The beginner guide to starting your own online store

So you want to start your own online ecommerce store? GREAT! I started my own online store a couple of years ago and I’m getting a healthy profit from it. In this beginner guide to starting an online store I’m growing to guide you through all the steps you need to start your own store. Let’s dive right in!

1. Determine what you want to sell

If you already know what you want to sell, skip this part 🙂 If not: there are a lot of things to consider before you choose a product / vertical / category to dive into with your online store.

I think there are 4 main things to consider when you choose what type of product(s) you’re going to sell.

  1. The type of product you want to sell
  2. Your affinity with the product
  3. Level of competition
  4. Consumer / business demand

A virtual product? A service? A physical product? What will you sell?

If you start your own online store, that doesn’t mean you have to sell physical products in your store. You can sell whatever you like. Once we get to step 5, the creation of your store, I’ll explain exactly how you can setup your store for different types of products or services. While you’re still in the idea phase, don’t exclude the things you might not have thought about like selling a virtual product.

You have to realise that selling a physical product has a lot of downsides to it. They can perish. They can be returned (which adds to your costs). Someone has to keep stock (which also adds to your costs).

Have you ever really thought about selling something other than a physical product?

What virtual products can you sell through your store?

Ebooks

By far the most popular virtual product is of course the ebook. Create once. Sell unlimited times. Ebooks as opposed to normal physical books are a lot easier to create. They are cheaper to make. Easier to distribute. Cheaper to translate.

(Video) course

Do you have knowledge you’d like to spread? Is educating other people something you really enjoy? Then creating a course might just be the thing for you.

The hardest thing about creating a video course is the preparation. You probably need to put between 2x – 4x the amount of time in preparation versus the amount you record your actual course. You need to script a lot of it. Even experts still have to prepare their courses.

Software

Even a simple web based tool can be software you can sell. You don’t have to build a virus scanner or an Operating System like windows before you can charge money for software.

You don’t have to be able to code to sell your own software. If you have a great idea for a piece of software that doesn’t exist yet, ask someone else, like freelancers on Upwork to code it for you.

There are literally tens of thousands of web developers and software engineers on that platform. You do have to type out every little detail of the software you want made. What are the things people need to do with your software? What are the User Stories? (A User Story is something the customer wants to do with your software. Like: I want to create a Bingo card. Once the Bingo card is created I want to be able to print it on paper)

What does your software look like? How do you want the User Interface to look like? If you have no clue how to create a User Interface, hire someone on Upwork to do it for you. Just tell the person what you want someone to be able to do. They can make the design for you. The design can be given to the programmer so he can add functionality to the design. Eventually creating a piece of software you can sell.

Audio

With the advent of Spotify and other music subscription services I believe there’s not much to win in the audio space which you can sell on your own online store.

A lot of what you could sell with audio is replaced with video. Why pay for a language course on audio only when you can get it with video too? Why sell a song on your store while someone could just listen to it as part of their music subscription?

You can nevertheless sell audio trough your online store. I would concentrate on sound effects and samples.

Photography and digital art

If Photoshop and Illustrator are your tools, you can create some beautiful images, design patters and icon packs you can sell through your own store and via 3rd party stores.

Even though the photography has been completely commoditized in the past few years with Stock images, you can still make a fair amount with non-stock looking photo’s.

What are the things you have affinity with? What do you like?

If you’re selling a product you know nothing about. You couldn’t care less about. You’re indifferent to it… That’s not a good start to your online store. You should be enthusiastic about it or at least know a lot about the product (vertical).

When you choose a product that you have an affinity with, you’ll be able to select the product that would fit your needs. If it can solve your problem of make your life happier, you can probably make someone else’s life happier too.

If you can find a product you know a lot about, that’s very interesting to you and you’re passionate about… You’ve hit the jackpot. The only thing you have to worry about if the level of competition for the product. We’ll get into that in a little while.

