10 Crucial Steps to Create an Online Presence
If you are like most people, the ability to live out your years comfortably as a self-sufficient business owner is at the top of your list of priorities. You may even dream of growing rich. Over the years, there has been televised wealth guru after wealth guru boasting about the riches they have attained and how you too can grow rich beyond your wildest dreams. But how does one do that? You have to establish an online presence.
The internet is a great place to get rich. It is a worldwide marketplace that is open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. You get to be your own boss, set your own hours and conduct business transactions from the comfort of your own home in your footed pajamas. There is little to no overhead and the start-up cost is so low that you can see a return on your investment with the sale of just one moderately priced item. Even if you already own a business, creating an online presence around your products and services is the most cost effective way to expand your current business as it levels the playing field allowing you an equal opportunity to compete with big boxers and other megastores. The internet allows you to work smarter, not harder. Here are ten crucial steps to get you started with building an online presence.
1. Decide what to sell and who will be your target audience.
If you are already in business for yourself, this step should be easy. If not, then I suggest that you think about things that you are good at or that you love to purchase yourself. Hobbies are especially good places to look for a product or service. If you are passionate about something, more than likely there are others who may be equally interested in the same subject. The easiest way to find your product after you have determined what it is you wish to sell is to find a company that allows you to set up a dropshipping relationship. Dropshipping is an arrangement that allows you to sell products at your own prices and then forward the order to the supplying company to complete the order. Many suppliers are willing to do this because it is a win-win situation for both parties. You get to make an income from home without having to stock an inventory and the company gets more business. If a particular company you are interested in doesn't have a prearranged dropshipping service, contact them and ask if they would be willing to create one. What do they have to lose?
If nothing else, sell information. Learn all that you can about the subject and then become an expert. We live in a world of convenience where everyone wants everything right now. By providing an information product, you have already done the work necessary to reach certain valuable resources. People will pay to know what you know because it is more convenient than to find these resources themselves. Information products can include lists, articles, reports, eBooks, books, training manuals, CDs, DVDs and more.
Think about what type of person would buy your product and service. What is/are their age, gender, income, buying habits and social status? All of these demographics play a key role in determining the profile of your "niche" customer. Identifying and building your marketing efforts around this group will give you a competitive edge in the marketplace.
2. Perform a review of competitor sites.
Start with a major search engine such as Google or Yahoo. Think about what common keywords or phrases a potential customer would use to find your site and subject matter. For instance, if your product is strawberry ice cream, you would type in "strawberry ice cream" or "flavored ice cream" in the search bar. Examine the listings on the first page of results. What title and descriptions were used?
Click into each of the sites and check out their source code. You can find this by clicking on the "View" menu located in the toolbar of your internet browser and then "Source". This will display the site's HTML source code if the webmaster has not hidden it. Look toward the top of the code for the HTML tag "head". Within a few lines you will find the tag "title". This should be the same as the title you saw on the search page. Take note of what words or phrases were used and their frequency. Beneath this tag should be a group of tags that begin "meta name=description..." or "meta name=keywords". Take special note of the "content=" portion of these tags.
Finally, close the source code window and examine the content of the Home page. Compare what keywords and descriptions were used throughout the page with what keywords were included in the meta tags. You should perform this task with the top three to five listings on the first page of the search results for every keyword that could be used for your own site. Examine your results as these would determine which keywords and phrases will be used on your own site.
3. Purchase a unique domain name and subscribe to a good, affordable hosting service.
Your domain name will be your site's URL. For instance, if you are "Bob's Motor Oil", your domain and URL could be "www.bobsmotoroil.com" or "www.bobs_motoroil.com". Whatever you use, it should be specific to your product or service, easy to commit to memory, not difficult to spell and be unique to prevent confusion with a similar company. Using your own name as your domain name could be difficult unless your name represents your product or service as a brand.
A good domain name should help portray a feeling. For instance, "www.totalwellbeingcenter.com" presents an image of peace and relaxation. This is hard to achieve with your own name unless you are Donald Trump whose name represents power and wealth. Any product or service that bears his name would immediately be recognized as luxurious. Keep this in mind when choosing your domain name. For a simple beginner site, your domain registration should cost no more than $15 to purchase for one-two years and hosting should be less than $20 per month. Make sure the hosting company has a built-in shopping cart software package so that you can create an online store if you will be selling products directly from your website. Try to stay away from domain extensions such as .net, .biz, or .ws. It is best to stick with the traditional .com extension because the majority of your customers won't remember the other extensions and, therefore; they will not find your website.
4. Create keyword-rich content on each page.
Now it is time to start building your website. You can either use the free page builder software that is probably included with your hosting program or for more flexibility; you can use a program like FrontPage or DreamWeaver and then upload the completed site to your hosting service. I prefer to use FrontPage myself. Build each page with good, solid descriptions of your products and services. At a bare minimum, your site should include a Home page (the entry into your site) with a welcoming address, a Company Profile or Bio page, and a Contact page so that potential customers can reach you. Additionally, a products and services page with a detailed description of each item should be included either separately or within the content of you built-in shopping cart.
