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The Basics of a Successful Web-based Businesses

Start a Successful Web-based Businesses

Starting your own online business can be an excited venture, and I’ve learned a few things on the way that might help you on your way, because I started out with zero knowledge, and learned everything, on my own, the hard way.

The following is a basic list of what you should do (and know) before throwing up your site and expecting people to flock to your site like they would to Amazon or ebay. I’m not going to talk about financials, or hosting, or merchant accounts—but you should definitely do your research on all of these issues, because they are important. Below you will find a list of basics to starting a successful web-based business.

1. Site Structure
Site structure, which is the skeleton of your website, is the basic layout of your site. The actual process of drawing out the possible click-through skeleton is called Wireframing. Wireframing entails following the different paths a user can go through as he/she clicks the different links on any given page. Wireframing allows you to construct a logical path for your users, and lets you lead them to where you want them to go. You should draw out a picture of your site structure prior to actually throwing up any web pages.

2. Content
Content really is King (or Queen). Whatever you’re selling—be it clothing, CDs, fruit, love, or information, you want your site to be the place where people find what they’re looking for. If you sell clothing, your site should be broken down into sections that are easy to find, both visually and textually, and they should provide as much information about the article of clothing that is worth noting. You should have a link to comparables, and descriptions of each article of clothing, that show the benefits (and features, where applicable) of each piece. The more information you can provide, and the more useful it is to the user, the more likely your site will keep users coming back.

3. Internal Links
Internal link structure is important for a variety of reasons. Firstly, you want your visitors to be able to find relevant content with one click of their mouse. If your homepage/landing page introduces your visitor to your offerings on, say, televisions, and one of the types of televisions you sell are plasma TVs, you should have a link to a plasma TV page. The page should focus exclusively on plasma TVs. When a visitor clicks that link, they are redirected to a page where you offer information, prices, and comparisons on plasma televisions. Besides providing relevant information, these internal links are great for SEO (Search Engine Optimization), because internal links are one of the ways the spiders used by search engines seek out relevant content. The internal links should make sense—do NOT ever overdo anything strictly for optimization, because chances are you could be penalized for trying to trick the spiders.

4. Call to Action
Call to actions are words, buttons, links, or any other thing you may use to make the user take an action, such as make a purchase, click to another page, fill out a contact form, etc. Call to actions should be inviting, easy to see and use, and should lead the user to a simple process. If they clicked it, they’ve shown interest, and now it’s up to you not to blow it. Unless you just want to publish free information on the web, your site will likely have a call to action. If you want to make that call to action a success, you should test and retest different call to actions, to see that works best. You should A/B test everything (A/B testing simply means comparing one thing against another to see which works best). If you have a ‘Click Here’ button, compare it to a ‘Buy Now’ button, and so on. See what works best, and always try to improve on it.

5. Marketing
Everyone knows google and everyone knows yahoo. While content is king, it often does not get picked up by the major search engine spiders for a long while, and so you may want to get quick results by advertising on search engines. Depending on your product and budget, it may be a good idea—but be mindful of what you are spending, and if your ROI (return on investment) makes sense. Don’t waste money to bring in traffic; spend money to make more money by converting that traffic into sales. Write persuasive ads (yahoo, google adwords, etc.), and manage your bids carefully. If you’ve never worked with search engine marketing, learn the basics by participating in the tutorials offered by the search engines.

While you continue your PPC (pay-per-click) marketing on the search engines, continually update your content, write new content, build those internal links, and eventually the search engines will rank your site naturally, rather than you having to pay to bring people to your site. Two things to consider when marketing:

• Link building
Have a ‘Resources’ or ‘Links’ link on your site where you can exchange links with other relevant sites). You put a link to their site on your site, and they do the same. Links are one of the key factors in website ranking used by search engines.

• Directories
List your site url (www.mysiteurl.com) in the various web directories out there. For instance, you can list your site with google, Yahoo, DMOZ, and other website directories. Some of these are free, some of them are pay per listing. Yahoo, for example, charges $299. Directories are a good way to validate your site, and can be a good source of traffic.

• Collateral
By collateral I simply mean writing content that will lead people to your site. Blogging is a good example of getting your name and/or website out there, as are writing articles and submitting to free publications, emailing authors in your local paper on topics related to your business (they may include you as a source in their next article), and any other tactic that might get your site mentioned somewhere. Be creative—it works.

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