Selling With Your Own Web Site

By: Stephen Bucaro

Many people have their own product, a book, a CD, a craft, or other product that they would like to sell with their own Web site, but they can't find simple instructions on how to get started. In this article, I'm going to explain how to sell your product with your own Web site. It boils down to four steps.

1. Find a Web server

You need to put your Web site on a computer that is running a Web server program and is connected to the Internet. There are three choices:

  1. Your own server. This requires you to be, or to hire, a system administrator responsible for system maintenance, software updates, backups, and security. This also requires a high-speed communications link to the Internet. This is practical only for large organizations.

  2. Your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Along with a broadband or dial-up connection to the Internet, many ISPs also provide you with a small amount of personal Web space. There are several problems with using this Web space, even for a small business Web site. The storage space and monthly transfer allowance is too small, and if you decide to change ISP, you lose your email address and you need to move your Web site.

  3. A Web host provider. There are many companies that sell Web site space on their servers. These companies offer three grades of service:

    • Free hosting. The hosting service makes money from banner ads that they display on your Web site. Sometimes the storage space is too small and the monthly transfer allowance is usually limited.

    • Shared hosting. Your Web site shares a server with many other Web sites. Some hosting providers put too many Web sites on each server, or someone else's Web site monopolizes the servers processor or bandwidth. This slows down your Web site.

    • Dedicated hosting. The hosting provider sets up a separate server for your Web site alone. Whereas shared hosting can be acquired for as little as $5 per month, dedicated hosting cost hundreds of dollars per month.

Recommendation:

Most small businesses can't afford a dedicated server. You can use your ISP's webspace or a free host for learning purposes, but usually only shared or dedicated hosting lets you use your own domain name. You will want to register and promote your own domain name, not put a lot of effort into promoting a domain name provided by a free host.

There are many Web host directories that let users rate web host providers. Visit several of these directories and choose a web host provider with a good rating. The most important specification to look for in a Web host provider is 'up time'. They should have a 99.9% up time guarantee.

2.Design and Build your Web site

A Web site is nothing more than a collection of webpages. Webpages are very similar to documents that you would create in a word processor. A word processor, like Microsoft Word for example, uses invisible 'tags' to layout the page. Whereas Word uses 'Rich Text File (RTF) tags, a webpage uses Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) tags. But the concept is the same.

You never actually see or deal with the tags in a word processor document. Many people use a web page design application that lets them avoid dealing with html tags on a webpage. But most serious webpage design requires you to deal with html code directly. There are three reasons why you would need to deal with the html code directly.

  1. Your web page design application refuses to format the webpage exactly the way you want it.

  2. There is an error on your webpage.

  3. Most word processor documents are static. A webpage usually contains powerful little programs called 'scripts' that work with the html tags on the page.

Recommendation: Before venturing into creating your own Web site, spend a few weeks experimenting with html tags to create webpages by hand.

You don't need a Web server to test your webpages. You can load them directly into your Web browser. In your learning, focus on linking pages together that reside in different folders. This is where most beginners have a problem.

The first step in building your Web site is to create or choose a template. As I mentioned earlier, a Web site is nothing more than a collection of webpages. But all webpages for a Web site should have the same basic layout, color scheme, and navigation elements.

There are thousands of free and pay templates available on the Web. Actually, every Web site is a template that you can explore by selecting View | Source in your Web browser's menu. The most import thing about selecting a template is that you are comfortable with it. If the template uses complex code, the chances of getting an error occurring are high, and you may not be able to fix it.

Recommendation: Select a template you like, but don't use it directly. From the html coding that you learned by following my previous recommendation, hand code a similar template. Now you will have a template you understand and are comfortable modifying and fixing if it becomes necessary.

Generally, you will create webpages on your local computer and upload them to your Web site, usually using FTP (File Transfer Protocol). Most web designers keep a local copy of their entire Web site on their local computer. Here they can test a webpage before uploading it to the live Web site. If your design uses active servers pages (ASP), you may want to install a Web server on your local computer for testing purposes.

