22 Online Business Ideas You Can Start Tomorrow

These 22 online business ideas can be launched quickly and easily. Start your e-commerce business tomorrow.

  • Many online businesses can be started with limited startup capital.
  • Some of the highest paying online businesses include corporate counsel consulting and software development.
  • Build an online business in a subject or industry that you are passionate and knowledgeable about.
  • This article is for aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking for inspiration to start an online business.

Owning and maintaining an online business gives entrepreneurs the freedom to make money from anywhere in the world. The idea is enticing, and more possible than ever, but many entrepreneurs don’t know where to start. The most important step in starting a profitable online business is to find a business idea that matches your skills and strengths. Compare the top credit card processing providers to find a partner that can help you accept payements online.

Whether you are looking to become a full-time entrepreneur or just to start a part-time business for passive income, your product or service should fulfill a specific consumer need. We’ve compiled a series of profitable need-based businesses, with minimal startup costs, that you can start as soon as possible.https://widgets.business.com/qt-widget-v2/index.html?pubId=1001&offerGroupId=2&widgetHostPage=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.businessnewsdaily.com%2F4572-online-business-ideas.html&isHeadlineVisible=true&viewType=default&hasBestPickBadge=false

1. SEO consultant

If you know the ins and outs of search engines and have technical skills in platforms like Google Ads and Google Analytics, becoming an SEO consultant could be a lucrative option for you. Many small business owners don’t realize how much of an impact search engine optimization (SEO) can have on their business. Start your online consulting business by educating those business owners on the power of SEO to help transform their websites and increase their conversion rates.

You could use your marketing skills to show business owners the benefits of using analytics data, strategic keywords and content structure to gain more organic web traffic. If you are unfamiliar with SEO or want to brush up on your digital marketing skills, you can refer to Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO

Keep in mind that Google’s algorithms are always changing, so you will need to continue your education on SEO to stay relevant and successful in this field.

Key takeaway: Educate small businesses about the importance of SEO and help them grow their online presence.

2. Small business consultant

If you have a great deal of business experience and knowledge, why not create a business that helps aspiring entrepreneurs find success? As a business consultant, you could use your skills to help new business owners get off to a good start and help experienced entrepreneurs keep up with demand. Your chances of success are greater if you focus your strategy on a niche aspect of business consulting. 

To add to your credibility, demonstrate your expertise and bring in clients, it is helpful to be present in the digital business community.

Key takeaway: Use your business experience and knowledge to help aspiring entrepreneurs find success.

3. Social media consultant

Larger enterprises can hire an agency or full-time staff member to run their social media accounts, but small businesses often have to handle their own social media marketing. With so many responsibilities, business owners are often too busy, overwhelmed or undereducated about the importance of a social media presence to spend time developing and implementing a great social media strategy. As a social media consultant, you can help small businesses determine the best tactics, posting schedules and content for their target audience. As their follower count grows, so will your business.

Facebook and Twitter are still the top business networks, but businesses often tend to struggle with more visual platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Snapchat. All of these platforms have huge consumer audiences, but many businesses don’t realize how big they are, how effective they can be and how to make them work for their brand. If you have a background in social media marketing and a passion for photography, focusing your consulting business on one specific platform, like Instagram, can be a great way to make money while helping other businesses improve their content and achieve their business goals.

Key takeaway: Help businesses understand the importance of social media and grow their social following through your expertise.

4. Niche market e-commerce retailer

There’s an audience for everything, even if it’s as specific as dollhouse furniture or organic dog food. With a niche e-commerce site, you can reach customers who seek your specific products. Building a business in a niche market can help you differentiate yourself from other brands and build your credibility and expertise. Look to social media or your own consumer needs to come up with a product to sell on your online store.  

To get your e-commerce business up and running, all you need is a web hosting service with an integrated shopping cart feature or e-commerce software. To simplify the shipping process, you can work with vendors to ship products to customers on your behalf. This can reduce the amount of inventory you need to keep onsite. [Read related article: A Small Business Guide to E-Commerce Shipping]

Key takeaway: If you have a niche product or service to sell, consider starting an online store.https://widgets.business.com/qt-widget-v2/index.html?pubId=1001&offerGroupId=148&widgetHostPage=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.businessnewsdaily.com%2F4572-online-business-ideas.html&isHeadlineVisible=true&viewType=single&hasBestPickBadge=false

5. Web designer or web developer

If you are a creative, digital professional who thrives on forming the layout, visual theme, font set and color palette of a website, freelance web design may be a good path for you. If you have little to no experience in this field, you can learn the basics of web design and master the tools you’ll need for success, like Adobe XD, Chrome DevTools and text editor software. 

If you are more interested in the coding side of building websites, freelance web development might be your wheelhouse. If you already know HTML, CSS or JavaScript and have a good eye for solving problems with creative solutions, you can launch a service to build attractive, easy-to-use websites for small businesses. If you need to learn the basics of web development before launching your full-stack career, you can take a simple beginner’s course to get started.

Put your technical and creative skills to good use for business owners who want to take their online presence to the next level. Build a comprehensive portfolio, and then create your own website to show it off and attract a steady stream of clients.

