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Best VPN Services

The pandemic has changed work permanently. Before COVID-19, only 9.8 million (out of 140 civilian workers in the U.S.) worked remotely. Today, almost 70 million people are working remotely. 

Are you working remotely?

If you are, there’s a good chance that you’ll need a virtual private network (VPN). If you’re running a small business and your employees need to work remotely, you need a VPN as well. Today, we’re going to take a look at VPNs — what they are, why you need them, and how to find the VPN that’s right for you. 

What’s a VPN, and Why Do You Need One? 

A VPN is a private network that’s run through a public network — imagine that a remote worker sitting in Starbucks had an extra-long Ethernet cable. They plug one end into their computer, and the other end directly into their company’s servers at work. 

That’s basically what a VPN does; it creates a secure and encrypted tunnel from your computer to a server on the internet. This is great because it means no one can access the data you’re sharing with your computer and company server. You have privacy and data security. We’re going to look at seven of the top VPN Services, explaining the pros and cons of each service. 

Our 7 Picks For Best VPN Services:

  1. Perimeter 81 
  2. NordVPN Teams
  3. ExpressVPN 
  4. VyprVPN
  5. SurfShark
  6. Mullvad
  7. TunnelBear

How to Choose the Best VPN Service for You

When you’re looking for a VPN, the first thing you’ll want to do is identify your needs. What do you want your VPN to do for you? What kinds of things do you need from your VPN? In general, most people focus their attention on four specific criteria. 

Criteria #1: Speed and Reliability

If you’re planning on using your VPN for things that require a lot of data or activity, you’ll want to choose a service that’s optimized for speed and reliability. If you’re sharing large files routinely or you’re streaming video consistently, you’ll want to select a VPN that provides unlimited connections, unlimited bandwidth, and high download and upload speeds. 

When it comes to speed and reliability, there are factors you control and factors your service provider controls. 

  • Factors you control: Improving Wi-Fi stability, using a wired connection (which is always faster), upgrading your internet connection speeds, or upgrading your VPN. You can also choose a VPN service with more servers or servers closer to your desired location. 
  • Factors you don’t control: Number of servers, server load, or server location/distance – longer distance = slower speeds. International bandwidth restrictions (i.e., VPNs in Australia are slow due to underwater fiber optic cables carrying a set amount of data at any one time) and VPN protocols also impact speed. And another thing, complicated peering relationships between networks, also reduces speed.

You’ll want to test your VPN speed so you can verify the claims your provider is making. You’ll need two things to do that — an accurate testing method and a baseline for your tests. Here are some of the more reliable speed tests you can use to verify your VPN speeds. 

Next, run a speed test on the same connection, with and without your VPN. If you’re on Wi-Fi, stay on Wi-Fi for both tests. Run the tests twice to get an average speed. Run your tests using the same VPN server/location you plan on using with your service. 

Criteria #2: Security and Privacy

VPNs should be secure by default; the VPN service you choose should have the basics of security and privacy protection down. Here are the most important security and privacy requirements you’ll need to consider when choosing a VPN. 

Security

  • Handshake encryption: This takes place at the beginning of the VPN session where you and the server you’re communicating with exchange private keys that encrypt or decrypt data and messages to acknowledge each other.  
  • Authentication: Reputable VPN services will use a hash algorithm to automatically verify the packets they receive, making sure that data from a middleman hasn’t been injected into your packet. They’ll also verify that your data hasn’t been tampered with or changed in any way. 
  • Ciphers: This is an algorithm, like AES, that encrypts and decrypts your data in a series of clearly defined steps. Using a key to encrypt your data makes it impossible for unwanted eyes to spy on your data unless they have the specific key that was used to encrypt the message. So the unencrypted message “VPNs made easy” would become “FVWWOluB9rHb5KUtyJYqlA==” using the AES algorithm. 
  • Encryption strength: 128-bit AES encryption is faster but less secure; 256-bit encryption is slower but more secure. Stronger encryption is obviously harder to break, so this is more of a priority if you’re focused on security. 

Privacy

  • Activity logs: Many free VPN services track your activity — the websites and pages you visit, files downloaded, etc. These free VPNs sell or monetize your usage activity on their VPN without your permission or knowledge. 
  • Connection logs: Other VPN services track assigned IP addresses, connection start/end times, or bytes of data transferred. This typically doesn’t include your data, but it can be combined with other data (i.e., the IP address you used to log into your Slack account) to expose your identity. 

If privacy is important to you, you’ll want to stick with log-free VPN services that don’t track your activity or metadata. 

Criteria #3: Compatible Devices

If you have an iPhone, but you use Windows on your computer, you’ll want to verify that the VPN services are compatible with your devices. While most VPN services are compatible with the standard platforms — Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, and iOS, etc. some aren’t available on all platforms. The VPN that’s Windows ready may not be available on Android or iOS.

You’ll want to verify that your devices are all compatible before signing up. 

Criteria #4: Connections 

How many devices can connect to your VPN service simultaneously? The availability of connections tends to vary from service to service. Some providers allow just one; others allow up to three, while others are unlimited. You’ll need to identify what you need ahead of time. 

