This is the golden question! Most people stumble on this and don’t even end up starting. I don’t know how… It’s too hard… I have no time… but the key to Starting Your Online Business is just to start!
Start the process, start the learning, you will discover how to build an online business along the way, and most importantly actually build one! A important trait of successful people is mental toughness, and you build this by pushing through the mental barriers and the excuses that stop you. Rather than thinking why you can’t start your internet business, think of how you can start it and as a motivator, think about what you will potentially miss out on if you don’t start…what is the cost of inaction?
“HOPE is not a strategy, LUCK is not a factor, FEAR is not an option.”
James Cameron – Academy Award Winning Filmmaker, Director, Inventor, Philanthropist, and Deep-Sea Explorer
RESEARCH is the strategy, PLANNING is a factor, and ACTION is the only option! There is a methodology to starting an online business, there are countless tools that can help and the internet has made it easy to begin the journey. I hope to ease the learning curve and explain the steps through this article and the Inspire Entrepreneur website, by giving you a direction to start and inspiration along the way.
As you begin this journey I challenge you to view any failures you will encounter with a different mindset. You musn’t forget that every skill or ability you have ever successfully obtained, was obtained through failing time and time again. Walking, talking and riding a bike are a few which come to mind.
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Samuel Beckett – Avant-Garde Novelist, Playwright, Theatre Director, and Poet
Right, let’s get into it!
I am a strong believer in ‘just-in-time’ information, rather than ‘just-in-case’ information, ever since the concept was first introduced to me. Following this philosophy, I recommend you use the linked contents menu below to navigate to the sections most relevant to your position in the online business journey.
The sections are in a recommended order of execution, and the order is essential to give yourself the best chance at success. If you are just starting out or are further along but have missed some steps, start at the beginning, as it will be time well spent.
Read a section, then execute and come back to move onto the next section.
Establishing a Foundation for Success
The first step of building or creating anything is a foundation. You need a foundation to build a house, like you need a canvas to paint a painting, and you definitely need a foundation for creating an online business. What is that foundation?
You need to prepare yourself in terms of your habits, your mindset and your confidence. Without establishing a foundation of success habits you will be fighting a continual uphill battle, not against the competition, but against yourself!
It’s already a challenge competing against our ever growing world, both physical and online. So in order for you to be able to focus yourself against the external competition, you need to be winning against your internal competition.
How do you do this?
By establishing the 6 C’s in your life as a foundation of habits that continually increase your confidence, energy and knowledge. As you start your journey I believe that these habits will be crucial to your ability to achieve the continual progress needed to create a remarkable business!
Learn about the 6 C’s and put each one in place before you move forward with your journey. Work on them, and improve everyday, because when you ensure you are a better person today than you were yesterday, you are bound to win!
Types of Online Businesses – The Ways You Can Make Money
Before we get right into the thick of it, let’s get a basic understanding of the some of the different ways you can make money online.
Basically, there are a countless number of ways you can combine the different areas of online marketing in order to sell all sorts of products or services. Your products can be digital or physical, they can be your own creation, you can re-sell an existing product or recommend someone else’s for a commission. Your services can be app-based, website based, or a membership site/forum. And that’s only to name a few!
The two main areas that I have businesses in are:
- eCommerce Stores – sell products online via a digital store.
- Affiliate Marketing Websites – Promote another business’s product or service by referring visitors of my website to them. If the visitor then goes on to purchase that product or service (at no additional cost to them), I receive a percentage of the profit from that sale.
And I utilize:
- The Different Types of Online Marketing – to market my business, drive traffic to my websites and extend the reach of my story.
These are the areas where I will focus information and help for you as that is where my experience currently lies. I may explore different areas in the future and will definitely update the Inspire Entrepreneur website with these!
Please have a read through each of the links above to build you understanding, so that you can apply it to the steps moving forward. Come back to the next section ‘Niche Selection’ when you’re done, and continue your journey!
Niche Selection – Think Small, Narrow And Deep
“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”
Jerzy Gregorek – World Record Holder and 4-Time World Weightlifting Champion
This is something that most don’t get right the first time, and I sure didn’t, but it is something that improves as you learn more through your journey in the online business world. The topic of niche selection is actually very broad, and differs slightly in methods and considerations for different types of online businesses (e.g. drop-shipping, eCommerce store and affiliate marketing to name a few). There are however, a few key concepts to keep in mind and apply during the process of selecting a niche, and these will give you best chance of starting a profitable internet business.
Pick Your Target Audience Before You Pick Your Product Or Service
This is by far the most important step when starting an online business, I’ll repeat it again… you need to pick your target audience before you pick your product. Whenever you catch yourself thinking about specific product or service ideas… STOP… go back to thinking about your target customers and audience first.
Don’t worry, I do this all the time! It is actually kind of fun thinking about products or services, and the mind likes to take the path of least resistance. However, it will be easier for you in the long run, because it is easier to fill demand than to create it. This is one of the biggest problems with my first business. I picked a product first, and then found myself searching for a target audience and trying to attract the demand. Although the business was profitable, it was hardly a home run, and demand never really took off.
The Art Of Uncovering Target Audiences – A Rough Guide To Get You Started, The Rest Is Your Creative Genius
“That, detective, is the right question.”
Character of Dr. Alfred Lanning – I, Robot 
When thinking about a target audience there are a few steps and questions that can help you get there, as it is quite difficult to pick an audience or specific group of people straight off the bat. Take it as a sort of thought process to get you from a broad market to a targeted group. The points below are a bit of a mind dump of thought provoking questions, but you will grow to understand this process is an art, not an exact science, as we are dealing with people. Bare with it and you will appreciate that your thoughts and ideas will be more focused.
