been doing if he looks too closely at the books.  So I was in full blown panic mode all day.Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

So after thinking about it, I did what I could today to clean up the books.

I started by voiding out some of the checks and deposits that I had made, hoping that would be enough.  But then, when I realized that the checks were recording in the check register as “voided checks”, I had to rethink that strategy.

My solution:  I began deleting the checks and deposits instead.  That way, they disappear completely from all registers.

But then another problem popped up.  By deleting the checks and deposits, the bank balance began to change.  So, I went back and made sure to delete just enough to keep the balance close to what the original balance was.  Hopefully, it will be enough to fool the accountant.

Hopefully the accountant is a fool…

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How to Spot This Problem:

superhero_edited_no_maskWhether you have a good bookkeeper or a bad bookkeeper, deletions and voids are always a part of bookkeeping.  Mistakes happen and bookkeepers have to find and correct those mistakes to make sure their books balance.  One of the biggest benefits and downfalls of various bookkeeping programs like QuickBooks (especially QuickBooks) is that many of the programs make it really, really, really easy to do voids and deletions.  In fact, just doing a “Ctrl + D” while in any facet of QuickBooks will instantly delete that item.

Having said that…let me point out that bad bookkeepers will do an excessive amount of deletions, especially after reconciling the bank accounts.  Finding those deletions and voids are an excellent way to know if there is a problem with your bookkeeper.

While I am not familiar with EVERY bookkeeping program, I do know QuickBooks.  And if you have QuickBooks, it is very, very easy to find those deletions and voids.

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QUICK NOTE:  Now if you do suspect your bookkeeper of embezzling, the easiest thing to do would be to take a previous backup and “Restore It” to your QuickBooks program.  By doing this, you wipe out any and all changes that might have been made.  This is NOT a good idea if you want to know what your bookkeeper might have changed.  Instead, make a backup copy of the current program before restoring anything else, that way you can always go back and look more closely at any changes that have been made.

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Now, if you do have QuickBooks, finding these deletions are super easy.  All you have to do is go to Banking – Reconcile.  By doing so, you will then see a screen like this one with a “Locate Discrepancies” button:

By clicking on “Locate Discrepancies”, you can see ALL CHANGES THAT HAVE BEEN MADE SINCE THE LAST BANK RECONCILIATION.  If the account has never been reconciled, then nothing will appear here, which indicates a whole other set of problems.  If the account has been reconciled, you can find a list of every change that has been made and what the change was SINCE THE LAST RECONCILIATION.

After you have your list, simply “Undo (the) Last Reconciliation” to see what deletions were made in the reconciliation period before that.  You can keep doing this all the way to the very first reconciliation, and thus get a a fantastic picture of what has been deleted, voided and changed without your knowledge and after the reconciliation.  Remember… excessive deletions, voids and changes can mean that there is a problem with the bookkeeper…not necessarily that they are embezzlers so much as that they make a lot of mistakes.  But again, keep in mind that all bookkeeping has a certain amount of small mistakes that are caught every month when the reconciliations are done.

The 10 Customer Service Rules that All “Big Businesses” Utilize

You may be wondering, “E.T. Barton is a bookkeeper and a researcher.  What the heck could she possibly know about customer service?  What qualifies her to teach a lesson like this one?  She’s ‘Back Office’ – NOT Retail.” 

Picture by thadz

SignTo be quite honest…I rock at customer service.  I mean, I seriously kick butt.  But that is not actually what qualifies me as a customer service expert.  What qualifies me is the fact that one of my very first jobs – back when I was in high school – was as a cashier at Carls Jr.  From there, I moved onto Cocos, Sears, JCPenneys, and eventually T.K. Maxx in Ireland.  (Yes, the T.K. is correct).  All of those companies had customer service training programs and many of them had “Secret Shoppers” to verify that service was up to company standards.  While at Carls Jr AND Sears, I happened to be hit by a “Secret Shopper” on at least five occasions and…as you can probably guess…I kicked butt.  I literally got 93% my first secret shop, and then 100% after that.  I got 100% on a Sunday Secret Shop at Sears (our busiest day of the week at the time) where I sold shoes on commission (and I happened to be the highest paid commission associate in my department).  I love the customer service experience, and quite frankly, it is one of the things I miss most by being a back office associate and an independent business owner…you just don’t get to serve the same type of customer service. 

A few years after working at T.K. Maxx, and intrigued by the Secret Shopping Experience, I became a Secret Shopper.  For approximately two years, I learned the Exact Scripts that fast food chains, restaurants, colleges, and even banks teach their employees in order to ensure the perfect customer service experience for their clientele – and to make sure that sales happened.  Big Businesses create these intense customer service training programs for one reason and one reason only: 

Customer Service = Sales. 

Bad Customer Service = Bad Sales. 

