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    Getting Your Business Online!

    By D. Mitchell | Writer @ CozyFrog | DEC.27.2003
Ecommerce is huge! Everywhere you look companies and individuals are starting up their own online businesses. And why not? You lower infrastructure costs, open for business 24 hours a day, seven days a week and above all your able to access a broader international market. So how do you start?

    STEP 1 - Develop a Concept

The first step with any business is to develop a concept. If you already have your own business it is slightly easier, but it will still need further development to adapt it for your online business. There are significant differences between offline and online business and coming up with a concept could take months of trial and error or may just come to you all of a sudden. Either way, know what your objective is and how to achieve it.

"There are significant differences between offline and online business and coming up with a concept could take months of trial..."
The following procedures and processes can relate to any project you are developing. What is unique about your business? Find out what makes your business stand out from the rest in your specific field. Who are your customers? Research the type of people that want or need your service or product. Find out what age groups you want to attract, what sex you are targeting, anything and everything, you can never know too much about your customers and what will keep them at your site.

Every market needs a different approach. Part of the concept development stage is to figure out how to handle this. Narrow your focus than broaden it and keep in mind it is much easier to succeed in a niche market and then think of expansion.

    STEP 2 - Register Your Domain and Business Name

The next step is to secure your domain name. For those who have never registered a domain name before it is very easy. First find a Domain Registration service, couple of the cheapest I have found are and Secondly check that your business name is available, choose how many years you would like to register the name for then pay the specified amount. If your name isn't available you can either approach the individual or company that owns it and ask if they are willing to sell it or try different variations on the name your after.

    STEP 3 - The Site

The major question is whether to build your own site or hire a web design company. First impressions always count, so even if you know a bit of HTML or have the time to learn and experiment with it, if your site is poorly designed chances are people may not come back to see the updated version. There are also other aspects to consider such as graphics, backend, ecommerce solutions etc. The best thing is to get a professional to build your initial site, pick up some tips off them and update it yourself from there.

Once your site is up and running it is important to regularly maintain it and have an understanding of the basics or it will become an ongoing expense. For those who can write HTML, ASP and JAVA, you should be able to keep things running smoothly, but for those new at web design there are some programs out there that can help you out. Microsoft FrontPage, Dream weaver and Page Mill are all excellent programs to start with. They allow you to see what you are designing as you go along rather than just showing you the HTML code. On the graphics side of things, if all you can draw is a stick figure and shapes maybe you should consider hiring a graphics artist with some experience in web design. Look for a developer who has the time to listen to what you want and can focus on your site to do the job well.

If you are leaning towards a bigger design company, choose a firm that has a proven reputation for effective web design. Design companies will charge more but they have business consultants and internet marketing strategists guiding them. Which ever way you decide to go, get a pen and paper and roughly draw out the site yourself.

    STEP 4 - Content

The content you provide needs to be interesting and convince people to return. The majority of customers will be nervous about dealing with stores/services that are new or unknown. Their main concern is that they will purchase an item, pay and never get their goods. An effective way to assure them is to include a customer support page with a phone number and the hours it is being operated, mailing and email address. If you are selling products it is also essential to include a return policy and privacy statement.

    STEP 5 - Hosting

You now need to decide if you want to host your own site or host it with a web hosting company. Most people choose a web hosting company mainly because they do not have the time or resources to maintain a web server. Doing it yourself is expensive as you have to purchase a large line back to an ISP to handle traffic. When choosing your server make sure to select to right one. Untitled Page

There are two types of servers, UNIX and Windows NT and some program languages will only work on one type of server. You will find most web hosting companies will offer a variety of options and packages ranging from the amount of storage space you are allocated to the number of email boxes you are given. Shop around and find one that is right for you at a reasonable price.

    STEP 6 - Ecommerce

This will most likely be the hardest part of setting your site up. You will first need to provide a secure way for customers to send their credit card details to you and find a billing company willing to honor transactions via your site. Once you have set that up, you will then need to purchase a Digital Certificate. This is needed to support customer-to-site security via SSL. SSL is basically a piece of software that encrypts transmissions such as credit card details so no one can read them if they are intercepted. You will also require a merchant gateway and a merchant service agreement with a bank. The gateways can be bought off the shelf or as a custom solution and all the major banks offer ecommerce service agreements.

Another option would be to go with a third party billing company, in which case, you won't need a Digital Certificate or a Merchant Account. ProBilling and CCBill are a couple of great third-party processors you should definitely check out.

    STEP 7 - Marketing

There are roughly over 30 million registered domain names. Getting people to go to your site will be a battle. Start by trying these basic tips:

  • Use META tags for each page and then register with search engines.
  • Provide news releases to email newsletters, ask them to review your site.
  • Buy banner ads.
  • Encourage visitors to spread the word by including 'send this article to a friend' or similar lines.
  • Partnering up with other niche sites to cross promote.
  • Visit the Cozy Academy's Traffic Lounge for all types of marketing related articles and info.

    There are various ways to promote your site offline and online so just look around and find some sites that provide more helpful hints. It may take some time before you get some steady traffic but if you do it right, they will keep coming back for more.

    By D. Mitchell | Writer @ CozyFrog
    Daniel has been a webmaster for several years and has worked on and designed various adult and commercial websites. He has written numerous articles for several webmaster resources and hangouts.

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