- It is often good to look at yourself first by asking: What do you buy or have bought? What are or have you been involved in and enthusiastic about? What do you spend ridiculous amounts of money on without much of a thought? List whatever comes to mind here!
- The next step is to take this list and categorize each into broader markets. For example, you may spend a good amount of money or time on wood carving equipment, a little hobby you have to unwind and relax. This can be classified as arts and crafts.
- Now think deeper into each of these markets. Who are the sort of people that purchase stuff in this market? How can they be grouped, labelled or categorized? It often best to think of hobbyists, fanatics or enthusiast type groups, because they have many factors that are helpful for spreading the word of your potential business and are easier to target. This is because they often form communities, forums or clubs. They may talk, compare and compete, and if they like something they will definitely tell each other! Vintage car enthusiasts come to mind as one example
- As you dig deeper and think about audiences, it will help to pull up Google and do some market research. Type something like “martial arts clubs” and start exploring the results. Go narrower, more specific and deeper as you brainstorm more groups… for example you may come across “wing chun martial arts club”, a specific discipline of martial art.
- Start looking at your favorite groups (pick 2-3)… the ones that spark a bit of excitement when you read the words on the paper. Now start thinking about what ‘world view‘ these groups of people hold? What set of beliefs or concepts, understanding or convictions do these people have about the world, about the products or services they buy or don’t buy? This will start to get you thinking about how they think and act, and it is even easier if you are or have been a part of one of these groups.
Think Small In Order To Reach Your Target Audience And Make An Impact
We think small to define a specific and targeted group of people because the smaller you think, the easier it is to reach out to them and make an impact. When you make an impact on this specific group, and they are a group who talks and shares, the word is continually spread and your reach grows from there. Focus on one group and build from there and don’t be in a rush, take the time to care!
As you continue your thought process around products, services and your target audience it becomes important to develop a plan and direction on how you are going to reach your audience. You need to think about how your target audience will find your website. It is through paid ads, pay-per-click (PPC), organic search (Google search results) or local marketing (marketing in the physical world around a specific community)? On the flip-side, also think about how you will reach out to your audience. What are your channels? Will you use social media (Hint: Yes! But think about how…), blogging or vlogging (video blogging, e.g. YouTube).
The answers to these questions will develop a clearer picture of your online business and give you a direction forward. This will allow you to narrow down your potential business ideas, because the ones with a clear direction are a better choice. It will be easier to start, easier to build and easier to continue!
Develop And Tell A Story About Your Potential Business
When narrowing down on a final online niche choice to move forward with, it is essential to start to develop a story around your target audience and the product or services you are looking to sell. You need to be able to tell a story about your online business that matches the world view of your targeted group of people, this way you idea will resonate with them and you are more likely to make an impact.
Some people call it your brand, but to be clear on what we actually mean by brand, it is preferable to call it ‘your story‘ as it encapsulates all that you are trying to signify about your business to your customers. Your story needs to be true and authentic, and it is often best approached in a way that reflects how you are as a person. People react to authenticity, and with this you will give yourself the best chance to win!
When developing your story, take the first step by trying to explain the main benefit of your product, service or business in a single concise sentence. Think of it as a bit of an extended tag line, or an elevator pitch where you have only one floor left to go. An example of this is Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Work Week, “Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich”. Simple, concise and resonating to those who are looking for such a life. This sentence becomes the corner stone and you build your story from there.
When people talk to each other and tell each other about things that have happened to them and things they have experienced, they tell each other stories. “Hey guys, you wouldn’t believe what I came across the other day… I was walking inside the mall, near that awesome coffee shop… you know the one yeah!?… when I saw…”.
This is why you need to tell a story about your business, and do it in a way that is consistent and true to the message you are trying to deliver. If you do this, and if your message matches what your target audience wants to hear (their world view), you will be in the best position to build a remarkable and consequently, successful internet business!
Go ahead, tell us a story…
If You Are Still Stuck, Think About This
If you are still struggling to narrow down your niche selection search, it may help to approach it in a slightly different way. This method is again focused at looking at yourself, because who better to help than someone like yourself!? You just need to focus and train yourself to be conscious of your own thoughts when you make decisions on products or services.
Draw three large circles in a Venn Diagram, ensuring all three intersect in the middle. Then label each as follows:
- What am I uniquely good at?
- What do I enjoy doing?
- What has a high potential for profit? (or more simply… what are people willing to pay for, then you can narrow down to higher yield products or services)
Keep it general at this stage and remember we are trying to focus first on a market, then narrow down to a specific audience. The focus is in the center of these circles, where you are looking for some form of activity that meets all three criteria.
Product, Service or Idea Selection – Don’t Sell To People, Help Them
Once you understand who your target audience is and their world view, you can then start to brainstorm ideas on how you could help them. This is the fun part, where your mind starts churning with creative ideas! Write everything down that comes to mind for your favorite target groups and keep the focus on:
- What problems this group may have?
- How you can help solve these problems?
Don’t forget, we are in business to help people not to sell. Ask yourself: How can I help my target audience? What product, service or idea (information) will really help them do __something__, achieve __something__, feel __something__? It is much easier to fill demand than create it, so make sure you are thinking about and really understanding your target audience, their problems and desires.
We are in a world now where most people no longer need stuff… all of our basic needs are pretty much met. People now make purchasing decisions on what they want! They look for something that sparks a desire, feeling or emotion, something that tells them a story, or reassures the story they tell themselves everyday. They also look for something that does whatever they need to do faster, quieter, easier and ultimately better. They sometimes want more of something, like time, but less of something else, like inconvenience…
Brainstorm, think and research ideas, but always ask:
- Does this truely help my target audience?
- What story does the product, service or idea tell?
- Does the story match the world view of my target audience?