It’s not just connections that you have to worry about, though. You also have to take a look at the availability of countries and the availability of servers. If you have specific availability needs, you’ll want to verify this with your VPN service provider ahead of time, then confirm this during your free trial or guarantee period. 

Other important considerations include: 

  • Payment plans: The cost you’ll pay for VPN services varies considerably, and it depends on the features you choose and the length of your subscription. 
  • Customer service: If you need on-demand customer support (in case something goes wrong), you’ll want a VPN service that provides live chat or phone support (which will impact the price). If that’s not as much of a concern, then a provider who offers email support may be a better option. 
  • Free trial or money-back guarantee:  If you opt for a service that offers a free trial, you’ll want to choose a service that gives you enough time to try things out. Some VPN services’ free trial period is quite short, which may not be enough time to verify the service on your end. A money-back guarantee is ideal because you have a way out in case their service isn’t what you’ve expected. 
  • User friendly or tech-savvy: If you’re not comfortable with setting up and configuring your VPN, you’ll want to make sure you find a provider with a user-friendly interface. Some providers will configure your VPN for you virtually, so everything is done for you ahead of time. 

You must figure out what you’re looking for ahead of time. 

The Different Types of VPN Services 

It’s important to make a distinction between VPN technology and VPN services. As we’ve already discussed, a virtual private network boils down to a secure, private connection between your device and endpoint. That is VPN technology. The VPN service, on the other hand, uses VPN technology to provide you with a package of tools. Using VPN services, you can not only protect your internet connection and guard your privacy but gain access to extra customer service with configuration guides, automatic setup, and live chat support. 

Different types of VPNs:

  • Remote Access VPN – Provide a secure connection from a user to a remote server to gain entry to a private network.
  • Intranet-based Site-to-Site VPN – Provide a secure connection for various users in different, fixed locations to connect to each other’s resources. For example: With a site-to-site VPN, multiple local area networks (LAN) can connect to a single wide-area network (WAN). Think of one company with numerous locations sharing resources.
  • Extranet-based Site-to-Site VPN – Difficult to implement, these VPNs are common in large-scale business environments where you are looking for a secure connection between two separate intranets, but you do not want them having the ability to access each other directly. Think of two different companies working together. 
  • Cloud VPN – Also known as virtual private network-as-a-service (VPNaaS), is designed for organizations that rely on outsourced cloud data centers instead of in-house infrastructure. A traditional VPN doesn’t work if your organization stores all of your data in the cloud. A cloud VPN allows users to access a company’s resources — applications, data, and files through a website or via a native desktop or mobile app. 

As a user looking to secure your privacy and access the internet, or secure business data for your remote workforce, you’re most likely looking for commercial VPN Services, let’s take a look at our picks for the top VPN providers.

1. Perimeter 81 – The Best for Small Business Teams

  • Pricing: $8/mo. (annual), $10/mo. (monthly
  • Number of servers: 700+
  • Money-back Guarantee: 30-day
  • Support: 24/7 live chat
  • Single sign-on: Yes
  • # of Users: Minimum of 5 team member

Perimeter 81 is an Israeli-based business VPN service that’s unique because of its Cloud VPN architecture. It’s great for users on multiple devices. You don’t need external legacy hardware or tools. It comes with the business features you’d need to run your remote organization safely in the cloud. 

Perimeter 81 is ideal for remote businesses because it protects your business from unexpected mistakes. Their automatic Wi-Fi Security and DNS Filtering features instantly shield your data by automatically activating VPN protection when employees connect to unknown, untrusted networks. According to their website, “All outbound and inbound traffic is encrypted and routed through your dedicated private servers – concealing your company’s actual IP address with an IP mask.”

This protection shields your company from man-in-the-middle attacks and unsecure Wi-Fi networks. Their service keeps your business safe from data breaches, lawsuits due to negligence, and other claims. Employee training is important, but Perimeter protects your employees and your business when they’re working. 

They also provide you with the data you need to monitor network activity. You can audit resource access, monitor bandwidth consumption, and detect network anomalies remotely and at any time. All of this is important because more organizations have a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy in place.

The potential downside to Perimeter 81’s service is access points. As of today, they have 700 public servers in 36 countries. That might sound like a lot until you realize some of their competitors have double or triple that amount in twice as many countries. 

Pros

  • Single sign-on (SSO) functionality
  • User friendly and easy-to-use
  • Great for remote businesses
  • Auto-integrated with all cloud providers
  • Secure access to both managed and unmanaged devices

Cons

  • Higher price point
  • Fewer servers than their competitors

2. NordVPN Teams — New Service From Industry Leader

  • Pricing: $7 – $9 per mo. 
  • Number of servers: 5,000+
  • Money-back Guarantee: 30-day
  • Support: 24/7 response within 3 hrs.
  • Single sign-on: Yes
  • Multi-device support: Yes apps on all devices

NordVPN Teams is a new VPN service from an industry leader. NordVPN is known for its consistent performance, a strong stance on privacy, and aggressive security features. The company is based in Panama, where there are no mandatory data retention laws and no legal obligation to collect your data. It’s also important because Panama doesn’t participate in the five eyes or fourteen eyes alliances. 