Open a spreadsheet and write down where your passions and interests are and where your knowledge is. If you can honestly say that you qualify in all three columns, you should have a look in that space what products are out there and what you could sell

How to determine the level of competition

Everything is already sold on Amazon right? Wrong 🙂 Generically speaking you are right though. Almost everything is already being sold on Amazon (or your local equivalent). But that doesn’t mean there’s no room for your product.

I have a couple of different methods to determine the level of competitiveness. One is to do a google search for your product type like so:

intitle:my product type

So I did this search for a product called an avocado slicer. I bought one for my mother in law who is always in the kitchen and who’s a great cook. There are only 8900 pages which talk specifically about an avocado slicer. That’s not much. Thats like, nothing. If you compare that to running shoes:

There’s a 20x bigger competition. 180k versus 9k pages. There’s one problem though. How much search volume is there on your product?

Signup for a Google Account if you don’t already have one and head over to the Keyword Planner. You can fill in any keywords and see the search volumes.

Surprisingly there’s still quite a bit of volume on avocado slicers. A factor 50x less than running shoes but still a decent amount. If I was passionate about cooking, knew a lot about it and it was one of my core interests, I would definitely consider selling this product.

If we zoom out a bit, we cal also see what the competition level is and how much people are bidding on the keywords. Take these numbers with a grain of salt. You should just use them as a high level comparison. Not as exact science.

Head over to Google Trends and see if your product is rising in search volume or interest is dimming.

Pears are flatlining. So selling a “pear slicer” will probably not be as lucrative as an avocado slicer because you can’t benefit off the bigger slice of the pie, the market that’s becoming bigger. There are always more opportunities in a growing market. There’s less emphasis on price. You can grow even though you might not be growing in total market share. Don’t jump in a market that’s on a decline. You’ll fight over nothing but price.

Whether you like it or not, you’re probably competing with Amazon. The more products in your niche are available on Amazon the more competition you have. You can use Junglescout (they have a free trial) to check out the competition on Amazon. You can also check out the amount of sales people get from their products in your niche.

2. Create a plan how to differentiate yourself

There are not a lot of companies making money with an online store. You need to really differentiate yourself from the pack. Tracey & Wiersma have been one of the founders of a concept that can create competitive advantages. You can choose either one, but I’ll tell you which one you should choose. There’s also a threshold before you’re really competing on a level that actually has impact for the customer.

Product leadership

When you’re aiming to become a product leader, you offer your customers the best possible products. If you’re not a manufacturer, or if you produce private label products, it’s very hard to become a product leader. You’re the one that brings cutting edge products to the market. That means investing in R&D. Knowing what your customer want and knowing where the marketing is going. If you’re a small business, this is very very hard to do. So I would not advise you to become a product leader unless you have a background in product engineering or something similar.

Apple is a real product leader. They build amazon products everyone wants. Their facial recognition is still the best even after it has been introdoced  years ago. The Apple HomePod is (sound wise) 10x better than Amazon’s Echo. People buy their products. They don’t need to get sold on them.

Operational excellence

Amazon is a fantastic example of operational excellence. For 10 dollars a month you can get free shipping on all your purchases. They have an abundance of products on their platform. Over 50% not even their own stock, but stock from 3rd party resellers who compete on price. They have so many products that you could almost see them as a product leadership. But because they don’t make state of the art products they’re not a real Product Leader with their stores. You could see them as Product Leader with their Cloud platform.

Because Amazon is such a huge brand and sells to so many people around the world, they have a huge server park. They’re able to rent parts of it out to online businesses who also want reliable lightning fast web servers.

If you want to become a company, an online store, that focusses on operational excellence, the end came is the lowest cost to the client. Because you’re still small, you have no purchasing power. Your cost of purchased goods are higher because you can only buy 10 in stead of 10,000. Your shipping costs are higher because you ship 10 in stead of 10,000. Etc. So you have no bargaining power whatsoever.

Customer intimacy

Thats means there’s only one real road you can follow. The customer intimacy road. If you’re a small business, this is the way to differentiate yourself from the pack.

