Today we are going to look at the second section of “Dotcomology – The Science of Making Money Online” which centres on getting started in an online business.
The first step towards creating an online business is building a website. You can do it yourself or have somebody else take care of it for you.
1.1 Making Your Website Attractive, Interesting, Engaging And Interactive
To succeed at your online business your website must be built for speed; target your market; focus on a primary goal; provide credibility with a clear privacy statement and legitimate contact information; be simple to navigate with powerful search and catalogue features; be consistent in look, feel and design; have good content; and be interactive with feedback forms as well as email forms and personalized with analytic tools to facilitate cross-selling and up-selling when the customer is buying online.
Navigation is what guides users to the content they are looking for on your site. Different types of people will be visiting your site. Simulate the most common steps they would adopt to find their way about. For they need to know where they are at a particular time and how to go elsewhere from there.
Objectives of a Navigation System
They are Location Indicators and Navigation Controls.
Location indicators users know where they are in the site at a certain time and where they can go to from there. Location indicators should appear on every page of the site. They could be a page banner—text or graphic—naming the page or a colour such as a different colour background, contrast colour or sidebar in each part of the site. Another way is to use “breadcrumbs” on every page. These show you a series of hierarchical links that you have used to go from page to page within a section.
As the main navigation links, they allow users to move around the site. Whether you use images or text, locate them in the same place and with the same appearance, on each page.
Know that websites are not designed for their owners but for eventual users. As new people are coming online every day, web users cannot be said to be as sophisticated as websites. Since many users wouldn’t be so web savvy, your job is to make your site as easy to use as possible.
1.3 Defining a Usable Site
A usable site is the one which:
Helps users find something (e.g. information) or obtain something (e.g. a book).
Will make that task easy for them
Will make the task a pleasant experience
Will have good and relevant content, and
Will have a pleasant and cleanly designed page.
1.3.1 Good Content is Critical
A site with a good content is the one which provides beneficial products or useful information to users.
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1.3.2 Ease of Access to Information
Good navigation, precise location indicators, secondary navigation, clear linked text and a well-organized structure will make it easy for many different types of users to easily find information on your site.
1.3.3 Quick Access to Information
Nothing pleases web users more than to quickly find what they are looking for. You can help them by ensuring speed of page loading and speed of access to content.
Speed of Page Loading
Properly optimize images so that they do not excessively delay load time. You can also break up long articles and move important content to the top of the page which loads first.
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Speed of Access to Content
This requires two techniques: the 3-click rule which states that no important content should be more than 3 clicks from the home page and creating links from the home page to content on other pages of the site. One click and users have access to that post.
1.3.4 Cleanly Designed Pages
Cleanly designed pages are inviting and easy to read. Such a page should have less and not more elements since more is often distracting.
1.3.5 Download Status
A site where things are to be downloaded should provide clear download instructions, state the size of the file in kilobytes and the estimated time of download for a user having a 56K modem, DSL, Cable and so on.
1.3.6 Usability Problems
Do users encounter any problems using your site? These can be detected through full-scale usability studies or simply by asking trustworthy friends to go on your site and identify problems using it. You may even watch them doing so and anytime they flounder, you have found a usability problem.
List of the Most Common Usability Problems
Among those listed by Stone are:
Huge images, banner ads or flashy elements which slow down loading
Poor navigation, too little navigation, too much navigation and, not uncommonly, no
navigation at all
Bad design which ends in poor readability
Irrelevance of content, for example a business site that includes biographies.
1.4 Building Interactivity and Personalization
Make your website interactive with feedback forms and email forms that allow your prospective customers to ask questions about your products. Personalization technology provides you the analytic tools to facilitate cross-selling and up-selling when the customer is buying online.
Make your site aesthetically inviting with visually appealing organization and enticing images.
1.6 Web Copy
Your website content must let visitors think your service is either unique or superior in quality to that of your competitors, and also competitively priced. Let them have the feeling that you can solve their problems, have the answer to a dream, enrich their lives, and/or improve their businesses.