Key takeaway: Becoming a web designer or developer is a great option for those with technical know-how. https://widgets.business.com/qt-widget-v2/index.html?pubId=1001&offerGroupId=4&widgetHostPage=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.businessnewsdaily.com%2F4572-online-business-ideas.html&isHeadlineVisible=true&viewType=default&hasBestPickBadge=false

6. Blogger

Blogging may seem like an outdated business strategy, since nearly everybody already has one, but the competition should not deter you from starting this online business journey. If you love writing or have important information to share, blogging may be a profitable business for you.  

Starting a blog as a business is very simple with website builders like Weebly and WordPress, but the key to success is consistency and quality. To gain a steady following, you must continually write and produce high-quality content that provides value to your readers. Content that educates, informs or entertains your readers gives them a reason to follow you.

Once you’ve mastered the creation of consistent content, you can make money through your blog by selling products like online courses, digital coaching, e-books or webinars. You can also sell ad space or sponsored posts. This business strategy may take a little more time and effort to monetize, but it can be very profitable in the end.

Key takeaway: If you are a wordsmith with consistent content, you may be able to turn your blog into a business.

7. Virtual assistant

Do you have impeccable organizational skills and task management abilities? Maybe it’s time to put those skills to good use by becoming a virtual assistant. VA services typically consist of basic administrative tasks like entering data, making travel arrangements and answering phone calls. Previous experience in this field is ideal but not required.  

Platforms like TaskRabbit and Zirtual make it easy for VA professionals to find jobs. They allow you to create an online profile and sign up for tasks you want to complete – such as data research, virtual assistance or basic errands – and begin building clientele. 

Key takeaway: Become a virtual assistant to remotely help others with their administrative tasks.

8. Affiliate marketer

If you love leaving customer reviews on sites like Amazon, you may want to look into affiliate marketing as a source of income. Word-of-mouth advertising is still a huge lead generator for many companies, and many businesses are willing to share a portion of their profits with persuasive individuals who will promote their products to the public.

Affiliate programs break down into different levels of involvement: unattached, related and involved. Unattached affiliate marketing is a basic pay-per-click campaign that requires little to no involvement with the product you are promoting. Related affiliate marketing requires you to have some authority and content on the product you are marketing, but you don’t personally use the product. Involved affiliate marketing is perhaps the most effective, as you’ll be marketing a product that you actually use and enjoy.

If you have a personal website or social media presence with a large following, affiliate programs may be a profitable approach for you. PR reps are always seeking out brand advocates and influencers they can send free samples to.

Key takeaway: Those with a large social media following or online presence can channel that power into creating revenue through affiliate marketing.

9. Remote tech support

Many small businesses don’t have room in their budgets to hire a full-time IT employee, so when their systems go on the fritz, they usually call a computer-savvy friend or family member. If you are tech savvy and have experience working on computers and networks, you can eliminate their need to call in a favor by offering immediate remote technical assistance.

Although some businesses may prefer you to have a technical degree, many will look to your experience and knowledge instead. You can start to build your remote tech support business by reaching out to friends, family and local business owners about their tech support needs. You can also find freelance tech support gigs on job boards like Upwork.  

Key takeaway: Use your tech wizardry to offer remote tech support.

10. Handmade craft seller

As merchants switch their sales to e-commerce, online marketplaces for handmade goods, like Etsy and ArtFire, make it extremely easy for artisans who can produce a steady supply of quality handmade products, such as crocheted blankets or unique painted glassware. If you have a unique craft, selling your products on an e-commerce site is a good way to earn income while you’re at home, doing what you love.

Startup costs for this business idea are extremely low if you purchase your creative materials in bulk from a craft supplier. If you can create and sell your artwork quickly on an online store, you’ll be making a profit in no time at all. Local artisans find higher success when they promote their businesses on social media.  

Key takeaway: Use your creative genius to sell handmade crafts online.

11. App developer

Mobile applications are more popular than ever, with people willing to pay good money for ways to manage their lives from their smartphones. If you have a great new idea for an app and know how to code, you can run with it and create your app yourself. You can also become an app developer for businesses that need to create specific apps. Both options require you to know the basic elements of software design and at least two common programming languages, such as SQL, JavaScript, PHP, Python, Ruby on Rails or iOS.  

If you have an app idea but don’t know the ins and outs of coding, there are plenty of software developers looking to collaborate with people on app creation. Depending on your situation and know-how, you may be able to make a lucrative business out of app development.

Key takeaway: Create the next best mobile app by becoming an app developer.

12. Search engine

Google and Bing are ubiquitous, but they don’t necessarily address all users’ needs. If you’re an expert in a certain field, build your own search engine that helps people with less knowledge find what they’re looking for. Your chances of success might be higher if your search engine gives users opportunities to insert parameters, such as subtopics and source type, rather than just conducting a general search.

Key takeaway: Build a niche search engine that can address users’ specific needs.

13. Dropshipping

If you want to run an e-commerce site, you might be worried about storing inventory. With dropshipping, you can take customer orders on an online store and send them directly to a third-party retailer for fulfillment. As long as your business model involves selling items at a price higher than what you’ll pay to the third-party retailer, your dropshipping business will be set for success. 

Key takeaway: You can use dropshipping to have a third-party retailer fulfill your online business orders. 

