Growing An Online Business ... Doing The Right Things At The Right Time And Doing Them Right
© 2001 Elena Fawkner
Once you get past the initial utter confusion and "overwhelmingness" of the scramble to learn how to start and run an online business, the time eventually comes to dispense with the training wheels and just get on with it.
A common trap for new online entrepreneurs is to try and perfect their website before inviting anyone to come over. It's true that you shouldn't submit your site to the major search engines and directories while your site's still truly under construction but at some point you have to stop developing and start marketing. Your site will NEVER be finished and it will certainly never be perfect. If you wait until it is before you start inviting guests, you're going to be one very lonely webmaster indeed.
Working on your website is fun. The visual results are immediate and, as a result, the self-gratification you feel admiring your handiwork becomes addictive. After all, it's a helluva lot easier to control how your site looks and works than it is to actually drive traffic to it.
Because of this, and the fun factor, there's a tendency to spend a disproportionate amount of time dabbling with your site, tweaking this and that and trying out new cgi scripts when the time has long since passed when you should have started working on driving traffic to your site already.
To make a success of any business, including an online one, you must strive to always be doing the right thing, the right way and at the right time.
Because being disciplined is so important to making the most of your time, I find it helps if I commit to spending a certain period of time every day to one or more of the marketing activities listed below and getting it over with as early in the day as possible. Then I can enjoy the reward of spending time on areas of my business that I find more enjoyable such as writing articles, and sourcing new and interesting programs for my website visitors. By getting the marketing chores out of the way first, you can enjoy the rest of your day guilt-free. (That's not to say that all marketing activities have to be "chores". It's just that some are more enjoyable than others.)
Be especially careful of your time when it comes to email. This is another common trap many online entrepreneurs get sucked into. It comes in endlessly and builds up quickly. We are always so conscious that it's sitting there waiting to be read and responded to that it can become a major distraction. Try to read and respond to your email in one or two sittings at particular times of the day. And impose a time limit too. This will force you to work more efficiently. (The exception is email from customers who need your assistance. You need to devote whatever time is necessary to correcting the problem.) If you're not disciplined when it comes to email you can quite easily fritter away an entire day and another and another with very little to show for it.
OK, so here's a list of the top 15 things you should be doing to market your online business once your site is ready for launch. You don't have to do every one of these activities every single day (although if you do your business will certainly have a lot to show for it) but do strive to do at least a few. The results will definitely be worth it.
1. Submit Your Main Pages to the Search Engines
Once your site is "ready" (bearing in mind what I said above), your first job is to hand submit your main pages to the major search engines.
My "majors" (opinions differ) are:
Yahoo - http://www.yahoo.com (fee)
Alta Vista - http://www.altavista.com (free and fee)
Northern Light - http://www.northernlight.com (free)
Excite - http://www.excite.com (fee)
Hotbot/Lycos - http://hotbot.lycos.com (free)
Looksmart - http://www.looksmart.com (fee - get listed with Looksmart and your listing will also appear at MSN, Excite, Alta Vista, iWon, Webcrawler and CNN)
It takes anywhere from several weeks to several months to get listed with some of these engines so start early.
Then submit to the "minors" (i.e. all the others).
Visit Search Engine Watch for the latest news on the search engines and what you can do to improve your rankings.
Automate the process of search engine submissions as much as you can. The program I recommend ahead of all others is Webposition Gold. Check it out here:
Web Position Gold
2. Submit Your Home Page to Directories
There are literally hundreds so this will be a time- consuming job. Aim for ten per day and you'll make progress. Visit Jim World for links to hundreds of directories.
3. Publish An Ezine
For information about how to do that and generate subscribers, read "Growing Your List" at http://www.ahbbo.com/growingyourlist.html . If you're new to ezine publishing, an excellent resource is List-Universe.com's Ezine University at
Try to write your own original articles for publication in your ezine rather than relying on other people to provide your content.