People visit your web page by scanning, scrolling, clicking, hitting the back and the forward buttons. You have only milliseconds to hook them and make them stay or disappoint them and have them click off. If you want visitors to stay on your site, then the layout, functionality, message, overall look and feel of your web page must all be good.
To achieve that, always produce content for your web page with your visitor’s perspective in mind. To get this perspective, ask yourself:
- What are their needs?
- Why are they on your site?
- How can you make their visit as quick and efficient and positive as possible?
To ensure these, carefully clarify the goal of each page before starting to write.
Why should someone do business with you?
Always specify the service you provide and what your customer can gain from it. Compare your service to your competitors’ and let your buyers know what makes you stand out from the competition. Find why people must do business with you and you only and summarize it into one tight, powerful, sharp USP—motivating phrase—that sells your service to your customer. For example, I adore “We’re the best, forget the rest.” It’s short, concise, powerful and inviting.
Use call-to-action language and be interesting. Your page should be so organized so as to make the buying process and the payment one too flow seamlessly. Know that “ease of use” is what counts on an ecommerce site.
How can you get potential clients to buy from your website? By winning their trust. And how do you achieve that? Through getting endorsements from a valued friend or colleague, or a referral from a strategic partner. Also keep abreast of the latest developments in your field by checking on what your competitors are posting, and watching for new trends. This will help you keep your website up to date. This way you can also detect an angle or niche to beat the competition. To finish, don’t broaden the theme of your site too much. This dilutes your product or service’s targeted niche.
Simply focus on selling your service. That’s where business will come from.
1.7 Choosing a Domain Name
In the physical world, people find a business through its location, look, window displays, or signs. In the virtual, however, no such visual signs exist. Your domain name is the only clue to your business. To find you people have to type in a word or a set of words which gives them access to your website. Your visitor may not know what your site is all about until after reading it. Can you tell what Facebook is from its homepage?
This is why domain names are important. It can be the difference between success and failure on the Internet. A good domain name can make your business stand out in the virtual jungle of a myriad of websites, and a bad one can get it hidden by them. This is what led to the use of generic domain names which immediately let visitors know what the online business was about. For instance, PlugInProfitSite.com is a site where you can simply plug in and make money. Check it here
However, generic names may not necessarily do the magic for your website. Branding is the answer. Branding has always been about proper names. Otherwise Google could have named their site Search Engine.
Domain names which stand out and are easy to remember make for better branding. Take these points into account when creating a domain name:
It should be short
It should be simple
It should give clues about your business category
It should be unique
It should be easy to interpret and pronounce
It should be personalized
It should not be difficult to spell
It should not be difficult to remember
After you create your domain name, you can register it through “registrars”—companies you can find listed at ICANN.org. Registrations can be for 1 year up to 10 and prices from $8 to $30 a year. Don’t forget to be properly listed as the owner of the registered domain and to renew it at the due date. If you don’t, you may lose your domain name, even to a competitor. Haven’t you sometimes searched for a domain only to be greeted by the words: This domain name is for sale”?
1.7.1 Using Expired Domains to Skyrocket Your Traffic
Expiring domains are a great opportunity to make easy money. Thousands of webmasters lose interest in their sites and abandon them. Although inactive, all the traffic techniques and automatic marketing systems they’ve put in place are still bringing in traffic.
For instance, when Google blocked this site sometime ago on suspicion of my violating their profile rules, I was surprised to see the site running itself (getting traffic) during the months of inactivity.
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When ownership of abandoned sites expires, they are offered for sale, and when you buy it you grab also a pre-built stream of customers. You can either rebuild the site, or redirect the traffic to your domain. Talk to DeletedDomains.com when you need one. Any other option may take you to swindlers.
1.8 The Host
The Internet starts with a host, a server that provides a home for your website on the World Wide Web. It contains all the files on your website just as your computer contains all your computer files. To see your site, your users simply connect to the server where you have uploaded everything using your host which makes your site run faster and have all the security and extras.