14. Tutoring business

Just because somebody is taking classes in a subject doesn’t mean they understand the material well. If you’re great at explaining things to somebody in a one-on-one setting and have ample experience and knowledge in a subject, consider starting an online tutoring business in that field. You can use video chat tools such as Skype to conduct tutoring sessions remotely and offer your knowledge to anybody, anytime, anywhere. Consider incorporating a budget for ads on Craigslist and Fiverr into your business model.

Key takeaway: Put your advanced knowledge in a specific subject to good use by virtually tutoring students.

15. Digital courses

Similarly to tutoring, people all over the world might benefit from you sharing your expertise with them. Starting an online business that offers digital courses to anybody interested in the topic can easily earn you money – you can sell prepared written materials or other downloadable content for a fee.

Key takeaway: Create and sell digital courses on a familiar subject.

16. YouTube channel

YouTube makes starting an online education business especially easy. Upload videos of yourself educating viewers on any subject, whether beginner or advanced, and use social media to spread word of your channel. As your number of viewers grows, you’ll be able to monetize your videos and make a profit from them.

Key takeaway: Use your videomaking expertise to make money through visual media on YouTube.

17. Telecoaching

Some people looking for one-on-one help might want something more than lessons. People who want help advancing their careers, improving their nutrition or finding more meaning in their lives could benefit from your coaching through video chat software like Zoom or Skype. Rather than giving exercises and grades, as a telecoach, your goal is to offer advice, guidelines and support for your clients. If you run a blog for your business or regularly post to LinkedIn about the topics in which you’re coaching, you’ll appear more trustworthy and knowledgeable.

Key takeaway: Offer virtual one-on-one coaching through video chat software.

18. Podcast network

The past several years have seen an explosion in podcast availability and listenership, and you can capitalize on that by starting your own podcast network. You can populate the network with any podcasts you record, but if you give other people – whether friends or strangers from the internet – opportunities to contribute their own podcasts, your network will likely grow more quickly. As your network grows, you can increase the price per podcast download. [Read related article: Tips for Starting a Podcast]

Key takeaway: Build a podcast following by talking about something you are passionate and knowledgeable about.

19. Technical writer

The internet is full of copywriters for hire, but only a few of these copywriters have the technical background to properly write an instruction manual for a large machine or properly convey scientific results. If you have a background in science and can write about it, start an online business through which people can hire your technical writing services. Advertise yourself on LinkedIn, Fiverr and other platforms to draw in customers.

Key takeaway: Use your technical expertise to write technical documents and manuals.

20. Resume and cover letter writer

Almost everyone has sought help from other people when writing resumes or cover letters. Offer your expertise in crafting compelling resumes and cover letters to anybody willing to hire you. Provide examples of not just other people’s resumes and cover letters with which you’ve helped, but successful resumes and cover letters of your own to increase your chances of successfully starting an online business.

Key takeaway: Help job seekers by aiding them in writing the perfect resumes and cover letters.

21. Corporate counsel consultant

Corporations need lawyers to protect them in legal matters and educate them on what they can and can’t do. By starting an online corporate counsel consultation firm, you can offer corporate workers a way to keep their legal affairs in order without the commitment, exorbitant fees and extensive in-person commitments of traditional lawyers. You’ll need to show proof that you’ve passed the bar exam to build clientele, and make it clear that your business is entirely online – because when it comes time for your client to go to court, they’ll need to hire a lawyer in their region who can represent them in front of a judge or jury.

Key takeaway: Offer affordable legal services as a corporate counsel consultant.

22. Startup advisor

Many of the world’s most prominent tech companies began as small startups still figuring out the right business model for success. As a startup advisor, you can advise tomorrow’s companies today. Use any expertise you have in corporate finance, software development and other relevant fields to provide new businesses with the knowledge they need to succeed. As these startups succeed, so will your business.

Key takeaway: If you’ve mastered the art of starting a business, help others start theirs.

What kind of online business is most profitable?

Out of the online business types above, corporate counsel consulting is the highest paid, followed by app development. Some experts in online businesses also expect educational businesses – tutoring, digital courses, YouTube channels and even Skype coaching – to reap higher profits in future years, with e-commerce sites following close behind in profits.

Looking for even more ways you can start a business? Check out these ideas from our partners at CO— by U.S. Chamber of Commerce, or dig into these other great business ideas

Key takeaway: Corporate counsel consulting and software development are among the most profitable online businesses.

How do you start a successful online business?

Starting an online business can be an exciting venture, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. For example, there are several legal steps you need to take to start your business, like choosing your business name, acquiring a federal employer identification number (FEIN), determining your legal structure and insuring your business.

Although every business is unique, there are a few steps you can follow to maximize your chance at starting a successful online business.

  1. Choose a business idea or industry based on your knowledge and your passion.

  2. Find a business niche based on gaps in the marketplace.

  3. Conduct market research and a competitive analysis to assess your competition and product viability.

  4. Familiarize yourself with the laws that apply to online businesses.

  5. Shop around before choosing a specific software to build your online store.

  6. Create a comprehensive marketing strategy (e.g., website, email marketing, SEO, social media marketing, local marketing, etc.)

Key takeaway: Identify a gap in the market and then start an online business by following the necessary online business laws.

Additional reporting by Skye Schooley.

