How To Build A Website With WordPress: The Beginner’s Guide

The post How To Build A Website With WordPress: The Beginner’s Guide appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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22+ Web Design Agency Recurring Revenue Ideas

This post originally appeared at 22+ Web Design Agency Recurring Revenue Ideas via ShivarWeb

Web Design Agency Recurring Revenue Ideas

Every web design agency’s core problem is that large, profitable projects end while costs continue month after month.

Steady, monthly, and ideally passive, recurring revenue solves this core problem. Recurring revenue means that –

  • You can be patient and wait for the right clients
  • You don’t have to chase bad leads
  • You can hire & keep quality, long-term staff
  • You can multiply your business valuation when it comes to sell
  • You can smooth your cash flow & expenses rather than rely on credit
  • You have time to improve project processes & profitability

In other words, recurring revenue rocks.

Recurring revenue is why so many web design agencies try to add marketing services. It seems natural to complement project-based website design with retainer-based website marketing.

But website marketing creates a whole range of costs and risks. The number one risk is that marketing is out of your skill set…and so you actually lose clients from poor performance.

Instead, I think there’s a better way.

The key is to present your web design clients with an ongoing package of web design-related services.

The package should be invoiced monthly and should automatically recur until the package is canceled.

The package should be high-value for clients. They should be purchasing peace of mind, convenience, and high ROI.

And lastly, the package should be high profit margin with low labor, lots of automation, and obvious performance metrics for you. It’s a win-win-win for everyone.

But what kind of web design-related services can be packaged together? Here are some ideas.

Web Hosting

Web hosting is the most natural fit for any web design agency. Your client’s website needs to live somewhere. And if you have a client who doesn’t already have hosting or specific hosting needs, you can provide website hosting as part of a monthly recurring package.

There are tons of options to provide the service.

  • You can purchase and mark up a regular website hosting plan.
  • You can purchase a Reseller Hosting account and host your client’s site there.
  • You can also create a hybrid option if your client has specific needs like Cloud hosting or email infrastructure.

Either way, you can have total control over pricing since you know your client better than the hosting company.

Upsides: You can generate high profit margins with low labor. Hosting companies will provide most backend support along with front-end support tools. You can also set up the account to provide additional services with lower risk (like security & backups).

Downsides: If something breaks, you own the problem. Your reputation is also totally dependent on another company. It will also require careful setup with impeccable quality control. Your client may have specific requirements to maintain website ownership.

Software / Tools: You’ll need good Reseller Hosting from a support-oriented hosting company (I use InMotion Hosting). If you are marking up a plan for each client, use a company with account management tools. For example, InMotion Hosting uses WebPro, and WP Engine has proprietary tools built just for agencies.

Example of a Management Tool

Uptime Monitoring

Websites can go down for a whole host of reasons. And when they go down, speed is critical. Uptime monitoring gives a client peace of mind. They’ll know that if their website goes down, somebody knows about it and can work to diagnose and fix the issue.

Upsides: Uptime monitoring can be completely automated. If you are using a reputable hosting company, they’ll handle most troubleshooting and response.

Downsides: You will be on the hook for getting the setup right. And if there’s a major cause, you’ll have to spend time, energy, and expertise making things right. Also, you can’t charge a lot of money for monitoring as a stand-alone service.

Software / Tools: I use JetPack for all my WordPress website uptime notifications. For non-WordPress websites, there’s Pingdom and StatusCake.

Security Monitoring

Cybersecurity is on every website owners’ mind – no matter how small they are. Even run of the mill spam can dramatically affect an infected website. Security monitoring provides clients with peace of mind and prevention of much bigger, more expensive issues.

Upsides: You can automate most monitoring and charge quite a bit, even as a stand-alone service.

Downsides: You will take on the risk of missing issues and fixing anything that comes up. If there’s a major issue, you’ll have to spend time, money, and expertise to make things right. You’ll also need a lawyer to make sure your firm does not have any legal exposure to potential lawsuits.

Software / Tools: I use JetPack for WordPress website security monitoring and Sucuri for my non-WordPress security monitoring.

Software Updates

Everyone (so…everyone) who has a smartphone knows about software updates. They are annoying, frustrating, time-consuming…but also critical. Unless you are building in pure HTML / CSS, websites are just big bundles of software. Software updates are critical, but can also cause problems. Clients will pay for someone to safely and consistently apply software updates.

Upsides: You can automate most software updates and charge a consistently high fee. Your client is unlikely to ever cancel the service. Your client will also benefit by saving money on future fixes.

Downsides: If a software update goes awry, you’ll be on the hook to fix the issue. You’ll also need to stay up to date on exactly what different software updates do to prevent conflicts.

Software / Tools: I use JetPack to manage my multiple WordPress website updates. I know that a lot of people also like ManageWP (now GoDaddy Pro). For non-WordPress websites, you’ll have to seek out a platform-specific solution.

Website Backups

A website backup is Website Ownership 101. Website backups have to be created and stored securely. Like software updates, clients know that backups need to happen, and know that they are time-consuming. They are buying peace of mind and convenience.

Upsides: You can automate the backup process and charge for both the service & storage. Your client is unlikely to cancel the service.

Downsides: You are responsible for creating a foolproof & consistent process. You’ll also have to adjust fees depending on how often a clients’ site gets backed up.

Software / Tools: I use JetPack’s VaultPress module to keep an automated backup for my WordPress website. Many hosting companies will also bundle a backup manager with your subscription. InMotion Hosting has its Backup Manager available on Reseller plans.

Software Warranty

Software breaks, especially software that has prerequisites or integrations. A software warranty is a guarantee that you’ll fix any software issue that comes up for free in exchange for a regular fee. Clients are purchasing peace of mind and convenience.

Upsides: Like appliance warranties, you can provide high value for high fees and little labor. Since you designed & built the website, you should have an intimate knowledge of software risks.

Downsides: You are getting paid to take on risk. If something happens, you are on the hook for fixing the problem. You’ll need to carefully understand your clients’ needs and software risks. You’ll need to budget for hiring any needed expertise if something happens.

Software / Tools: No tools needed. However, you’ll need to maintain a familiarity with all your client’s software needs. Keep tabs on every software update so that you can fix any potential issues.

Analytics Reporting

Every client wants to know how many visitors their website has. But few want to learn how to dig around in Google Analytics. Most would be happy with a PDF of some key takeaways. You can provide this ongoing service by setting up Google Analytics with metrics that matter to them and sending monthly PDF reports.

Google Analytics Report

Upsides: Analytics Reporting is a low labor and high value service. You can automate the reports and let Google do the heavy lifting. Additionally, it can allow you to dip your toe into retainer marketing services.

Downsides: You’ll need to learn a bit about Google Analytics and set up the account correctly.

Software / Tools: I use Google Analytics to set up regular monthly reports. There is a lot of scope for customization though. Spend time getting the right Dashboards, segments, and KPIs (key performance indicators) set up, then automate.