Therefore selecting a host is the first major step in building your Internet business. Hosting services and companies come in all shapes, types and sizes: from totally free, shared servers to large-scale dedicated machines. Should you go for free or paid service?
Your choice will depend on your budget to start with but don’t forget how much you plan to grow in the future. Stone feels that free hosting is not a good idea for commercial sites. This is because your visitors may be pestered with pop-ups, you will not get a decent position in a search engine, and your site gets no real business URL. People may have difficulty remembering a web address like: FreeWebsiteHosting.com/my_site. The answer?
If at all possible choose a cheaper host at the beginning and move up as your business begins to bring in money.
NOTE: Keep customer service in mind when choosing a website host. If your web hosting company is not a truly dedicated one who will support you and help you resolve the many technical issues that can crop when your website is up and running, that may be the end of that online dream. As with many things, the service you get with website hosting is proportional to what you paid. So don’t compromise with quality when it comes to hosting your website.
1.9 Testing and Performance
Once you have designed a very usable website, hosted it with a highly dependable web hosting company, and integrated a safe and reliable payment processing system with it, you must make sure your site is actually working and accessible. To do so, test your site over and over again. Failure to do this may cost your average small or mid-size company money on website redesigns, income, and lost customers. Although a long and tedious task, you must not joke with testing a website which is perhaps the most important task you may have to undertake with your site.
Testing encompasses numerous stages (from browser testing to content testing).
Visual Acceptance Testing
The first port-of-call for all webmasters, you generally carry out Visual Acceptance Testing to ensure that the site looks as good as it should. So you check the graphic integration and examine each page to find out if they all look alike. Test your site under different screen resolutions and color depths.
Perhaps the most important form of testing of a website, functionality testing consists of examining every aspect of the site concerning scripting or code, from looking for dead links, to testing forms and scripts and payment processing system. A non-functioning payment processor would make a potential customer get stuck and eventually leave your site, no doubt with sales lost.
This consists of checking each page of your site for spelling and grammatical errors. Removing any errors in your content will give your site a professional look.
System and Browser Compatibility Testing
Test several pages of your site on different browsers: Internet Explorer 4, 5, 6, Netscape 4 and 6, Mozilla Firefox and Opera to ensure that your website renders correctly on different users’ screens. For if your site does not work properly with a user’s browser, they will no doubt be vexed and leave never to come back.
1.9.1 Monitoring and Tracking Your Visitors
It is crucial to learn about your visitors’ behaviour on your site. If for instance, potential buyer abandons the purchase process at a specific stage, it could signify problems there. Doing nothing more than fixing that problem could increase your sales dramatically, sometimes by 200%-300%.
Other reasons for a detailed analysis of your site visitors are that statistics are vital for tracking your marketing progress. A good website hosting service (we cannot insist enough!) would offer traffic logs which will give invaluable insight into the traffic being referred to your website from search engines, directories and other links. Such traffic tracking often comes as raw traffic log files or other hard-to-understand, cryptic formats. The log files are essentially text files that describe actions on the site but they do not let you understand what your visitors are doing. If you are not endowed with loads of patience to go through these huge traffic logs, then go for a trafficlogging package.
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There are two types: a log analysis package and a remotely hosted trafficlogging service which may be easy to use and is generally cheaper than the first. A free powerful tracking tool is StatCounter.com. Other reliable tracking programs are WebTrends.com and HitsLink.com.
To use them, you normally place a small section of code on a page to be tracked. When viewed by a visitor, the information is stored on the remote server in the form of charts and tables. This can be consulted in real time.
With a good traffic logging service you get detailed statistics on:
Number of people visiting your site
Where they come from
How they are finding your site
What traffic is coming from search engines, links from other sites, and other sources
The keyword search phrases being used to find your site
What pages are most frequently visited and the information that most interests visitors
How visitors navigate within your web site
No doubts these pieces of information and others are essential for making decisions and maximizing the return on investment (ROI) of your website investment.