They don’t track, collect, or share your private data — activity, usage, or metadata. They invited one of the big four auditing firms PriceWaterhouseCoopers AG, to run an industry-first audit of their no logging claims to verify that they’re telling the truth.

NordVPN is one of the few providers that offers double VPN, an advanced VPN security feature that routes your traffic through two VPN servers instead of one, encrypting your data twice. They provide two-factor authentication and single sign-on, which are standard features for top-tier VPN services. They also provide you with a kill switch, if your connection drops for even a second, the kill switch will cut off all the Internet traffic on your device, ensuring none of your information is exposed online.

For business customers, they provide you with a dedicated account manager that’s assigned to your account. Your Control Panel enables you to manage user accounts, control permissions, and create gateways. You can oversee user activity, monitor server load, add new users, and create custom teams from inside your control panel. 

Pros

  • A trusted brand name
  • Thousands of servers around the world
  • Single sign-on (SSO) functionality
  • Strong on security
  • Apps on all devices
  • Fast speeds
  • Cryptocurrencies and cash accepted

Cons

  • Slow app and server connections
  • Open VPN connection is not user-friendly
  • No split tunneling
  • Shared IP addresses

3. ExpressVPN – Consumer Favorite, Best-in-Class 

  • Pricing: $8.32 per mo. (annual), $12.95 (monthly)
  • Number of servers: 3,000+
  • Money back Guarantee: 30-day
  • Support: 24/7 live chat
  • Multi-device support: Yes

ExpressVPN doesn’t have a product strictly designed for businesses. They’re consumer-focused, which is great if you’re a sole proprietor or a remote, contract, or freelance worker on your own. Their apps are compatible with almost every device on the usual platforms; they also have apps for nontraditional platforms, including— Linux, Kindle Fire, Chromebook, and even Barnes and Noble’s Nook! 

Since they’re consumer-focused, their apps are user-friendly, easy to set up, and simple to maintain. They provide you with all of the standard encryption and security features you’d expect from a top-rated VPN provider. And, they also provide you with some unique features like split-tunneling or using their own DNS servers. 

Like NordVPN, they have a no-logging policy as their company is based in the British Virgin Islands. There’s no mandated government surveillance and no data retention laws. 

Pros

  • Consumer-focused
  • User-friendly and easy-to-use
  • Apps available on all devices and platforms
  • Strong reputation
  • Top-rated security and encryption

Cons

  • No VPN services for businesses
  • More expensive than their competitors

4.  VyprVPN – The Best VPN for Speed

  • Pricing: $2.50 per mo. (24 mo. plan), $3.75 per mo. (12 mo. plan), $12.95 per mo. (1 mo. plan).
  • Number of servers: 700+
  • Money-back Guarantee: 30-day
  • Support: 24/7 response within 3 hrs
  • Privacy: end-to-end
  • Multi-device support: desktop and mobile

Owned by Golden Frog GmbH and incorporated in Switzerland, VyprVPN focuses on a few areas — speed, anti-censorship, and privacy. They call their service the “most powerful VPN.” They offer more than 200,000 IP addresses and 700+ servers, across 70 locations internationally. 

Their platform resolves speed issues due to ISP bandwidth throttling. It’s common for users to state that their speeds are close to 100% of their original speeds. This is impressive when you realize that they rely on AES 256-bit encryption. They provide users with unlimited switching between servers and protocols without restrictions. 

VyprVPN provides some of the same features listed from other providers — kill switch, public Wi-Fi protection, and DNS protection. But they also offer a proprietary technology called Chameleon. In this protocol, VyprVPN scrambles your metadata, so it’s not recognizable via deep packet inspection, but it’s still fast and lightweight. As a result, VyperVPN can bypass restrictions from governments, corporations, and ISPs while fighting censorship and maintaining speed. 

VyprVPN also owns and operates their data centers to reduce any risk of a data breach. Other VPN providers route traffic to third-party servers, so they’re not as secure as a service that keeps things in-house. VyprDNS keeps your browsing history private. Their no-logs policy makes a breach unlikely. 

Pros

  • Unlimited high-speed bandwidth
  • 70+ server locations
  • Chameleon protocol
  • 5 Simultaneous connections
  • No activity or usage logs
  • Fast customer support
  • VyprDNS
  • Self-owned servers

Cons

  • Fewer servers than bigger competitors
  • Poor speeds in specific regions (EU)
  • Slower connection times in specific regions

5. Surfshark – The Best for the Price

  • Pricing: $1.99 per mo. (24 mo.), $5.99 per mo. (12 mo.), $11.95 per mo. 
  • Number of servers: 1,700+
  • Money-back Guarantee: 30-day
  • Support: 24/7 live chat, email tickets
  • Multi-device support: Desktop and mobile platforms

Surfshark is an award winning VPN service that offers incredible value for the price. According to VPNMentor.com, SurfShark is ranked 4th out of 357 VPN services. Their service provides users with 256-bit encryption, double VPN, an automatic kill switch, and a no-log policy. 

