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Unlike other businesses, starting an online business does not require a big investment. As internet is becoming part of our everyday life, the potential of any online based business is very high. So if you have an idea, skills, resources and determination you can become the next internet success story. But we can’t just fool ourselves, nothing is easy and nothing can be achieved overnight.
With this guide we will answer all the basic questions, you will get the idea of what the online possibilities are and which direction you should go. Whether you manage to succeed or not, is entirely up to you.
Special note: As we are confident that you will return here frequently, because this is the best and most complete guide on internet for starting an online business, we advise you to bookmark this page right away.
Although there are hundreds of ways to make money online and dozens of different online business models, everything can be squeezed into three main categories:
Electronic commerce or e commerce is the term used for digital exchange of products, services, content or data via internet through digital transactions. Or to put it in simple words, e commerce allows online trading of goods and services between buyers and sellers.
Affiliate Marketing is a business model where merchants sign affiliates who market and sell their goods or services for a commission on their behalf. This business model is predominantly performance based, which means that the affiliate must make the sale in order to get the commission.
Website marketing is a business model when websites display promotional or marketing messages in exchange for financial compensation. There are many additional Website, Online or internet advertising methods, but in essence basic website marketing is the main source of income for the majority of the successful websites.
Now that you are aware of the main online business models, it is time to take some action.
-The first question that you want to answer is: Do you want to make e commerce website where you will list and sell products, services, content or data. Or you want to opt for the more conventional way of building high quality niche website and monetize through affiliate and internet marketing.
-The second question is: Do you want to go through hassle to have your own website and registered business, or you just want to sign up with some of the popular platforms that we feature on this website and do business through them as an individual.
Once you answer these questions you may proceed further. As in the text that follows, we will guide you step by step how to start an online business.
Whether you will sell through e commerce or make specialized niche website, the most important thing is to be really passionate about it. Don’t waste your time doing something you don’t find interesting or you don’t like. To make your online business successful you will need passion, determination and consistency. Once you have your own “Aha!” moment don’t wait and take action immediately.
If the research for you business idea is not done properly your online business is destined to fail. Make sure that people actually need your product or service. See how many other companies are targeting your potential clients, see how popular their businesses are and what their customers say about them. Google the idea, check the forums, online networks and social media see what people are saying and asking about it. Or simply putted find a need and fill it.
Once you think that you know enough and you pretty much have all the pieces of the puzzle in your head, subscribe to Google AdWords. You can use the service later to promote your online business, but the main reason we ask you to subscribe at this stage, is because there is a tool called Google keyword planner. This is one of the most useful online tools, it will broaden your horizon further, by showing you exact number and types of search queries people do per month for anything. Use your imagination and see what exactly your potential customers are interested in, plan how to get conversions.This Google tool will definitely help you lay the foundations and categorize your future online presence.
No matter which revenue model you have chosen, by itself it’s nothing without great content, products or service that you plan to monetize from.
If you go for niche website, without great content it will be just another website with no traffic. You need to ask yourself a few questions: Can you do the HQ content in-house, or you want to hire someone externally to create the content for you? How much will this cost you? Make sure that you plan your budget thoroughly.
In order to establish solid online presence you need to be adding high quality content at least once per week for a year. Even after you get there, you need to continue adding HQ content because people (and Google) always want new stuff.
If you go for e commerce model, plan how you will get the products that you intend to sell, will you get it through distributors, directly from manufactures, or you plan to produce it in house.
If you produce it in house you need to plan constant supply of raw material, do you have necessary tools and manpower for it? Is your working space optimized for producing, packing and shipping?
Before you actually start your online business, check your local laws for starting small business, we recommend consulting the nearest business starting expert. If you decide to deal with food, cosmetics or if your work is hazardous in any way, you may have to deal with inspections. If you plan to do your business internationally be sure you are in compliance with all the regulations in any of the targeted markets. Comply with Internet regulations, it is always good to consult lawyer that specializes in Internet law.
Keep your eyes and ears open for various government and similar programs that are aimed to stimulate new businesses, there is really good chance that you can benefit from it.