Marketing Reporting

Most clients also love to know how their Google rankings are doing, who is linking to them, and how their local listings are doing. There are many marketing intelligence tools that will provide white-label marketing reports in PDF format for you to pass along to your clients.

SEMrush-Reports

Upsides: You can subscribe to a marketing intelligence tool and have your clients basically pay for your subscription. Find one that has PDF reports (like SEMrush) and set it to automate your reporting. It’s low labor and high value.

Downsides: Few downsides, except that you may have to field questions about what the metrics mean and propose solutions.

Software / Tools: I use SEMrush to set up regular marketing reports. These reports can complement Google Analytics. They are also *very* high value for many clients. SEMrush has a clean setup with white label reports available, so you can provide proprietary data at very high markups with your brand everywhere.

SEO Audits

There are three areas of SEO –

  • Off-page – promoting your website to other websites.
  • On-page – creating content that is relevant to search queries.
  • Technical, aka “in-page” – make sure your site is crawlable & indexable.

Unless you are running a large site, most technical SEO and on-page can now be done with automated tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush.

Even if you don’t provide SEO services, providing automated audits can be worthwhile for clients.

Upsides: You can automate this service and bundle it with other reports for higher fees. You can also use it to show the quality of your web design work or recommend new content or new initiatives. It can also allow to test marketing retainers.

Downsides: You’ll need to understand the terminology and reporting to field any questions from your clients. You’ll also need to be able to fix or at least diagnose any major issues that come up.

Software / Tools: I use SEMrush to provide SEO Audit reports in addition to Google Search Console. These reports will pull usability and small technical tasks. These reports allow you to maintain a conversation about ongoing improvements. You can bill to fix any issues or refer the client to an SEO firm.

Expertise Retainer

Expertise retainers are when clients pay every month for the right to speak to you about their project. At a project-based agency, new projects demand all your attention, because that’s what pays the bills. But many completed projects will inevitably need some support.

Expertise or Support retainers allow your previous clients to stay at the front of the line when contacting you about a problem. Expertise retainers are common at the higher levels of professional services (e.g., corporate law). By definition, they require no deliverables. They only require that you remain available.

Upsides: You’ll have potentially 100% profit margin fees. Taking care of past clients will no longer come at the expense of current clients, since everyone will be a current client. You’ll be able to maintain longer relationships and make recommendations without your own financial considerations.

Downsides: You’ll need to be in business for a long time with lots of happy clients to pull off an expertise or support retainer. Many clients are not used to paying monthly fees for no deliverables. You’ll have to position this service well for clients to see the value. You’ll also have to carefully define scope so that an expertise retainer doesn’t scope creep into a website maintenance retainer.

Software / Tools: I use FreshBooks to set up recurring billing for any retainers if you don’t already have an invoicing software setup.

Graphic Design

If you provided custom design for a clients’ website, then they will likely need a similar design for all their social media channels and website updates.

A graphic design retainer allows the client to request a certain number of graphic designs per month that fit with their brand / website.

Upsides: You’ll solve an immediate & tangible need with a low churn rate and potentially high fees compared to the amount of labor. There are lots of tools that can speed up the process.

Downsides: This service is hard to automate, but it can be low labor and high value with the right software tools / designers. There’s a risk of scope creep and revisions increasing labor costs.

Software / Tools: I use a mix of Fiverr, Canva, and Stencil to quickly work up basic graphic design. There are also services like DesignPickle that provide unlimited graphic design.

Content Editing

Even if your client’s website has a content management system, I’ve found that most clients simply don’t want to edit their own website. It’s too unfamiliar. They’d rather email a “website person.” You can charge monthly fees to be their Webmaster.

I’ve had clients pay me more to edit their website over the course of 2 years than they paid for the entire design.

Upsides: You’ll solve an immediate and tangible need for potentially high fees, depending on the client.

Downsides: It has the risk of lots of tedious, high labor tasks in addition to scope creep.

Software / Tools: Most content has to be edited manually. But tools like WordPress’s new Gutenberg blocks and apps like Grammarly make it fast.

Content Refresh

This service pairs well with an SEO Audit service. Think of a content refresh like pressure washing a website. Website content gets stale over time. Businesses need seasonal content. You can go ahead and schedule out the updates on a monthly retainer.

Upsides: You’ll have an easy, straightforward sell with tasks that can be planned well ahead of time.

Downsides: You’ll have to define scope and budget for writers. There’s little to automate, though you can plan for labor costs ahead of time.

Software / Tools: Most content refresh will need manual updates based on existing knowledge. But I have hired freelancers on Fiverr to help with large edits along with WordPress plugins like Better Search & Replace.

Content Creation

Clients always need new content. Traditionally, agencies will sell content creation as a stand-alone project or sell it as part of a marketing campaign. But you can also sell it as a part of a monthly retainer.

Upsides: You’ll have a tangible service with a low churn rate. You can also budget for a long-term freelancer or employee. You can test out marketing retainers without a large commitment.

Downsides: It’ll require labor costs and will be hard to automate.

Software / Tools: I write a lot of content myself. But I’ve also used Fiverr, WordAgents, and ProBlogger. I’ve also worked with copywriting pros like Katelyn Dramis, Evan Porter, Nebo Agency, Knucklepuck Media, and Copywriting Course to scale up campaigns.

Social Media & Email Scheduling

Social media / email marketing presence is essential for every business, even if the business doesn’t really need a social media strategy or social engagement. You can sell your clients on convenience and take on their tedious social media tasks.

Upsides: You can charge a high fee for low labor, tangible tasks. You can also use software to automate most of the process and outsource a lot of creation.

Downsides: You’ll have to be careful and considerate of your clients’ reputation and maintain communication around posting details and project scope. You don’t want to accidentally take over social media response and customer support.

Software / Tools: I use TailWind for Pinterest & Instagram and Buffer for Facebook / Twitter. I use MailChimp my email marketing. My clients mostly use either Aweber or ConstantContact.

Software Revenue Share

Many website & software platforms offer a revenue share for agencies who use their platform. You’ll get recurring fees from the platform as long as your client’s site lives on that platform.

Upsides: You’ll get truly passive, guaranteed revenue in addition to other platform perks. The platform will also handle a lot of the support & security. Your clients will also benefit from a solid platform and can reduce their “vendor risk” away from your agency.

Downsides: Your client will be less attached to your agency (though that can also be a sales point for you). You’ll also have to sell your client on the platform for their website.

Software / Tools: I use Affluent to keep track of all partnership / affiliate revenue, though some software requires manual checking. Shopify offers a 20% revenue share for ecommerce websites (more for Enterprise sites). Aweber also offers revenue share for email. WP Engine offers revenue share for WordPress hosting.

Software Licensing

If your client’s site is using software that you’ve developed, you charge licensing fees.