They’re headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, so like other VPNs in our list, they’re free from the five, nine, fourteen eyes alliances. While they don’t collect usage or connection data, they do collect your email address, password, and basic billing information. If you’d like to avoid sharing this info, you can use cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. They also collect unique advertising identifiers from third parties for marketing purposes and user analytics.

One detail that stands out with Surfshark is unlimited connections. The number of devices that can connect simultaneously, per license is unlimited. This is great if you’re an individual, but it’s also great if you’re running a business. There are no additional licenses or requirements once you’ve signed up. Just set your VPN up, pay for the service, and you’re all set. 

Surfshark offers its Adblock VPN that blocks advertising and malware, counters phishing attempts, and boosts browsing speed. They offer premium features like private DNS on each server, camouflage mode to mask activity from your ISP, and Multihop – connecting via multiple countries at the same time to maximize footprint masking and ID protection. 

Pros

  • Best value for the price
  • Unlimited connections/devices
  • Built-in ad-blocker
  • Whitelister
  • Private DNS
  • Double VPN
  • No logging
  • Engaged customer support

Cons

  • Medium-sized network
  • Moderately reduced speeds in specific regions

6. Mullvad – The Best for Anonymity

  • Pricing: $5.50 per mo.
  • Number of servers: 315+
  • Money-back Guarantee: 30-day
  • Support: Email

Mullvad believes privacy is a universal right.

Privacy isn’t the same as security. If you’re looking for a VPN service that will go to extreme lengths to protect your privacy,  Sweden-based Mullvad is at the top of the list. They don’t require an email address or even a password from their customers. The company randomly generates a unique code for your username. You use this code to log in to the desktop apps or add credit to your account. They even allow customers to send cash in the mail to pay for your account!

They want to know as little about you as possible.

Mullvad will store your account number, your counts, paid time remaining, and the number of simultaneous connections that are used by your account. This data is kept in temporary memory, then purged once you log off. They log the total number of current connections for a given server, the bandwidth used per server, and the CPU load per core on each server. None of these items contain personally identifiable information.

Mullvad only offers connections in 38 countries, and they only have 315 servers. They don’t use virtual servers, so your VPN connections are running on physical hardware at the location specified. The speed varies based on your location. If you’re in Europe or North America, speeds are generally good. If you’re in Australia or Asia, the performance is generally much slower.

Pros

  • Privacy-focused
  • Simple and user-friendly
  • WireGuard support
  • More anonymity than most VPN services
  • No affiliates or resellers

Cons

  • Focused exclusively on privacy
  • Slower speeds in certain locations
  • No password protection

7. TunnelBear – The Best for Newbies

  • Pricing: Free, $3.33 per mo., $5.75 per user, per mo. for teams 
  • Number of servers: 20
  • Money-back Guarantee: 30-day
  • Support: 24/7 email support tickets
  • Multi-device support: Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android

TunnelBear’s service is designed to be incredibly simple for newbies.

They’re based out of Canada, which is a member of the five eyes, nine eyes, and fourteen eyes alliances. This means data that goes through or is stored in Canada is subject to intelligence agreements —they may be legally forced to share your data. TunnelBear states that they have a no-logging policy, so everything seems okay until you read this in their privacy policy. 

“TunnelBear makes good faith efforts to provide you with the ability to delete your Personal Data. However, there may be circumstances in which TunnelBear is unable to delete all your Personal Data. For example, we are unable to delete it where we are legally required to keep it, including where we need it to continue to offer you the service or if you are involved in litigation with us, we would be required to retain your personal data, which is limited to the fields we discuss above in 1.21.3 and 1.4.”

This data includes your email address, twitter id, paid user designation, operational data, and personal and financial data. If this isn’t a concern for you or your organization, TunnelBear is a great option for individuals and businesses that want to get started with a VPN but aren’t as knowledgeable as they’d like. 

TunnelBear includes the standard features you need to get started with a VPN — AES 256-bit encryption, tunneling (Android only), hashing, and more. Their service is reasonably priced and designed to help inexperienced people get started with a VPN. 

TunnelBear is transparent about its service, sharing the results of its independent security audits each year on its website. 

Pros

  • Designed for inexperienced users
  • Generally open and transparent about their service
  • Low cost
  • Built for individuals and teams
  • Offers a free plan

Cons

  • May share your data with governments
  • No phone or customer support

Conclusion

Whether you’re a freelancer, an entrepreneur with a small team, or a growing business looking for options, a VPN will provide you with the security and peace of mind you need to keep your remote team connected and working safely. 

Your needs are unique, and they’ll dictate which VPN service will work best for you and your business. Weigh the options against your needs for speed, security, privacy, compatible devices and number of connects. Millions of people are working remotely, and that number continues to grow every day. If you’re not already using a VPN service, now’s a good time to start. 

The post Best VPN Services appeared first on Neil Patel.

