There are a couple of key things to look at when starting an online business. I’m not here to give you “hidden secrets,” just a few fundamental tips to get you started. Basically there are five major factors to look at provided you have the products and/or resources.

1. Enjoy what you are doing!  It will make all the difference in the world if you actually enjoy what you are offering your customers.  A large number of online businesses are started purely for profit and nothing else.  This is usually shown in their business practice.  The quality of your work will be much greater provided you enjoy the subject. Online or on a street, your business should be run with an underlying interest in the product or service.

2.  Site design is the first thing a prospective customer sees!!  I have seen some horrible designs.  If you think putting some text up, a couple links and a logo on a page is enough, you will likely fail before you even realize.  You will also notice a lot of companies have a generic template that can be found online at templetemonster or any other template site.  Avoid these.  It is very hard to develop a company image when you look like 134,000 other companies.  I suggest you put a bit of effort and creativity into a well designed “professional” looking home page for your company.  The bottom line is a new customer will not even consider buying anything from you, if they feel you are an armature no matter how great your services are or how cheap your products might be.

3.  Develop your website as a total package to your customers.  Don’t just present your products and leave it at that.  Offer tutorials, articles, support forums etc.  These additional services not only provide additional content for you customers, but if developed correctly, will bring additional traffic to your site which will potentially lead to more sales.

4.   Find your niche. Take the hosting business for example. The hosting business as a whole is a huge industry which is very competitive.  Your best chance at success is to simply find a market and develop your business to cater to that specific niche.  An excellent example of this is who offer hosting and development to those who operate online forums.  It’s easier to be a big fish in a little pond than to risk having your message drowned out by too much competition.  

5.  You MUST understand how search engines work.  Over 90% of your business will likely come directly from search engine results.  Therefore, it is absolutely essential to optimize your site for search engines.  You could have the greatest deals in the entire world, but if no one knows about them then your efforts are wasted.  Do a search on google for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  You will find tons of great information on how to create a website that is both user friendly and search engine friendly.  There are also countless numbers of companies and freelancers out there who offer SEO services.  Just be cautious of their offers and do your research first.  Remember, NO ONE can guarantee top placement in major search engines, no matter what they say.

Maybe in the early 90’s the idea of “if you build it they will come” might have been true. But in the year 2005 the internet is a far more competitive and complex place   To be successful today, you have to develop a business plan which works from all angels.  If you can develop an online business that you enjoy operating, which has a professional design, some extra content, search engine friendly and which targets a specific niche, you will have a far greater chance at success.  Of course there are many other factors to consider as well, but if you can master these five fundamentals, everything else should fall into place.

About the Author

Ron is the CTO for Dice Ventures Inc an internet holdings and development company.  Some current projects include a hosting forum and a Linux forum