Selection Considerations for Various Online Businesses
So we’ve gone through the broad topics of niche and production selection, which are the first steps of starting any online business.
But in order to give us the best chance at success, we need to look at the specific considerations in different types of internet businesses.
Check out the specifics in the pathway that you are looking to go down:
⇒ Guidelines for Choosing the Tops Products to Sell Online: Product selection principles for eCommerce stores.
⇒ Niche Selection Considerations for Affiliate Marketing Websites: Methods for choosing a niche, the difference between authority and mini-niches, and knowing your numbers.
Market Research And Testing – Don’t Leave It Up to Hope And Luck
“Intuition and experience are poor predictors of which businesses will be profitable.”
Tim Ferriss – New York Times Best-Selling Author, Entrepreneur. Adapted from The 4-Hour Work Week, Chapter 10
Can you remember a time you thought, ‘geez how could that possibly sell!?’ and yet the product was selling like hot cakes. Fidgets spinners (the current craze) comes to mind! It just goes to show that we as entrepreneurs must let the market tell us what they are willing to buy.
Remember the first part of the quote from James Cameron above? Hope is not a strategy. Well this rings true for starting any business. We must do our research and we must test where possible. This way we can determine if a product, service or niche is viable and profitable for us. The aim here is to (as cheaply as possible) research, test and then choose to invest or divest in a venture.
A quick side note: At this stage you may still have 1-3 niche options from the Niche Selection section above. That’s ok because this research will help you narrow it down and decide on a niche to move forward with. Perform the market research independently for each option you have, and try not to jump between options until you have completed the research for one. I recommend performing keyword research and competition research for each option, and leave micro-testing for the one that is most viable (as this involves spending a little money).
This is by far the most important component of your market research! Why? Because in order to find anything on the internet a person first searches for something using keywords related to the subject they ultimately want information about. Take this article for example: I am a person looking to the start an online business, I pull up Google and type into the search box “how to start online business” and away I go! Keywords are also the crux of social media platforms, all posts are grouped together using tags, hashtags or keywords taken from the post description.
The keyword research process is relatively straight forward and there are a multitude of tools available out there, but a few stand out that I use everytime:
- Google Trends
- Google Adwords – Keyword Planner (Google account required, free setup and use)
- Wealthy Affiliate – Keyword Research Tool (membership required, free starter account)
- Jaaxy (membership required, free starter account)
The aim of keyword research is to:
- Develop a list of keywords/phrases relevant to your niche, particurlarly ones that people will type into search engines to possibly find your website
- Get a better understanding of the viability of your niche by analyzing:
- Interest trends of your topic over time.
- The depth of content you can write about, products you can sell or services you can offer.
- Competition within you niche.
- Potential search traffic to your website both organic (free) and paid channels (the more traffic, the greater potential for conversions into sales).
- Get a better general understanding of your niche, as you may find ideas related to your niche that you otherwise would not have known or thought of.
Start off with Google Trends, it requires no account setup so it’s quick and easy but the data is limited (for our full depth in research) as it is designed to give you a broader overview of online search trends. Begin with any keyword or phrase you feel is relevant to your selected niche and throw it into the search box. Google Trends will then return a bunch of results looking a little like the below.
The interest over time section provides a good indication of interest surrounding your topic. I usually expand the timeline to the ‘past 5 years’ to get a big picture view. Here you are looking for a consistent or growing trend over time as good indicators. The related queries is the next important section, which gives you related keywords to note down and search further in trends. Note down or save the interest trends and related keywords from your search results for later reference.
The interest by region and related topics area are good for additional information relating to your query, but I usually don’t focus on them too much unless there is interesting or conflicting data to analyze. Be wary that sometimes the data is limited in interest by region, and so might return some puzzling results. Repeat this process for related keywords you have found until satisfied you have a good picture of trends surrounding your niche.
Google Adwords – Keyword Planner
The next step in the process is the Keyword Planner tool within Google Adwords. In order to access Google Adwords, you will need to have a Google account already setup, but this is easy as many people already have a Gmail account. To start using the tool, type your keyword or phrase into the search for new keyword box. Select specific location if only targeting a give country or countries, otherwise leave as all locations for global data. Expand the data range to the limit, which is 4 years. The Keyword Planner will then return results looking like the below.
The Keyword Planner returns search volume trends over time for a given keyword or phrase. This gives you a good indication of both the interest in the topic and the potential traffic to your website. Note down average monthly searches for your keyword and related keywords and take a notice of the trend overtime (growing or consistent is best, some might be seasonal). You will also notice that there are competition and suggested bid columns, which are present because the keyword planner is designed as a tool for using Google Adwords.
A quick side note: Google Adwords is a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising tool, which allows you to place bids on keywords and phrases (like in an auction), against other people bidding for the same keyword. Google then auctions the bids against each other and shows adverts in Google search results (shown below) depending on amount bidded and relevancy. It is an effective way to pay for showing your website on page 1 Google results, and you get charged for every ‘click’ on your ad. The more competition, the higher you typically will need to bid.
As a good back of the envelope calculation to potential search traffic to your website (via this paid marketing channel of course), take a sum of the average monthly searches for your best and most relevant keywords and multiply this by 0.01 (1%). This gives you a rough indication of potential search traffic, as typically you get a click through rate (frequency of people clicking on your ads) of between 1% to 3% (2.5% on average for a good campaign, but let’s be conservative). Repeat this process for related keywords you have found until satisfied you have enough data.
Wealthy Affiliate Keyword Research Tool And Jaaxy
The keyword research tool available within Wealthy Affiliate is effectively a basic version of the keywords feature in Jaaxy, which is why I will described them together in this section. Jaaxy has many more powerful features for keyword and competition research, suited for those who have made an initial start and are looking to get serious. However, for the purpose of initial market research, either tool is suitable via a free starter account providing 30 free searches. This restriction is a little low in my opinion, I would have liked to seen at least 100 free searches, but the benefits far outweigh the costs for a paid plan in each platform and you can see why in my reviews.