Make sure you have a sign up form on every page of your website and a pop-up page inviting visitors to subscribe. To see an example of this in action, visit http://www.ahbbo.com.
Also, automate the process of publicizing your ezine and submitting your articles as much as possible. One excellent software program that will do this for you (in fact the only one I know of) is Ezine Announcer. Check it out here:
4. Negotiate Reciprocal links
Find websites that target the same demographic as your site and contact the webmasters of those sites for a reciprocal link. (This just means that each of you links to the other's site from your links page or elsewhere else on your site.)
5. Submit to FFA Pages
Opinion is divided on the effectiveness of FFA pages. Personally, I think they're a waste of time. Others maintain that although they're pretty useless in terms of people actually reading your listing, they can be helpful with search engines that rank your site according to popularity (i.e., by how many other sites out there link to your site).
If you do decide to go the FFA route, make sure you use a free email account rather than your main email account. You will get a LOT of rubbish mail in response. You want to be able to delete it in one fell swoop without having to sort through legitimate mail first.
6. Identify Commonly Searched for Keywords and Create Doorway Pages to Submit to the Search Engines
What's a doorway page? Just a simple page targeting a particular keyword tailored specifically for the search engine you're submitting to. How to create and submit a doorway page? You can do it manually if time is not an issue or you can use search submission software like Webposition Gold mentioned above (http://www.ahbbo.com/webpositiongold.html). Webposition Gold also gives you all the information you need about what the particular search engines look for in order to rank pages well.
How to find commonly searched for keywords? Use the Word Tracker service. Dirt cheap but turns up excellent keywords. Click here for info: http://www.ahbbo.com/wordtracker.html
7. Write Articles and Submit Them
Submit them where? Directly to ezine publishers looking for quality content for their publications, to article submission lists, to article databases that exist for the express purpose of providing other people content for their sites and ezines.
The ezine submitter software I mentioned above can automate this process for you and save you literally HOURS of time each week.
8. Remind Visitors to Recommend You
Include a short note in every issue of your ezine asking your readers to forward your ezine to their friends and family, sign up for the Recommend-It service at http://www.recommendit.com and put the button on your site and the link in your ezine. You get the idea. Word of mouth sells!
9. Monitor Your Search Engine Rankings But Don't Obsess Over Them
Again, use software to take care of the grunt work. Webposition Gold includes this function.
And when I say don't obsess, realize that search engines are only one source of traffic. You will find that a LOT of traffic comes from sources other than the search engines. Do the things recommended here and you'll soon see that for yourself.
10. Negotiate Joint Ventures and Co-Ops
Find people to joint venture with - whether it be for ezine subscribers (you each recommend the other's ezine on your "thank you for subscribing" page) or bundle your products together and each sell the bundled package. There is no limit on the types of joint ventures and co-operatives you can negotiate. Be creative and flexible.
11. Join Web Rings
12. Offline Promotion
Don't forget to promote your online business offline. For more on this, read "Offline Promotion Matters Too"
13. Host a Forum
Host a forum at your site and contribute to forum discussions. A lively forum (or bulletin board) will keep visitors coming back for more.
14. Contribute to Other Forums
Contribute to forum and newsgroup discussions run by others to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
Remember, these are not platforms for blatant advertising. The most you can get away with is a short signature file.
15. Create Your Own E-book
Create your own e-book with links to your products and services or your affiliate programs and distribute it freely and encourage others to do so too. This is what's known as "viral" marketing - it spreads like wildfire.
The above activities represent a lot of work and a serious investment of time on your part. By no means are you expected to do each and every one of these things from the get-go. Once you have an established online presence, though, they do represent a good range of activities that, pursued regularly, diligently and consistently, with discipline and patience, will truly grow your online business exponentially ... and your profits right along with it.
Elena Fawkner is editor of A Home-Based Business Online ... practical home business ideas for the work-from-home entrepreneur.
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