10 Types Of IT Services Your Business Can Provide

No one can deny the fact that information technology is the backbone for almost all businesses and companies in the modern era. Progressing by leaps and bounds is impossible without any help from best tech support companies. This surely makes IT Solutions for small businesses a great business idea. If you are someone who has innovative ideas in information technology, you can easily lay the foundation for a company that provides different types of IT technologies for its clients. Finding an IT services company is not hard as there are plenty of categories of IT Services. Moreover, businesses and companies, no matter whether they are large or small are always on the hunt for IT products and services companies to help them grow their ventures. Although there is a higher competition in the field, at the same time, the demand too is high and increasing day by day. You can easily offer any of these top ten IT Services and emerge as one of the best IT services companies in the market. 

It is an undeniable fact that IT Services are one of the hot cakes of the industry and market these days. There is a long list of IT Support services that many businesses, companies and people are making use of in the modern era. No matter what the scope or context of a business is, IT services and solutions are needed to help it flourish. 

Keeping in mind the high demand of business IT support services, more and more companies are now transitioning towards offering IT services rather than using them. It is surely a profitable path and a good choice considering the long term demand of IT Support. Afterall, with each passing day, technology and its demand is increasing. 

But is it possible for your business to offer IT Services? Absolutely yes! Offering IT Services may seem like an overwhelming and tedious task. But in reality, with a little bit of effort and tons of dedication, any business can evolve and provide small business IT services. 

Here is a list of ten types of IT services your business can provide in this regard:

1. Help Desk IT Services:

IT support equipment such as printers, scanners, servers etc. are present in every office. From everyday support to taking care of complex tasks, there are plenty of IT products and services that are part of every office. But do these supplies work perfectly all the time? No. This is where your business comes in. Offering help desk IT services which help with the installation, set up, maintenance and repair of this machinery and equipment. It may seem to be a very simple service, but in reality, this task is tedious. Therefore, companies and businesses are always looking for resources to help them deal with this workload and your business can jump at the opportunity and take care of this responsibility. 

2. Network Security:

Data is the backbone for any business and company. Although, data is a valuable resource that becomes the crux of many important decisions, strategies and business action plans, it also comes with a huge responsibility. Companies have to ensure that their data as well as the data related to their clients and customers remains protected and safeguarded. Therefore, one of the most demanded IT support companies for small businesses offers network security. 

The responsibility of these service providers is to ensure that the data of their clients and their businesses remains safe. These companies deploy cybersecurity measures to protect the data. From access control to keeping a log of any changes made, network security is a comprehensive set of IT services that is of immense importance for almost all businesses and companies. 

3. Data Storage And Management:

Another important service related to data is data storage and management. As mentioned earlier, data is important for all businesses and companies no matter what their scope and background. Therefore one of the highest paying IT Services for small business is data storage and management. 

IT service providers set up servers and databases that host the company’s data. They not only store the data of their client companies, but also come up with strategies and techniques that allow easy and efficient access to this stored data. As a result, the companies and businesses can focus on other areas that need their attention and efforts. The service providers will take care of all the data handling and dealing. 

4. Cloud Services:

Cloud services are gaining popularity amongst companies and businesses at a rapid rate. Cloud services are not only budget friendly and economical, but are great in terms of performance and efficiency as well. Via cloud services, businesses and companies have access to everything they need on the go. Moreover, the security protocols and access control strategies implemented via cloud services are a lot better than physical storage locations. 

From setting up remote, cloud based storage spaces to server management, cloud services can encompass a wide range of services. There is a huge demand for cloud services in the market. Therefore, it is easy to assume that as soon as you dive into the world of offering cloud services for your clients. 

5. Data Backup Services:

No matter how strong your data security protocol may be, there is always a risk of data damage and loss. Since data is such an important entity for businesses, they take this aspect rather seriously and invest in data backup services. These services enable companies and businesses to make copies of their data which is then stored off site. 

This way, if anything goes wrong or the data suffers in any way, the companies can always rely on the backup and retrieve whatever is needed. This makes data backup services one of the most in demand IT services that your company can consider offering. 

6. IT Consulting:

Information technology is an ever evolving field. Everyday some new technology makes its way into the market. 

  • But does it mean that companies and businesses need to change their IT plans and strategies along with the change in technological trends?
  •  Which IT services are the most beneficial and absolutely needed for a certain company or business?
  •  How to train employees to adapt to the use of these technologies? 

These questions are queries that are always crossing the minds of business owners. This is where the need of IT consulting services arises. One of the major small business IT support requires IT consulting. 

The IT consulting service providers assess the needs of a business and company to determine which IT path would be best suited for them based on their needs. Then they help deploy the IT Services and maintain them. One of their roles also includes training employees so the company can progress while making the right use of these IT resources. 

7. Social Media Consulting:

Social media is a core component that can help any business or company grow in the modern era. Using social media appears to be very simple and straightforward. But if you truly want to unleash and make use of the power of social media to take your company to the next level, it will require a lot more efforts and hard work. 

Social Media Consulting is a powerful IT service which many companies and businesses rely on. When offering this service, the service provider has to look after the social media pages and outlets of their clients. From posts to social media strategies, the service provider has control over all the dimensions of social media. The purpose is to engage with as many people as possible and turn visitors into long term loyal clients. 