It is important to note here that these two tools are most specifically suited to those looking to write content in posts or pages with the aim to rank high in Google search results (page 1 is best) and receive free traffic. This concept is also known as writing SEO (Search Engine Optimized) content in order to obtain organic (free) traffic. It would be a wise decision for any website to be optimized for SEO and have supporting content with the aim to obtain organic traffic (reduces advertising costs and increases reach). None-the-less these keyword research tools provide an opportunity to analyze average monthly searches, an indication of potential organic traffic (if on page 1 of Google) and an indication of competing web pages (QSR: Quoted Search Results).
Perform a search of the keyword or phrase relating to your niche and record results for later reference. Good indicators included higher monthly searches (above 50 is good, but anything is better than nothing), with a lower competition (less than 100 is good for starting out and less than 300 as your website grows and gets trusted by Google). Take a note of related keywords and do a search of those to get further related results.
Understanding who your competition is, what they do and how they do it is key to building a successful online business. You need to do it differently to differentiate yourself, do it better and execute it with ruthless commitment and authenticity to the story you are telling your customers in order to build a remarkable business! So how do you find your competitiors? The same way your potential visitors do! Keyword search!
Take all your keywords recorded to date and one-by-one throw them into a Google search. It is important here to do this search using a ‘private’ window in whatever web browser you use, because the results are less influenced by your location and previous search data, unless you are specifically in the same location your target audience is in. Below are a few snips of what some of the major internet browsers call their ‘private’ window. Right mouse click on the browser icon in the task bar and select new ‘private’ window.
After opening a ‘private’ window, type Google.com in the browser, unless your target audience is in a specific country in which case open the Google specific to that country (for example Google.co.uk for UK, Google.com.au for Australia etc.). It may still default to your country specific Google, but look at the bottom right hand corner and click “use Google.com”.
Now search your first keyword and begin taking notes of the websites appearing on the first search engine results page (SERP). Click into these websites and take note of what they do, how they do it, what story they are telling about their products, services etc. and how their website is structured (sections, look, feel, navigation).
Repeat this process for the other related keywords you have noted in your keyword research above and begin to take note of the top 3-5 pages that consistently appear on the first page of Google SERP. Begin to focus in on these websites as they are mostly likely your competitors. Take notes on everything they do and how they do it, and start thinking about how to do it differently and better… this is the key!
Revist this process often as you continue your journey through an online business endeavor, because it is important to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing and what changes they are making. You need to be thinking about what could make potential visitors click through and engage with your website, product or service over your competitors’. It is an ever evolving process, and the best online entrepreneurs are adaptable and reactive to changes they see in their customers, target audience and the market in general.
This section is more suited towards businesses which are aiming to sell products rather than services or other types of online businesses like affiliate marketing websites. However if the latter is the case, I challenge you to take the principles of micro-testing and see if you can apply it in some way that allows you to test your service or niche ideas before you start it. It will ultimately allow you to the start the business with more confidence in its commerical viability.
As Tim Ferriss so elegantly puts it in his book, in order to truely testing the commerical viability of a product don’t ask people if they would buy… ask them to buy. Therefore, the aim of micro-testing is to test customers’ reactions to a product before you actually purchase or manufacture anything. This is important, because there is nothing worse than being stuck with 1000units of something that nobody wants. Just because people make it, doesn’t mean people buy it in considerable enough quanities or at a profit level that makes it worth your time to start a business with!
Create Your Test Website
Using one of the Website Creation options below (Weebly is my preferable pick for micro-testing as it is quick and easy with less backend setup), create a small 5 page website consisting of the following pages:
List and described the benefits of your product and display your product images. At the bottom have a button that says “Specifications & Pricing”. Ensure you structure your page and include benefits for your product that showcase it in a more compelling and convincing way than how your competition does!
Specifications and Pricing Page
List the important specifications of your product, as well as pricing, shipping & handling. At the bottom have a button that says “Buy Now”. Having a separate pricing page will allow you to see if people are compelled enough from your home page to check out pricing. There will be some who check the price anyway, regardless of what they thought about the product benefits, but let’s not be concerned with this at this stage.
Check Out Page
Have a box with a small product image, brief description, pricing and a selectable quantity (use a standard check out page from your favorite online store as a guide). Below this, have a contact form requesting the customer’s name and email. Configure the button to say “Continue with Order”. People who have reached this page can be deemed a “sale” for the purpose of your testing. Having this page separate will allow you to see how many people exit the pricing page without “buying”, which allows you to test and distinguish pricing from your product benefits.
Back Order Page
After clicking continue, and because we don’t have any product to sell, customers are brought to a page saying: “Sorry! We are currently on back order, but will contact you as soon as we have _____ in stock.Thank you for your patience.”
Some of you may be uncomfortable with this apparent deception, however as long as you have not requested any billing information or charged the customer, and because you are making clear that their order has stopped, it is considered legitimate as no contract for sale has been made. If still uncomfortable, you could perform the testing with a request to the customer to leave their details if they are keen to purchase the product. This will be less effective, as it is going back to asking your customers if they would buy, instead of asking them to buy. However, you can take this into consideration afterwards by factoring in a conservative 60% of people who leave their details will actually put their money where their mouth is (so to speak).
Ensure you also have a separate Contact Us page. This will help you capture and understand people who are unsure and need to ask a question before committing. Such questions allow for later improvement and the developing of a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section, which will help reduce emails to you and allow you to free up time to concentrate on other priorities.
