Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How to Start a Business on the Web

Here in the pages of SOHOMan, I talk a lot about things needed to create and run a great business website. You can find all sorts of articles about building a strong site, promoting it, running your business, and even motivating yourself. It’s all good, but sometimes it’s hard to put it all into perspective.

So, here, as overview, I’d like to spell out the steps that will lead you to a successful website. If you take this one bit at a time, and follow these overall directions, you’ll be able to accomplish what you’re hoping for!

1. Choose a focus

A great website will be ABOUT something. It will have a clear purpose, and a clear audience. Be careful not to make it all about your product, but rather the experience the product brings. Is it about nice furniture, or about relaxing in a beautiful home? Check the net for wholesalers and dropshippers that offer products that relate to your focus. This would also be a good time to get a domain name (“something.com”).

2. Build a happenin’ main page

Write some text that talks about your topic. Tell them how to make their lives happier, simpler, more enjoyable. Get them excited about what you have to offer them by showing them how it will impact them. Write it so that it has some good strong search terms in it. Put on some small, but clear graphics of people enjoying things in your topic.

3. Put up some content

Create some pages that have some good, useful, informative content on them. Find and share some articles that relate to your topic that will help people live a little nicer. Not only will this draw people in to the site, but it will also make it a tastier tidbit for the search engine spiders.

4. Add a newsletter signup

So far, you don’t have any way to get customers, though. So, set up a place where they can opt to join your mailing list. Offer them a freebie article, or a chance to win a prize of your product. Tell them they’ll get regular updates of more products and articles.

5. Launch it

The basic site is done! Publish it to the web! Go live! People will be able to see it on the web. Now all they have to do is find it… So, go to the big four search engines (yahoo.com, google.com, search.msn.com, and dmoz.org) and sign up your site. Write up a catchy and short email invitation to your grand opening and send it out to all your family and friends, inviting them to check it out and sign up on your list. Write up a press release and send it to your local newspapers.

6. Start to exchange links

Back on the web, it’s time to get connected. Find other sites that relate to your audience, and ask them to link to you (in exchange for a link back to them). You can set up a separate page on your site for these links. If you get well connected, you can bring in targeted traffic independent of the search engines. Incoming links can also boost your search engine ranking.

7. Set up your merchant account

Now that you’re starting to get traffic, you’ll want to prepare your site for commerce. You’ll want to get a merchant account to be able to accept credit card payments, and get that hooked up to your website’s shopping cart.

8. Begin adding product

By now, you’ve found sources for products, you can start to create your catalog pages, displaying them with nice clear pictures and describing them with exciting descriptions of their benefits and features. With these pages published, your visitors can become customers. Make sure that you announce your new product lines to your growing mailing list.

9. Start a blog

Either on your site, or hosted as a separate site, a blog (“web log”) is a great way to draw in more visitors and provide constantly updating content for your site. It’s also a great way to communicate with your audience, and the search engines love it, too!

10. Start sending out newsletters

Your list should be growing bigger and bigger now, so start to use it. Announce new products, tell stories, share news and articles that relate to your site focus. Run specials to your list as exclusives, so they can get in on the “inside deals”.

11. Start using other promotional strategies, like PPC (“Pay Per Click”), forums, and viral marketing

There are many more ways to bring people to your site. Constantly scour the ‘net looking for new ways to promote yourself, and ways to learn about changes. Subscribe to other people’s newsletters and eZines, read the news. Learn, learn, learn!

12. Repeat

Most of all, these things will be an ongoing process. More products, more articles, more links, more blog entries, more effort will consistently bring customers to your business. Then you’ll see it growing!

1 comment:

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