Excellent Customer Service = Sales Again and Again and Again as Customers Return For More. 

Good customer service is like being a shepherd with a flock of sheep…the Customer Service Rep must lead the customers to their ideal product(s) like a shepherd leading sheep to water.

Today, I’m going to share the basics that “Big Businesses” are using to create the ultimate customer service retail experience.  The following 10 Steps helps a Company’s Sales Person create a relationship with a customer from the moment they step in the door to the moment they leave.  That relationship will encourage sales more than anything else the store will have to offer – even more than the product itself.  (In fact, read this funny story about the most interesting customer service experience I ever received in order to get a better understanding of this concept entitled, How About Some Illegal Drugs With That Purchase?)

If you read nothing else on this website, bookmark this article.  You’d be amazed when you realize how employees should be treating customers (like you) and how they actually treat customers.  Once you know how Employees at Big Businesses are supposed to behave, you’ll want Excellent Customer Service everywhere you go.

To make things a bit simpler, I’m going to call Customer Service Reps “CSRs” from here on out.

The “Big Business” Basics of Customer Service: 

  1. HandshakeThe Meet and Greet:  In every customer service experience I’ve ever encountered, there is always a “Meet and Greet” time period that is mandated by big companies.  For retail departments like Sears and JCPenneys, a CSR is supposed to greet a customer within THREE MINUTES of strolling into a department.  At fast food drive-ins, it is within ONE MINUTE.  At banks, it’s supposed to be as soon as that door opens, or the customer gets into line.  It is always a good idea to greet a customer ASAP, even if the CSR is busy with another customer.  The greeting could be as simple as “deliberate eye contact” and a nod, but it is better to verbally speak by saying something like, “Hello – my name is…I’m with someone right now, but I will be with you in just a moment.”  (Especially a good idea if the CSR is on the phone.) This type of greeting is often enough to placate even the most demanding of customers.  If you have a grouchy old lady with a bad hip and arthritis demanding service now, she will often be more than happy to wait as long as she knows when she will be served. 
  2. The Inquiry:  After eye contact and/or a verbal greeting, a CSR needs to follow up with the basic inquiry:  “How may I help you today?”  If this question is never asked and a customer is left alone to “find” what they are looking for, they will most likely NOT find it, and they will leave frustrated.  Customers always want “easy shopping” and if a CSR does not offer to make their experience “easy”, they’re out of there.  Give them the opportunity to tell you what they need by simply asking. 
  3. Deliver the Product – NEVER Leave Them to Their Own Devices:  Once the inquiry has been made, it is very important to deliver the product to the customer.  Again, the goal is “EASY shopping,” NOT “Good-Luck-With-That Shopping.”   That means, if you are in a retail business, the CSR should LEAD the customer over to the product, pick it up and hand it to them.  In restaurants, food should be delivered in a timely manner.  In the service industry, a person’s word is their bond; a CSR should live up to whatever promises they make to the customers (within reason, of course).  After all, nothing frustrates a shopper as much as being told, “It’s on Aisle 5”, but then not being able to find that item amongst the multitude of other items in Aisle 5 – or having a restaurant hostess never come back with a drink order “because they thought the waitress delivered it.”  (Am I bitter?  Yes.)  Customers will often assume “It’s sold out” if they don’t see it (or they have been forgotten in the case of the restaurant), and they may or may not ask for further assistance.  By accompanying the customer to a product’s location and/or delivering a product, a CSR has the chance to make sure that sale goes through as it’s supposed to (or “check in the back” if the shelves are empty).   
  4. Ask if They Need Further Assistance:  More often than not, a shopper is looking for ONE specific item, and they will “browse” after they find their item…BUT, it never hurts to ask.  It’s just as common to have a  customer ask for something else once their first need is met.  By simply saying, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”, the CSR increases the odds of a higher final tally on the receipt, while also really pleasing their customer. 
  5. historical shoesSuggest a Complementary Product:  In any business, it is always a good idea to “Suggestive Sell” additional products, especially if the customer says, “I don’t need anything else.”  At Carls Jr., we were encouraged to ask, “Would you like fries with that?” for every meal that did not have fries.  At the Sears shoe department, we were instructed to bring out “at least three pairs of shoes” that were similar in style to the shoe being asked for.  (That way, if the customer did not like the first style / price / fit / etc., they had other options.)  In more than 75% of MY Suggestive Selling cases, I sold the additional product as well as the original product (which is why I was the # 1 Shoe Sales Associate).  It’s the Suggestive Selling that can really help a company’s bottom line, and make a customer happy.  The key, however, is to Give the Customer a Visual Suggestion of a Complementary Product.  At Sears, the customer was able to See AND Touch the additional shoes.  At Carls Jr, saying “Would you like Fries with that (or cookies, or soda)?” instead of “Would you like anything else with that?” gave the customer a mental image of the product, which led them to imagine the food in “their mind’s eye” (i.e. how it would taste).  By giving them that stimulus, whether actual or mental, the CSR stimulates a bigger sale.  
  6. Leave Them to Their Own Devices: After a customer has found what they are looking for, the CSR should back off.  Give the customer time to “browse” and “let their eye buy” more products.  Saying something as simple as – “Okay then…I’ll be right over there if you need anything else.  Again, my name is…just give me a holler” – takes the “buy more stuff” pressure off of a customer (which we all know is the goal) and allows them to relax and shop in peace.  The easier and more peaceful a shopping experience, the more likely the customer is to return to the store soon.  Plus, nobody likes feeling as if “Security” is following them around to make sure they don’t steal something.  Backing off shows a customer that they are trusted. 
  7. Check Back Periodically: Again, another important aspect of customer service.  Checking back within a certain time frame reminds the customer that they are cared about, and that a CSR is at their beck and call should they need it.  Think of it like a waitress in a restaurant.  How annoying is it to get your steak and fries, but there is no steak sauce or ketchup on the table?  Or how about when you’re ready to be “rung up” and the cashier is busy helping someone else.  By not checking back periodically, you deliver the message that the CSR got what they wanted from the customer – presumably a sale – and now they’re done with them.  So again, checking back reminds the customer that they are important every moment that they are in that store.  
  8. Touchscreen ComputerAsk For the Sale:  It’s amazing how many people never ask for the sale.  A commissioned CSR NEVER makes that mistake.  They know that if they don’t ask for the sale, the customer will wander off and find someone else to help them, or put the product back and walk out of the store.  By simply saying, “Can I ring that up for you?”, a CSR again announces that they are at a customer’s beck and call, and they get the chance to make the sale before the customer talks themselves out of it.  In the car industry, car salesmen know that once a customer walks off that lot, they probably won’t see them again (which is why they try so hard to make a great deal before the customer leaves).  Ask for the sale and you increase the chance of actually making it. 
  9. Suggestive Sell Yet Again:  Once a CSR is ringing up a purchase, they have a chance to see what products the customer is buying and suggest complementary products to a different item.  It’s that last minute, “Oh yeah, I should get that too while I’m here,” which can really be successful at increasing every sale.  That’s why the magazines and candy companies pay so much to be at the cash register – because they KNOW someone will think, “I should get that too,” right before they ring up the sale.  
  10. Happy BallThank Them For Their Patronage:  There is a restaurant I’ve been going to for fifteen years (one of my favorite restaurants of all time), and the manager has always said the same thing in all that time.  He says, “See you tomorrow,”…as if I am really coming back tomorrow, and as if he can’t wait to see me.  He even said it to me when I was just an obnoxious teenager.  I know he says it to everyone, but it still makes me feel important that he takes the time and makes sure he says it to me every time I go there (which is a lot).  This is the most important step of making a customer want to come back…common courtesy and the feeling like they matter to that business.  Too many CSRs never say, “Thank you.  Have a nice Day.  I hope I see you again soon.”  Instead, they move onto helping the next customer, inadvertently dismissing the customer standing in front of them.  My rule of thumb is this:  A friendly “Farewell” transfers good feelings from one person to another.  Why wouldn’t you want your customer to leave feeling good?  No matter what, make sure that customer leaves with a smile, and they will return. 