A quick side note: It is important to make this test website look as professional as possible to give your product its best chance. Pay some attention to alignment of images, fonts, colours and other visual details, but don’t spend a week doing so! A day or so will suffice, especially as you are learning. Internet consumers are very wary when coming across new things and you want to be conscious of this.
Before we get into the testing part, it is important to be able to record and analyze your website traffic. In its most basic form, Google Analytics will allow you to see the number of visitors to a given page on your website as well as the flow of their session through your website (e.g. home page ~> pricing page ~> home page ~> pricing page ~> order page etc.).
Google Analytics is available free and all you need is a Google account. For simple micro-testing creating an account is relatively straight forward and standard settings are fine.
- Check out my separate post on How to Create a Google Analytics Account.
Or, if you already have access, go to the Admin area and create a new account category within the system. Fill in your website details as prompted and click through to get your tracking code.
This tracking code needs to be placed in the header code section of your website. In Weebly, go to the Settings menu when you are in your website editor and select the SEO menu. Paste the entire code, as provided in Google Analytics and shown below, into the Header Code section (ignore Weebly’s suggestion to place it in the footer, as it is best practice to place it in the header). Save your settings, publish your website and off you go!
In WordPress.org it is just as easy, ensure you have the All In One SEO plugin installed, and paste the UA-XXXXXXXXX-X code in the Analytics ID section of the Settings page. Save this and now you are ready to test.
It’s now time to set up your test marketing campaign. Follow the steps in the separate post below to get your ads up and running.
⇒ Set up Your Micro-Testing Ad Campaign utilizing Google Adwords: Create an account and learn the steps to creating a test campaign.
Investing, Divesting Or Re-Testing
It is time now to make a decision on whether to move forward with you niche idea, product or service. Your decision will be based on the market research (keyword and competition), and micro-testing if you were narrowing down on a product. Be careful here not to feel that you are obliged to go with a certain idea simply because you have already spent so much time on it (or money, in the case of micro-testing). The time spent here is miniscule compared to the time you could waste pursuing an idea that research determined was not viable, and execution showed it was not viable! Practice the art of non-finishing if you have to!
A Decision Based On Market Research
Make this decision by asking the following questions:
- What are the trends showing about my keywords?
- What are the keyword volumes (monthly searches) showing about my keywords?
- What are the traffic volume estimates showing about my keywords?
- How do my content opportunities look? Are they several avenues I can potentially pursue or is it limited?
- Is there good potential for my posts or page to be organically ranked on Google?
- Is there good potential for my PPC ads to show without having to bid ridiculous amounts of money?
- How is the competition in my niche? Who is competing for my target audiences attention?
- How do my competitors do it… and can I do it better?
- Do I have a consistent and authentic story that I can tell my target audience?
- Does my story match their world view?
- Is my target audience reachable? Can I see a channel or pathway on how to reach them and make an impact?
There are a lot of questions to ask and a lot to think about, but it is essential to do this hard work upfront in order to give yourself the best chance of success moving forward. Write the questions down, write the answers down, compare, think and ponder on it, but be very clear on a direction for the idea! This part can be tricky to decide on, especially the first time, so please don’t hesitate to shoot me a message if you need some help or clarification!
A Decision Based On Micro-Testing
After your week or so of micro-testing it is time to analyze the data and make a decision based on the results. First thing is to pull up Google Analytics and have a look at what pages were visited, how many unique views and the flow of sessions.
In your ‘All Website Data’ view, go down to the ‘Behavior’ section, then ‘Site Content’, then ‘All Pages’. Ensure that your date range (top right hand corner) is set correctly for the time your website was testing. Check out the data and try to understand it and its implications.
- How many people visited my Home page but didn’t continue on to the Pricing page?
- Maybe your benefits were not compelling enough?
- Maybe your website wasn’t actually relevant for the person’s search and they were misled by the ad? Have a look at the time spent on the page… low time indicates visiting and leaving straight away after initial impression (also called a ‘bounce’). Have a look at your ads… are they relevant enough to the keywords… are they clearly defining what the visitor can expect after clicking through? You don’t want people clicking through by mistake, because that just costs you money with no conversions.
- How many people got to the Pricing page but didn’t click Buy Now to get to the Check Out page?
- This may indicate an issue with Pricing, but don’t jump to conclusions too quick because naturally a lot of people will ‘check price’ before they decide ‘no’ anyhow!
- Sometimes a rookie mistake, but do double check your Buy Now button actually works 😉
- How many people get to the Check Out page and Back Order page?
- This is the key metric and indicates a solid purchase of your potential product!
- Do a sanity check between the number of Check Out page unique views and Back Order page unique views. The quantities should be the same if not very similar. If there are less on the Back Order page, some people may have backed out and changed their mind for some reason. If many backed out, maybe your Check Out page feels awkward, dodgy or inconsistent somehow.
- The number of submitted Contact Form entries on the Check Out page should be your overall confirmed orders, some people may have even selected a quantity of more than 1!
Now check out the ‘Behavior Flow’, found in the ‘Behavior’ section. Here you will see where your visitors entered your website and the journey they took through the pages. You can gauge levels of hesitation, thinking or deciding if you see visitors flow from Home page to Pricing page and back. Take a note of the number and compare to overall visits.
After this, it is time to do some simple math:
Revenue = (Price + Shipping) x Number of Potential Products Sold
Manufacture Cost = Per Unit Cost of Manufacture x Number of Potential Products Sold
Shipping Cost = Per Unit Cost of Shipping x Number of Potential Products Sold
(ensure you have considered all shipping costs – include those from manufacturer to warehouse and warehouse to customer if applicable. Be aware that when importing goods from another country you may also incur import duties and fees on those goods)
Profit = Revenue – Total Google Adwords Cost – Manufacture Cost – Shipping Cost
Now you will need to make a decision on the viability of your niche idea based on the market research, the micro-tested profit (if applicable) and the learnings from your traffic data.