Keep records for everything you do, especially everything that includes transactions, as at the end of the fiscal year you will have to pay taxes.
Of course alternatively you can also start an online business without registering a company, if you decide to work or telecommute as an individual or freelancer to monetize from your skills or expertise. But either way, keeping records is mandatory as taxes have to be paid.
Another very important aspect is to ensure that you comply with trademark and intellectual property laws. So don’t use anything that you don’t have the rights to use. Exercise extreme caution with any content that you want to use for your online business.
If you wonder what is the difference between copyright, trademark and patent here is the answer: Copyright protects the work as it is at the moment when it is created; Trademark protects name, symbol or logo; Patent protects the invention or fabrication process.
Naming your business is like naming a baby, think this through from as many perspectives as you can. Try to come up with nice catchy brand name. See how this name plays from different aspects in your niche. Avoid name that you will need to explain to your customers. Simply try to be elegant, as usually the simplest solutions are the best.
Many people make mistake as the first thing they do, is they go to see if the domain is taken, because whatever name you come up with, the domain will probably be unavailable, so this is the last thing you want to do. If the company name you came up is unavailable as a top level domain, you can easy pair the name with a simple descriptive word to establish your unique online name. Gary Backaus said “You don’t need a big idea for your name. You need a name for your big idea.” Also keep in mind that naming your business is one thing and naming your products and services is another. But everyone will agree that these need to correlate.
Before you finally go with the name you came up, Google it, see what comes in the search results and Google images, the last thing you want is, your name to be associated with something that is undesirable.
Optionally you can trademark your name and logo. Although at the beginning you can skip this process as it costs money, but if your business begins to grow it is imperative to do it.
Our final advice for branding is to come up with some great motto or slogan, try to make it catchy, short, relevant and positive.
Whatever online business model you have chosen, it will be just another blank spot on Internet, without traffic.
The biggest mistake many online start-ups make is they setup a website and wait for traffic to come from Google. This can happen eventually but it takes time, getting ranked high with Google requires quality content, relevancy and consistency.
You need to plan how you are going to bring visitors, or simply putted how are you going to promote your products, services or content. Do you have budget and how much can you invest to bring some initial traffic through Google AdWords or some other advertising platform? Can you afford to experiment and see which ads bring the most conversions?
Another important aspect here is to know that, monetizing without reputation is like flying without wings. Getting good reputation takes time, but this is one of the most important aspects for any online business. You need to plan ahead and understand that success does not come overnight.
It takes only a few seconds for a visitor to judge website, making sure that website looks and feels professional is imperative. Starting from scratch requires following:
Getting the domain name is relatively easy, you can register new domain through one of the major Internet domain registrars, in just a few minutes. We advise to register Top Level Domain (TLD) .com .net or .org name. Unless you want to localize your business for specific country, for example if you are from the UK and aim to do business in UK only than get the .co.uk domain, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have TLD equivalent as well if available.
As most likely the .com with your name is already taken, you don’t have to worry as you will have much better chances getting .net or .org domain. Whether you have .com .net or .org it makes no difference in the eyes of the major search engines, but make sure to check what is hosted on the .com domain first. If everything is taken than just add some descriptive prefix or suffix to the name. You should insist on .com domain only if you plan to advertise your business offline, as people are inclined to type .com in the URL bar as they use Google for search. You can use .net domain for offline advertising purposes too, but you have to put emphasis on the .net which can be distraction from the main name.
Before registering domain Google for “domain registration codes or coupons” as this may save you a few bucks.
When registering domain, register it for as many years in advance as you can (max is 10 years), as this is important from two reasons:
First; It’s good for SEO and online reputation, as this will surely give more weight to your business.
Second; This will save you money! For example you can register new TLD for $9.99 per year, but you will be unpleasantly surprised to see that if you want to renew your domain it will cost you $14.99. This is how many of the registrars and hosting services make big profits. First, they will get you in with some great and cheap offer for new clients, but when it comes time for renewals they will try to make good profit from you. And they will, if you are not careful enough, especially if you authorize automatic payments with your credit card on file.