And there you have them.  The 10 Rules of Customer Service that the Big Businesses use.  If you want your customers to return again and again, you need to implement as many of them as possible.  Period.

Now go be a shepherd and lead your customers to their ideal product.

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper: Paypal

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

Dear Diary,

Betty Bookkeeper HeadshotToday I got an intriguing email.  The email was a confirmation from PayPal.  It said that we had spent $150 on an online order.  Since the company does not have a PayPal account, I knew it was a scam – a Phishing Scam, where some con artist is trying to get access to our account.  When you click on the links in the email, you are taken to a fake PayPal page where you are encouraged to log in and verify the purchase (or deny it), and then the fake website captures your real log in details and the con artist can then empty out your PayPal account.  Any good back office person knows – you never click on links in emails from financial websites (because it’s easy to “cloak” the website links).  You always go directly to the original website and log in there. 

Obviously the PayPal notice was a con…but it got me thinking.  Our company does not have a PayPal account…but we could.  It only takes a few minutes to set up, and then you can make payments from any checking account or credit card account that you link to it. 

So I opened one. 

Then, I went online and made a purchase to Office Depot. 

When I checked the bank balance online, I saw that the payment was debited as a PayPal account to Office Depot.  As far as I’m concerned, the explanation from the bank is simple enough to satisfy the boss.  Now, I don’t need to forge checks unless I really want to. 