Upsides: You’ll have recurring revenue with 100% profit margin for as long as your client uses your website.

Downsides: Software licensing can introduce some obstacles to closing on web design contracts. Many clients expect a single upfront fee, so you’ll have to position the software licensing carefully.

Software / Tools: No need for tools, just an understanding of copyright and software licensing – especially if using WordPress.

Marketing Revenue Share

If you don’t provide marketing services, you can still refer clients to partner firms in exchange for a referral fee or revenue share.

Upsides: You can generate marketing retainer revenue without starting up a marketing division. Your clients can also benefit from working with a reputable marketing firm with a close relationship with their design firm.

Downsides: You’ll have to balance the referral process with your client. You’ll also have to find the right marketing firm, since you’ll both depend on each other to provide good work and good referrals.

Software / Tools: Tools will depend on your partner company. The best solution is via similar CRM software like HubSpot or SalesForce.

Website Upgrade Installment

You’ll sign a client to basically pre-pay for a future website redesign.

Upsides: You can secure a client for future projects while smoothing your cash flow.

Downsides: This arrangement will only be interesting for a certain type of client.

Software / Tools: No tools are needed, though you will need to scope the project well.

Website Optimization

You’ll make regular data-driven optimizations to your client’s website.

Upsides: You can provide a tangible, recurring service for a high-fee.

Downsides: You’ll have to tackle many misconceptions and really sell the service without harming the reputation of your web design work (i.e., “why isn’t my website optimized from the start?”). You’ll also have to scope the work well.

Software / Tools: I use Google PageSpeed Insights, Google Mobile Friendly Test, and SEMrush’s Site Health tool to find website elements that should be improved.

A/B Testing & Reporting

You can provide regular A/B Tests and updates for clients based on a regular, consistent schedule.

Upsides: You can provide a tangible, very high value service for a high fee. You can also automate portions of the process.

Downsides: You may need to coordinate and/or compete with your client’s marketing firm. Not every client is a good fit for A/B Testing, since you really need a significant amount of traffic for relevant results.

Software / Tools: I don’t do a lot of A/B testing, but tools like OptinMonster are great for testing email opt-ins while Google Optimize and Optimizely will help you test entire pages.

Surveys & User Testing

You can run user feedback surveys and regular user testing for clients.

Upsides: You’ll have a tangible, recurring service for a medium to high fee. You can also automate portions of the process.

Downsides: Unless you have the right client, it can be hard to prove the service’s ongoing value. You may have to compete / coordinate with your client’s marketing firm.

Software / Tools: I use Google Surveys and Forms, but there are plenty of other tools available, depending on exactly what you are testing or surveying for.

Next Steps

One-off projects will always bring in most of the revenue for a web design agency. But that doesn’t mean that recurring revenue isn’t important.

Investors diversify between exciting stocks and dependable bonds. Car dealerships push car sales, but rely on service centers. It’s the balance & diversification that’s important.

Start by making a master list of recurring services that you can offer. Put them in different packages. Make sure they are upfront and known for your leads. They can help position you as the agency that will take care of your clients before and after the website launch.

You’ll build a stable, consistent business that will benefit you and your clients.

If you found this post useful at all, be sure to link to it from your blog or share it across your social accounts. Peace!

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How To Choose a New Local Business Location with Digital Marketing Data [Case Study]

This post originally appeared at How To Choose a New Local Business Location with Digital Marketing Data [Case Study] via ShivarWeb

How To Choose New Local Business Location

So you have a rapidly growing local business, and you are looking to expand. You have the brand, the capital, and the processes to open a second or even third location.

You’re in a growing metro area with lots of opportunity and open real estate.

And yet, you know that every real estate agent and business analyst will tell you that long-term success depends on “location, location, location.”

Now, if you were a national retail chain or a franchise owner, you could hire a location consultant to comb through census data and expensive proprietary business intelligence.

But you aren’t sure it’s truly worth the price. After all, your local real estate agent knows most of the metro market. And you generally know what the Census data says…even though the Census data is almost 10 years old.

So what can you use to gather hard data about what locations are most likely to succeed?

That is the question that EZ Dent of Athens, Georgia faced in early 2020 while scoping out new location opportunities for 2021. To answer the question, my team at ShivarWeb turned to EZ Dent’s existing digital marketing data.

Here’s how we combed through the data and how you can too.

Using Google Trends

Google Trends is a tool that allows you to see the relative popularity of search queries. It’s a little counter-intuitive to use since it measures total popularity of a query or topic in relation to all queries or topics in a specific region.

For location scouting, though, it can provide a general picture depending on your industry. You can find out what cities within a metro are “hubs” for your industry.

Google Trends

In our initial research, Norcross and Smyrna both have known automobile repair shop hubs in their city. It’s good to see that observation confirmed with Google Trends.

It’s also good to see that those hubs show up in search data. Google Trends doesn’t work for low volume or specific queries.

But since our observations hold with a larger data set, we can assume that they’ll work on a smaller scale (i.e., small cities with an automotive hub will have a similar percentage of search traffic).

Takeaway: Use Google Trends to get a sense of general location trends in your area.

Using Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a tool that tracks user behavior on your website. Whenever a visitor arrives on your website, it captures location data based on IP address.

Under the Audience → Geo → Location report, you can drill down to the city-level of all your website visitors. For location scouting, this data allows you to see not only where your website visitors are located, but also where your best website visitors are located.

Based on anecdotes, we knew that we had an outsized number of visitors from Hall, Barrow, and Rockdale counties.

Google Analytics

Now, that data could show that there are a lot of prospective customers in those locations. But it could also just show that the website we were working with performed well in those locations due to a range of factors.

To look at the opportunity for different locations, we needed to look at a few other data sources.

Takeaway: Use your location report in Google Analytics to find locations where you are out-performing.

Using Google Ads’ Search Performance

Google Ads will provide the largest store of information for location scouting, especially if you have been running ads for some time.

Within Google Ads, we looked at several data points. 

First, we looked at what locations drove the most clicks and impressions. From that data, we could understand both the total market (from impressions) and interest (click through rate).

Google Ads

Second, we looked at competition based on cost per click and impression share. These numbers varied wildly depending on location, so it’s a really good data point. If you see lower costs per click but consistent volume, you are likely working against less competition.

Third, we looked at actual keyword search terms in our historical data. This data will have the keywords with both location names and “near me” modifiers.

The location names can indicate how people refer to their location (e.g., city or ZIP or neighborhood, etc), and the “near me” modifiers can show how many people prefer a location nearby over a location within moderate driving distance.

Google Ads

Fourth, we looked at the Keyword Planner Forecast tool to understand seasonal and geographic variations. Google will only provide ballpark, averaged volumes. But this data exists nowhere else in the world.

Takeaway: Use Google Ads to find the most granular data about where your prospective customers are and what they are looking for.

