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Getting certified as a 'green' company

February 16, 2009|Karen E. Klein

Dear Karen: Recently you mentioned building a green network. Is there an authority that certifies a company as "green"?

Answer: There are certifications in the green building industry granted by the U.S. Green Business Council ( www.usgbc.org). Outside of construction, however, green business certifications are just getting going, said Andrea Green, president of Globally Green Consulting of Los Angeles.

The city of Santa Monica sponsors a one-year green business certification program run through Sustainable Works (www.sustainableworks.org), Green said. Companies outside of Santa Monica that want to incorporate sustainable business practices can get advice at Sustainable Works' website or pay a fee to participate in its business greening program.

The city of Los Angeles plans to launch a certificate program for green business this year, starting with the hotel industry. More information can be found at this website: www.californiagreen.

"The L.A. Green Certification program will be a game changer," Green said. "Stay tuned."

Increasing traffic at travel website

Dear Karen: Can you give me some advice on how to market my travel website?

Answer: Online marketing is about drawing a little traffic from many sources, said John Waddy, president of TwentySix2 Marketing in Atlanta. Optimize your website so it ranks high on organic search engines. You can learn search engine optimization yourself or hire someone to do it for you.

Bid on Google ads and measure your return on investment so your advertising outlays make sense. Waddy said travel websites converted about 1% of visitors into buyers.

"If you pay $2 per click for a Google ad, the average transaction will cost $200. For a hotel with an average rate of $100 per transaction, it doesn't make sense. The key is to measure your website conversion rate to know how much each ad dollar generates in sales," he said.

Lodging aggregators such as Hotels.com and Expedia .com are popular with travel-planning consumers but the margins are so slim they can diminish your profit, Waddy said.

"Travel sites should give the best price on their own websites so customers will be loyal to the main site," Waddy said. You can use Google Analytics ( www.google.com/analytics) to inform your decisions.

Forms and fees for a home studio

Dear Karen: What licenses do I need for a Los Angeles home-based photography business?

Answer: You'll find the information and forms you need at the city's business solutions website: business.lacity.org/start_business.htm. File your registration with the city before March 1 and you can request a small-business fee waiver, said Roberto Barragan of the Valley Economic Development Center.

Buy liability insurance if you'll be inviting clients to your home to do photo shoots or review pictures.

If you'll operate as a sole proprietor, you should file a DBA ("doing business as") certificate, also available on the city's website.

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