Working a business in the online environment can be exciting. After all, it?s cyberspace ? a new frontier. And, there is little doubt that many sources of information, ways of interacting with one another, and doing business will continue to expand in popularity and effectiveness on the web. Many wanna-be business owners have jumped onto the bandwagon of the Internet and gotten themselves immersed in an online business or two. And many have been very disappointed with the results, simply because they weren?t realistic in terms of expectations.
It?s commonly known that most online businesses fail. It?s largely because those involved pull the plug and abandon their efforts. Much of this retreat in the online marketplace is attributable to inadequate planning that fails to temper expectations. The Internet works at the speed of light, but revenue and profit doesn?t necessarily follow at the same pace. Let?s look at some of the areas in which we need to be much more realistic when it comes to our expectations for success in an online business.
- Time in service? a website created today doesn?t mean a throng of readers tomorrow. The most successful sites out there have been up and running for years. Sure, a website or blog can become a hot item, but this is something that?s rare. I spoke with a lady recently who was disappointed that her Ebook hadn?t sold a single copy, and yet she had the book advertised for sale on her website for two days, and there was hardly a page on the website that didn?t mention the book or provide a link to the sales page ? including the home page. Two days? I wouldn?t be surprised if there were no sales during the first two months.Time in service provides the basis for several things. First, it allows the search engines to find your site and today it?s search engines that direct much of the traffic to a website or blog. Second, time in service allows readers who find you to become more comfortable with what you have to offer. Third, being online for a while allows others to recognize you as an expert, and this adds to the comfort that your visitors have. Comfort leads to trust, and trust leads to sales.
- Search engine optimization ? in the ever-changing landscape of the Internet, we see search engines responding to our site content much more like humans, and less like mindless algorithms. So, it?s necessary to learn what pleases search engines, and play that game. Staying up with what search engines like is just another investment that we need to make. Also, if we?re smart, we won?t try to game the system. That?s a sure way to get ignored by the search engines.Also, we need to understand that search engines won?t find our site right away ? it takes time, sometimes a month or more. And, search engines aren?t going to settle into our site with their ?spiders? and ?bots? and thoroughly go over all of the content and categorize each page ? at least not right away. It will take several visits before they have a ?feel? for our site, and then it takes more time for them to watch our visitor traffic to see if what visitors came to our site to find is really what we?re offering.
- Niche popularity ? oh boy, you?ve got an exciting idea and you know it?s going to be big. That?s great, but does anyone else think it?s a great idea? That?s what counts. You might know plenty about pruning fruit trees, and that?s probably a niche market, but have you asked yourself some of the most important questions?
- Who really cares about this subject, and how many potential visitors can I expect?
- How much competition am I facing?
- What can I do to bring the marketplace to my door?
- Is this a profitable niche?
Just because you?re all excited about something doesn?t mean someone else will be. What you create has to be interesting, compelling, remarkable and marketable. Otherwise, you?re not going to attract and retain loyal readers, and you won?t have a foundation for making revenue. Spend lots of time thinking about what you?re going to create, how you?re going to fit into the marketplace of products, services and ideas, and how you?re going to capitalize on your web presence.
- Quality content? no serious visitor will ever be interested in pedestrian level content. Your writing has to be good and attractive. We?re talking about knowledge, insight, a good ?take away? for your readers, ease of reading, respect for their time, and something appealing like photos, audio and video. Getting good content together requires time and effort. You can?t simply highjack someone else?s stuff and expect readers to place trust in you ? the highjacker.One of the advantages of the Internet is it levels the playing field ? you can have your own brand and compete with others. Therefore, you need to show your visitors who you really are. They need to understand what your brand means and why they should trust what you say, advertise and sell. That requires your voice across the content of your site. Create quality content that has your own voice, and you?ll engender trust among your readers. That means they?ll be more likely to return for additional doses of you, and that ups the chances that they?ll be contributing to your revenue streams as well.
- Promotion ? so you have good content, you?ve been around for a while, you have a good subject for your site, and you?re search engine friendly, so that?s about all you need, right? Not quite. You?ll still not be ?taking off? like you could unless you actively promote your site. There are many ways of promoting your site. Let?s look at just a few of them.
- Blog carnivals
- Guest posts
- Blog comments
- Article marketing
- Expert article sites
- Contributing to ?answer? sites
- Starting a complementary blog/website
- Print publications
- Ad campaigns
- Discussion on forums
Just when you thought you were finished with all the work, it seems that the job of promoting your site is as big as building the site, and there is no end in sight. That?s about right. It?s a big job that never ends until you?ve gone viral and your site popularity is such that additional traffic is self generating and in the range that you?re satisfied with. Even then, you need to keep monitoring your traffic and revenue to make adjustments in response to the ever-changing marketplace on the web.
Two of the big keys to promotion are to make your efforts provide you long term payback, and to be certain that you?re promoting something worthwhile. Examples of long term payback would be ?evergreen? articles and blog comments that stay on the web for years and point back to you and your web presence. And, when your promotional activities are effective in bringing traffic to your site, you?d like the visitors to ?stick.? That?s where good content comes into play, so start heavy promotion of the site after you have enough quality material to make it worthwhile for your visitors to stay, comeback, and recommend your site to their friends.
If you?re reading between the lines here, you?re keenly aware that an online business requires good planning, dedicated effort, focus in and on the marketplace, smart work as well as hard work, and quite a bit of patience. In America we?re constantly fed ?sound bites? and little video clips that don?t give us the entire picture of what?s going on. We?re also very accustomed to getting many things in a convenient package, perhaps something that?s instant and obtainable via a drive-up window. We need to forget about that and stay focused on the long view as any good business manager would do.
Although running an Internet based business is different than a brick and mortar presence in the traditional marketplace, there are still many similarities between the two. A business plan is one of those similarities, and like any good business plan, we need to address various aspects of startup and operation, and that includes having realistic expectations about what we?re getting ourselves into.
Clair Schwan is the host of Sensible Small Business Ideas, a website dedicated to encourage others to engage in self employment, whether on or off the Internet. He?s a big proponent of self employment simply because the only business you?ll really ever be part of is your own.
Do you have an online business story to tell? Can you offer advice to someone running or starting one?
( Photo courtesy of danielbroche )