Using Google Search Console

Google Search Console will show you how your website performs organically. If your website has more than a year of history, you can drill down in the Search Performance report not only with the geographic filter, but also with your keywords to get a sense of opportunity and performance for different locations.

With Search Console, we looked at data points similar to Google Ads.

First, even though we couldn’t drill down to city level filters in Search Console, we could connect the data to Google Analytics. We could look at search queries by location within Google Analytics to get a sense of organic search behavior and performance by location.

Search Console

Second, we could sort keywords by location modifier and by near me. Pair that data with our Google Ads to understand search behavior and terminology by location.

Takeaway: If you have a strong presence in organic search, you can find lots of useful location data within your Search Console Performance report.

Using Google My Business Data

Google My Business is Google’s hub for local businesses. It has an Insights tab that can provide data from your local listing in Google Search & Maps.

Google My Business

With Google My Business, you can pull search query data specifically from searches that trigger a local listing. It might be similar to your Search Console data, but it also might be wildly different, depending on how your website performs for local searches.

Google My Business

Even though this data can’t provide predictive data for locations that you are scouting, it can provide hidden gems to help you understand how people find your current location. You can roll those gems into hyperlocal marketing.

We were able to take those insights and roll it back into our Search Console, Ads, and Analytics data to understand how & where the best potential customers searched.

Takeaway: Google My Business is the only place where you can gather Google Maps & organic call data from Google. You can use it to understand how your customers interact with your locations on Google.

Using Facebook Ads Data

While Google operates in the world of customer behavior, Facebook operates in the world of customer demo- and psycho-graphics. Facebook’s Ads and Insights products allow businesses to see characteristics of their best existing customers…and then take those characteristics and perform a “lookalike” search in prospective locations.

Facebook Insights

We were able to take this data and find the total available market of ideal customers within a radius of our prospective locations.

Takeaway: Facebook has the best data around potential customers of any source on the Internet. Use it to carefully scout for high-impact locations.

Using CRM Data

Hubspot (or whatever CRM you use) allows you to track customers from the beginning of their journey all the way to after the sale. Hubspot and many others track location via IP addresses within each customer’s profile. Hubspot in particular has a Map My Customers integration which allows you to visually see where your best customers live – and how far they are from your current location.

In our location scouting, we were able to take this radius data and pair it our other data. We created a few location options that would provide the most productive location for the business. These locations were as far away from the current business as possible without going too far for support, all while capturing as many customers as possible within a certain radius.

Takeaway: Use your CRM data to map your existing customers. It’s a location scouting technique that large organizations pay millions for that you can do with existing digital tools.

Putting it all together with Google Maps

Google Maps is a ubiquitous tool that also has a map making tool. We used it to plot existing automotive real estate hubs in different cities.

Google Maps

From there, we ranked the best prospective locations and used Google Maps to outline rent prices and options.

From there, we found two locations that offered the best promise to move forward with a real estate search.

Takeaway: Use Google Maps to quickly narrow potential locations in areas where you aren’t familiar. Look for industry clusters to create a spreadsheet of locations to tour with a realtor.

Next Steps

Location scouting doesn’t need to be an expensive, consultant-led operation. It also doesn’t have to be an exercise in intuition or professional guessing. 

Your existing digital toolset likely has all the data that you need to make an informed decision. The key is to gather it, sort it, and make it useful along with your existing business data & business goals.

If you’ve done your job right, you’ll be set up for success beyond opening day.

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How To Start A Delivery Business In 9 Easy, Hassle-Free Steps

The post How To Start A Delivery Business In 9 Easy, Hassle-Free Steps appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Why Point Of Sale Data Is The Secret To Understanding Your Business And Making More Sales

The post Why Point Of Sale Data Is The Secret To Understanding Your Business And Making More Sales appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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20+ Considerations on The Future of Web Hosting, Website Builders & Digital Marketing Beyond 2020

This post originally appeared at 20+ Considerations on The Future of Web Hosting, Website Builders & Digital Marketing Beyond 2020 via ShivarWeb

Considerations on The Future of Web Hosting, Website Builders & Digital Marketing

There has never been a time when running a website has been more accessible, convenient, and profitable than now.

But there has also never been a time when running a website has been so confusing, frustrating, and winner-take-all than now.

And that contradiction comes because some of the major computing & networking innovations from the 2010s are finally coming to the everyday Internet.

And as the 2010s close out and the 2020s begin, here are some of my considerations (in no specific order) that I think would be useful for DIYers, freelancers, small online business owners, and anyone planning an online presence.

Nobody Fully Knows What Is Going On

This post is deliberately a listicle because I don’t have a grand unified idea about the future of running a website on the Internet. And I’m skeptical of anyone who does.

Cloud computing, machine learning, APIs, high-quality open-source software, free toolkits, mobile devices, streaming, and the lumbering giant behavior of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft all point to continuing massive disruption of entire industries that no one can predict or prepare for.

The Website + Marketing Tool Model Is Gone

For years, people built a website on a multi-purpose host with a custom domain. And then they used 3rd party tools & distribution channels to promote content, products & services that lived on the website.

But now, the website on a domain is simply one tool in a toolkit. In fact, you can build a model where your website is a backend for your other marketing tools…or you can use a marketing tool to build & run your website.

This shift is clearest with online stores. Between Buyable Pins, Checkout on Instagram, Amazon integration, dropshipping APIs, offline pop-up shops, etc – the website is just another piece in the business puzzle.

Now, websites are still critical because they remain the only piece of that puzzle that you can control & own as an asset. But…I do think they are losing their relative importance. And their importance depends massively on what industry you are in.

Platform Choice > Tool Choice

The demise of the website + marketing tool model will mean that website owners will choose their platform of choice rather than their tools of choice based on what business they have.

Online retail is in this place already. Very few successful retailers have a collection of tools. It’s all about integrations and platform. But increasingly, every business sector will move to this model.

Local small businesses will look at platforms that do their primary function plus whatever integrates well with that platform. For example, a website builder will not compete with other website builders. Instead, the website builder will compete with the CRM platform and the email marketing platform…because all three will have a website builder, CRM, and email marketing tool bundled in a single platform

In other words, a website builder like Wix no longer competes with Squarespace. Instead, Wix competes with MailChimp and HubSpot and Google.

In online retail, Shopify and WooCommerce and BigCommerce don’t really compete with each other. They all compete, as a group, against Amazon, Instagram, Depop, MailChimp, Square, Salesforce, and eBay.

In hosting, hosting companies no longer compete with each other as much as they compete against Google Business Suite, Hubspot, hosted website builders, etc.

Now, there will still be incredible power & opportunity for website owners who have the resources & wherewithal to mix & match services to get the best of all worlds. Those website owners will be able to maintain costs and control where others will cede more power to their platform of choice.