Now the only question is…what should I buy

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In this mini story, there are actually two cons I’ve brought up:  The Phishing Scam and The PayPal Weak Link. 

The Phishing Scam is an actual scam where a thief sends a fake email encouraging you to click on the link in the email.  By doing so, they can capture your login information and then clean out your bank accounts.  PayPal Emails are the most common financial cons.  After PayPal, sending emails from banks would be the second most common way con artists get information from their victims.

There are three easy ways to spot these scams: 

  1. Banks and financial institutions have standard, precise emails already created that always use the same verbiage.  Phishing emails, on the other hand, often have misspellings and/or sentences that don’t make sense.  If anything doesn’t seem right with any financial institution’s email, it probably isn’t from your financial institution.   
  2. When you open the email, you will see the “From” address is not necessarily from the financial institution it claims to be from.  Whatever is after the “@” sign is the website address.  Anything in addition to the normal address probably means the email is a scam.  (For example:  …@paypal.fakesite.com or …@fakesite.paypal.alerts.com.)  Both the paypal.fakesite.com and the fakesite.paypal.alerts.com are completely fake because whatever comes before the .com is the site.  That means, these sites would be fakesite.com and alerts.com…not PayPal.com.   
  3. And finally, banks and financial institutions openly encourage customers to NOT click on links from their emails because Phishing Scams are so common.  Instead, they will tell you to go directly to their actual website to log in so that you can verify if the email is from the bank or not (and thus the alert is fake or not). 

Also, it’s common to get emails from banks you don’t even have an account with.  If that happens, obviously you can ignore those…but if you are concerned that an embezzler has opened an account in your name, just print out that email and go down to the bank to see if you have an account or not. 

AND when in doubt – go directly to the source…never click on the links in an email from a Financial Institution. 

As for the second con – The PayPal Weak Link: 

It is very, very easy to open a PayPal account and link it to a checking account…any checking account.  PayPal has a very simple verification process, which means that creating a PayPal account is easy for anyone with access to your checking account information, including your bookkeeper.  From there, it is very easy to steal money because PayPal and the bank account link together in order to create instant money transfers.  Plus, money can be sent to anyone with another PayPal account, and everyone takes PayPal these days (including airlines and other travel agencies), so stealing becomes very easy.

Therefore, to protect yourself from someone linking a PayPal account to YOUR checking account, you need to link it first.  In other words, you need to be the one to create a PayPal account with your checking account.  PayPal only allows a checking account to be linked ONCE, which means no one else can use the checking account information.  Once you have linked it, keep that information to yourself.  There’s no need to share it with your bookkeeper or anyone else because business’s should stick to using Bank Bill Pay and writing checks…Period.  PayPal should only be used by one person…the creator of that account.

Thus, if you don’t have a PayPal account, start one immediately in order to protect your checking account.  If PayPal does NOT let you create a PayPal account, then an embezzler has already linked to your checking account, and you need to consider closing it.  This is one of those huge companies that you just can’t avoid, and you really shouldn’t avoid. 

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper: Why the Accountant Did NOT Catch Me

Dear Diary,

Let me just say – WhewWhat a relief.  Tax time is over and I got off scott-free.

You see, I was very concerned that when I handed over the business books to the accountant this year, I would be busted – caught – nailed to the wall.  I was sure I’d be in Shawshank before long, and I was almost tempted to clean up my act – almost.  I was sure I was cooked when the accountant called me a couple days ago and asked for the bookkeeping program’s “Accountant backup.”  How could the accountant NOT see at an instant that I’ve been embezzling from the company for months now, especially when they have completely access to everything I’ve done?

But I got lucky.

Turns out, the accountant only wanted the backup of the program so that he could enter the usual accountant adjustments like depreciating the assets, updating interest balances, and adjusting the Cost of Goods Sold account.  And thankfully, most of that information was updated from the reports that I created for the accountant’s perusal.

Still, it was a long couple of days as I waited for the Accountant’s copy to be returned.

And then the wait was over.  The accountant copy was back and the accountant had praised me to the boss.  He went so far as to say that I “kept a clean set of books.”

The boss was so happy, he gave me a raise.

I never thought I’d say it – but I’m glad the accountant looked at the books.  I can’t wait until next year.  I’m thinking, maybe I’ll create a second set of books… just in case the accountant ever decides to look closer.

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Why the Accountant Did NOT Catch the Embezzlement

E.T. Barton

This is a concern I hear from a lot of business owners that were embezzled from.  Even more often, I hear business owners that have NOT been embezzled from telling me that they are NOT worried about embezzlement because “they have an accountant.”  Both types of business owners usually believe that when they hand over their books at the end of the year, the accountant is automatically going to look deeply between the lines and spot anything suspicious.

FINDING EMBEZZLEMENT IS NOT THE ACCOUNTANT’S JOB… not unless they’re asked.