Finding and choosing good hosting for your website is important as having electricity in your home. This is one of the most spammed topics on Internet, it is almost impossible to find unbiased reviews about hosting. However you will not make mistake if you go with any of the major & established web hosting providers.
Many people register domains and hosting at the same provider as it’s much easier to set everything up. Others, like us, like the domain handling of one provider and hosting service of another, this can be a little inconvenient for beginners, but it’s not a big deal once you do your homework.
Another thing is what kind of hosting plan you need to sign up for, as in most of these hosting platforms you will see offers for: shared , VPS, cloud or dedicated hosting:
Your website is your face to the public, you should invest time and resources to make it appealing and stylish. Creating professional looking website is relatively easy these days, as there are tons of templates and plugins you can choose to lay your website foundation. You can create website by using any of the major online website building platforms or you can build your website offline using some web design software. Anyway you do it, make sure that you choose the right professional looking template, the site is easy-to-navigate and everything is just click or two away, pictures and content must load quickly, use only images and videos relevant to the content, there should be no broken links, no external links to low authority websites, etc.. Last but the most important aspect of any website is original high quality content, because you can have the fanciest hosting, domain and template, but it will be useless without frequently adding great content.
If you go with e commerce website, you have to make sure that people will be actually able to pay for your products or services. Include some expert articles about the products or services you sell. Your stock, availability, prices and shipping costs must be kept up to date. In order to be able to take payments online, you will need to team up with reliable and verified provider that offers such services. Research and plan the up-selling tactics that you will use, like offering products that are related to original purchase, or offering loyalty coupons, or club points, etc..
Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a practice of improving the ranking of a website on web search engines. There are many tweaks you can add to web page to make it search engine friendly. Here are some good basic web page SEO practices:
-Title, Description, Keyword and Headings Tags.
-Overall word count should be no less than 300 words per page.
-All non textual content like images should have ALT description tag.
-Have sitemap.xml and robots.txt files in root of your website.
-If you buy your content externally check if its original.
-Carefully study the Google Webmaster Guidelines
Once you have basic SEO knowledge and you implemented it on your website, the first thing you should do is to sign up for a Google Analytics account, get the tracking code and insert it on every page of your website. This will allow you to track all traffic and activities your visitors do. Second thing to do is to sign up for Google Webmaster Tools, link it with your Analytics account and submit your site map to Google.
Important note: Don’t wait to have dozens of pages ready in order to publish your website, five or six quality pages is enough to go online for the first time. This is good for two reasons, your site will be indexed by Google earlier and you will have more time to promote each new page you add.
After you finish with Google, submit your website to other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, Ask, etc...
Having great content is the key, but its worthless if you don’t exposure it to the masses. Fortunately there are many ways to spread the word out. If your budget allows opt for PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising as this the easiest way to get visitors to a brand new site.
In general to generate traffic you will need backlinks from all sorts of places, but getting quality backlinks is not easy.
While a good content can always bring you backlinks from various sources, you have to make the first step by using various platforms and tricks that can help you achieve your goal. The thing to avoid is not to pay someone for backlinks, as this may hurt your website.
Another thing to be careful is not to ask webmasters directly to add links to your website. This violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, instead ask them to check your content or send them a product to review, so they will decide should they write something about it or not.
The best strategy for all beginners is to stick with popular platforms where you are allowed to post links and interact with other users.
Social networks can help you increase your visibility dramatically, building and having loyal base of followers is essential for any online business. Integrate your website with social networks, when posting to social networks make titles intriguing, and call to action. Use relevant #hashtags as this will exposure your content to wider audience. We stated many times before, having great content is the key, the more quality the content, the bigger the chances to go viral. Socialize as much as possible, generating a buzz about your business is a never ending process, the more you socialize, the more you keep your business in the air.
There are dozens of social networking platforms, but in this guide we will concentrate only on the major ones.