For a something that could not be micro-tested, you will need to base your decision on the market research and traffic data alone. The good indicators here are a strength in potential traffic and a clear direction for the niche idea with content opportunities. With this clarity you have a greater chance of creating something of value for your target audience.
For products, the decision can also be difficult to make, especially if the profit amount is not so flash. But remember! Profit, while necessary isn’t the full picture and you need to be able to see growth potential in the numbers for most things to be worth your time. Also don’t reject a product because the numbers don’t show a $1000 or more profit for the week. I would recommend you take some serious consideration for any products with about a $200 profit or more and re-test with a better offering if in the $100 or more realm. Potentially earning an extra $200 per week could be well worth it, especially if you setup automation systems in your business that minimize your time required (good to cover the weekly cost of groceries!). It just depends on what your gut tells you, what the data tells you and what you are comfortable with!
If the data shows that pricing may be an issue or if there is a conflict between your results in market research and micro-testing you may need to re-test. But before you go dropping the price and becoming just like everybody else, have a good think about improving your offering first and keeping the price the same. Think about what value you can add to your product offering, like a better guarantee or faster shipping.
All-in-all you need to make a clear decision whether to invest, divest or re-test your niche idea. If you choose divest then understand why it didn’t work and learn for next time. Good luck and please don’t hesitate to send me a message if you need some help or clarification.
Domain Name Selection – An Art Within Itself
Your domain name forms the unique part of your web address (also known as URL), and basically identifies your website. It’s uniqueness is derived from a combination of the Top Level Domain (TLD) and the Second Level Domain (SLD) of the domain name system (DNS). To given some examples:
- Web Address (URL) – https://inspireentrepreneur.com
- Top Level Domain (TLD) – .com
- Second Level Domain (SLD) – inspireentrepreneur
- Domain Name – inspireentrepreneur.com
Just for your interest, other TLDs include ‘.com’, ‘.net’, ‘.org’, however ‘.com’ is by far the most popular and favored by search engines. There are also country code TLDs (ccTLDs), examples include ‘.ca’, ‘.co.uk’ and ‘.com.au’. These are country specific and typically utilized for businesses local to a specific country, whether it be online or a physical store.
When selecting a domain name, there are two main decisions you have to make, which SLD and which TLD?
For an SLD there are two main pathways that you can take. Either you choose an exact match domain name or a brand type domain name. For a TLD, you have many options nowadays by the most common are typically the best. Let me explain the options.
Exact Match Domain Names – Specific, Relevant And Great For Mini-Niches
These are domains where you pick the word or phrase of the domain name to exactly match the main keyword of your niche. For example, ‘howtostartyourinternetbusiness.com’ is an exact match domain name to the niche of learning how to start internet based businesses.
As you can see the name is quite specific and will be limited in the scope of what you can write about and sell within the website. As a result, these type of domain names are good for what we call mini-niches, which are effectively very specific niches. An added benefit of exact match domain names is that you might get a little extra SEO juice (ability to rank higher in search engines), but gone are the days where having such a domain get you straight to the top of search results. Another worthy mention is that visitors know exactly what your website is about before they even click into it, making you very relevant and appealing to their search.
When going about selecting an exact match domain name, it is best to re-visit your Keyword Research. Look at the keywords list for one’s which provide good average monthly searches and medium to low competition scores. Pick the one you feel is well related to your niche and that makes sense when read (i.e. ‘howstartinternet’ is not a good pick).
Brand Type Domain Names – Broad, Flexible And Great For Growth
Brand type domain names may be broadly related to your niche, or completely unrelated! This makes them flexible and versatile, where your can shift direction and evolve as your business grows. These domains are great for building a brand to be know by and are sometimes catchy, clever or meaningful, but they may not always be related to you niche so visitors may have to read more or dig deeper to understand what your website is about. Examples include ‘dell.com’ and ‘samsung.com’ as unrelated domain names, while something like ‘evernote.com’ or this website ‘inspireentrepreneur.com’ are broadly related to to their niches.
As a result, picking a brand name is often a difficult task, but in the end it is something you should be able to associate with, live by and believe in. You may brainstorm phrases, concepts, philosophies or just general words that mean a lot to you. Sometimes you can think of something catchy or clever that may be a metaphor for something related to your niche or idea. You can even come up with a few names and micro-test them through Google Adwords, I did with Inspire Entrepreneur!
Regardless of which brand domain name you settle on, just remember that if you build your brand big enough, the niche and brand may eventually become synonymous. When I say electronics you think Samsung, and when I say Dell you think computers. You gotta own it, live it and breath it!
Which Top Level Domain? – ‘.com’ Is The Best, But Not Always Available
When considering TLDs, ‘.com’ is typically the best as it is the most popular, everyone defaults to it and search engines favour it, however ‘.net’ and ‘.org’ come in not too far behind. You might also want to consider a country specific domain (‘.ca’, ‘co.uk’ or ‘com.au’ etc.), if you are only going to operate online for a specific country, but don’t forget to keep the future in view in case you plan to expand internationally.
When deciding on a domain name overall, I recommend pulling up GoDaddy or the SiteDomains section of Wealthy Affiliate, and typing in domain names that you think of, in order to check what TLDs are available. This may help or, sometimes, hinder your decision, but a necessary way to see what’s available. I recommend ‘.net’ if you can’t get a ‘.com’ and you really want the phrase or keyword name you picked, and a ‘.org’ (short for organization) is great for online businesses that are slightly more formal in nature.
In the end, it is your content, products or services and story that make up your business. The domain name, while sometimes helpful to catch attention, is not the most important aspect of an online venture and definitely not the defining feature of success. Spend some time, take some care and consideration, but not too much as your time is ultimately better spent building!