Each page should include several instances of at least three of the keywords and phrases that you have decided best describe your site. Title each page appropriately and enter a keyword-rich description. Descriptions should be no more than twelve words long and must include similar keywords as those in your title and the content of your page to achieve the best possible search ranking. If you don't know what to put on your page to help build up your site's relevant content, there are many free online article databases that will allow you to borrow content to use on your site. If you choose to go this route, make sure that you do not forget to include the author's bylines or "about the author" box as otherwise use of their copyrighted material would be considered plagiarism. Finally, publish your site and be your first visitor. Check to make sure that all links work and there are no grammar errors. Go through the process of making a purchase from yourself to get a feel for what your customers will experience. Correct any problems as needed.
5. Do some PR.
Order new business cards that include your site URL and email address. Send out a press release to your existing media contact list or create a new one. There are also several free PR services on the web. If you belong to a community organization, inform them and request that they send out the release on your behalf. You can also ask for these associations to broadcast an announcement to their mailing lists. If you publish your own newsletter from your existing business, it would be wise to include an announcement to your existing customers. It would also be a good idea to take your newsletter online and create a free email marketing campaign.
There are many online services that will allow you to do this but your functionality would be limited to basic broadcast newsletters and announcements that would include their company advertisements. If you want your newsletters to be branded with your company information only, then you will need to pay for the service. Either way, it is worth it. I also suggest setting up an autoresponder with these services or even within your own email program. An autoresponder sends an instant reply to any inquiry submitted to your email. It acts as your immediate customer service to ensure customers that you care about them. You can include new product announcements, links back to your website and other news as well as a general customer service statement in your autoresponder. These are a great tool to build customer rapport.
6. Develop an elevator speech and include it along with your site URL in your email signature.
This is free advertising that is effective. You do not have to include your full elevator speech but try to extract a few key points or announcements that will catch your reader's eye. I always include my title, company tagline, my website URL and a phrase or two about any upcoming events. For instance, I might want to inform people about my new radio show so my signature would include "Tune in to my radio show, Building Bridges, every Tuesday at 1:30PM CST on BlogTalkRadio. Visit my Events page for more information or subscribe to download for podcast." This is informative soft advertising that really works.
7. Join webrings, link and banner exchanges.
Although these services are promoted as traffic builders, they really do not serve this purpose as directly any longer. While you can achieve some traffic through these links, there is a science to it. The primary reason you would want to join these services is to rank higher in the search engines. The trick to using these effectively is to ensure that they are quality content-oriented sites that are also somehow related to your own site's subject matter. You wouldn't want to trade links with a site that sells dog food if your website is concentrated on hair care products. Instead, you would want to trade links with a beauty magazine or modeling and talent database. By doing this, you are associating your site with quality related content which the search engines recognize and merit. Also, you don't want to have too many outgoing links so try to limit your number of exchanges as this can show negatively in search engine ranking.
8. Write related articles or post to a blog that links back to your site.
This is key to improving your search engine ranking as well as establishing yourself as an expert in your field. When you submit articles to free submission sites, other webmasters who are seeking quality content for their own sites will copy your article and use it in their webpages. These webmasters only want articles that are related to their targeted niche so you don't have to worry too much about your article being reposted in a strange place. The webmasters will include your author bylines which are a few sentences about you and your services with a link back to your own site. These are one-way links, meaning that you do not have to have a reciprocal link to the webmaster's site on your own site. The more sites that link to you, the better your listings will be among the search engines.
9. Submit your site to major search engines every 30-45 days.
You can do this more frequently if you update regularly. I try to update my site on a regular basis by writing new articles for inclusion in my blogs as well as staying abreast of my competitors by consistently reviewing their webpages for ideas on new content. I also reevaluate my keywords and descriptions and then resubmit whenever there is a change. You can drop in the rankings if the search engines "forget" about your site.
10. Actively participate in newsgroups and other online forums.
This is another good marketing avenue that will allow you to get your links out via your signature line as well as establish you as an expert. Answer questions truthfully and stay away from subjects that you are unfamiliar with. Be as helpful and informative as possible in the discussions. Other group members will be impressed by your knowledge and be inspired to visit your webpage for more information. At the very least, it is possible to pick up quite a few referrals. Be careful not to "commercialize" your postings so that you do not turn people off.
The bottom line is that to make it as an entrepreneur today, you must establish an online presence. Put together a website and optimize it for the best possible rankings in the search engines. If your potential customers can not find you, then your site will be for naught. Use as many avenues as possible to promote your link and have a method for customers to make purchases online. Many online consumers make impulse buys much the same as in a traditional brick-and-mortar store so promote, promote, promote.