The Internet world is dominated by Google, a G+ page for your business is a no brainier. And not just that, Google+ is great, much better than Facebook from a business and technical perspective. Unlike FB there is no advertising on G+ yet, which is great and hopefully will stay this way as long as possible.
Once you setup your page with your details, insert a publisher tag code into your website. Join and participate in many relevant to your niche communities and hangouts you can. As Google Plus is rising slowly but surely, establishing your business there is a priceless long term investment.
Facebook used to be great, till they decided to monetize on everything, which is their right no one denies that, but its just too much. From business perspective this means that, if you want to achieve any conversion you have to pay them. Nevertheless FB it’s still the most popular social network and having your presence there is imperative. Once you setup your business page get the app-id and link it to your website, make sure you have like and share buttons everywhere where you have quality content. Unlike G+ you can not join groups as a business, so if you want to promote in relevant groups you will have to use your personal account.
The biggest low from Facebook is that if some “FB user A” likes your page organically he will see just a fraction of the posts you make in his news feed. On top of that if his friend a “FB user B” , checks the likes of “FB user A” he will not see your business page in the listing unless your FB business page is registered as a brand. Don’t know for how much longer FB will keep adding anti business features like that, but this will certainly hurt them one day.
Twitter is great for spreading the word around fast. After setting up the account our advice to all businesses is to implement and apply for twitter cards. Once approved you can sort of bypass and go beyond the 140 character limit when posting links to your website. While most of the social networks support #hashtags twitter is the place where you can get really nice conversions if you know what you are doing.
Unlike other social networks Pinterest distinguishes itself for its visual appeal. Primarily it was created for sharing images, but you can also share articles, videos, infographics and all sorts of content. The Pinterest traffic is exploding and visitors are staying around more and more. Getting your business on Pinterest before competition will certainly give you an edge. Although the self promotion is forbidden, the key is to have some intriguing graphics for your content, which you can link to your site.
Being the third most popular website right after Google and Facebook, YouTube can be an excellent tool to promote your online business. There are various techniques that you can make use to promote your business. You can upload videos containing: Promotions, Product Demos, Customer Testimonials, Virtual Tours, Video Responses, Play-lists, etc...
Whatever you do just make sure that you: Add your URL in the description, Use calls for action and don’t forget to embed your videos on your website.
Sites like Reddit, Digg, Stumble Upon and others are another excellent way to promote your online business. But don’t just go there and paste your links, first interact for a while, start by promoting high quality and interesting content from other high authority sites. Once you establish your presence you can start adding your URLs, but don’t over do it.
Commenting on forums and articles is the first thing many new webmasters do in order to draw traffic. The key here is to comment on places that are relevant to your niche. When commenting don’t just paste your links, as it will probably be deleted. Be thoughtful, offer some additional tips or advice and use your signature for links.
While having a successful blog using the affiliate or website marketing model presents sole source of income for some blogger's, this cannot be distinguished as an online business.
However when you run online business having presence on Web Blogs is imperative, as these platforms have high authority. The best strategy is to start with one or two original articles from your niche, and describing weekly activities for your business. As these platforms are web 2.0 you can search for other blogs relevant to your business and interact.
Press releases can be used to announce all kinds of stuff: events, promotions, awards, new products and services, accomplishments, etc... The best strategy here is to go for a monthly press releases and submit it on various free online press release submitting platforms. Just don’t forget to publish it on your website as well.
You can do a good deed by donating some amount to charity, in exchange your business will be mentioned and receive backlink form charity site. This is a win-win, as usually charities have high authority websites.
There are many ways to promote your online business offline, the key is to put your URL anywhere where can be potentially seen. Here are some ideas: letterhead, memos, e-mail signatures, stickers, business cards, uniforms, vehicles, badges, coffee mugs, t-shirts, lighters, matches, key chains, yellow pages, business directories, etc..
-Listen to your customers
-Carefully build your reputation
-Choose only relevant topics
-Expect worst, hope for the best
-Utilize friends, family and colleagues
-Check our resource page with links that can help you with your online business.
-Bookmark this page as we will update it frequently
Last Updated: August 19, 2014
Published: August 9, 2014
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