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SEC accuses California men of running $2.18 million home flipping scam

The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging two California men with running a home flipping scam that defrauded dozens of investors out of their retirement savings. According to the SEC, Daniel Vazquez serves as the CEO of Hoplon Financial Group. Through Hoplon, Vazquez created the “New Economic Opportunities Fund,” an entity that purported to buy and flip residential real estate using investor funds. These investments were made on the basis of “misrepresentations” about how much compensation Vazquez and Hoplon would take for running the operation. According to the SEC, Hoplon and Vazquez, with the aid of Hoplon’s then-chief operating officer, Gilbert Fluetsch, allegedly misused most of the investors’ funds funds to pay unrelated business or personal expenses, including approximately $780,000 that was misappropriated since January 2013. “Vazquez and Fluetsch perpetrated this deception by raising money from investors with promises that investor money would be used to purchase and renovate real estate and that Hoplon’s compensation would be strictly limited, while in reality they were draining most of the money from (New Economic Opportunities Fund) accounts for their own purpose,” the SEC alleges in its complaint. According to the SEC complaint, Vazquez and Fluetsch actually did purchase some properties, and were actually successful in turning a profit by flipping those properties, but did not make enough money to cover the money they took for their own use. “Despite its failure to fully invest offering proceeds, (New Economic Opportunities Fund’s) real estate transactions did turn a modest profit. However, the profits obtained by (New Economic Opportunities Fund) were not nearly sufficient to cover the amounts being diverted to Hoplon, Vazquez, and Fluetsch.” The complaint alleges that, by promoting and selling these securities, Hoplon, a state-registered investment adviser, and Vazquez, a registered representative of a broker-dealer, violated federal broker-dealer registration provisions. The SEC charged Hoplon, Vazquez, and Fluetsch with a number of securities law violations.

Google Questions and Answers: Everything you need to know

Google launched the Questions and Answers feature in August of 2017, but it has been surprisingly underutilized by both marketers and small business owners. I’m going to try to explain why this feature is so important and why it’s crucial that you start actively monitoring the questions you receive on the business listings you manage. Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here. Attend the largest search marketing conference on the West Coast: SMX West! You'll get useful, proven tactics in SEO, SEM, conversion optimization, social media, mobile and more. Register now! She regularly contributes to many online communities in the Local SEO world, including the Google My Business forum (Top Contributor), the Local Search Forum (Top Contributor), and the Local University Forum (Moderator). Joy currently works as a product consultant at Imprezzio Marketing in Toronto. She also loves to blog on her own time about things pertaining to Local SEO.

2017 was the best year for existing home sales since 2006

Despite a weak December ending a trend of two straight months of increases, there were still more existing homes sold last year than in any year since 2006. That bests 2016’s total of 5.45 million and becomes the highest that figure has been since 2006, when there were 6.48 million existing homes sold. According to the NAR report, existing home sales fell in December by 3.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million from a downwardly revised 5.78 million in November. “At the same time, market conditions were far from perfect. “Existing home sales posted a weak December, ending 2017 on a disappointing note after appearing to have picked up momentum in October and November. They ended the year very close to where they began it,” Zillow Senior Economist Aaron Terrazas said. As Terrazas noted, inventory is still a concern. According to NAR’s report, total housing inventory at the end of December fell 11.4% to 1.48 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 10.3% below one year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 3.2-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 3.6 months a year ago to the lowest level since NAR began tracking that data in 1999. “The lack of supply over the past year has been eye-opening and is why, even with strong job creation pushing wages higher, home price gains – at 5.8% nationally in 2017 – doubled the pace of income growth and were even swifter in several markets,” Yun said.

A new era of personalization: The hyperconnected customer experience

We are entering a new year in martech where organizational metrics of success will increasingly be aligned with customer success metrics. The growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) has meant that more and more customers are becoming hyperconnected across multiple devices that can range from desktop to laptops, mobiles and smart devices people use on a daily basis: wearables like Fitbit, the Apple Watch, car navigation and entertainment, and even home appliances. While this brings massive opportunity for marketers to communicate across all areas of the martech stack, it also brings with it challenges in communicating and connecting effectively across a fragmented customer experience. [Read the full article on MarTech Today.] Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Attend the largest search marketing conference on the West Coast: SMX West! You'll get useful, proven tactics in SEO, SEM, conversion optimization, social media, mobile and more. Register now! About The Author Andy has over 15 years experience in formulating marketing, digital and content strategies for many of the world's leading brands, agencies and technology pioneers. He has also spends considerable time consulting, and travelling across the World, for many digital and content marketing technology startups -- working on research, event and publication projects.

3 Ways to Build Your Brand Identity Using Content Marketing

When I work with digital strategy clients who are struggling with content marketing, I always ask them to take the logo test, inspired by this excellent Content Marketing Institute article. Your brand voice. "From startups to global businesses, the organizations with the best content strategy are those that create content reflective of their brand's unique personality and then use this content to build stronger relationships with prospects and clients," says Midon. Vision, voice, and value: Bringing branded content marketing to life As the name implies, "branded content marketing" needs to be grounded in your brand's identity. If your content can't pass the "logo test," it will be just another of those generic pieces daily bombarding your target audience. To make your content stand out, bring your brand identity to life with three steps: Define your vision. Define your brand voice. While you may have a very clear idea of your brand's voice, ask yourself, is everyone else at your company on board with this voice, too? Branded content is beneficial not only for defining the buying vision in your favor but also for reminding existing customers about how valuable your offerings truly are. From case studies to white papers, how can you create content that helps existing customers maximize the value of your offerings?