Under Cover: Sometimes Minority Owned Business Loans are In Disguise

Minority owned business loans are probably different than you think.  Sometimes they are just like they sound, loans for minority business owners. Other times, they are just loans for everyone that work well for minority business owners as well. 

Minority Owned Business Loans Do Not All Look the Same 

Sometimes you can be so busy looking for minority owned business loans specifically that you miss the great options that will work but are not for minorities only.  In a way, these loans are undercover. They are available to more business owners than just minorities. However, they work really well with the challenges that are unique to minority business owners. Here are just a few examples. 

Loans from The Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration specializes in helping all small businesses. They offer a number of products and resources through SBA programs, not just minority owned business loans.  For the most part, the SBA does not lend money directly. They work through partner financial institutions to guarantee SBA government loans. As a result, they are able to leave the administration of the loans and disbursement of funds to those who do it on a regular basis. That is, lenders and non-profits that are in the communities where the businesses exist. 

SBA 7(a) Loans & 8(a) Business Development Program

These loans are open to all small business owners.  However, if a minority business owner takes part in the SBA Business Development program, they increase their chance of getting this type of loan.  

Honestly, about 80% of SBA loan applications from Hispanic and African Americans are for $150,000 or less.  This is according to the SBA itself.  Surprisingly, these smaller loans seem to be harder to get. Honestly, this is probably because lenders don’t make as much money from them.

In fact, the SBA got rid of the fee for loans that are less $150,000 to help with this.

Minority Owned Business Loans Credit Suite

Check out our best webinar with its trustworthy list of seven vendors to help you build business credit

SBA Community Advantage Loans

These are to meet the needs of small businesses in neglected markets. That includes minorities. The goal is to get local lenders to increase loans up to $250,000.  This is done by backing up to 85% of the loan amount. The hope is that this helps small business owners who might not be able to get traditional financing. 

SBA Microloan Program

First, loans through this program go up to $50,000.  Secondly, funds come from a third-party lender.  Usually, this consists of nonprofit organizations in the community. Often, they also offer other types of assistance to business owners along with the loan. 

Minority Owned Business Loans: Non-SBA Loans

There are private lenders that offer loans that will meet the needs of minority business owners also, but they are not specifically minority owned business loans.  One such example is Accion.

Accion U.S. Network

Accion offers loans in all states.  Funds are available to the following: 

  • minorities 
  • veterans
  • women
  • those with disabilities
  • and low to medium income business owners 

Typically, loan amounts start at $200,000 and go up to $300,000. Also, Accion can put owners in contact with others to help build a network of support.

Comparatively, the minimum credit score for these loans is 575.  In addition, you cannot be 30 days late on paying any accounts.  Finally, you will not qualify if you have late rent or mortgage payments over the past 12 months.

Minority Owned Business Loans That Don’t Wear a Mask

In contrast to the above loans that anyone can apply for, some minority owned business loans are exactly what you expect.  They are designed specifically for those in minority groups to aid in overcoming the unique challenges they face in obtaining business funding. 

Union Bank Business Diversity Lending Program

This program from Union Bank offers business loans for minority business owners. Indeed, this one is specifically for minorities. In fact, to qualify, you must be Hispanic, American Indian, Latino, Asian, Alaskan Native, African American, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander.    

Furthermore, a business that makes up to $20 million could qualify for a loan of $2.5 million.  However, you must be in business for at least 2 years.  Likewise, the business must be at least 51% minority owned.

The National African American Small Business Loan Fund

This is a partnership between JP Morgan Chase and the Valley Economic Development Centers .  It serves small businesses with minority owners that are in low income or medium income communities.  However, only those in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are eligible.  

Business Center for New Americans

Presently, The Business Center for New Americans offers minority business loans of $5,000 to $50,000.  They work with immigrants, refugees, women, and other minority entrepreneurs.  The goal is to help minority business owners who have not been able to get traditional financing.  

Camino Financial 

Camino Financial is a lender that operates all online.  They offer minority owned business loans. Conveniently, their entire application process is online.  Microloans range from $5,000 to $50,000.  Additionally, they offer small business loans between $10,000 to $400,000. 

Build Business Credit to Increase Your Chances of Approval with Any Loan

Business credit is a huge piece of overall fundability.  The business credit building process is the same for everyone, minority or not.  When you work through the process, you increase your fundability. That in turn, increases your chances of being able to get funding of all types in the future.  How do you build business credit? 

It Starts with the Foundation

When you set up your business, you need it to have a foundation that will help build fundability and separate it from you as the owner.  Even if you are already in operation, you can take the steps necessary to do this. However, the sooner the better, for a number of reasons. What does it take to build a foundation of fundability

  • Separate contact information

Your business needs its own phone number and address

  • An EIN

This is free on the IRS website. 

  • All necessary and appropriate licenses

If you are not properly licensed to do what you do, lenders will not take you seriously.  This step is necessary to being a legitimate business. 

  • Incorporation

There are many reasons for this.  However, for business credit building the big thing is it further separates your business from you as the owner. 