You track visitors to your website so as to analyze the statistics coming from your tracking software. The statistics that will show your overall progress are hits, visitors and page views. Hits are tracked when any picture or page loads from your server on to a visitor’s browser. Being very misleading, hits are therefore quite an irrelevant statistic for your website. However you can count on the statistics of Page Views/Visitors. This tells you how many people are visiting your site and how long they are staying there. Supposing you get 300 page views for 250 visitors, this means most visitors view only one page and then leave. Since it is recommended to get at least 2 page views per visitor, you will then be made to upgrade your site’s content to make visitors stay around longer.
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Should the number of your site visitors be increasing, then you know that your site design is accepted and your marketing campaigns are being effective.
What to watch out for too are unique visitors statistics. When a person visits your site for the first time, they are added to the unique visitors’ category. Since they are no longer added when they come back again to visit, you can easily use this statistics to track new visitors to your website.
Other many highly specialized statistics exist for more in-depth web traffic analysis, but the ones mentioned above are enough to provide invaluable information on your visitors and your website performance.
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1.9.2 Tracking Your Sales
Your online business is a business like any other. You must therefore track and maintain your sales records. Understand your income and expenditures.
You can keep track of your sales in many ways. An orthodox method, such as keeping a paper journal is tedious. You can therefore use simple spreadsheet programs and basic accounting software at minimum or no cost at all. But what is recommended above all is advanced accounting software such as QuickBooks, Quicken, or Microsoft Money to keep track of your accounting. The advantages are that they are time savers that sort your register transactions by date, transaction amount, document number (e.g. check number), order entered, or cleared status. Also the tracking feature included in such software tracks changes made to each transaction by user. Besides, with a few clicks daily, weekly, monthly as well as yearly sales reports can be generated. Furthermore these reports help you analyze the sales of each and every product. Finally logs and reports can be generated to keep track of all your customers.
NOTE: But if you want to save yourself many of the tracking problems mentioned above, become an affiliate of other companies and resell their products for a profit. The affiliate company will keep track of your traffic and sales automatically and presents all this information to you in easy to read charts and graphs.
Click here to learn about a turn-key affiliate marketing system that you can use to earn multiple streams of income on the Internet.
1.10 Building Credibility and Maintaining It
You must build credibility as well as trust for your business as an ongoing and full-time effort. Your website should work as hard as you do to establish and maintain your credibility. Which elements can therefore be built into a well-designed website to enhance credibility in the eyes of your potential customers?
Offer a Guarantee
A physical store is real and a website is virtual, do you remember? Buying online is still unfamiliar and uncomfortable for many. Buyers are wondering how to buy online and how to find the seller should something go wrong. Scammers have not helped matters either. Fortunately you have ways to build credibility online and let the buyer trust you. That is a solid, unconditional 100% money back guarantee.
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By assuming all of the risk, you easily earn instant credibility points with your potential customers.
Provide Contact Information
Offering a guarantee is good but how or where does the buyer contact you should things go wrong? This is why you must have accurate, clear and easy to find contact information on your website. Simply posting a link to an email address wouldn’t be enough. Maximum credibility comes with also adding the complete mailing address and a phone number (preferably a toll free one).
Provide a Brief Bio
One of the most effective tools for ensuring credibility on the Internet is familiarity. Simply let people know you by posting a page that provides a thumbnail sketch of who you are. Include personal data as well as professional credentials. The Internet is too faceless, too impersonal, so upload a photo onto the page so that people can put a face with your name.
NOTE: Would you like an easy way to start making money online? Stone Evans has created a simple, turn-key, 3-step system that you can use to launch your very own money-making website on the Internet within the next 24 hours. Click here to learn more about it and enrol today.
For in depth treatment of the above topic, click here to download the e-book now!
In this section, we saw how to build your website as well as many of the elements your website must contain to be effective. We also discussed web hosting and domain names and even talked about how to use expiring domain names to get free traffic flowing to your website. Next time we will go to the third section of Stone Evan’s “Dotcomology – The Science of Making Money Online” which will look more closely at some of the more popular and successful Internet business ideas.
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