Starting a business online is now easier than ever before. If not too long ago you had to pay a web designer thousands to built a website for you now you can get a template from the thousands available and get your business going. There are services that, for a hefty monthly fee will help you set up your website and maintain it but in this article I will outline a do-it- your self way that is cheaper and, at the end you will have a better handle on your online business and better understand how it works for a technical point of view.
Buy a domain name
The first step to start your eCommerce business is finding a name for your site. To do that you can use several services such as Panabee or Namemesh who will help you find what you’re looking for. Also most domain registrars like Yahoo.com or Inmotion will give you alternatives to what you’re looking for (hint: the name you’re looking for is probably already taken). Also try to get a .com name; people tend to remember them easier.
A popular practice among more experienced Webmasters is buying an old domain from Godaddy or Sedo . You can find for an old domain in your niche, there are thousands available. The advantage is that you will be getting some traffic immediately, without having to promote your site. Do not worry much about your site name, many successful websites have abstract names (see 6pm or Zappos) and they are doing just fine; the way you will promote your brand and the value of what you offer matters most.
Once you figure it out register your domain with a web host, you can pick one like namecheap.com or InMotion or just keep it on the site where you purchased the domain (just change the name servers after you get the web host).
Find a webhost
This step is very important, you will want to do some research for a reliable host of your website. It’s better to stay off Google’s search results this time, most sites listing “the best host providers” have pretty much the same sites there for the simple reason that they get a commission if you click on that link and make a purchase. The best way is to do your research on forums like Webhostingtalk or Warriors Forum . Among others you will find honest opinions from real users. If you’re serious about your business stay away from shared hosting (which most cheap ones are offering) as they have all sorts of issues (that being the best host providers mentioned above), especially when you run an ecommerce store. I strongly suggest getting a Virtual Server; many hosts have them as upgrades of shared hosting; I suggest Wired Tree that is very reliable and has some decent plans. On the forums suggested above you will find other options, is worth to spend some time researching and asking questions.
Hint: your domain name and host don’t have to be on the same provider; actually it’s better if you keep them separate. Nowadays this market is very fluid, big companies are purchasing good webhosts and sometimes their service is getting worse afterwards so it’s better to be flexible.
Once you got all that figured out you need to install WordPress, a feature that most hosts provide and it’s a very easy step. WordPress is the platform that will make your life easier, it is very flexible and thousands of plugins are available to do almost anything you want. Back in the days you had to hire a Webmaster to do this for you. There are several plugins that you should install to optimize it, we will cover them in a different article.
Find a theme for your website
WordPress comes with a few basic themes and many more are available that you can install for free. Some of them are fit for an eCommerce site where you can sell products but they are very basic. If you want to be taken seriously you will need to find one that looks good but also is very customizable. Once again you will have to do some research and find what is best for you. Just as with the web hosts there are a ton of websites listing “the best WordPress themes” this and that and list a bunch of themes from different markets where they get commissions from. Most of them are random and simply chosen because they look good. And by looking good I am talking about the fact that most of themes display huge pictures of models or products that make an impression but you have to remember – you will have to put your own and your site will look way different. What you want to get is the theme with the best support and the one that is the most flexible.
Hint: if you don’t mind spending $60 Avada is a fantastic theme that will save you tons of time. Aside the fact that looks stylish is very customizable and the support is top notch.
Install Woo Commerce plugin
Woo Commerce plugin is essential to have installed on your WordPress site if you want to start your eCommerce business. It is very easy to implement and you can create a store in minutes. Whether you sell your own product or run an affiliate website, Woo Commerce is configured to do all this for you. The best part- it’s free and it has a lot of additional free plugins that work with it to enhance its capabilities. Woo Commerce has a bunch of short codes and widgets that will make your life very easy on displaying your products, categories or brands and configure your sidebars to enhance visitor’s experience and encourage them to see more pages on your site.
Install WP All Import
One quintessential plugin necessary to work with your ecommerce store is WP All Import. If you have a large inventory or sell affiliate products this application will help you import large amount of data to easily keep your inventory in sync with your records or your affiliate’s lists. It comes handy of you keep your physical store inventory in an Excel or xml/csv document .It costs $89-$200) to implement but it’s a lifetime license and I found them very helpful in their support.
Write your own product descriptions
You must keep in mind that there are many ecommerce sites out there, the most unique product it is the better. In most cases you will have many competitors. To better rank on Google and have an advantage over your competition try to write your own descriptions. If you don’t have the time and you are willing to spend some money you can outsource on sites like ODesk or Fiverr. There are many willing writers that will do this for you at good price. It may take you some time to find the right person to work with but it will save you a lot of time that you can use promoting your site.
Run a blog
Your products pages will likely be changed as you will be running out of inventory and they will loose their SEO value once they are gone and you create new ones. A good idea is to write some SEO optimized articles related to your products that will stay on your site permanently and this way add value to it. Try to post an article at least once a week. As mentioned before, you want to offer something extra to your visitors to get you an edge on your competition. Many people open an ecommerce site, they advertise it heavily and wait to make money; some may make it but most don’t, because they don’t add any value to their website. There has to be a reason why Google would rank you better or the readers will buy items from you and not from others.
Once you set up your site you must spread the word. As you may know already social media is the first thing you want to consider. There are plugins like NextScripts that help you automatically post your articles or products on various channels; this will save you a lot of time. On your webhost you should be able to create an email that can become a great advertising tool the more you use it, for your business or even for personal use. Another way to promote your site is by writing meaningful posting on forums or blogs; this is also an easy way to build backlinks to your site. Once you’re prepared to spend some money on advertising you can use Google’s Ad Words service or Pay-per-Click.
At the end of the day it’s important for the readers who land on your pages to be engaged, have a good experience and visit even more pages. The quality of your site will be measured by Google and the more unique content you have, the more pages your visitors will browse or the faster your site loads will get you even better ranking and put you on a path to success.