An Important Side Note: It is extremely crucial that before you settle on any domain name, you check that is not protected under a trademark and another business is not using the same name. Do a search of the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) Global Brand Database to check trademarks at an international level. Or if you are going local, search “Trademark Search __your country__” in Google.
In general you shouldn’t buy any domain name with a brand in it. It won’t serve you well in competing with an established brand and it won’t work trying to siphon traffic away from the brand, not to mention it’s illegal.
Also do a Google search on your intended domain using the private window and Google.com method in your browser (see Competition Research earlier for specifics). See what websites come up and check into them a little. Are they a competitor? Does the domain name turn out to be related to something you don’t want to be related to? Just do a basic sanity check, it will save you time (and money) later!
Website Creation – With the Foundation Work Done, It’s Time To Build
Once you’ve done all your foundation work and settled on a domain name, it is time to purchase your domain, find a website host and start building a website on it. There are many different ways you can take to execute this step, but the simplest and most cost effective by far is through the SiteRubix platform on Wealthy Affiliate (check out my review of the SiteRubix platform, as well as Wealthy Affiliate in general). The SiteRubix platform is an industry leading domain registrar, website hosting, website building, website management and support system. It is the easiest and most powerful all-in-one platform that I know of and is suited for anyone, especially beginners, looking for a hassle free way to build a website and get straight into it. The SiteRubix platform is limited to hosting WordPress.org websites (see below for more explanation and different types of website builders), however it is one of the most powerful website systems in the world so not really a limitation for some (I go into more detail in the sections below).
As a distinction between the all-in-one platform and the ‘do it for yourself’ method, these are the general steps you will need to take to get a website up and running:
- Purchase a Domain – find a domain registrar like GoDaddy and purchase a domain (you can purchase within SiteRubix). You may also want to purchase domain name privacy (hide your personal details and address). GoDaddy can do this for a fee, SiteRubix has it included in the domain purchase automatically.
- Find Website Hosting – your website needs a computer server to live on and there are countless internet companies that can do this. SiteRubix has hosting within its platform.
- Point the Domain to the Website Host – you may need to do this on SiteRubix if you purchase a domain other than a ‘.com’, ‘.net’ or ‘.org’. Regardless, this is relatively easy for any system, most give detailed instructions though it is a little technical.
- Install the Website on the Server – this involves a bit of back-end technical learning and work (SiteRubix installs it for you through a click of a button)
- Website Email – ability to have an email like ‘email@example.com’. SiteRubix provides email accounts and forwarding (sending ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ emails to ‘email@example.com’ for example) as part of a domain purchase. GoDaddy has email forwarding by charges extra for email accounts.
- Ongoing Support – this becomes more limited if you spread out your website across multiple third party services (i.e. domain at one registrar and website hosted on another). 24/7 support is included within SiteRubix.
As you can see, the ability to have everything in one place is very beneficial, but in the end you need to make the choices that are best for your business. There are many solutions, but SiteRubix is worth checking out before you commit. The process may also seem daunting, but don’t be afraid, it is something we all have to go through and when it comes down to it, it’s not actually that difficult. Just start the process and learn along the way.
Enough of the methodology for now, there are a few considerations when narrowing down on a website building platform that may be a little confusing at first, but let me help clear it up!
WordPress.org And WordPress.com
This was something that confused me at the beginning, as with a lot of people, and there are some stark differences between the two. WordPress.org is, for lack of a better word, the “true” WordPress and is the most powerful, popular and flexible blogging platform available. It is also know as the self-hosted WordPress, which means you will need to find a hosting service for your website, however the installation files for WordPress are free and open-source (the source code is able to be viewed, edited and distributed by anyone).
One of the biggest things that makes WordPress.org so powerful and flexible is the open-source software, and as a result there are over 50,000 plugins available that enhance the functionality of the system. At this stage, there is just about nothing you can’t do, modify or enhance, and it is only limited by your knowledge of html code (something that can be solved by hiring someone to assist).
The platform is easy to use, simple to setup and not limited to just blogging type websites. There are plugins like WooCommerce allowing you to turn it into a powerful eCommerce store. You can also integrate Google Analytics, select from thousands of themes and even upload custom themes.
WordPress.com on the other hand, is a hosted service where your website is hosted within WordPress.com itself, so no need to find a hosting platform. The website system is designed for casual or hobby type bloggers and aimed at being simple, fuss free and for those that do not care for endless functionality and flexibility (therefore it is not open-source). It is free for up to 3GB of storage space, features hundreds of free themes and is supported by an app for on-the-go editing.
There are however, quite a few limitations when compared to WordPress.org. There are 4 levels of plans, Free, Personal, Premium and Business, with the bottom two plans having WordPress.com Ads displayed on the site at all times. You cannot utilize a your own domain name until you upgrade to at least a Personal plan and there is also no ability to enhance the functionality of your website through installation of more plugins or custom themes until a Business plan.
Other limitations include being restricted from monetizing your site until you upgrade to a Premium plan, and restricted from using Google Analytics until a Business plan. WordPress.com does provide Jetpack which is a pre-installed plugin that has SEO, spam protection, social sharing and site stats features, however from what I have read, people have found this plugin to greatly slow down the speed of your website (I haven’t tested this myself).
If you are looking to build an online business, as opposed to just a hobby, I would definitely recommend going with WordPress.org, because of its ease to use and functionality. One distinction limitation of both WordPress systems compared to other website systems, is that the design and structure of your website is very much controlled by the theme you pick. It does not feature a drag and drop website page builder (although some themes do include this functionality), which allows you to easily structure text block, images, sections and dividers to your own liking. While a limitation for some, it isn’t for others, so you need to pick what’s best for you.