8. Repair Services:

Where there are computers and technological equipment, there is a need of repairs. Repairing and making sure that everything is working well is a huge responsibility that many IT service providers take over for their clients. 

As part of the repair services, the service provider has to ensure that all equipment is free from any damage. Repairing also includes troubleshooting for errors. Removal and detection of viruses and other possible threats and malware is also part of this job. All in all, the service provider has to ensure that the equipment is working well in terms of both the hardware as well as the software. 

9. Web Designing Services:

A website is an online portfolio for any business. Therefore, it is the main interest and aim of companies to invest in a good web design service provider. When offering website development services, the company has to develop a website for the client. From the designing of the website which is the front end development to taking care of the backend factors like hosting and servers etc, everything has to be done by the service provider. 

Due to the immense usage of the internet and competition to ensure optimal online presence, almost all companies are interested in seeking help from web designing service providers. The work of web design service providers is not limited to the designing of the website, but the upgrades and maintenance are also their responsibility so this service can evolve into a long term business companionship. 

10. Email Marketing Services:

Email marketing is a popular tool that almost businesses and companies use these days. Have a look at your own inbox, you will be amazed to see a large number of promotional and branding emails. But have you wondered who composes, plans and sends out these emails? This job is done by the email marketing services providers. 

Email marketing IT service providers come up with a marketing strategy which makes use of emails to connect with existing as well as potential clients. These emails often contain announcements regarding sales or promotions. A call to action statement also helps increase site traffic thus reaping benefits for the company.

Why Local Businesses Will Need Websites More than Ever in 2019

64% of 1,411 surveyed local business marketers agree that Google is becoming the new “homepage” for local businesses. Via Moz State of Local SEO Industry Report

…but please don’t come away with the wrong storyline from this statistic.

As local brands and their marketers watch Google play Trojan horse, shifting from top benefactor to top competitor by replacing former “free” publicity with paid packs, Local Service Ads, zero-click SERPs, and related structures, it’s no surprise to see forum members asking, “Do I even need a website anymore?”

Our answer to this question is, “Yes, you’ve never needed a website more than you will in 2019.” In this post, we’ll examine:

  • Why it looks like local businesses don’t need websites
  • Statistical proofs of why local businesses need websites now more than ever
  • The current status of local business websites and most-needed improvements

How Google stopped bearing so many gifts

Within recent memory, a Google query with local intent brought up a big pack of ten nearby businesses, with each entry taking the user directly to these brands’ websites for all of their next steps. A modest amount of marketing effort was rewarded with a shower of Google gifts in the form of rankings, traffic, and conversions.

Then these generous SERPs shrank to seven spots, and then three, with the mobile sea change thrown into the bargain and consisting of layers and layers of Google-owned interfaces instead of direct-to-website links. In 2018, when we rustle through the wrapping paper, the presents we find from Google look cheaper, smaller, and less magnificent.

Consider these five key developments:

1) Zero-click mobile SERPs

This slide from a recent presentation by Rand Fishkin encapsulates his findings regarding the growth of no-click SERPs between 2016–2018. Mobile users have experienced a 20% increase in delivery of search engine results that don’t require them to go any deeper than Google’s own interface.

2) The encroachment of paid ads into local packs

When Dr. Peter J. Myers surveyed 11,000 SERPs in 2018, he found that 35% of competitive local packs feature ads.

3) Google becoming a lead gen agency

At last count, Google’s Local Service Ads program via which they interposition themselves as the paid lead gen agent between businesses and consumers has taken over 23 business categories in 77 US cities.

4) Even your branded SERPs don’t belong to you

When a user specifically searches for your brand and your Google Knowledge Panel pops up, you can likely cope with the long-standing “People Also Search For” set of competitors at the bottom of it. But that’s not the same as Google allowing Groupon to advertise at the top of your KP, or putting lead gen from Doordash and GrubHub front and center to nickel and dime you on your own customers’ orders.

5) Google is being called the new “homepage” for local businesses

As highlighted at the beginning of this post, 64% of marketers agree that Google is becoming the new “homepage” for local businesses. This concept, coined by Mike Blumenthal, signifies that a user looking at a Google Knowledge Panel can get basic business info, make a phone call, get directions, book something, ask a question, take a virtual tour, read microblog posts, see hours of operation, thumb through photos, see busy times, read and leave reviews. Without ever having to click through to a brand’s domain, the user may be fully satisfied.

“Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” 
– Epicurus

There are many more examples we could gather, but they can all be summed up in one way: None of Google’s most recent local initiatives are about driving customers to brands’ own websites. Local SERPs have shrunk and have been re-engineered to keep users within Google’s platforms to generate maximum revenue for Google and their partners.

You may be as philosophical as Epicurus about this and say that Google has every right to be as profitable as they can with their own product, even if they don’t really need to siphon more revenue off local businesses. But if Google’s recent trajectory causes your brand or agency to conclude that websites have become obsolete in this heavily controlled environment, please keep reading.

Your website is your bedrock

“65% of 1,411 surveyed marketers observe strong correlation between organic and local rank.” – Via Moz State of Local SEO Industry Report

What this means is that businesses which rank highly organically are very likely to have high associated local pack rankings. In the following screenshot, if you take away the directory-type platforms, you will see how the brand websites ranking on page 1 for “deli athens ga” are also the two businesses that have made it into Google’s local pack:

How often do the top 3 Google local pack results also have a 1st page organic rankings?