During tax time, accountant’s are bombarded with books from various businesses.  They have a very limited amount of time to do everything from sending out tax forms to making adjustments to various accounts.  In other words – tax time is an accountant’s “busy season.”  They often have a preset list of actions to do with any business’s books.

Another Example of Missed Embezzlement

Let me state this another way.  Recently, I have been working with a non-profit branch of a company that reports their profits and losses to their “parent” company.  Since the company is a non-profit branch (or chapter) and NOT a business that is run in the usual ways, this branch reports does NOT report directly to the IRS or an accountant.  Instead, they are sent a questionnaire from the parent company that they have to fill out and send back to the parent company.  They are not asked for any backup, which makes it even easier to steal from the branch.

Recently, when I reported to the parent company that I saw signs of embezzlement in this particular branch, the parent company said they would look into the financials.  When they looked over the reports that the embezzler made up for the chapter, they reported no signs of embezzlement.  They openly admitted that they had to have a closer look at the records and the bank statements in order to verify if their was embezzlement or not.  And since the branch (chapter) is not required in the non-profit policies and procedures, the branch could very well go under if a closer look at the books is not performed immediately.

How to Catch this Kind of Embezzlement

The only way for an accountant to catch this type of embezzlement is to have the business owner actually ASK the accountant to look for embezzlement.  If the accountant is not asked, they will not look closer.  They will go through their preset list of actions and look no further.  The other way is to have someone else – preferably another bookkeeper – look more closely at the reports and compare them to the bank statements.

Creating Discrete Adsense Ads

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In the first part of this blog series, Bookkeeping Money-Saving Tip # 14 – Make Money With Your Business Blog, I wrote that to make money with Google Adsense on your business blog, you needed to do the following things: 

  1. Use “Adlinks” whenever possible.

  2. Make any Google Adsense links in your blog match your “Other” links.
  3. Place Your Google Adsense Adlinks in Discrete Locations.
  4. Use Your Prime Real Estate for Banner Ads.
  5. Utilize as many types of Google Adsense Ads as you can.

Today, I’m going to go into detail on how to do that.  So in order, how to create Discrete Google Adsense Ads:

1. Use Adlinks Whenever Possible

An Adlink is – quite simply – a “Text” ad. That means there are no pictures, no gif animation, and no video. It’s just straight up text. The reason you want these “Adlinks” is because they are not annoying…they are very discrete. They look they belong on your blog, even though they have a little bar that says “Ads by Google.”

There are two types of Adlink ads you want to consider. The first is a “Horizontal” Adlink that looks something like this:

 

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The second is a “Vertical” Adlink that looks like this:

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You can use both on your site, but what works best will depend on your site and your readers.  For this site, I find that that Horizontal Adlinks work best .

2. Make any Google Adsense links in your blog match your “Other” links.

Once you’ve logged into your Google Adsense Account, you should go to the Google Adsense Wizard where you will choose the customized links for your blog. Here, you have the options to choose the size, how many links you want in your ad, and the color backgrounds. (See the picture below.)

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The Key Things to remember are to make the ads blend with your blog.

That means:

  • · NO BORDER. Make the border the same color as the background.
  • · MAKE YOUR LINKS THE SAME COLOR AS YOUR “OTHER” LINKS. By doing this, you make it easier to blend your ads right into your blog posts. (Believe me, this will mean the difference between pennies per post and dollars per post.)

Once you’ve created an ad (or multiple ads) that blend into your blog, the next thing you want to do is post these ads to your blog.  A great Plug-In to make this process very simple is the “Advertising Manager” Plug-In.  You simply copy and paste the HTML from Google Adsense to your blog, and then the next time you go to post a blog, you should see a Drop-Down box under your HTML tag. Simply place your blinker where you want an ad, and select the ad you want from the Drop-Down box. It will put in an HTML tag like the one below:

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3. Place Your Google Adsense Adlinks in Discrete Locations

The best place to put Adlinks ads are:

  • · Immediately BEFORE your post. That means, when you write your post, drop down the “Insert Ad” box from above, click your ad, and then start typing in your blog post. This will give the Adlinks ad a “Table of Contents” type of feel (or a Navigation Bar feel), and people are more likely to click on it.
  • · Throughout your blog. The nice thing about these types of horizontal Adlinks is that they make for nice dividers in your blog. They allow you to break up your points and ideas, and they blend in smoothly. The vertical Adlinks are like pictures, and if done right, your text can wrap around them. Your reader will keep reading and hardly ever notice them. (This also increases the odds that they will “accidentally” click on a link, which means you’ll get paid for their Booboos.)
  • · At the End of your blog. By placing an Adlink at the end of your blog, the reader sees that they can click on other links to find similar products or topics, and you get paid. It’s like a continuation of what you’ve just written about.

