The great thing about having your own online business is there are a lot of resources available to help you. Trouble is, there are so many it can be overwhelming. Here are some of the best I’ve found after 15 years of doing this.
* If you’re a complete beginner to building websites you might want to read my newbie guide – it’ll help you understand how all these pieces fit together.
Buying a Domain Name
I buy all my domains at GoDaddy. They have lowest prices on the main domain name extensions like .com, .net, .org, the newer ones like .co, .us and .info as well as country domains like .ca and .co.uk. You can usually get a great deal – even a free domain name – if you sign up to their hosting service at the same time.
Need help choosing a name? I wrote buying great domains just for you.
I highly recommend Media Temple because it’s the best hosting I’ve used in 15 years. Very few problems and their support team is always quick and helpful.
Media Temple hosts this site and other sites I publish, which generate a total of around three quarters of a million page views a month. All this on their Grid Server plan which costs $20 a month. It’s outstanding value.
If you need something cheaper than Media Temple, take a look at Host Gator. These guys can get you started from $4 month. I’ve worked with clients hosted by Host Gator and found they’re very reliable with great support people.
Building a Website
Once you’ve got a domain name and web hosting you need a way to actually create your website.
In 99% of cases, WordPress is the best option. It’s free and there are thousands of plugins and themes available that allow you to add features (with plugins) or use an eye-catching, unique design (with themes) without needing to be designer or web developer.
Normally you need to install WordPress yourself, but both Media Temple and Host Gator have a free service that does it for you. All you have to do is click a button and make some coffee. I’ll have one and half sugars (I’m pretending to be on a diet).
If you’re the hands-on type, you should take a look at Matt Wolfe’s excellent free 7-day WordPress Video course, which walks you step-by-step through the entire process of making a WordPress site, getting some Google traffic and making your first few dollars online. This is exactly the kind of course I wish there had been for me when I started.
Getting Visitors to Your Site
It goes without saying that you’ll need to use at least a couple of social media sites to encourage people to visit your site. The big ones to try are Facebook and Twitter. If your site is aimed at a business audience, being active on LinkedIn (especially within groups) can be worthwhile.
If you site has a lot of good imagery, don’t forget Pinterest and Tumblr.
One of my biggest sources of visitors is Triberr
Sort of a cross between a social network for bloggers and a sharing and distribution platform, Triberr sends me a huge amount of web traffic with around 30 minutes a day of work from me. It’s a free service.
The only “catch” is that it can be quite confusing to set up and get going with it. That’s why I wrote an ebook to help Triberr newbies get started quickly.
For more ways to get traffic see my guide to social media marketing (designed for people who don’t want to spend all day on Facebook and Twitter) and my Kindle book that covers 90 other sources of web traffic.
There are three basic ways to make money online. You can use advertising, affiliate marketing to earn commissions when recommending products you like, or you can sell a product or service.
Google AdSense is the largest advertising network by far. It’s free to join and it’s usually the easiest way to starting making money with your website. Be sure to check out their help pages for advice on the best placements for ads and to take a look at my own AdSense tutorial.
For info on other advertising networks see my alternatives to AdSense post.
This is a big subject – if you’re new to this, take a look at my Affiliate Marketing for Complete Beginners. It’s a no BS guide to how it works.
One of the most best known affiliate programs is Amazon’s Associates program. It’s popular with beginners because it’s easy. At the same time, it’s highly-rated by many top affiliate marketers because it’s possible to make a lot of money with it.
Take a look at my Amazon Associates tutorial for secret tips on becoming a successful affiliate.
If you don’t want to use Amazon or want to try another good affiliate company head over to Share A Sale. They have stores and products in all types of industries and product categories. The interface is a little clunky but it’s easy to use and there’s a great selection of merchants.
Selling a product
The easiest way to start selling products online is to use something called an ecommerce hosting platform. That’s when you use a dedicated service to handle the complicated details – like inventory, shipping calculations, etc. – instead of either doing it yourself with WordPress & plugins or having an expensive custom developed online store.
Shopify powers the storefronts of big names like General Electric, Tesla Motors and Angry Birds. I like them because they have a good store builder that both technical and non-technical folks can use, good support and a 30-day free trial so you can be sure Shopify is right for you.
Building a Mailing List
Email lists help build traffic to your website as well as offering you a way to keep in touch with your most dedicated fans (the ones who are most likely to buy products you recommend).
Guess what? Yes, I wrote a post about that too: How to Use Email Marketing to Grow Your Online Business.
To handle subscriptions and send out mailings you need a mailing list provider.
One final tool I love
If you’ve read my post on content curation (writing posts of the best links and resources on a particular subject) you’ll know I’ve found it’s a great way of generating lots of quality content quickly. Trouble is, even though curated posts are faster to write than normal, do-it-yourself posts, there’s still lots of time needed to research and find links.
That’s why I use CurationSoft – it speeds up my research and writing by pasting a nicely formatted link and description into my blog editor. A quick rewrite of the description and link title to make it my own and I’m done. Awesome.