In a small study, we looked at 15 head keywords across 7 US cities and towns. This yielded 315 possible entries in Google’s local pack. Of that 315, 235 of the businesses ranking in the local packs also had page 1 organic rankings. That’s a 75% correlation between organic website rankings and local pack presence.

*It’s worth noting that where local and organic results did not correlate, it was sometimes due the presence of spam GMB listings, or to mystery SERPs that did not make sense at first glance — perhaps as a result of Google testing, in some cases.

Additionally, many local businesses are not making it to the first page of Google anymore in some categories because the organic SERPs are inundated with best-of lists and directories. Often, local business websites were pushed down to the second page of the organic results. In other words, if spam, “best-ofs,” and mysteries were removed, the local-organic correlation would likely be much higher than 75%.

Further, one recent study found that even when Google’s Local Service Ads are present, 43.9% of clicks went to the organic SERPs. Obviously, if you can make it to the top of the organic SERPs, this puts you in very good CTR shape from a purely organic standpoint.

Your takeaway from this

The local businesses you market may not be able to stave off the onslaught of Google’s zero-click SERPs, paid SERPs, and lead gen features, but where “free” local 3-packs still exist, your very best bet for being included in them is to have the strongest possible website. Moreover, organic SERPs remain a substantial source of clicks.

Far from it being the case that websites have become obsolete, they are the firmest bedrock for maintaining free local SERP visibility amidst an increasing scarcity of opportunities.

This calls for an industry-wide doubling down on organic metrics that matter most.

Bridging the local-organic gap

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” 
– Aristotle

A 2017 CNBC survey found that 45% of small businesses have no website, and, while most large enterprises have websites, many local businesses qualify as “small.”

Moreover, a recent audit of 9,392 Google My Business listings found that 27% have no website link.

When asked which one task 1,411 marketers want clients to devote more resources to, it’s no coincidence that 66% listed a website-oriented asset. This includes local content development, on-site optimization, local link building, technical analysis of rankings/traffic/conversions, and website design as shown in the following Moz survey graphic:

In an environment in which websites are table stakes for competitive local pack rankings, virtually all local businesses not only need one, but they need it to be as strong as possible so that it achieves maximum organic rankings.

What makes a website strong?

The Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO offers incredibly detailed guidelines for creating the best possible website. While we recommend that everyone marketing a local business read through this in-depth guide, we can sum up its contents here by stating that strong websites combine:

  • Technical basics
  • Excellent usability
  • On-site optimization
  • Relevant content publication
  • Publicity

For our present purpose, let’s take a special look at those last three elements.

On-site optimization and relevant content publication

There was a time when on-site SEO and content development were treated almost independently of one another. And while local businesses will need a make a little extra effort to put their basic contact information in prominent places on their websites (such as the footer and Contact Us page), publication and optimization should be viewed as a single topic. A modern strategy takes all of the following into account:

  • Keyword and real-world research tell a local business what consumers want
  • These consumer desires are then reflected in what the business publishes on its website, including its homepage, location landing pages, about page, blog and other components
  • Full reflection of consumer desires includes ensuring that human language (discovered via keyword and real-world research) is implemented in all elements of each page, including its tags, headings, descriptions, text, and in some cases, markup

What we’re describing here isn’t a set of disconnected efforts. It’s a single effort that’s integral to researching, writing, and publishing the website. Far from stuffing keywords into a tag or a page’s content, focus has shifted to building topical authority in the eyes of search engines like Google by building an authoritative resource for a particular consumer demographic. The more closely a business is able to reflect customers’ needs (including the language of their needs), in every possible component of its website, the more relevant it becomes.

A hypothetical example of this would be a large medical clinic in Dallas. Last year, their phone staff was inundated with basic questions about flu shots, like where and when to get them, what they cost, would they cause side effects, what about side effects on people with pre-existing health conditions, etc. This year, the medical center’s marketing team took a look at Moz Keyword Explorerand saw that there’s an enormous volume of questions surrounding flu shots:

This tiny segment of the findings of the free keyword research tool, Answer the Public, further illustrates how many questions people have about flu shots:

The medical clinic need not compete nationally for these topics, but at a local level, a page on the website can answer nearly every question a nearby patient could have about this subject. The page, created properly, will reflect human language in its tags, headings, descriptions, text, and markup. It will tell all patients where to come and when to come for this procedure. It has the potential to cut down on time-consuming phone calls.

And, finally, it will build topical authority in the eyes of Google to strengthen the clinic’s chances of ranking well organically… which can then translate to improved local rankings.

It’s important to note that keyword research tools typically do not reflect location very accurately, so research is typically done at a national level, and then adjusted to reflect regional or local language differences and geographic terms, after the fact. In other words, a keyword tool may not accurately reflect exactly how many local consumers in Dallas are asking “Where do I get a flu shot?”, but keyword and real-world research signals that this type of question is definitely being asked. The local business website can reflect this question while also adding in the necessary geographic terms.

Local link building must be brought to the fore of publicity efforts

Moz’s industry survey found that more than one-third of respondents had no local link building strategy in place. Meanwhile, link building was listed as one of the top three tasks to which marketers want their clients to devote more resources. There’s clearly a disconnect going on here. Given the fundamental role links play in building Domain Authority, organic rankings, and subsequent local rankings, building strong websites means bridging this gap.