4. Use Your Prime Real Estate for Banner Ads.

Banners and Leaderboards

You probably already know what banners are (the rectangular picture ads that so many sites have), but do you know what Leaderboards are? Leaderboards are as common as banners, but are mainly text with a brief ad description to tantalize people into clicking. Additionally, they are in a banner format, meaning they are rectangular in shape and often have multiple ads. Here are examples of both:

 

[ad#Banner Ring Central]

Banners

 

[ad#Long Banner Small Business Adsense]

 

Leaderboards

Google calls these Text Ads (Banners) and Link Ads (Leaderboards). Just like with Adlinks, you can make your Leaderboards blend by hiding the borders and making the link colors the same color as your other links.

The reason you should know about both is that these are a bit more eye-catching than Adlinks are, and therefore not nearly as sneaky. Their main purpose is to give the reader more information while making it clear that it’s an ad. You may think you don’t want to use these (if you are going the discrete route), but it never hurts to test them and see how they play out with your readers.

Another thing to keep in mind with these, you can get them both horizontally and vertically, and you can create them in any size. Most bloggers suggest you skip the 468 x 60 size for the banners since everyone uses those as banners. They suggest you go for the longest size so that it looks like a navigation bar. For the Leaderboards, horizontal is also a good idea since it makes it easy to break up your blog-thoughts and stick these in between your points. The horizontal ones take a lot more “know-how” and “tom-foolery” to get them to look right.

Ideal Locations

When placing Banners and Leaderboards, there are usually two ideal locations to do it:

  • · For banners, you want to place them near the top and bottom of your blog. The FrontPage Plug-In I had you install earlier is perfect for this. It allows you to create banner ads (whether from Google or anyone else) and all you have to do is copy the HTML and paste it into the boxes under settings. It’s that simple, and the boxes will be filled on every page you go to.
  • · Leaderboards are good interspersed throughout your blog. You will want to use your “Advertising Manager” Plug-In for this and just drop it periodically wherever you have a break in thought or are changing the topic.
  • · The ideal number of Google Adsense ads is 1 Adlinks ad in the blog post (preferably under the title and before the body of the blog), three Leaderboards throughout the post, and the Banners at the top and bottom of each page.
  • · While you can use Google Adsense in your sidebar as well, I prefer to use Affiliate links there. You have a better chance of making more money with the prime locations taken by the people who pay to be there.

5. Utilize as many types of Google Adsense Ads as you can.

Google Adsense allows you to have a maximum of 10 Adsense ads on your blog. That means, should you happen to place more than 10 Adsense ads on any page of your blog (including those in the Sidebars, Headers and Footers), Google will simply make anything over 10 “disappear.” In other words, they just won’t show those ads. It won’t be obvious that an ad belongs there, but it can change your margins a bit if you happen to go overboard. The ads they choose to leave behind…will usually be the ones closest to the top of the articles and pages.

The only place this really makes a difference is on your homepage. Say you have five Google Adsense ads per post IN your post and your homepage shows your five most recent posts. That’s a total of 25 ads, but Google will only show 10 – which will probably be all of the ads in your first post, any ads in your header and sidebar, and then the remaining ads in the second post. However, when your readers click on your posts to go directly to that post, then they will see all five of the ads you originally place, plus whatever ads are in your header, footer and sidebars.

Having said that, it is never a bad idea to use your full quote of ads. (See my recommendations above.)

And there you go…ways to use Google Adsense that should help you start making money with your business blog. 

QuickBooks, Quicken and TurboTax

imageAt this time of year, your taxes are hopefully done, and you are probably not thinking of taxes at all. That’s all well and good, but have you begun planning for next year? Because whether your business is brand new, has never had a “regular bookkeeper”, or has been doing bookkeeping the same old ways for numerous years, it never hurts to consider if this year is the time to update your bookkeeping programs or stick with what you’ve always done.

For me, I always like the most updated version of anything… like the iPad 2… I totally want one!

Anyway… I bring this up now – after tax time – because if you are thinking of doing your taxes the same old way, or updating to something new, now is as good a time to start as any. With taxes out of the way, it is the perfect time for any business owner or bookkeeper to take a little bit of time to invest in updating their bookkeeping programs and “catch up” on anything that is still unprocessed.

The reason now is the best time is because… most banks will let you download ONLY the last few month’s worth of bookkeeping transactions instantly.

What do I mean by that, you may wonder.

Simple. Almost (and I do stress on the word “almost”) all banks have updated their online banking programs to create “downloadable bank transactions” for a specific period of time (meaning a specific number of months). The benefit here is that any business can instantly download hundreds and thousands of transactions instantly, and with the right bookkeeping program, have those transactions posted to the correct bookkeeping accounts instantly.

