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5 Steps to Starting Your Online Business

After several years of creating websites I’ve identified 5 steps you can take that give a new website an edge over the millions of other websites started every year. Please keep in mind that these steps are not a replacement for good content, good services, and products. That being said, these steps give you the best chance for web success right out of the gate.

Step 1: Follow Your Passion

If you want a website to be successful, it’s VERY helpful if you’re interested in the niche your website will occupy. I know this sounds like common sense, but a lot of marketers – especially affiliate marketers – start websites that they clearly have no interest in simply to make a couple bucks on an affiliate offer. I’m not saying that this can’t be profitable, but in the long run this is not the best way to make real money online.

Visitors are getting more savvy every day. Most potential customers have a finely tuned BS detector, and if your site is poorly written, poorly researched, and unattractive, you’re not going to make nearly as much money as a site with quality content, good graphics, and good layout.

Besides, there’s no need to start a site on a topic that isn’t interesting to you. Simply write down a list of your hobbies, your interests, and your likes. Off the top of my head I like: food (cooking, recipes), electronics (computers, tvs), jogging (running clothes/gear, ipods), web design (software, webtools, etc…) and many more things. I can easily find dozens of niches that are interesting to me, and I’m sure with a little thought you can too.

This is important for many reasons, but the most notable are:

[checklist]

  • You’ll create better content – because you care!
  • You’ll spend more time working on your site – because you care!
  • Better content + more time = better chance of success
  • You’ll be coming from a place of integrity.
  • Most importantly, you’ll be able to provide real value to your customers.

[/checklist]

Step 2: Identify Your Customer

Who are you writing your website for? Be as specific as possible. If you’re creating a ‘Cooking for Singles’ site, you may be writing for 20 – 30 year old women who like to cook. A high-end model train website may be targeted toward 45 – 70 year old men that grew up with train sets and can afford nicer model trains today.

Identifying your customer will help you design a better website. The design/colors, the content, and even the monitization become easier when you can envision your typical customer.

Quantcast WebsiteA tool that is really useful for finding your demographic is Quantcast. Quantcast is free to sign up, and free to use. If you have a website you can use Quantcast to learn more about your current visitors, however if you don’t have a site yet, you can use Quantcast to learn more about the visitors to your competitors websites.

For example, if you’re starting a weight loss website, you may want to look at the traffic that’s going to Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. Looking to sell electronics? Take a look at newegg or even gizmodo.

Quantcast is easy to use – simply type the name of the site you want more information about in the top search bar, and it will give you a full graph with monthly traffic, traffic location, and demographics.

Step 3: Decide on a Monetization Model

You may have already taken care of this in step 1 if your passion is to sell a product or service. If, on the other hand, your site is information or entertainment based, Step 3 is for you.

Many sites monetize with Google Adsense (text ads), and while there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that, it’s my experience that you can do much better – as in make more money – with affiliate marketing.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is where you refer your visitors to products or offers, and in return you receive a commission when someone makes a purchase. I have several affiliate banners on this site – both in the header and in the sidebar. Most of the products I show on my site are there more because they’re useful than because they pay particularly well, but even still, the returns are much better than Adsense.

The vast majority of e-tailers have affiliate programs, and most are easy to sign up for. Amazon has one of the best known programs, but pretty much everyone has an affiliate program these days.

clickbankYou can also go straight to affiliate networks to find affiliate offers. ClickBank is one of the more popular affiliate networks, but there are many more. You can offer everything from software, to diet programs, to dog training manuals on your site and get paid very decent commission every time someone clicks on a link (called a hoplink) from your site and places an order. Take a look at Clickbank’s Marketplace for inspiration.

Step 4: Keyword Research

This is a HUGE topic that I’m only going to go over briefly here. Keywords are the words or phrases that people type into search engines. Assuming that you’d like to get free traffic from the search engines (I’m sure you do), then finding target keywords are one of the most important things you can do. In an ideal world you’ll have keywords in mind before you register your domain and launch your website.

keywords-title

In this example, ‘rich kent’ is the keyword. Fortunately my site shows up first for my ‘target’ keyword. Of course my name isn’t a very powerful keyword. Only people who are already looking for me will find me. That may be fine for me, but what are the best keywords for you and how do you find them?

There are many keyword research tools, but the best place to start is with Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool also known as the external keyword tool. Simply type several keywords that are related to your business into the tool, and Google will do the rest.

keywordtool

In this example I’ve typed ‘dog training’ and ‘dog guides’ into the tool. As you can see, dog training has 2.24 million monthly searches. Obviously ranking for that keyword could be very profitable. Unfortunately, it will also take a lot of time and a lot of work.

You can figure out how much time and how much work by typing your preferred keyword term into Google. In the case of ‘Dog Training’ there are 56.7 Million results pages. With that many pages, you’ll have a hard time ranking. Shoot for terms that have less than a million results as they’re easier to rank for.

That being said, this is a HUGE simplification. I’ll go into greater detail in the future, but that should get you started. What you should look for when starting out is a keyword or keywords that you can integrate into your domain name. If you’ve already registered a domain, don’t worry, you can still rank for good keyword terms.

[green_box]If you have a local service or business, make sure to include your location in your keyword. ‘Los Angeles Chiropractor’ is easier to rank for than ‘Chiropractor’ and you’ll also attract more targeted traffic.[/green_box]

Step 5: Optimize Your Website

Google likes well-optimized websites that are full of helpful and unique content. In step 4 we identified keywords that we want to rank for. In Step 5 we integrate those keywords into our site.

In general, it’s best to target 1 keyword per page of your site. Sure it’s possible to get traffic from several different keywords to the same page, but it’s best to start out simple. Your home page is good for targeting your main keyword – Dog Training – But let’s say you also want to get traffic for people looking for “German Shepherd Dog Training”. It’s best to create a subpage that uses German Shepherd Dog Training as the keyword, in the url, and in the page content. Then you can create another subpage for “Jack Russell Terrier Training” and so on.

[notice]It’s very helpful if you can have your primary keyword tagged on the page as a title. You can do this using H tags – such as H1, H2, H3 and so on. To make this simple, you’ll want your primary keyword marked in html as your H1. That looks like this: <h1>Primary Keyword</h1>. Secondary keywords can be marked with other heading tags – <h2>Secondary Keyword</h2> and so on. My ‘steps’ on this page are each in H3 tags, and the title of this post is an H1.[/notice]

If you create enough pages targeting enough keywords and properly optimize those pages, you’ll be way ahead of the game when it comes time to start off-site SEO. This can be the difference between getting tons of free traffic, and having a website that gets NO traffic. I recommend using WordPress for your website as most of the onsite SEO is built right in. In another post I’ll show you how to optimize WordPress for SEO.

I hope you found this helpful and good luck with your online business!

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