  • A D-U-N-S Number

This is free to get on the Dun & Bradstreet website.  You cannot have a business credit profile with D&B without one. 

  • Business Bank Account

Like incorporating, there are many reasons for this.  The main one for building credit building however, is that it further solidifies your business as an entity separate from you the owner. 

  • Professional website

This one surprises a lot of people.  These days, if you don’t have an online presence you might as well not even exist.  However, a poorly put together online presence is just as bad. Pay for professional design and hosting.  It’s worth it.

Minority Owned Business Loans Credit Suite

Check out our best webinar with its trustworthy list of seven vendors to help you build business credit

These things are not only necessary for overall fundability, but they are also the first step in the business credit building process, and it is a process.  It takes time, and you have to start at the beginning.  

The Business Credit Building Process

Even though most lenders will still take personal credit into account, separate business credit allows them to judge your business on its own merits.  If they can see that, despite some personal credit issues, business credit is just fine, it may sway them if they are wavering on approving funding. 

In addition, business credit opens up new funding doors that are not available to individuals, which in turn can only help you run and grow your business. 

You Need Accounts Reporting to Your Business Credit Report

The key to this is to get accounts in your business’s name that do not really take your personal credit into account.  It may feel like it is impossible, but it isn’t. There are a few ways to do it. 

First, vendors you already have a relationship with may be willing to extend credit without a credit check.  If that isn’t happening, they might be willing to offer net 30 terms on invoices.  The worst that can happen is they say no.  If they say yes, ask them to report the payments to the business credit agencies. 

Utilities might also report accounts to your business credit.  You already pay utilities, rent, and internet each month.  Ask those providers to report your payments to the business credit reporting agencies.  Make sure your accounts are set up in your business name with your business contact information.  Worst case scenario is that they say no.  It never hurts to ask.

Starter Vendors in the Vendor Credit Tier to Help Build Business Credit

This is the business credit building secret that many business owners are unaware of. We call them starter vendors. These are part of the vendor credit tier.  They are certain companies that will extend Net terms in your business name without a credit check.  After you pay, they will report those payments to the business credit report agencies (CRAs). 

Since they do not check your credit score, it doesn’t matter that you do not have one.  Of course, they do have other ways of reducing risk.  They vary by vendor. Below, we have listed a few of these starter vendors to give you an idea of what you are looking for.  

Crown Office Supplies 

Crown Office Supplies is a true starter vendor. They sell a variety of office supplies and take helping clients seriously. They say, “just starting your business, or maybe have an existing business, but you have a question regarding office supplies… we are here to help!” And they report to Dun and Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax.

There is a $99.00 annual fee, though they do report that fee to the business credit reporting bureaus. For other purchases to report, the purchase must be at least $30.00. Terms are Net 30.

Grainger Industrial Supply 

Grainger sells power tools, pumps, hardware and more. In addition, they can handle maintenance of your auto fleet. You need a business license and EIN to quality, as well as a D-U-N-S number.

You can apply by fax or over the phone. If you need less than $1,000 in credit, you only need a business license for approval. For over $1,000, you will need trade and bank references.  

If you are just starting out and do not have references, the $1,000 is plenty to get you started building your business credit. 

Behalf.com 

Behalf is a way of getting paid through an app.  However, they also offer funding. The more you have your customers pay you through Behalf, the more likely Behalf is to offer you favorable terms when it comes to funding.  

Funding can be through purchase financing or a virtual Mastercard option. Terms run from Net 30 to 180 days, and they report to Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax. The fact that they report to all the major credit reporting agencies makes them an extremely valuable tool in building business credit.

Minority Owned Business Loans Credit Suite

Check out our best webinar with its trustworthy list of seven vendors to help you build business credit

Then What? 

After you have enough of these types of accounts reporting payments to your business credit report, you should have a strong enough score to move on to the next tier. We call this the retail credit tier.  They offer more traditional credit.  These are credit cards for use at specific stores such as Office Depot or Lowes.  This is also sometimes referred to as store credit. 

After you have several of these store credit accounts reporting, you can apply for cards in the fleet credit tier.  These are gas cards with companies such as Shell and Fuelman.  They can be used for fuel and auto repair and maintenance only. 

Lastly, with accounts reporting from all previous tiers, you should have a score strong enough to apply for cards from what we call the cash credit tier.  Of course, that is only if you have been making payments consistently on time. 

These are traditional credit cards that are not connected to a certain store or type of purchase.  They can be used for anything and everything.  In addition, they often have better interest rates and nice rewards programs. 

Building Business Credit Can Open the Door to Many More Funding Options

Looking for and applying to minority owned business loans is a completely viable option.  However, do not limit yourself. Take a look at other loan possibilities that you may not even realize you qualify for.  At the same time, start working through the business credit building process. Then, you’ll have many more funding options available in the future.  The more funding available to you, the faster and stronger you can grow your business.

The post Under Cover: Sometimes Minority Owned Business Loans are In Disguise appeared first on Credit Suite.

7 Google Analytics Reports That Show How Your Blog is Really Performing

When you log into Google Analytics, what do you look at?