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In other words, NOW is the perfect time to upload those transactions into your bookkeeping program and get those books up to date FAST whether or not you have the time to “work on the books”. If you wait, you may find that you have to manually key in those hundreds and thousands of bookkeeping entries, which will take a whole lot more time.

There is one catch, however. The banks do not create these downloadable transactions for ALL bookkeeping programs. Yet, because QuickBooks and Quicken are the most popular bookkeeping programs on the market today, most banks do setup the transactions into these downloadable files in such a way that QuickBooks and Quicken can process them. In fact, many banks (especially smaller banks) ONLY create these files for QuickBooks and Quicken, but for no other bookkeeping programs.

So in case you were ever in doubt as to which bookkeeping programs I prefer (especially for saving time and money), I recommend QuickBooks and Quicken all the way.

The Difference Between QuickBooks and Quicken

I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but I will give you my quick thoughts on Quicken and QuickBooks right now.

imageAs far as business transactions go, I believe QuickBooks is the best program out there for any type of business. It’s easy to use, to input transactions, to correct mistakes, and to create all the financial reports you need. It also allows for a lot of “automatic data entry”, meaning the program does the work for you and thus allows you to save time.

As for personal bookkeeping, and especially stocks, I like Quicken. Quicken has this strange sort of programming that often cuts the user out. imageWhat you do is link it to various bank accounts (and stock accounts) and then Quicken can automatically update transactions from those accounts instantly. If you aren’t very familiar with the program, it can be difficult to find and maneuver through those transactions in case you need to change anything. (Now, I know a lot of users familiar with Quicken will disagree with me, but I have always found myself a bit frustrated with Quicken. Even though the program is cheaper, I find QuickBooks much easier to use.)

Having said that, I tend to use BOTH programs, however, especially when it comes to doing my personal and business taxes at the end of the year.

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Quicken, QuickBooks and TurboTax

Quick Disclaimer: I always recommend businesses use accountants to do their business taxes, if they can afford it. It just makes dealing with the IRS simpler.

Having said that, I fully recognize that not everyone will want to use an accountant at the end of the year. Many will wish to save money and do their taxes themselves. (I am one of them.) Or, if they do not go to an accountant, they may go to a tax preparation company like H&R Block. Now, while I’m not knocking H&R Block, I do happen to know that the tax preparers at H&R Block are not always very familiar with taxes. The consultants receive 80 hours (two weeks) of training before they are put to work. Their bookkeeping programs often do the same financial prompting that programs like TurboTax and TaxCut do.

Now, when it comes to doing my own taxes, I prefer to use TurboTax as opposed to TaxCut. Yes, TurboTax costs a little bit more, but it is thus far, the only tax program I’ve seen that is compatible with Quicken AND QuickBooks. It can instantly download the files from Quicken and QuickBooks and then post the account balances to the accurate forms and lines in your tax return. This saves tons of time on data entry, and all you have to do is go through the questionnaire. With TaxCut, you have to manually enter everything yourself, and thus FIND every number from your bookkeeping reports / program.

The reason I use BOTH QuickBooks and Quicken is because I have a rather large taxable portfolio. I have rental properties that I maintain, as well as my Office Administration business, and then my writing business. On top of that, I dabble in the stocks. Ironically, it was this last bit of my portfolio that brought the IRS to my door several years ago.

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Reporting Stocks

imageWhen I first began dabbling in stocks, I incorrectly thought I only had to report the money I withdrew from my stock account as income to the IRS. Since I only took $10,000 out of my stock account that year, I reported $10,000 in stock income to the IRS. My stockbroker, however, told them that I had made $750,000 – and the IRS wanted a chunk. You can imagine my shock when I got the IRS bill.

After contacting the IRS and realizing where I went wrong, the IRS agent told me that I had to report EVERY PURCHASE AND SALE in order to determine the taxable income, whether or not I had withdrawn the money. Since I liked to dabble a LOT (a LOT a LOT), I knew immediately that I wanted to shoot myself. Fortunately, I had Quicken for one of my clients, and that version of Quicken could handle stocks. When I logged in and “Updated” the program to my stock account, then linked it to that year’s TurboTax file, it immediately reported the new correct amounts for the year. I was then able to do an Amended Tax Return that took my tax bill from having to pay $250,000 to only owing $4,000 for the $40,000 in stock profit I made that year. You can see how profitable that can be.

Therefore, if you do have a stock account and do not wish to use an accountant, I highly recommend Quicken for your stocks and QuickBooks for your business accounts. It will help to take the guesswork out of preparing your return and still save you more than you would spend on an accountant. Once linked with TurboTax, you can finish all your taxes very quickly and efficiently, and even transmit your return online instantly.

To save even more money, remember that Quicken often has a free trial that will allow you to “try out” their program. Use the free trial during tax time with TurboTax, and you may just be able to avoid the fee for Quicken.

