3 min read

8 Keys to a Successful Online Startup

8 Keys to a Successful Online Startup

In my experiences as a geeky search engine marketing specialist, I see things from project to project that either make or break a website. From a marketing point of view, it makes it a lot harder for a project to succeed if these few items are not followed. These key factors may seem like common sense, but you'd be amazed at how many people don't stop to think about them before they decide to undertake their newest "get rich quick" idea for a website.

1. Know your industry '- You wouldn't pay rent for a brick-and-mortar store, stock your shelves, hire employees, buy cash registers and decorate your new store's floor plan with expensive dental equipment if you didn't have a clue about dentistry or dental equipment, would you? Don't make the same mistake with your website and new online business. Don't go into an industry you know next to nothing about because you think it's an easy way to make money, nothing is easy on the Internet anymore. If you're not already an expert, become one by doing your research, going to conferences, networking and getting some hands on experience before you go throwing money at a website.

2. Know your market '- Once you know your industry, you need to then know how big the market for this industry is on the Internet. One reason that Pets.com was such a huge failure back in 2000 was because they bet everything on the market. They had the "if we build it, they will come" strategy instead of actually determining if there was a viable market for this multi-million dollar website at that time. You too will need to know if there's a viable market on the Internet for your product, service or information, and whether the market is large enough to sustain your startup and marketing costs.

3. Know your competition '- Knowing your market leads easily into knowing your competitionŒƒ and how much of the market they have already gobbled up! It is much more expensive to acquire new customers then it is to keep them, so if your competition has the market locked down with things like excellent SERPs (search engine result pages), tons of features and info, free shipping, low prices and a huge customer base; these are all things you'll need to know and consider before you go throwing money at your new venture and marketing campaign. If you can't compete, don't expect a huge ROI.

4. Do something different- One key to a successful project in this day and age is offering something different. So many people think that they can just copy a distributor's catalog, put it into a website and make money hand over fist. Unfortunately it's not quite that easy any more (years ago it was that easy!). In 2008 you need to offer something new, do something different, offer unique content or somehow take a new slant on what everyone else is doing. The most obvious reason for doing this (from my geeky SEO point of view) is because the search engines will automatically banish your website to something called the "supplemental listings" if your website's content is not completely unique. Not only will you benefit by getting free search engine listings with your unique/new/different approach, but your visitors will also stop to appreciate it, instead of spending 1.3 seconds viewing it while they look at 1000ŒÍs of others that offer the exact same experience.

5. Don't be afraid to spend money - Once you have done the above four things, don't be afraid to spend money on marketing when you launch your website. If you don't spend money on marketing when you launch you'll have a much longer haul before you start to see a profit. If you don't spend money and just wait for it to take off, by the time you get visitors to your website the iron might be ice cold. I would recommend spending money on PPC (pay per click) search engine traffic like Google Adsense and Yahoo Search Engine Marketing. No one knows what will happen when you start throwing money at marketing, but once you start to spend, you will gain extremely valuable knowledge about how your site will perform.

6. Track everything humanly possible- Because I am a huge marketing nerd, I cannot get enough statistics. I try to track everything on a website from conversions, to exit and email surveys. In order to get the best ROI from the one-million or so traffic sources that are out there, you need to track them all. Track all PPC traffic, track all natural traffic, track page views, time on site and so onŒƒ Google Analytics offers an excellent free stats program that will track everything you need (except user experiences), but remember, the tracking software is only as good as the person analyzing it. So make sure you're getting all you can from the stats, and you're adjusting everything accordingly.

7. Don't think it's going to be easy- It used to be said that 1 out of 3 new businesses went under. I'd venture to say that even more than 33% of the websites that were built to make a profit never do so. I'm sorry, but it's just not easy to make money on the Internet anymore. I wish it was because then I'd be writing this from my private island in the Caribbean. Making a website profitable is a lot of work these days, and you have to stick with it, consistently updating, offering new features, adding services and continuing to do something new (among other things).

8. Get lucky - I felt I had to put this in here as the exception. Look at Craigslist, eBay, Amazon, and a bunch of other companies that might have been the first of their kind, or come out with the perfect thing at the perfect time and viola! Those lucky enough will be laughing all the way to the bank. As I always say when I'm playing poker: "I'd rather be lucky than good".

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