Convenience Killed Cost & Control

The big reason why DIYers are a declining & disrupted market is that when consumers distill down what they truly care about – convenience always wins.

The same reasons driving the growth of takeout, restaurant, delivery, and meal kits at the expense of cooking are also driving the growth of online platforms at the expense of websites + tools.

If you are a DIYer, it will pay to be hyper-aware of what your true wants, needs and goals are – and what tradeoffs you are willing to make. Platforms are great in many ways, but beyond 2020, the most successful DIYers will be able to manage the tradeoffs of platforms.

If you are a freelancer, it will lead to bigger rewards to both specialize in a platform and maintain familiarity with how adjacent choices work. Even if your clients do not know about or understand platform choices, you can still use them to streamline your business and add value without adding extra work.

Spam, Security & Speed Killed What Could Have Been

I am a huge fan of the Open Web. Regardless of the short-term rewards of the platform of the day, it’s still worth investing in a website for the long-term.

But in 2020, even the most die-hard prophets preaching against Google, social media companies, cloud computing, hosted builders, and big corporations will have to admit that the vulnerabilities in the Open Web & running / managing your own website are pushing people to big platforms as much as those big platforms are pulling people.

For example, Google might be pulling people & businesses to hand over their personal email & confidential documents. But hackers, spammers, and human impatience are doing plenty of pushing as well.

For example, I would *love* to run conversations via blog comments instead of using Twitter. But my blog comments are like an absolute honeypot for the worst of the Internet.

Another example, I would love to avoid ecommerce transaction fees and SSL fees but hackers only need one shot. Security is difficult and, honestly, much more effective to do at scale across thousands of websites.

Most of my clients gain a lot from controlling their own hosting rather than using a hosted website solution. But I have to set expectations to prep clients for the amount of time & money it takes to keep the site secure & speedy beyond using a solid hosting company. Web visitors will absolutely ditch a website in a heartbeat over a millisecond. That’s why so many publishers with massive brands are blindly handing control over to Google’s AMP initiative. Even the biggest brands in the world can’t compete with human impatience.

Traffic Sources Are Consolidated & Fragmented

Facebook’s properties & Google’s properties will continue to become bigger. But they’ll also become more winner-take-all. But also, a much longer tail of random completely unpredictable traffic sources will continue to fragment.

Even more traffic will be “dark” or untrackable. Planning a marketing strategy will increasingly rely solely on your target audience rather than your target traffic source.

Organic Traffic Is A Bonus

Treat any organic traffic from Google, Facebook, Pinterest, etc like a bonus. You can’t project or plan long-term around organic traffic. Agencies, freelancers, etc will have to adjust pricing and clients will have to adjust expectations.

Digital marketers spent years making fun of John Wanamaker old-fashioned quote that “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

Online attribution was supposed to solve that problem. But now, no matter how creepy your tracking and attribution is…consumer & traffic behavior is so unpredictable that you won’t be able to truly plan long-term…unless you pay.

Marketers Growth Demands Killed What Could Have Been

More and more platforms & websites will be “walled gardens”* due to pressure to grow…and grow…and grow some more. The Web could have been a world of accessible, free-flowing information where many businesses and types of businesses made a living. But platforms have to be more closed to make more money off users. And as valuable traffic has declined, website owners have become more desperate and more annoying to drive up ad rates.

*Even previously open platforms like Reddit, Pinterest and Twitter are closing in.

For example – see basically every recipe website ever. As Google and Pinterest strive to keep more users on their sites, serving their ads…recipe content websites have become more desperate to monetize what little traffic they do have…leading to horrendous car salesman-like levels of unusability.

Users Killed What Could Have Been

Users want convenience above all. For all the pulling that Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, etc are doing…users are also pushing attention there…because it’s convenient.

For example, I have no idea what to say to website owners about voice search. And anyone who does have a “strategy” for voice search – I call B*S* on. Users want it. I want it. It’s amazing, but you can’t build a publishing business or profitable content marketing strategy around it.

1,000 True Fans Is Still True

That said, the future will always have a small, tough, but sustainable spot for Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans.

On balance, there has never been a better time to run a website or online presence than right now. If you have a good product, service, or concepts, there are likely 1000 True Fans that can & will support your work. Sure, there were “Golden Ages” of organic Facebook traffic, organic Google traffic, etc…but those eras had serious issues and limitations as well.

There Is No Magic Bullet

There is no sure-fire way to build a successful website. I’ve been working in digital marketing for years now. I know that in SEO, there used to always be a sure-fire tactic that was working. Now, there are tactics that work marginally better than others. There are things that you can focus more or less on…but the magic secrets are gone.

Same goes with Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, etc. The only real magic bullet now is hard creative work, constant research, careful planning, constant learning…and a whole lot of luck.

Opportunity Costs Are Very Real

When you choose to do Action A instead of Action B, there is the cost of doing Action A plus the cost of *not* doing Action B.

In a world of limited marketing resources, choosing to create social media posts means that you are also missing out on *not* creating blog posts.

Back in the world where everything online was growing, you could afford to miss one big opportunity for another…because most every opportunity was growing.

Now, mobile devices are ubiquitous. Desktop traffic is actually declining. And many social networks have reached maturity. Choosing one over another or bouncing around chasing “shiny objects” has real costs above whatever you are paying for your main investment.

Even with aspects of running your website, many website features are standardized and predictable. There are opportunity costs to choosing what part of your site to improve or leave alone.

Lookalikes Killed Privacy

I wrote a guide to tracking marketing data on your website. I actively use any & all data to help clients & aid my own research. But on this website & my personal website, I’ve deliberately removed all tracking tags except for Google’s. Why?

Well, sure, there’s the token virtue and hand-washing hypocrisy part of it.

But also, I found that my own retargeting & tracking did not matter in comparison to the massive opportunity presented by lookalike audiences and the data gathered by the big platforms.

Because here’s the thing about “big data” that people miss. It’s that individuals do not matter. All that matters is the sample size.

Every single person has a lookalike about some part of themselves. No matter how special or unique you think you are; no matter how carefully you avoid trackers or cookies or online ads, you can be personally marketed without any kind of tracking to due to lookalike audiences.

Here’s an analogy. Think about the world of DNA testing & genealogy. There are real fears & real consequences to having your DNA in a database. But protecting your own DNA is near-pointless. If a company (or government) knows the DNA from a couple cousins or aunts or uncles or grandparents or a sibling…then they know yours as well.

Lookalikes are the same. Even if Nate Shivar avoids all retargeting trackers, there are still enough people out there similar to me that will allow marketers to reach me if they want.

So – what does this mean? It means that whether you have a large audience data set or not, you can still think creatively about how to profile & reach your audience.*

*that is – until privacy can get solved in a meaningful way. Be sure to tell your political leaders that this needs to be solved at the national / international level. Individual choice & freedom in this issue is a moot point.