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper: Men Suck!

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

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Dear Diary,

Today was another, “Not so great day”…but this time it was one for the books.

Today, when I went to work, I wasn’t feeling so hot.  In fact, I ended up puking into my office trash can just as the boss walked in.

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot“Hey,” he says to me, looking concerned.  “You’re sick?  You shouldn’t be here if you’re sick.  Go home!”

“She was sick yesterday too,” the traitor receptionist chimed in from behind him.  “She’s been sick for a while.”

“Have you been to a doctor?” the boss asked me.

“No.  I don’t need to go to the doctor, okay!”  I snapped.  “I’m fine.”

“You’re three shades of green,” he countered.  “You should definitely go home.  You may have the flu.  Or even worse, food poisoning.  In fact, I insist you go home until you get better.”

The receptionist gave me a triumphant smile from over his shoulder.  The witch never liked me.

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“I won’t get better for another eight months, alright!” I bit out, my eyes narrowing at her.

The receptionist’s eyes widened.  She understood right away.

My boss didn’t get it, of course.  He never does.  “Why do you say that?  What happens in eight months?”

“That’s when she has a baby,” the receptionist chimed in.

The boss’s eyes widened, his expression immediately going to my still-flat belly.  “You’re pregnant?”

“Yes, I am,” I growled.  And I don’t know who the father is, I silently added.  It was either my husband (who would be over the moon if he thought I was pregnant), or Ernie (the employee who had blackmailed me into looking the other way while he stole from the company…let’s just say that things have progressed between us).  If it’s Ernie’s baby…well, he’d probably be thrilled too.

Men Suck!

“That’s fantastic!” the boss said.

You suck too!

His expression changed as he looked at me though.  I could see the exact moment when he realized this was going to affect my place in the company sometime in the near future.

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Heading him off, I said, “But you don’t need to worry about me missing any work.  I’m not much of a stay-at-home mom.  I won’t need more than a few days off from work when the time comes.”

His face twisted.  “Are you kidding?  That’s a very important time in a child’s life.  It’s when they bond with their child.  You’ll want more than a few days off of work.”

“You forget…I have two children already.  There’s no way on Earth I want to spend any more time with a child.  Trust me.  I’ll be back for work fairly quickly.”

“Oh don’t be foolish,” the receptionist chimed in.  “You’ll definitely want time off.  And I know just the place to call to get a temp in here.”

Did I mention I hate the receptionist?

“That sounds like a good idea,” the boss said, smiling at her like she was brilliant.  “Why don’t you call them and see how much they cost.”  Turning back to me, he says, “And you don’t worry about anything, Betty.  When the time comes, you’re job will be here.  We love having you here.  You take all the time you need to bond with your baby.  In the meantime, can I get you something?  Are you hungry?”

I could feel my teeth grinding.  “I’m fine.”

“Well then, I guess I’ll let you get back to work.  You take it easy.  And don’t worry about the trash.  I’ll send Ernie in to empty that for you.”

Then the boss left, shuffling the receptionist off with him.

So now I’m freaking out.  Time off?   I can’t take time off.  What if someone catches onto what I’m doing?  What if the next bookkeeper is better than me?  What am I going to do?

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********************************************************************************

A Warning Sign

avatar_2_edited2

While this article is a bit more of a dramatization then I usually go for, there is a point here.  The point is, this is a warning sign:

Whenever a bookkeeper doesn’t want to take a vacation, maternity leave, or even call in sick…it could be a warning sign.

You see…good bookkeepers aren’t worried about people going through their offices, whether other staff or other bookkeepers.  Good bookkeepers make themselves replaceable at all times (in my opinion).  The best bookkeepers have nothing to hide or fear.

Embezzling bookkeepers, on the other hand, fear anyone going through their paperwork, their computer files, and sometimes even their filing cabinets.  They fear being caught all the time.  Taking time off for maternity leave or going on vacation is often when they get caught.  Instead, they spend as much time in the office as they can, protecting the terrible things they’ve done, as well as their secrets.

How to Know For Sure

As always, if you are concerned that your bookkeeper is embezzling from you, hire someone to look more closely at your books.  Accountants do not do this unless asked.  Virtual Bookkeepers or Independent Bookkeepers are an excellent source for looking for fraudulent activity.

Start by getting a backup of your bookkeeping program when your bookkeeper is not around, and send it to the hired auditor.  Also get copies of your bank statements.  These two things will help them get started looking for embezzlement.  From there, they will either ask for copies of suspicious checks, credit card statements, receipts…and any number of things.

The key is…if you suspect, don’t site blindly by.  Take this as a warning sign and ask someone for help.  It’s better to spend a few hundred dollars hiring an auditor then to lose thousands and thousands to an embezzler.