If you’re a complete beginner when it comes to running a web business this guide is for you. Even if you have some knowledge of how websites work but aren’t 100% sure how all the pieces fit together this article will make things clearer.
Just like an offline business, an online business is made up of many different elements but at the heart are two fundamental areas – the website itself and the marketing of the website.
Everyone knows you need a website to build an online business but it might not be so obvious how important web marketing is.
Getting your site online is just the first step. You may have made a great site but without promotion no one will ever discover it.
Marketing a site doesn’t mean having to spend lots of money on advertising and it doesn’t mean you need to be a marketing guru. But you will need to dedicate some time for marketing & promotion once you’ve launched your site.
Choosing An Idea For Your Website
If you already know what kind of site you want to launch you might want to skip this section but if you’re still searching for online business ideas here are a few suggestions to help get you thinking.
An Information Site or Blog
Creating a site that focuses on a subject you’re knowledgeable about or have an interest in is a lot of fun.
Not only will you find it relatively easy to think of ideas for blog posts and How To articles but you’re probably a regular visitor to the kind of websites who will be your competition. Thinking about what you like and don’t like about those sites will give you ideas about how you can approach the same topic differently or in a better way.
Any subject can become an information website. Your jobs (past and present), hobbies, sports, education, self-help are all good areas to explore when searching for a good idea.
You can write your content as either an expert or an enthusiast.
There’s always an audience for clearly explained expert tips, advice and insights, no matter what the subject is.
But you don’t have to be an expert to create a website on your chosen subject. Writing as an enthusiast means focusing on sharing with others what you learn as you explore a subject.
For example, suppose you’re an average golf player. Instead of telling yourself you can’t write a blog about golf because you’re not an expert, you could make your journey to become a better player the focal point of the site. Other golfers will enjoy learning about new techniques and tips you’ve discovered.
Product Review Site
Product comparison and review sites have been one of the big successes on the web over the last few years. There’s a steady stream of shoppers looking for sites that can help them make an informed decision when choosing one product over another.
This is another area where expertise picked up through a job can help you earn money all over again. If you’ve sold a particular type of product in a store you can turn your experience of the best models and features into helpful product reviews quite easily.
You could do the same thing with a service industry. Maybe you’re a dry cleaner. Not much of a web business in that you might think. But every day thousands of people search for ways to remove stains from clothes, carpets and tablecloths. They’re looking for the expert tips you already know.
The important thing is to choose a subject that you actually care about, not just something you think will make you a lot of money quickly. Otherwise, you’ll find the business of promoting your site through through forums, blogs and social networking sites tough and boring work.
Getting Your Website Online
Once you have an idea for a site the next step is to buy two inexpensive things – a domain name and web hosting. These are the only two things you need to buy to launch your website.
Your domain name will be your unique address on the web – like google.com is for Google and facebook.com is for Facebook. The price of a new domain name varies but a .com address shouldn’t cost more than a few dollars a year. I recommend GoDaddy– they’re among the cheapest out there and I’ve been very happy registering my domain there.
If you need more help on this see our post on Buying a Domain Name.
If you think of a domain name as like the physical address of a store, you can think of web hosting as the building the store is in. It’s where all of your website content is stored.
There are lots of hosting companies to choose from some good, others best avoided. There’s a more detailed look at how to make a good choice in our guide to affordable web hosting but I’ll repeat my recommendation here for Media Temple who’ve provided me with the best hosting service I’ve used in fifteen years as a web publisher.
That said, Media Temple are more expensive than most hosts. If you’re looking for something reliable but inexpensive, take a look at HostGator (and feel free to use my genius25off coupon for 25% off).
One Last Thing
Along with your new domain name and web hosting account you’ll need a bit of software that runs on your site and takes all the hard work out of formatting and publishing your content.
The hands-down easiest way to create a website is with WordPress.
It’s free and easy to use. If you’ve never used WordPress before, take a look at my beginner’s guide to using WordPress. It’s currently priced at only $2.99 and will save you hours of time. I take you step-by-step through installing WordPress (a lot easier than it sounds), creating your first website or blog, and getting your first visitors from Google.
Take a look at WordPress Websites Step-by-Step