3.Set up E-commerce E-commerce involves setting up shopping cart software and a means of accepting credit card payments. There are three possible ways to set up e-commerce:

  1. Set up shopping cart software and a secure order form on your Web site. Then process the orders using your regular off-line bank processing service. This is good for people whose Web site is an extension of their off-line business. But setting this up from scratch for a Web only business may be too costly.

  2. There are many companies on the Web that will set you up with a merchant account. This service may or may not include a shopping cart. In either case, before the user enters their credit card information, they are transferred to the secure server of the merchant account. Setup costs for a merchant account can run into hundreds of dollars. In addition, there are transaction fees and monthly fees.

  3. Many small businesses use online payment services. Most online payment services can provide you with a shopping cart, but in many cases, all you need is to place some html code provided by the online payment service on your Web site.

When your customer clicks on a 'Buy' button on your Web site, they are transferred to the web site of the online payment service where they enter their credit card information. You receive an email notification when a transaction is completed.

Online payment services don't charge for setup or monthly fees, but the transaction fees are similar to a merchant account. Fees run about $0.35 and 2.5% per transaction. After a delay to prevent charge backs losses, you can login to the online payment services Web site and transfer the payment into your bank account.

The oldest and largest online payment service is PayPal which processes over 600,000 transactions per day.

4.Promote Your Web site

Unless someone makes a lucky guess as to the URL (Uniform Resource Locater) or address of your Web site, you will receive no visitors. Simply placing your Web site on the Internet does not result in traffic. You need to promote your Web site. There are many ways to promote your Web site, some free and some pay, some very effective, some a total waste of time. Below are the main methods of generating traffic.

  1. Advertising. You can purchase advertising on Web sites that do have traffic. You can also purchase advertising in newsletters or e-zines. Don't assume that the Web site with the most traffic or the newsletter with the most subscribers is the best value. The secret to successful advertising is testing. Test different advertisements in different locations.

  2. Pay per click. Almost all search engines will let you purchase search words. When a search engine user enters a search for a word that you purchased, a link to your Web site will be returned at the top of the results. Sometimes you 'bid' on a search term. In that case, when a user of the search engine enters a word that you placed a bid for, a link to your Web site will be returned in the results below all Web sits that bid more money.

  3. Traffic Exchange. A traffic exchange is a Web site where you login and click to visit other people's Web sites. For each Web site that you visit, you receive a credit. You can exchange your credits for visits to your Web site. If you don't feel like making the effort to visit other people's Web sites, you can purchase visits to your Web site. The quality of traffic from traffic exchanges varies between very poor to totally useless.

  4. Search engines. You can submit your the address of your Web site to most search engines for free. After you submit your Web site information, the search engine will scan or 'spider' your Web site with a program called a 'robot'. The robot will provide information that allows the search engine to list your Web site in their database, and rank it for relevancy. When a user of the search engine enters a search for a word related to the content on your Web site, a link to your Web site will be returned in the results at a position depending upon the relevancy of your webpage.

  5. Link popularity. Different search engines use different methods to rank the relevancy of a webpage. One method uses the number of links on the Web that point to the webpage. To take advantage of this, you need to get links to your Web site posted in as many places on the Web as possible. One method to accomplish this is to write articles related to the topic of your Web site and make them available for people to post on their Web site for free.

  6. Web presence. To get traffic to your Web site, people have to know you are out there and what you have to offer. Getting involved and contributing useful information in online forums and message boards is one way to establish your presence on the Web. People reading your messages may put information about you on their Web site. Another advantage of this method is that it keeps you in touch with what's going on in the areas related to the topic of your Web site.

Selling your product with your own Web site boils down to the four steps explained in this article. This article is in no way comprehensive. Complete details about each one of these steps would to fill entire books. This article gives you a general overview and enough information to get you started.

Copyright(C) 2004 Bucaro TecHelp.

Permission is granted for the below article to forward, reprint, distribute, use for ezine, newsletter, website, offer as free bonus or part of a product for sale as long as no changes are made and the byline, copyright, and the resource box below is included.

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