Weebly is a free website building platform that features a drag and drop page builder interface (drag text, sections and images to wherever you want it), and includes integrated eCommerce, email marketing and blog features. It is also complemented by an app which allows you to edit your website on-the-go!
I recommended you use Weebly (earlier on) to get you started in Micro-Testing a niche or product idea, as it is very easy to get started, simple to use and allows you to host your website within Weebly. If you wanted to use your own domain name, you will need to upgrade to a Starter Plan which also removes Weebly Ads from your site.
Using Weebly, I have created and run a very simple 4 page website selling a single product and it is great for this type of business or a small online store. It does however, have limitations with SEO and plugins are limited (Weebly calls them Apps).
If you considering a simple website, but may eventually look to run a blog or have lots of content to support this website, I would strongly recommend you consider utilising WordPress. It is designed support such a website, and you can still keep it simple. If however, you really like the drag drop builder interface and total control over where things go visually on your website, Weebly might be a sound choice.
Wix is another free website building platform featuring a drag and drop page builder. It has several Premium Plans for enhanced functionality, and much like Weebly it hosts the website for you with the ability to connect a custom domain through a premium plan.
I haven’t yet used Wix for myself, however on face value it includes similar features like Weebly, such as the ability to build an online store or blog, and the inclusion of plugins (also called Apps). I will add more detail when I get the chance to use Wix, however if it catches your attention I urge you to give the free account a shot to see if it is for you!
If you are looking to build an eCommerce store, Shopify is a strong consideration. I haven’t used Shopify myself yet, however I will do for my next eCommerce business.
Shopify is an industry leading eCommerce platform design specifically to support online stores and therefore it has many enhanced store features. It allows you a free 14-day trial following which, you will need to upgrade to one of the paid plans. If you are looking to build an eCommerce business, or have a physical store and looking to sell some products online, I urge you to give Shopify a go via the free-trial to see what’s best for you.
Initial Structure Of Your Website
After you have chosen your website building platform, it is time to get into the building! To start off with, there are a few key pages that most websites should have as part of their initial structure, and some considerations that you should think of in the initial stages of building out your website.
Let’s do the boring but necessary part first! It is good practice to have a combination of the following pages.
Affiliate Disclosure: This is a special one typically for affiliate type websites (monetized blogs, affiliate/internet marketers), or websites which need to disclose some sort of affiliation with a company (or companies) and its products or service.
The disclosure is in line with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) guidelines which details rules on disclosure of endorsements or recommendations. It should explain what an affiliate link is, how your website uses affiliate links and that you may receive compensation as a result of your recommendations for products or services. If true to your principles, you should also make (and keep) a promise for providing genuine and thorough recommendations, and that your recommendations are your own opinion and visitors should carefully consider their’s before making any financial decisions. This builds trust, so please be genuine and authentic in everything you set out to do!
The next key page is your About Me (or Us). Here is your chance to tell your story, start building a relationship with your visitors and show your authenticity and passion in whatever your business is about. Make it personal, honest and include a personal photograph (if you are comfortable to do so, as it builds trust and connection).
Talk a little about yourself, your journey in relation to your business and most importantly how you plan to help people. Expand on what your website, business or idea is about and why you created it. Make your about me a post, as opposed to a page (if using a blogging platform), because it will give you the comments section and allow you to ask people to engage with you, leave feedback and ask questions.
Most importantly, tell us a little story!
It is essential for every website to have a Contact page to allow your visitors to get in touch and ask any questions they may have (mine is part of my home page which was driven by my theme). Make the page simple, link to it in other posts and pages when you ask people to contact you if they have any questions.
It is best to include a contact form as opposed to an email address. It makes it simple and easy for someone to submit a message, as there is no need for them to open their email account. It also minimizes spammers, as most contact forms have reCAPTCHA, which checks if the submission is by a human.
Most importantly, ensure you get back to people on their questions!
The Months Ahead – Build, Build, Build
“Every battle is won or lost before it’s ever fought”
Sun Tzu – Chinese general, military strategist and philosopher, from his book The Art of War
You have now officially started your online business, learnt how to do it and built a solid foundation of research and understanding of your target audience. These are key to giving you the best chance at success!
The next important step is to plan your months ahead, action and continue to build out your website. Start with a 12 month goal… where would you like your online business to be at by this time?
Break the goal into 3 month steps to achieve this (4 major steps). For example an online store might have the following goals:
- First 3 Months – setup up product supply chain and initial product offering
- Second 3 Months – make first sale
- Third 3 Months – build on marketing and social media channels
- Fourth 3 Months – consistent sales and cash flow
Then break your first 3 months into weekly goals and subsequently daily goals… what exactly you are going to do today to make progress towards your first week’s goals. This allows you to have real actionable, and more importantly achievable, steps to make progress with. Broad goals a good to start with, but are difficult to achieve without breaking them down, often resulting in months of fluffying about not achieving anything much at all. Please be better and don’t fall victim to this as I once did!
I hope you have found this very detailed post useful to your start in the journey through the online business world. If you have been executing it has probably been the number one thing you have read in the weeks past and I am grateful for your attention and glad that I can help you in some way.
If there is anything I have missed, something I can elaborate on or something that is incorrect, please let me know. You feedback is welcomed and appreciated!
Are you ready!? Yes! Then get pumped, get inspired and let’s create a remarkable business!
There is no Motivator better than Progress, and there is no progress without Action! – Tweet This
Let’s Do This!
Ensure you have executed the steps in order.
Check out the links to other posts for more detailed help and information.
Ask me any questions you might have.
Continue your journey through the online world and build, build, build!
Please leave me a comment or question below, I’d love to hear your thoughts or how you are going with starting your business!
Check out the Inspiration Center for motivation during your journey.