Alternative Channels Matter

In investing, modern portfolio theory says that diversification pays for itself because it maximizes expected return even if it fails to maximize actual returns.

In other words, you may know that Investment A is your best bet. But you should still make Investment B as well, because you can’t be sure that Investment A will be amazing.

Same with traffic sources and alternative channels and even website tools.

You may be pretty sure that your priority is the right one. But in a world of uncertainty, alternatives are good to have.

Now – going back to Opportunity Costs Are Real – you have to be honest with the tradeoffs. If you spend time on YouTube in addition to Google Search, you might lose some in Google. But you also won’t lose it all if you have some investment in YouTube.

Web Hosting Is a Utility

Amazon made the technology of hosting files a commodity service. Web hosting companies no longer compete on technology. In fact, they don’t want to compete on technology…because Amazon / Microsoft / Google win on that. Web hosting companies make money on what they provide in addition to basic hosting.

That can include support, onboarding, graphical server management tools, bundled 3rd party services, etc. But the main point is that if hosting is a utility – then anybody can offer it as a feature…not just web hosting companies.

There will be even more plugin makers, software makers, theme designers, tool makers, etc that will simply bundle & resell hosting as a feature.

Website Builders Are a Feature

I remember when I used my first drag & drop builder in the early 2000s with Homestead. It was a “WYSIWYG” builder. And it was terrible. Actually, every WYSIWYG builder was terrible…until just a few years ago.

Now…developer and marketer snobs will turn their nose up at drag & drop…but the software is actually pretty good….and it’s only getting better.

If drag & drop were microwavable pizzas in the 2000s, they became Domino’s in the 2010s…and now they are more like Mellow Mushroom pizza. Nothing like your local sit-down Italian haunt…but consistent and really solid.

All this means is that the core website building software can be a feature bundled with everything else rather than a stand-alone business. That’s why Google, MailChimp, Shopify, HostGator, InMotion, GoDaddy, and a dozen other non-website builder companies are bundling free website builders that otherwise compete directly with Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, etc.

SEO Is a Tactic

For years, the “contract” between publishers and Google was that Google gets to copy & analyze copyrighted content in exchange for free organic traffic.

If publishers made their content easier for Google to copy & analyze (i.e., “search engine optimization“), then Google would reward them with even more free organic traffic.

It created a virtuous cycle that worked for everyone. Sure, Google had to deal with publishers who took advantage of loopholes. And publishers had to waste some time dealing changing guidelines and features (remember Author markup?).

But on whole, the deal worked for everyone.

In fact, you could build an entire marketing strategy around the deal. That’s how entire businesses got built. Help Google and they’ll help you.

But, that deal has broken down. As Google focuses more on users and advertisers – publishers will get left out more and more. And as SEO as a strategy goes away, it will really only remain as a tactic in a broader strategy of organic traffic from all the places.

IRL Original Content Is Underestimated

The Internet makes copying & sharing more convenient than ever. In fact, it’s so convenient that we often forget that there are other sources of information in the real world.

But even more so, we forget that information in the real world is the source for information on the Internet.

In fact, this instinct is true not just among social media users but also among serious website owners and professional journalists.

Because of this instinct for convenient & copyable information – there is a growing premium on original information gathered from the real world.

Anyone can get a screengrab from Google Earth. But not many people will take a picture of a location. And which is more useful & unique?

Anyone can get a screengrab from social media…but not many people will go an compose a proper photo in context. And which is more useful & unique?

Anyone can make a drawing or an illustration…but not many people will make an IRL video or photo sequence. And which is more useful & unique?

On my websites & my clients’ websites – I am continually amazed at how often original, IRL images get copied, cited & linked-to. It’s amazing.

It’s no magic bullet, but it’s the most magical of all bullets that SEO’s & website owners have.

IRL Data Is Underestimated

On a related note, data copying and analyzing is easy. IRL data gathered from real people is harder and harder to gather and share.

That’s what makes the US Census so invaluable. But that’s also what makes companies’ internal data so valuable and why some companies use it for incredible link building & PR efforts.

Above & Beyond Pays Off Even More

Regardless of hosting platform, marketing toolset, marketing strategy or collection of tactics – going above and beyond the competition will provide winner-take-all dividends.

Onward!

The Internet & globalization continually push towards sharper and sharper winner-take-all markets for money & attention. And they also increase the long-tail of choice. And technology is continually disrupting itself. Until those core forces are fully understood, you have to play the game.

Focus on using products that you understand and match your goals. Focus on marketing strategies based on audiences that you understand and match your financial goals.

Onward!

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Top 10 VoIP Providers For Small Business In 2019

The post Top 10 VoIP Providers For Small Business In 2019 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Zoho Sites Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Zoho Website Builder

Zoho is a software company that has a suite of products designed to help business owners get their businesses up and running online. Their website builder, Zoho Sites, is an all-inclusive website builder, which means it includes everything you need to create your site (from the builder itself to the hosting).

See Zoho’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave Zoho’s website builder a try for a full Zoho Sites Website Builder review. But before I get into the pros and cons of my review, let’s dive into an overview about tools to build a website.

There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.

In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

What Is Zoho Sites?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Zoho Sites lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.

Using Zoho is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.

Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like Zoho, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, Zoho Sites competes with all-inclusive website builders like GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, Jimdo, Yahoo!, Strikingly, and WordPress.com.

Compared to their direct competition, they focus on ease of use and integration with their plethora of Zoho products. Zoho offers several website templates you can customize with no coding or design experience required, and also gives you the opportunity to integrate with their marketing and optimization tools.

One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using Zoho Sites Website Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using the Zoho Sites website builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors like GoDaddy and Wix, but as an overall website solution.

Easy Sign Up Process, Onboarding, + Free Trial

One of the biggest pros of using Zoho Sites is how easy it is to get up and running on the platform. It’s a few basic steps of entering your information, picking a theme, and then you’re in.

Zoho also makes it incredibly easy once you’re inside the platform. Their onboarding process (AKA the information they give you to get you up and running and actually using the software) is very straightforward.

They walk you through a step-by-step tutorial of how to customize your website as soon as you choose a theme.

The entire process makes it easy to get your website up and customized in a matter of minutes, even if you have no online experience.

Zoho also offers a 15-day free trial when you sign up, and they don’t require a credit card to use it. Most software providers offer a “test run” of their products, but it comes with caveats. You either have to choose a plan upfront and enter your card info to be automatically charged when the trail is over, or have limitations on your features, or both. 

Zoho allows you to truly test out their platform for 15 days before you make a decision — no strings attached.*

*Note – so technically, you’d have to sign up for some of their product integrations if you want to implement them in the free plan. I still consider it no strings attached, because you get all of the basic functionality / inclusions in the free trial.

Template Design / Functionality

When I’m looking at all inclusive website builders, I want to be sure I look at both the templates’ design and functionality to get an accurate picture of what the builder can do.