Chances are you see something like the image above that shows you how many people are currently on your blog.

Well, that was easy to guess because that’s the report Google Analytics gives you once you log in. 😉

But which reports do you look at on a regular basis?

I bet you look at two main reports…

The “Audience Overview” report and the “Acquisition Overview” report.

audience overview

Sure, every once in a while, you may dive into your top pages or the specific organic keywords that drive your traffic. But even if you do that, what are you actually doing with the data?

Nothing, right?

Don’t beat yourself up over it because most content marketers just look at reports and numbers and do little to nothing with the data.

If you want to figure out how to grow your blog and, more importantly, your revenue from your blog, there are 7 reports that you need to start looking at on a regular basis.

Here they are and here is how you use them…

Report #1: Cohort Analysis

What do you think is easier to accomplish… get new visitors to your blog or getting your visitors to come back?

It’s easier to get people to come back to your blog, yet everyone focuses on new visitors.

I bet less than 99% of your blog readers turn into customers or revenue, so why not focus on getting those people back and eventually converting them?

Before we get into how to get people back to your blog, let’s look at how many people are returning to your blog.

Within the Google Analytics navigation, click on “Audience” and then “Cohort Analysis”.

Once you land on that report, you’ll see a graph that looks similar to this:

cohort graph

Under the “Cohort Size” drop-down menu, select “by week”. Under “Date Range”, select “Last 12 weeks”.

Once the data loads, you’ll see a table that looks something like this:

cohort table

What this table shows is the percentage of your visitors that come back each week.

On the very left it will always show 100%. Then in the columns to the right, you’ll see week 1, week 2, week 3, etc.

This shows the percentage of people who come back to your blog each and every week after their first visit.

For example, if this week you had 100 people visit your blog and in the week 1 column, it shows 17%. That means of the initial 100 people, 17 came back. Under week 2 if you see 8%, that means of the initial 100 people, 8 people came back in week 2.

Naturally, this number will keep getting smaller, but the goal is to get people back as often as possible. That increases trust, social shares, potential people linking to you, and it even increases the odds that the visitor will convert into a customer.

number of visits

The average blog reader needs to come back 3.15 times before they turn into a customer. That means that you need to retain readers.

Just think of it this way: If you get thousands of new people to your blog each and every single day but none of them ever come back, what do you think is going to happen to your sales?

Chances are, not much.

You need to look at your Cohort Report and continually try to improve the numbers and get people coming back.

So the real question is, how do you get people to come back?

There are 2 simple ways you can do this:

  1. Start collecting emails – through free tools like Hello Bar, you can turn your blog readers into email subscribers. Then as you publish more content, you can send an email blast and get people back to your blog.
  2. Push notifications – by using tools like Subscribers, people can subscribe to your blog through their browser. Then every time you release a new blog post, you can send out a push and people will come back to your blog.

These 2 strategies are simple and they work. Just look at how many people I continually get back to my blog through emails and push notifications.

repeat visits

Report #2: Benchmarking

Ever wonder how you are doing compared to your competition?

Sure, you can use tools like Ubersuggest, type in your competitors URL, and see all of the search terms they are generating traffic from.

ubersuggest neil patel

But what if you want more? Such as knowing what percentage of traffic your competitors are getting from each channel. What’s your bounce rate, average session duration, or even pageviews per channel?

bench marketing

Within Google Analytics navigation, click on “Audiences” then “Benchmarking” then “Channels”.

Once you do that, you’ll see a report that looks like the one above.

Although you won’t have specific data on a competing URL, Google Analytics will show you how you stack up to everyone else within your industry.

I love this report because it shows you where to focus your time.

If all of your competitors get way more social traffic or email traffic, it means that’s probably the lowest hanging fruit for you to go after.

On the flipside, if you have 10 times more search traffic than your competition, you’ll want to focus your efforts on where you are losing as that is what’ll probably drive your biggest gains.

The other reason you’ll want to look at the Benchmarking Report is that marketers tend to focus their efforts on channels that drive the most financial gain.

So, if all of your competition is generating the majority of their traffic from a specific channel, you can bet that channel is probably responsible for a good portion of their revenue, which means you should focus on it too.

Report #3: Location, location, location

Have you noticed that my blog is available in a handful of languages?

languages

Well, there is a reason for that.

I continually look at the location report. To get to it, click on “Audience” then “Geo” and then “Location”.

location

This report will tell you where the biggest growth opportunities are for your blog.

Now with your blog, you’ll naturally see the most popular countries being the ones where their primary language is the one you use on your blog.

For example, if you write in English, then countries like the United Kingdom and the United States will be some of your top countries.

What I want you to do with this report is look at the countries that are growing in popularity but the majority of their population speak a different language than what you are blogging on.

For me, Brazil was one of those countries. Eventually, I translated my content into Portuguese and now Brazil is the second most popular region where I get traffic from.

This strategy has helped me get from 1 million visitors a month to over 4 million. If you want step-by-step instructions on how to expand your blog content internationally, follow this guide.