How to Go From Coffee Fetcher to Corner Office Exec

The buzzy brand isn't the only company with a success story, though. Have a professional attitude at work. The Blue Fountain Media employee I mentioned above exhibited several qualities that made him a great professional fit: He would come to work early in the morning, and he would listen throughout the day to learn. Another way to learn more about your industry is to surround yourself with experts or, better yet, find a mentor. Don't know anyone outside of work or in your new office that you think can help you? If you're going to put in the hard work, you should be able to promote the hard-earned results. Managing yourself is, in many ways, the first thing you have to learn before you can start making big strides in your professional career. Learning how to manage your own time is not just a professional necessity, it's a personal favor you can do yourself. learning everything he could about marketing -- which, as I discussed above, is very important. After over five years with Blue Fountain Media, he was leading marketing at a Fortune 500 company.

12 Simple Website Hacks to Boost Your Conversion Rate

As a marketer, improving the design of your website is an essential way to boost your conversion rates. Make sure that your site is designed so users can find what they are looking for using the lowest amount of clicks possible. As an example, Intuit started doing this, and saw a 211 percent boost in their conversion rate. Google Site Search The easier you make things for your visitors, the better your chances are of converting them into actual customers. Single Page Checkout Most people don’t want to spend a lot of time purchasing things online, and they don’t want to jump through a lot of hoops. This could help to improve your conversion rate by 20 percent or more, and it is a smart thing to do when you are looking for conversion optimization ideas. Instead of just placing photos on your product pages, include videos of the products being used. If they like what they see, they are going to buy, and you will see an increase in your conversion rate. Color Consistency No one likes to look at a busy website, and they don’t want to be bombarded with a lot of different colors. Minimal User Input In addition to reduced clicks, it is a good idea to make sure that you don’t ask users for too much information.

4 Ways to Apply Data Science to Social Media Marketing in 2018

Particularly for social media marketing, data science promises a lot. From advanced analysis of social media activity on branded content campaigns to create insightful user personas via social media listening, to complex data patterns made easy to understand via visualizations, to overcoming the perennial problem of ad fraud in advertising ecosystems, data science has potential applications that significantly improve social media for brands. It’s disappointingly common for people to use data science when they actually mean data analysis or analytics, and that’s not exactly right. Moving beyond word clouds with data-science-powered tools Word clouds have been trusted tools for social media marketers to analyze social conversations and understand what’s being discussed. BuzzGraphs, for instance, show you how words are linked, and which words are most frequently used. Based on the frequency of keywords observed, marketers can identify the most commonly discussed topics in social conversations. Such analysis can then group people together, separating weakly connected groups. Visualizations make it practical for marketers to understand these stories and generate insights that can massively improve social media marketing. Data-science-backed tools can transform how brands conduct market research using social media data. Social media listening platforms can allow marketers access to global conversations, bringing together large data volumes, capturing customer opinions and trends and feeding the data to a brand’s specific market research campaign: Begin with social media listening for researching a central topic.

The 7 biggest trends driving customer loyalty

According to 3Cinteractive, 64 percent of brands reported an increase in loyalty program membership over the last year. Omnichannel loyalty connects customers to a brand across all touch points seamlessly and provides members with the opportunity to be rewarded for spend and engagement across all channels. Furthermore, omnichannel data capture helps brands drive personalized communications and better customer experiences. Consumers expect personalization Research finds a correlation between personalization and customer satisfaction. Research indicates that consumers are willing to share data to get personalized experiences. Recently, members of the DSW rewards program were sent an email that contained how many points each member needed to receive a $10 certificate. Consumers expect brands to be socially responsible A recent study found that 81 percent of millennials expect companies to go beyond generating profit and serve as drivers of change and become active in their communities. Nearly half (47 percent) said rewards in fee-based programs are better than rewards in free programs. The decision to introduce the new tier this year was based on feedback from reward members who wanted to earn more points and subsequently enjoy more rewards. They found that consumers with strong emotional connections to retailers will visit their stores 32 percent more often and spend 46 percent more money than those without emotional bonds.

SEO trends and Google changes to expect in 2018

We’re already over a week into 2018, and the start of a new year is a great time to check in and see where we stand as an industry — and how things might change this year. Prepare for fake news algorithm updates Back in 2010, Google was getting beaten up in the media for the increasing amount of “content farm” clutter in the search results. Soon after that, in February 2011, the Google Panda update was released, which specifically targeted spammy and low-quality content. Why do I bring this up today? Because the media has been hammering Google for promoting fake news for the past year and a half — a problem so extensive that search industry expert Danny Sullivan has referred to it as “Google’s biggest-ever search quality crisis.” [Read the full article on Search Engine Land.] Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. About The Author Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder & VP Marketing of E2M, a digital marketing agency and MoveoApps, a mobile apps development company. He has over 8 years of experience in digital marketing and has served more than 500 customers into different verticals. As a passionate marketer, he regularly shares his thoughts and knowledge on high-end publications like Search Engine Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, Search Engine Watch, Moz, Fast Company, Huffington Post and many more. He's passionate about fitness, entrepreneurship, startups and all things digital marketing.

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4 Pros and Cons of Airbnbing Your Primary Residence

It seemed nearly impossible to find a duplex that would cash flow enough that I could live for free or get paid to live. For anyone contemplating renting a portion of their property out on Airbnb, I hope that this article can help you make your decision. Without renting out a portion of my unit, I would not have had the ability to cash flow on the property while living there. On average, I was getting $1,100 per month from AirBnbing the bedroom. This allowed me to go from paying $500 per month to cash flowing $600 per month. If I were to just rent the room out full time, I could probably have gotten $800 per month in rent. In addition, to the write offs, I was able to depreciate the portion of the property that I did not occupy. These are the major pros that I have experienced while renting out a room in my place on Airbnb. Especially if your place is booked for the next 3+ months. Just make sure that your following guests have a good experience.

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