Zoho also offers a wide selection of template designs that are responsive (AKA they look good on a mobile device, tablet, and computer). They have a lot of variable designs that you can use as the foundation of your website.

Once you choose a template, you can customize it to your brand. Zoho is what’s known as a “drag and drop” editor, where you can “drag” premade sections and “drop” them on your page. It makes customizing your site simple, straightforward, and fast.

With Zoho, can customize the styles on the page (like fonts and colors), as well as the individual sections, and you can add new elements to a section layout. However, you can’t create a new section from scratch using the drag and drop editor.

You can, however, customize your template using the CSS and HTML editor, which is a big benefit if you have coding experience but want to use a template as a starting point.

All in all, Zoho’s Website Builder has a great balance of convenience and control in terms of template design, which is a big plus for an all-inclusive website builder.

Some Product Integration

Another thing that makes Zoho’s Website Builder unique is their product integrations. Zoho has their own CRM, Marketing, and Analytics products, and these integrations are easily accessible in the site builder.

Zoho-Integration-CRM

One thing to note — these additional integrations / functionality are all part of paid plans (more on that in a bit).

This isn’t necessarily a con, but it is something to pay attention to… especially because you can find a lot of this functionality for less with other website builders (particularly if you went the self-hosted WordPress route).

Cons

Of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Let’s look at the specific cons I found with using Zoho Sites as your website builder.

Pricing + Plans

While Zoho is fairly easy and convenient for DIYers and business owners, they do leave a lot to be desired when it comes to pricing. All of their plans come with some sort of limitation, whether it be pages, storage, or even the number of forms you can have on a site.

zoho pricing and limits

It’s also worth noting that Zoho doesn’t offer a free plan. There’s a free trial, which lasts for 15 days, but if you want to continue on with their service, you have to choose from one of the paid plans.

Again, this isn’t necessarily a “con”, but if you’re looking for a website builder for a short-term project, you can probably find a builder with similar features who offers a standard free plan (ie, Wix or Weebly).

Limited Feature Set – Technical

Technical limitations are features that you don’t know that you want until you want them, and then you find out you can’t have them.

These are things like integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Ads, social sharing options, blogging, and a whole host of every intermediate to advanced marketing tools on the internet.

Now, as I mentioned above, Zoho does include some product integration that’s built-in (like their CRM) or can be added on (like their MarketingHub). But when it comes to outside integrations, Zoho is fairly limited.

For example, let’s take a look at their apps:

There isn’t much to built-in from an integration perspective outside of what Zoho offers in their product suite, and even then, there’s not a ton of clarity around what these features actually are or do.

Now, you could add your own integrations through code snippets. However, if you want something that you can easily “plug in” to your site and have it just work without you messing with code, then Zoho leaves a lot to be desired.

Zoho Review Conclusion

Zoho makes getting your website up and running simple and fast, and they also offer substantial customization options for more experienced website builders through their HTML and CSS editing.

See Zoho’s current pricing plans here.

However, like most all-inclusive website builders, there does come a point where there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control, especially when you factor in price. Zoho’s pricing leaves something to be desired, especially when you get into the higher priced plans and take into account the technical limitations, even with the higher priced options. If you’re looking for something that offers more control and scalability, you’re better off elsewhere.

Not sure Zoho fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

The post Zoho Sites Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Most Popular Micropolitan Areas (Small Cities) for Startups According to the US Census

Most Popular Micropolitan Areas (Small Cities) for Startups According to the US Census

ShivarWeb has a lot of DIYers and freelancers not living in the biggest, richest cities of the world. In fact, I originally started this business in Athens, Georgia, USA – not in larger Atlanta. As a fun post, I thought I’d dig into some data for my non-metro area readers.

The benefits of big metro areas for new businesses are well-known, but so are the costs in money, time, and health. In the era of remote work, you can get a lot of the benefits of the city anywhere with an Internet connection, except one – being physically around other new business-owners.

With that in mind, I decided to look at the Census Bureau’s data on cities to see if there were any places in America that hit a sweet spot between being small & self-contained and being a popular place to start a new business.

Micropolitan areas are populated areas that have too much population to qualify as a rural area, and too few commuting ties to a larger city to qualify as part of a larger metropolitan area. They are between 10,000 to 50,000 people and quite a distance from a large city.

In other words – micropolitan areas are true small cities.

There are 536 micropolitan areas in America with a core city of between 10,000 and 50,000 people plus the population of the surrounding area.

Here are the Top 20 Most Popular Micropolitan Areas for New Small Businesses in America based on US Census data from 2015-2016 (most recently available). You can view the full list of 536 areas here.

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20. Breckenridge, CO Micro Area

Breckenridge CO
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New Businesses: 239

Breckenridge, Colorado is a hub for every outdoor sport that you can imagine. The Rocky Mountain scenery is incredible. It has world-class skiing, hiking, fishing, and kayaking. The area has a population of 31,007.

According to Crunchbase, you’ll find startups like –

  • Vaway, a vacation rental marketplace
  • Tomorrow Holding, a fiber reactor technology firm
  • Area 101, a professional food service firm

19. Tupelo, MS Micro Area

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New Businesses: 247

Tupelo, Mississippi is the hub of North Mississippi with an area population of 140,552. It’s the smallest city in America with two banks with more than $10 billion in assets.

Unlike many small towns, it has a thriving downtown with a strong balance of businesses and an independent spirit. You’ll also find growing startups such as –

  • Central Services Association, an IT firm focusing on utility management
  • Malco Theaters, a family-owned cinema firm

18. Summit Park, UT Micro Area

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New Businesses: 247

Summit Park has an area population of 41,933 and is known as the “richest small town in America.” Nestled in the Uinta mountain range, many of the homes are vacation homes, but it is also a hub for consultants and wealthy remote workers.

17. Sevierville, TN Micro Area

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New Businesses: 247

The Sevierville, Tennessee area has a population of 97,892 and is a mountain vacation hub on the East Coast. It’s surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains with world-class hiking, fishing, and kayaking.

In addition to tourism-based startups, Sevierville is home to stratups such as –

  • Carp Data Service, a data analysis firm
  • Comfort Flow, an orthopedic dog bed firm

16. Jackson, WY-ID Micro Area

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New Businesses: 251

The Jackson, Wyoming area has a population of 34,721 and has played an outsized role in America’s history. It’s surrounded by two of America’s most iconic National Parks with the Rocky Mountains forming a bowl around the city.

The small city is a mini-hub for a range of startups like –

  • DMOS Collective, a provider of collapsible stealth and alpha shovels
  • Odyssey Sensors, an ag-tech company
  • Video Science, a video chat service for the healthcare industry

15. Brainerd, MN Micro Area

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New Businesses: 251

The Brainerd, Minnesota area has a population of 94,408 and a deep history with railroads, logging, mining – and now, tourism. It has a wealth of lakes and deep forests in addition to a classic downtown.

