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Start an Internet Business in 5 Easy Steps!

Want to start an Internet business? Great! Let s get started quickly by looking at five simple and necessary steps to getting your Internet business off the ground.
 
1. Select Your Domain Name - It is very important to select the proper domain name for your business. Why? It's how customers will find you online. A couple of simple pointers: shorter is usually better, I'd stick with a .com name - not one of the other top level domains. It can also help search engines to list you higher if your domain name contains some of the keywords you want to be found for.
 
Believe it or not, there are still a huge number of domain names that have never been registered. Sure, the so-called  dictionary  and common single word domains have all be registered long ago, but there are strategies to circumvent this issue.
 
Why not simply add a modifier to a word in order to create a compelling domain name? For example: let's say that you sell bicycles and bicycle parts online - here are some domain names that come to mind that are almost certainly taken:
 
bike.com
bikes.com
bicycle.com
bicycles.com
bikeparts.com
bicycleparts.com
 
So how can we modify these common names to create names that are available? Let's try adding some simple descriptive terms either before, or after the main word. For example:
 
Deluxe
Premium
Best
Superior
Cheap
Discount
Online
Universal
 
I'm sure you can think of many others that apply to your products and business. If you simply add this short list of modifiers in front of the original short names, you can create multiple new names that are available right now! 
 
You can search to see if your domain name is available here: http://www.dotster.com
 
2. Hire a Web Designer - Ask around to locate a great designer that someone else has used. The design of your site can make you look professional, or like an amateur - it s clear which way you will want to look.
 
An alternative that can be very cost effective when compared to a custom designed web site is to use pre-formatted templates - either put together by another company, or filled in with data yourself. For example, Affinity Internet, Inc. offers a professional web design product through it's ValueWeb brand that is billed out at a low flat monthly fee. According to the ValueWeb website the ReadyWeb product offers the following advantages:  A professional web designer will set up a consultation with you to better understand your business and online goals to ensure your web site is not only impressive but successful. Our web site professionals will make updates to your website on a monthly basis as needed. ReadyWeb includes two hours of maintenance and updates each month at no additional charge.  You can learn more about the ReadyWeb product at: http://www.valueweb.com/readyweb/readyweb_learn_more.htm.
 
Alternatively there are do-it-yourself templates available at sites such as http://www.templatemonster.com.
 
3. Choose Your Web Hosting - Every small business that sets up a web site online will need to host it somewhere. According to industry expert Tamara Field, President of Apollo Hosting (http://www.apollohosting.com) these are the top three things to consider when selecting your web hosting company.
 
* REAL Live Support - Call their tech support number NOT their sales number, and see if you can talk directly to a technician. Or go on their live chat and see if you are able to talk to a technician. How long did it take for you to get someone on the phone or live chat? That's very important. Just because they say they offer live support, doesn't mean they really have people there when you need them.
 
* Guarantees - Money back guarantee, price freeze, uptime, and a guarantee of a refund on unused portions. There are so many hosting companies that don't offer money back on unused months if you cancel early! If you sign up for 1 year, believe it or not, many hosting companies won't give you ANY money back if you cancel 3 months later. A money back guarantee is important as is a prize freeze guarantee. But these days, look for the refund on unused hosting. Many companies don't mention it because they don't offer it.
 
* Upgrade Path - If you see your business growing, and you might want more products/services in the future, then you will need an upgrade path. It is a real hassle changing hosting companies. Just getting lots of bandwidth and storage is not the answer. Many customers don't use near the amount of bandwidth and storage that many hosting companies are offering. This is really just a marketing technique for a lot of hosting companies. Look for extra products that they offer. What about ecommerce? Do they offer the best ecommerce products, SPAM/Virus filtering, marketing tools etc. Remember that these days hosting is not just about storage and bandwidth. It's about a whole lot more. Don't settle for just space on a box.
 
You can easily compare web hosting options by looking through web hosting directory sites as well. These sites offer information about multiple hosting providers, and special offers and product information. Several of the more useful directories are: http://www.websitehostdirectory.com, http://www.cheaphostingdirectory.com, and http://www.tophosts.com
 
4. Set Up Your Email - It may seem like a no-brainer to some, but you simply cannot adequately conduct business on the Internet without an email address. Your email address will let your customers and potential customers communicate with you, and give you valuable feedback on your web site, products, services, and ordering processes.
 
You'll also need a way for you to communicate with vendors and others who can help you market your web site. Each hosting provider has different protocols for setting up your email account, so you'll have to look to your provider for help with your specific account. One other important note: be sure to include a signature line at the bottom of every email that includes your business name, URL, and a brief description of your products and services. This idea alone can increase your business.
 
5. Promote Your Site - There are so many ways to get traffic to your web site that it would require several separate articles to cover the topic. Here are a couple of basic ideas. Try to educate yourself about, and get listed on search engines. A few basic steps can go a long way towards traffic driving in this way. A great step-by-step manual is at http://www.searchenginewatch.com
 
If you have a budget to advertise, you may want to try Google AdWords as a method of reaching the search engine keyword market. Information is available at: http://www.google.com/ads. Alternatively, if you simply want to pay someone else to manage your online search engine advertising campaign for a flat monthly fee, you could check out ValueWeb's ValueTraffic program. ValueTraffic costs $100 per month, and guarantees traffic and impressions to your website. You can see further details at: http://www.valueweb.com/online-marketing.htm.  
 
Of course, you should print your web address on all of your existing marketing materials such as: business cards, stationary, brochures, newsletters, product sheets, etc. You may find that driving qualified traffic to your website is as easy as releasing information on where to find it in your company promotional materials. Customers are always eager to utilize faster and more convenient forms of communications with companies.
 
Good luck with your new site, and remember - it takes a while for any great project to get real traction - the same holds true for your website.
 
About The Author:
Derek Vaughan has been actively marketing on the Internet since 1995. His extensive online marketing experience includes serving at the Walt Disney Company as the online marketing manager for ecommerce at ESPN.com. Mr. Vaughan was also the marketing manager for the launch of the NASCAR Online Store.
 
In web hosting, Mr. Vaughan served for over 4 years as Senior Director of Marketing for Affinity Internet, Inc. and Vice President of Marketing for Aplus.Net. Mr. Vaughan holds a bachelors degree from Purdue University and has also earned an M.B.A. from the Owen School at Vanderbilt University. He now consults for http://www.cheaphostingdirectory.com, and runs http://www.webmastersales.com

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