First, it might help to examine old prejudices that could cause local business marketers and their clients to feel dubious about link building. These most likely stem from link spam which has gotten so out of hand in the general world of SEO that Google has had to penalize it and filter it to the best of their ability.

Not long ago, many digital-only businesses were having a heyday with paid links, link farms, reciprocal links, abusive link anchor text and the like. An online company might accrue thousands of links from completely irrelevant sources, all in hopes of escalating rank. Clearly, these practices aren’t ones an ethical business can feel good about investing in, but they do serve as an interesting object lesson, especially when a local marketer can point out to a client, that best local links are typically going to result from real-world relationship-building.

Local businesses are truly special because they serve a distinct, physical community made up of their own neighbors. The more involved a local business is in its own community, the more naturally link opportunities arise from things like local:

  • Sponsorships
  • Event participation and hosting
  • Online news
  • Blogs
  • Business associations
  • B2B cross-promotions

There are so many ways a local business can build genuine topical and domain authority in a given community by dint of the relationships it develops with neighbors.

An excellent way to get started on this effort is to look at high-ranking local businesses in the same or similar business categories to discover what work they’ve put in to achieve a supportive backlink profile. Moz Link Intersect is an extremely actionable resource for this, enabling a business to input its top competitors to find who is linking to them.

In the following example, a small B&B in Albuquerque looks up two luxurious Tribal resorts in its city:

Link Intersect then lists out a blueprint of opportunities, showing which links one or both competitors have earned. Drilling down, the B&B finds that Marriott.com is linking to both Tribal resorts on an Albuquerque things-to-do page:

The small B&B can then try to earn a spot on that same page, because it hosts lavish tea parties as a thing-to-do. Outreach could depend on the B&B owner knowing someone who works at the local Marriott personally. It could include meeting with them in person, or on the phone, or even via email. If this outreach succeeds, an excellent, relevant link will have been earned to boost organic rank, underpinning local rank.

Then, repeat the process. Aristotle might well have been speaking of link building when he said we are what we repeatedly do and that excellence is a habit. Good marketers can teach customers to have excellent habits in recognizing a good link opportunity when they see it.

Taken altogether

Without a website, a local business lacks the brand-controlled publishing and link-earning platform that so strongly influences organic rankings. In the absence of this, the chances of ranking well in competitive local packs will be significantly less. Taken altogether, the case is clear for local businesses investing substantially in their websites.

Acting now is actually a strategy for the future

“There is nothing permanent except change.” 
– Heraclitus

You’ve now determined that strong websites are fundamental to local rankings in competitive markets. You’ve absorbed numerous reasons to encourage local businesses you market to prioritize care of their domains. But there’s one more thing you’ll need to be able to convey, and that’s a sense of urgency.

Right now, every single customer you can still earn from a free local pack listing is immensely valuable for the future.

This isn’t a customer you’ve had to pay Google for, as you very well might six months, a year, or five years from now. Yes, you’ve had to invest plenty in developing the strong website that contributed to the high local ranking, but you haven’t paid a penny directly to Google for this particular lead. Soon, you may be having to fork over commissions to Google for a large portion of your new customers, so acting now is like insurance against future spend.

For this to work out properly, local businesses must take the leads Google is sending them right now for free, and convert them into long-term, loyal customers, with an ultimate value of multiple future transactions without Google as a the middle man. And if these freely won customers can be inspired to act as word-of-mouth advocates for your brand, you will have done something substantial to develop a stream of non-Google-dependent revenue.

This offer may well expire as time goes by. When it comes to the capricious local SERPs, marketers resemble the Greek philosophers who knew that change is the only constant. The Trojan horse has rolled into every US city, and it’s a gift with a questionable shelf life. We can’t predict if or when free packs might become obsolete, but we share your concerns about the way the wind is blowing.

What we can see clearly right now is that websites will be anything but obsolete in 2019. Rather, they are the building blocks of local rankings, precious free leads, and loyal revenue, regardless of how SERPs may alter in future.

The Bad Business Of Buying Reviews – Why Authenticity Is Still The Right Call

Consumer group Which? made a troubling discovery earlier this month. Two large Facebook groups dedicated solely to posting misleading five-star reviews on products. Together, they may have nearly 87,000 members, all engaged in trying to trick people into buying products they’ve never actually used.

How it works is fairly simple. A company that wants their product ‘reviewed’ posts details on the group’s Facebook page. Members from the group then purchase the product, write their review, and receive a refund through a third-party service – usually Paypal.

“Bogus online reviews have plagued the Internet for years, yet Which? said they remain highly influential,” writes The Guardian’s Patrick Collinson. “97% [of the group’s members still[ use online reviews when researching a product, but 31% were disappointed after buying a product because of excellent feedback scores.”

Honestly? I’m almost tempted to join both groups, but not for the reasons you might think. I want to join them because to me, they’ll serve as a laundry list of brands I’ll never trust again.  

I get wanting people to purchase your stuff. I get feeling like you don’t have a fair shake these days, given all the competition that exists in the digital marketplace. But buying reviews is not the way to go about bringing in new customers.