Brainerd is home to startups such as –

  • Elite Motorcycle Parts, a maker of premium motorcycle parts
  • MaxBotix, a designer & manufacturer of ultrasonic sensors

14. Branson, MO Micro Area

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New Businesses: 263

The Branson, Missouri area has a population of 87,601. It is the home of Mark Twain, and the setting of many of his stories.

The startup community is focused on tourism and food.

13. Augusta-Waterville, ME Micro Area

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New Businesses: 269

The Augusta, Maine area has a population of 122,083, and is also the capital of Maine. The city lies on the Kennebec River, and is also host to the University of Maine.

The startup community includes companies like –

  • Kenway, a manufacturer of custom composite products for mining
  • Southport Boats, a maker of high performance boats

12. Truckee-Grass Valley, CA Micro Area

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New Businesses: 274

The Truckee, California area has a population of 99,696, and is a popular home for small companies moving out of the Bay area into the beautiful Sierra Mountains.

The town lies on both I-80 and the first (and main) transcontinental railroad. The startup community includes companies like –

  • bigtruck Brand, a specialist in the design, marketing, and manufacturing of hats
  • Clear Capital, a valuation company for the mortgage industry
  • 1bios, a health tracking & engagement platform for healthcare companies

11. Twin Falls, ID Micro Area

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New Businesses: 279

Twin Falls, Idaho has an area population of 110,096. The main city has grown so fast, that the Census Bureau reclassified the area as a metropolitan area in 2019.

The startup community includes companies like –

  • Plant Therapy, a direct-to-consumer supplier of essential oils
  • BestNotes, a HIPAA compliant CRM and EHR system
  • KickBack Rewards, a data entry & CRM company

10. Concord, NH Micro Area

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New Businesses: 301

The Concord, New Hampshire area has a population of 151,232, and has strong links to the Boston startup scene. It’s the capital of New Hampshire and lies on the Merrimack River.

The startup community includes companies like –

  • Bradford Networks, a maker of automated security products for enterprise & governments
  • Nanocomp, a commercial producer of carbon nanotube-based lightweight sheets, tapes, and wires
  • CoolSim, an advanced CFD-based tool available for optimizing energy consumption in data centers

9. Hilo, HI Micro Area

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New Businesses: 318

The Hilo area has a population of 200,383, and is the main city of the “big island” of Hawaii. The city lies at the base of Mauna Lea and Mauna Loa – two of the most famous volcanoes in the world.

The city has large scientific, agricultural, and tourist industries – all of which influence the startup community. Companies in Hilo include –

  • Mauna Loa Macadamias, the world’s largest processor of macadamia seeds
  • DroneFlow, a fully automated aerial inspection technology
  • Shaka Tea – a line of refreshing herbal iced teas

8. Edwards, CO Micro Area

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New Businesses: 322

The Edwards, Colorado area has a population of 54,993, and lies in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in Central Colorado.

The area is a favorite of skiers and outdoor fans. The startup community is spread out & remote, but includes companies like –

  • HomeTrax, online tools for homeowners, service providers, and organizations
  • TripHero, a solution to the multi-layered problem of traveling with luggage and equipment

7. Glenwood Springs, CO Micro Area

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New Businesses: 342

The Glenwood Springs area has a population of 77,732, and is the “sister” micropolitan area to Edwards, Colorado. The city is nestled in the Roaring Fork Valley on the Colorado River. It has been named “the Most Vibrant Small Town for Arts” and the “5th Best Small Town” in America by different publications.

The startup community is very small and focused on arts & agriculture, but also includes some tech startups like Helpp, a connecting service for providers & consumers.

6. Kalispell, MT Micro Area

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New Businesses: 353

The Kalispell area has a population of 102,106, and lies nestled near both Glacier National Park (the “Crown of the Continent”) and the Canadian border.

The startup community includes companies like –

  • Roomie, a provider of better furniture options for college students
  • Counter Assault, a manufacturer of bear spray and personal protection spray
  • Expesicor, a drug discovery firm for neurological disorders

5. Torrington, CT Micro Area

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New Businesses: 382

The Torrington area has a population of 181,111, and lies within day trip distance of both New York City and Boston.

The business community includes companies like –

  • Trlby Innovative, a maker of custom impulse heat sealing equipment
  • Altek Electronics, an electronic manufacturing company providing chassis and control panels

4. Traverse City, MI Micro Area

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New Businesses: 385

The Traverse City area has a population of 149,914, and lies at the far north of Michigan’s “mitten” along Lake Michigan. The city is a top agricultural producer of cherries and other fruits. It’s regularly named as one of the best small town travel destinations and one of the best small towns to retire to.

The business community includes companies such as –

  • ATLAS Space Operations, a satellite communications service
  • DriveShare, an online marketplace for classic cars

3. Key West, FL Micro Area

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New Businesses: 387

The Key West area has a population of 75,027, and is the sourthernmost city in the continental United States. It is a hub for tourism, festivals, and tropical living.

The business community centers around consultants, travel, and tourism companies.

2. Claremont-Lebanon, NH-VT Micro Area

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New Businesses: 437

The Lebanon area has a population of 217,215, and lies in the Connecticut River Valley. It is home to the Dartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth Medical Center. It also has strong transport links to the Boston area, which influences its business community.

The Lebanon area is home to businesses such as –

  • Appcast, a job advertising platform
  • Adima, an antibody discovery and optimization platform
  • Avitide, a purification solutions firm for biopharmaceutical companies

1. Bozeman, MT Micro Area

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New Businesses: 536

The Bozeman area has a population of 111,876, and lies at the gateway to Yellowstone National Park along with the largest ski resorts & outdoor opportunities in the United States. The town regularly appears as the “Best Small Town in America” lists. With all the entrepreneurs & economic growth moving to Bozeman – I’m not surprised to see it top this list as well.

Bozeman is home to businesses such as –

  • Schedulicity, an online appointment scheduling platform for discovering and booking local services
  • Quiq, a customer service messaging platform
  • Absaroka Energy Company, a provider of clean renewable energy

Takeaways

I can’t criticize big cities. After all, I ended up moving to Atlanta after starting in Athens, GA. Big cities are great.

But…big cities aren’t the best option for some businesses. And the certainly aren’t the best option for many individuals. I loved this Planet Money episode explaining why.

Remote work and online tools make anywhere a good place to work. But you still need to be able to make “anywhere” work for you – and that includes being around other businesses & startups.

There are plenty of startups & small businesses in nearly every city. And as you can see from the list above, there are some small cities that have more than plenty.

Find your place, find your people, and build your business.

You can view the full list of 536 areas here.

The post Most Popular Micropolitan Areas (Small Cities) for Startups According to the US Census appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Modernize Your Business With A Good Restaurant Ordering System

The post Modernize Your Business With A Good Restaurant Ordering System appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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