Getting Started Online

This is a guest post written by Inter Excel

Eager to start your online business, but not sure where to start?  With improving technology, including excellent online tools and lower costs, there has never been an easier time to put your business online.  These 5 steps will get you online in no time.

Step 1: Register your Domain Name

Your domain name is one of the most important first steps in getting any online business set up.  Think about it, if Amazon or takealot.com didn’t have domain names then they wouldn’t be able to sell their products online.  Fortunately, getting a domain set up and running is also one of the easiest steps in setting up your online business.

There are numerous online companies that register domains (called domain registrars) for a small annual price.  In order to register a domain name simply do a search for ‘Domain Name Registration’ and you’ll see hundreds if not thousands of companies who can do this for you.  In South Africa the big players who can assist you here are AfriHost, domains.co.za and Webafrica.  They all offer pretty much the same thing so it doesn’t really matter which company you decide to go with.  Be sure to check the T’s & C’s before signing with anyone though and always be sure to confirm that the domain is registered in your name and not the name of the registrar.  If the domain is registered in the registers name it may be difficult, if not impossible, to switch to another company without losing your domain.

Check out this great article on things to know about domains before buying

Step 2: Find a Web Host

​A web host is the company that will essentially “rent” you space on their servers to host your website.  These companies usually offer domain registration too and its often easier to have both your domain and the hosting with one company.  Web hosting is extremely important, especially when running an online business as you need to ensure your website stays up and running 24/7, so be sure to compare different companies beforehand.

If you’re looking to set up a Shopify store, every plan includes quick, reliable and unmetered web hosting for your online business so there’s no need to worry about this.  If you’re looking at other options then the biggest things to look out for are:

  • Server reliability / Uptime scores
  • Server upgrade options
  • Hosting costs
  • Cron Jobs, Auto Script installer, .Htaccess and SSI
  • E-Commerce features
  • An easy to use hosting Control Panel
  • Site backups
  • Support options

Check out WebafricaAfriHost or InterExcel for cheap, reliable hosting options to compare.

Step 3: Create your website

This isn’t as difficult as it sounds.  With free tools and cheap web hosting, there’s really no reason you can’t have your own catalogue and shopping cart on the web if you’ve got something worth selling.

Before even considering to launch your website it is crucial to spend some time away from the computer to build your idea.  What kind of products will you be selling?  Are there any competitors in this niche?  How does your ideal website’s user interface look?  These are all very important topics of discussion which you should consider in great detail.

Once you’ve got your plan together, it’s time to choose the right platform.  There are two main categories to choose from for building an online shop: A self-hosted e-commerce solution is hosted on servers that you procure through a provider such as WebAfrica.  It means that you (or your web agency) need to source, set up and, amager the hardware infrastructure and operating system that your e-commerce website runs on.  A hosted or ‘managed’ e-commerce solution is hosted on a server that you don’t have access to.  We use Shopify for the majority of our projects and this means we don’t have direct server access.

Why hosted is better:

Using a hosted platform like Shopify or Shopify Plus gives you a lot of benefits such as:

  • Technical support for your store. Whilst your server host will typically provide 24/7 support, the support from a hosted solution will include the e-commerce software itself.
  • Completely reliable. A platform like Shopify hosts hundreds of thousands of stores and they rely on their great reputation for future customers.  You can be assured that the software is solid and thoroughly tested.
  • Constant upgrades. Hosted platforms constantly add new features to improve their platform and this happens silently in the background.  

Step 4: Drive Traffic to your website

Even the most cutting edge design and amazing new product is worthless if it’s buried under millions of other websites.  Consider these basic methods of promoting your new site:

  • Register with the three major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo) – Make sure your sites are linked via Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
  • List your blog articles in major blog directories online.
  • Content marketing, video marketing and podcasting
  • Online Advertising: Google PPC, Twitter ads and Facebook advertising
  • Direct mailing (print, not email)
  • Offline marketing (billboards, company vehicles, stationery, print ads, promotional products)

Step 5: Track your growth

Easy (and free) tools are available that allow you to see who clicked where and when.  Google Analytics is a free tool – which, among other things, tracks:

  • Popular pages
  • Traffic sources
  • Popular keywords
  • Location of clicks

These reports can be customised with a plethora of variables including date range, page views and length of time on site.  While visitor traffic provides an interesting gauge, what you are really looking for are transactions.  Whether you are selling a product or a service, success is measured in sales.

Its never been easier to start your online business and with such excellent online tools and lower costs, along with these 5 steps to get you started, you can now get a domain name, build your website and start generating revenue as quickly as possible and work out the details along the way!