In the modern marketplace, the most valuable commodity of all is trust. People, millennials especially, want to do business with brands that offer authenticity. They want to be assured that your business has their best interests at heart, and that you’re willing to be open and honest with them.

Fake reviews are right up there with purchasing affiliate links in terms of ‘terrible marketing tactics only a fool would ever use.’ First of all, it a kick to the teeth for your customers – a dishonest, lazy tactic that ultimately shows you care more about making money than about helping your brand succeed. It demonstrates that you’re only in it for the money.

Never mind the fact that fake reviews are currently in the crosshairs of the FTC. Get caught relying on them to too great an extent, and you could wind up with not only a boatload of fines, but a reputation that’s damaged beyond repair. Because here’s the thing – consumer trust in online businesses is at an all time low.

Let me see if I can put together an analogy to help make my point more salient.

Let’s say you run one of two car dealerships in a small town. Business is good, but it could be a whole lot better – especially if you can somehow oust the competition. Trouble is, most of your lot consists of lemons.

One day, you get a bright idea. You’re going to pay a few people to spread glowing recommendations about your dealership, while also talking smack about your rival. Before long, you think, you’ll be the only dealership in town.

Only…there’s one problem. It’s a small town, and people talk. Eventually, word gets out about what you’ve done. Someone mentions they bought a lemon from you after a friend of a friend told them how great your cars were.

It doesn’t take long for your dealership to go out of business – no one trusts you anymore.

Right. So fake reviews are a horrible decision. But how exactly can you get people to review your products, then?

In a few ways.

  • Focus on providing excellent customer care through your online storefront. Make sure there’s always support personnel available to address any problems a customer might have.
  • Seek to constantly improve your products. If you receive a negative review, step back and ask yourself why you received that review. Sure, maybe it’s just sour grapes from the reviewer – but it also might indicate there’s something you can improve about that product.
  • Ask people after they’ve purchased something. A polite email or message on your store can go a long way towards generating good feedback.
  • Offer some sort of extra incentive for people who’ve purchased from you to review your products. Maybe they get access to a a webinar or mailing list, or maybe they receive an extra product for free.
  • Seek out influencers and offer them a product for free on the condition that they write an honest review about it. This can be risky – there’s a chance they’ll write a negative review. At the same time, it’s a risk that’s worth taking.
  • Make reviewing your products easy. If you’re selling through a service like Amazon, you’re already covered there – but if you’ve got your own storefront, offering people who’ve purchased from you the opportunity to review a product directly on its page is a good policy.
  • Respond to negative reviews – reach out and see what you can do to assuage the buyer’s concerns. You might be surprised how many dissatisfied reviewers you can turn into loyal customers with a few kind words and a bit of support.

So, to recap, buying fake reviews is bad. Not only is it lazy and dishonest, it’s also dangerous – both because of the reputational damage should you get caught and the potential fines you might suffer under the FTC.  If you’re really serious about seeing your business succeed, focus on marketing it honestly, and making it as high-quality as possible.

At the end of the day, that’ll get you further than anything else.

Hackers Hijack Popular Chrome Extension to Inject Code into Web Developers’ Browsers

“Web Developer” is a popular extension that adds various web developer tools to a variety of browsers.

Unfortunately, the fact that the Chrome edition of the Web Developer extension has over one million users has also made its author – San Francisco-based Chris Pederick – a target for attack.

Yesterday, Pederick had some bad news for his Chrome extension’s many users.

The Web Developer for Chrome account has been compromised and a hacked version of the extension (0.4.9) uploaded ?

Online criminals managed to compromise the Chrome Web Store account for the Web Developer extension after Pederick fell for the simplest and oldest trick in the book: a phishing attack.

Any idea how this could have happened? Did they hack into your Google account or is the Chrome Store not secure?

I stupidly fell for a phishing attack on my Google account ?

Once the hackers stole the account credentials, they uploaded a modified malicious version (0.4.9) of the extension that included code to inject money-making adverts into over a million users’ web browsers.

That’s not the kind of behavior that goes unnoticed by the extension’s typical users: savvy web developers. These individuals began leaving negative reviews for the extension, warning that its out-of-character behavior might be an indication that it had been hijacked.

Despite the disruption and annoyance that the insert ads would have caused for the extension’s users, they should probably feel relieved that the attacker didn’t attempt something more malicious. After all, it appears that it would have been possible to inject more dangerous code that might have been harder to spot with the naked eye.

For instance, because the Web Developer extension has been granted wide access to what happens in a user’s browser, a maliciously-modified version could potentially grab keystrokes or intercept everything being displayed on websites that a victim visits.

The attack on the Web Developer extension is just the latest in what appears to be a trend for criminals to target the accounts of popular browser extensions in an attempt to display revenue-generating adverts or spread malicious code.

Just last week, another developer described how its CopyFish Chrome extension had been compromised to insert spammy ads into websites as users surfed the internet.

Like Pederick, the developers of CopyFish had been tricked into handing their passwords over after receiving a communication which they believed had come from Google.

A new version of Web Developer for Chrome has since been made live, removing the compromised code. Users are advised by Pederick to update immediately.

Anyone who was running the compromised extension should consider changing any passwords that they have entered as well as wiping any login tokens and cookies used on sites they visited during the infection period