Report #4: Assisted conversions

Have you heard marketers talk about how blog readers don’t convert into customers?

It’s actually the opposite.

conversions

Those visitors may not directly convert into a customer, but over time they will.

But hey, if you have a boss or you are spending your own money on content marketing, you’re not going to trust some stats and charts that you can read around the web. Especially if they only talk about long-term returns when you are spending money today.

You want hard facts. In other words, if you can’t experience it yourself, you won’t believe it.

That’s why I love the Assisted Conversions Report in Google Analytics.

In the navigation bar click on “Conversions” then “Multi-Channel Funnels” and then “Assisted Conversions”.

It’ll load up a report that looks like this:

assisted conversion

This report shows you all of the channels that help drive conversions. They weren’t the final channel in which someone came from but they did visit your blog from one of these channels.

In other words, if they didn’t visit or even find your blog from one of these sources, they may not have converted at all.

Now when your boss asks you if content marketing is worth it, you can show the Assisted Conversions Report to show how much revenue your blog helps drive.

The other beautiful part about this report is that it tells you where to focus your marketing efforts. You want to focus your efforts on all channels that drive conversions, both first and last touch.

Report #5: Users flow

What’s the number one action you want your blog readers to take?

I learned this concept from Facebook. One of the ways they grew so fast is they figured out the most important action that they want people to take and then they focused most of their efforts on that.

For you, it could be someone buying a product.

For me, it’s collecting a lead and that starts with a URL.

But I found that people interact with my blog differently based on the country they are coming from.

In other words, if I show the same page to a United States visitor and from someone in India or even the United Kingdom, they interact differently.

How did I figure that out?

I ran some heatmap tests, but, beyond that, I used the Users Flow Report in Google Analytics.

users flow

In your navigation click on “Audience” and then “Users Flow”.

Within the report, it will break down how people from each country interact with your blog and the flow they take.

I then used it to adjust certain pages on my blog. For example, here is the homepage that people in the United States see:

us home page

And here is the homepage that people from the United Kingdom see:

uk home page

The United Kingdom homepage is much shorter and doesn’t contain as much content and that’s helped me improve my conversions there.

And of course, in the United States, my audience prefers something else, hence the homepages are different.

The Users Flow Report is a great way to see how you should adjust your site based on each geographical region.

Report #6: Device overlap

Blog content can be read anywhere and on any device. From desktop devices to tablets to even mobile phones.

The way you know you have a loyal audience isn’t just by seeing how many of your readers continually come back, but how often are they reading your blog from multiple devices.

For example, you ideally want people to read your blog from their iPhone and laptop.

The more ways you can get people to consume your content, the stronger brand loyalty you’ll build, which will increase conversion.

Within the navigation, click on “Audience” then “Cross Device” and then “Device Overlap”.

device overlap

I’m in the B2B sector so my mobile traffic isn’t as high as most industries but it is climbing over time.

And what I’ve been doing is continually improving my mobile load times as well as my mobile experience to improve my adoption rates.

I’m also working on a mobile app.

By doing all of these things, people can consume content from NeilPatel.com anywhere, which builds stickiness, brand loyalty, and then causes more assisted conversions.

A good rule of thumb is if you can get the overlap to be over 6%, you’ll have a very sticky audience that is much easier to convert.

That’s at least what I can see with all of the Google Analytics accounts I have access to.

Report #7: User Explorer

To really understand what makes your blog readers tick, you need to get inside their mind and figure out what their goals are and how you can help them achieve each of those goals.

A great way to do this is through the User Explorer Report.

Click on “Audience” and then “User Explorer”. You’ll see a screen that looks like this:

user explorer

This shows you every user who visits your site and what they did. You can click on a client id to drill down and see what actions each user performed on your blog.

user explorer

From there, you can click on a time to see exactly what they did each time they visited:

user explorer

What I like to do with this report is to see how the most popular users engage with my blog. What are they reading? What pages are they spending the majority of their time on? What makes them continually come back? How did they first learn about my blog?

By comparing the most popular blog readers with the least popular, I am typically able to find patterns. For example, my most loyal blog readers typically find my site through organic traffic and then subscribe to my email list.

Then they keep coming back, but the key is to get them to opt into my email list.

That’s why I am so aggressive with my email captures. I know some people don’t like it, but I’ve found it to work well.

So I focus a lot of my efforts on building up my organic traffic over referral traffic and then collecting emails.

Look at the patterns that get your most popular users to keep coming back and then adjust your blog flow so that you can create that pattern more often.

Conclusion

Yes, you should look at your visitor count. But staring at that number doesn’t do much.

The 7 reports I describe above, on the other hand, will help you boost your brand loyalty, your repeat visits, and your revenue.

I know it can be overwhelming, so that’s why I tried to keep it to just 7 reports. And if you can continually improve your numbers in each of those reports, your blog will continually grow and eventually thrive.

So what Google Analytics reports do you look at on a regular basis?

The post 7 Google Analytics Reports That Show How Your Blog is Really Performing appeared first on Neil Patel.

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