Jimmy is a freelance writer and the owner of the GuildofBloggers.com. He is also a marketing manager at InboundJunction.com.
These days, anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit can start an online business. After all, everything you need to launch a startup – free resources, flexible eCommerce and blogging platforms, and communities willing to share their tips – is at your fingertips.
But the problem is, a lot of the resources available only address what to do after you’ve established an online business, leaving very little for those that don’t know how to get started in the first place.
That’s why today, we’re going to outline the 4 necessary steps you should take to get your online business up and running so that you can have a solid foundation that will reap success.
Step 1: Choose a Reliable Platform
The first step in starting a successful online business is choosing a solid platform to build it on. The platform you choose will affect everything, from design to functionality, and even sales.
That’s why doing your research and choosing the best platform for your needs is crucial. There are platforms available in the internet space designed to help entrepreneurs launch an online business, no matter the industry.
And if we're really being honest, it would be wise to choose an eCommerce platform that supports blogging too, since all businesses need a website, and all websites need a blog.
Let’s take a look at some of the top platforms you can invest in to start your online business:
- WordPress.org: This is the most popular blogging platform in the world to date. Powering over 31% of the entire internet’s websites, WordPress is affordable, flexible, and caters to everyone. And, if you’re looking to make money on your site, you can always use the popular WooCommerce plugin to create your online business. You’ll need to invest in a domain name and hosting to use WordPress.
- Wix: This platform offers small business owners an easy way to get set up thanks to its drag & drop tools, pre-designed template, and simple interface. It also hosts your site’s data for you, so there’s no need to invest in anything else besides the Wix platform.
- Shopify: Shopify is perfect for those looking to sell online, in a physical shop, on social media, and even on the go. It’s also a hosted solution, so again you won’t have to invest in hosting.
Of course, there are many other platforms available, all with their own set of features, pros, and cons. But don’t worry, there’s a solution for everyone, you just have to do your research.
Step 2: Pick a Domain Name
Another key element to launching a soon to be successful online business is picking the right domain name.
Your website’s domain name is the URL people will type into a browser when they want to visit your site.
And, without a recognizable and easy to remember domain name, you won’t get the traffic needed to generate the sales needed to become a successful business.
Here are some best practices to follow when choosing your online business’ domain name:
- Pick one that is easy to spell, type, and remember
- Include keywords that relate to your business if applicable
- Target your location, especially if you own a physical business (i.e., LasVegasCarShop.com)
- Avoid violating trademarks or copyrights
And lastly, be mindful when picking a domain name extension, which is the end of the web address.
Some of the most notable domain name extensions are .com, .org, and .net. However, if you want to stand out, you might choose a unique one such as .me, .biz, or even .info.
Use your website’s domain name to begin to brand your online business, establish yourself in your industry, and create recognition among your target audience.
Step 3: Optimize Your Site for Speed and Security
When it comes to launching an online business, it’s important you maintain on what goes on behind the scenes.
After all, designing a beautiful looking website that takes too long to load or doesn’t work right won’t generate the sales you need to call yourself a success.
Website owners need to focus on two things when it comes to optimizing their websites if the goal is to drive traffic, increase conversions, and secure sales: website speed and security.
It’s well-known in the internet world that 40% of people are more likely to abandon your website, no matter you have to offer, if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
To avoid this, take a proactive approach by monitoring and optimizing your online business for site speed and performance.
To start, measure your site’s speed using Google PageSpeed Insights:
Here you’ll see how fast both your mobile and desktop site versions are running, as well as receive suggestions from Google about how to speed things up:
- Minify CSS, JS, and HTML scripts
- Enable browser caching of all static content
- Compress images into smaller file sizes
- Clean up your site’s database of old, unnecessary data
- Reduce the server response time
- Utilize a reliable hosting provider, or use a platform that offers solid hosting services
And lastly, if you really want to speed things up, you should consider using a CDN to speed up the delivery of site content to site visitors.
A CDN utilizes multiple servers, spanning the globe, that all have copies of your site’s data stored on them. Then, when a site visitors requests to see your website, the server closest to them geographically delivers the content, reducing latency and speeding up page load times. Not to mention, CDN services help fight against DDoS attacks and downtime.
When a hacker takes down a server (and all the sites hosted on that server), another server jumps in and continues to deliver content to site visitors uninterrupted.
Using a CDN is one of the best ways to secure your website from malicious activity. It protects your site from serious downtime and improves the user experience all at the same time.
You can also secure your online business by:
- Installing an SSL certificate
- Setting up a firewall
- Enforcing strong passwords
- Using software or security services that scan for suspicious activity
- Making sure all software is up to date
- Performing routine backups
- Enabling 2-factor authentication to prevent brute force attacks
- Educating your team about cybersecurity
And if you’re using WordPress as your platform, you can use any number of free security plugins, such as Wordfence, All In One WP Security & Firewall, and iThemes Security.
Protecting your website, and your customer’s sensitive data, is essential to running a successful online business that continues to grow.
Step 4: Develop a Marketing Plan
There’s a lot that goes into promoting an online business. This is especially true today, since launching a startup is easy enough for even the most novice of website owners, thus making the competition stronger than ever.
While creating a thorough marketing plan is one of the best ways to grow a business, and requires another post to discuss in detail, we’ll share with you the top things to consider so you can get started:
- Learn about your target audience so you can cater to their needs
- Build a social media presence where your site visitors are likely to be
- Monetize your website further using advertisements and affiliate marketing
- Build an email list so you can campaign to new and existing customers
- Optimize your site for SEO, so you rank higher in search results
Lastly, use an editorial calendar of some sort, such as the free WordPress plugin Editorial Calendar or a premium solution such as CoSchedule to plan your content and keep your team on track.
If you touch on all of those elements, you’ll be well on your way to promoting your brand to a broader audience, driving more traffic to your website, and generating more sales.
Starting an online business doesn’t have to be difficult, even if the competition in your industry is tough. In fact, you have just as good a chance of becoming successful as any other entrepreneur that sets out to launch a startup.
The thing is, if you follow these 4 easy steps from the beginning, you’ll have built your online business on a solid foundation. In fact, your business will be one that can handle growth and success better than others who dive in head first not knowing anything.
So, if you’re thinking about starting an online business, take some time to create a plan, work through each of the essential steps, and start off the right way. It may take you a little longer, but you’ll reap the benefits in the end.