Site Reliability Team Lead at News UK

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16 April 2011

Online Businesses

by Mike

Many people at one time or another have the idea of setting up an online business. Taking control of your future and reaping the rewards for your own hard graft is great, but not everyone knows what they are doing…

I will share a few guidelines for what to consider when starting a new business online:

Traffic is your first priority, if people don’t see your site you can’t expect them to buy anything (or click on your adverts if this is how you want to make your cash). SEO is important to allow people to find you via a search engine; Directories can help, but social networks are the real key - as long as you have something worth sharing.

Content is king. If people visit your site and see nothing of value they wont feel the need to share it, nor will they return, you need to keep people coming back on a regular basis to your site. Blogs are good at this.

It is all very well using a managed free service like wordpress.com, blogger or similar, but don’t be too reliant on other businesses - especially if they have no interest in keeping you around (ie free services). Having a single outlet is fine… initially, but what happens if they pull the plug? Try to diversify, spread your risk and plan for eventualities. For example, If royal mail has strikes again do you have another option?

Plan for profitability from day 1. Many startups, especially services that use the ‘freemium’ model have the idea that ‘if you build it they will come’. This might be true for some businesses, but if you have no cashflow, how will you support your staff and operational costs? The flip side of this is that if you give something of perceived value away for free, it will often drive traffic to you, but don’t give away your crown jewels or something you later want them to pay for, if it will make your job harder later when you do want them to pay for it.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Choose your niche and stick to it. If you want to address a different demographic by all means start a sister venture and use that to service it, but stay focused on what each business does and who you are aiming at.

This isn’t exhaustive, but I hope it has helped you to understand where you want to go…

– originally posted 30th March 2011