Know your customer. Know what they want. Surprise them again and again. Treat them as if they’re your friends. Talk to them as if they’re family. Use the fact that you’re small to your advantage. Why do you think “influencers” were born? Because they’re real people who interact with other people. Not a company who acts like a company and talks to you like you’re a robot.

The most important part of customer intimacy is to always think from a customers’ perspective. How would they like this? Why would they need this? What’s in it for them?

The threshold criteria

In order for you to have any benefit from choosing a Tracey & Wiersma strategy, you need to have a certain number of “check marks”. You can’t do a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

Free shipping and an Instagram account where you tell your followers what they can do with your products isn’t going to cut it. You need to have enough to move the needle and for people to recognise and see you the way you want to be seen.

These would be my suggestions if you want to meet the threshold for customer intimacy
  • Have at least one or two Social account where you post regularly (like a normal human being)
  • Email your customers to say thanks. No auto responders. No discounts. No questions. Just thank them.
  • Show yourself on your online store too. Your face should be on all a lot of pages
  • Have a really extensive about you page. Tell people your story. Why you started your store. Why they should shop with you
  • Do AMA’s (Ask My Anythings) on a monthly basis. You want to create a relationship between you and your followers / customers. Be their friend. Be close

3. Decide on your store’s brand and domain name

You should have enough information now to determine what you’re gonna sell. For this guide we’ll focus on a product with a customer intimacy strategy. Most people still open new ecommerce stores to sell physical products.

There’s only one way really for small businesses to get a decent income with an online store. Like I said before: focus on customer intimacy. With customer intimacy it’s about 2 things. Up and foremost the customer. But the customers comes to your store because of you. Because you’re you. You’re human. They can relate to you and to your life. If you can bring those two as close as possible, you have a winner.

My suggestion for a brand name and subsequently your domain name is the following:

Your brand should already tell a story. A struggle. A battle. A fairytale.

There’s a (semi) famous cosmetic / skin care company called Paula’s Choice. I heard her story once in Amsterdam. How she started and why she started. She told her journey. The only reason why people buy from her is because they can relate to her story and believe (in) her. Unfortunately the company got acquired by a private equity firm in 2016 and has left the customer intimacy strategy. They are now more on route to become a product leader, with subsequent “feedback” from their audience like:

“Skyrocketing prices” and “decreased product sizes”

The company was doing great with the customer intimacy strategy. That’s why the company was so successful. Don’t for a second think that you can’t be successful is you don’t have the lowest prices of the biggest assortment of products..

Take example of Paula’s Choice prior to 2016. Don’t start an online business because you think it’s cool. Start an online business because you have a story to tell people can relate to.

Coming back to your brand name and domain name: tell a story with it. Use a tool like Namelix to help you in your journey to find the perfect name.

You can fill in some words and Namelix will gather related words. In the example below I just used my first name and looked at what came back. I’m not saying you should use your own name. But it should be something close to you. Not a name that a robot made up.

For the domain name: try to keep it as short as possible. Shorter names are easier to remember. For that purpose you should also have a short brand name. A maximum of 20 words. Best is to match the brand name with the domain name.

For the domain extension (like .com .net .org Etc) you should use your local equivalent. If you live in the US use .com. If you live in the UK use: .co.uk. People can relate to that. If you live in The Netherlands but use .com while .nl is the normale domain extension you’ll immediately lose some customer intimacy l0vvvvvv.

Use a whois checker to see if you domain name is still free. You can fill in all the domain names you came up with and check if they’re still free.

4. Decide if you want to hold stock or not

Have you ever heard of drop shipping? It’s a strategy of inventory management where you don’t keep any stock yourself. You have your orders shipped directly from the supplier to your customer.

The difference in cost between keeping inventory,  dropshipping and using an external warehouse

Keep inventoryDrop shippingExternal warehouse
InvestmentHighLow ⭐⭐High
Shipping time & returnsFasterFastFastest ⭐
Monthly costNone ⭐⭐⭐LowHigh
Shipping costNormal rateCheaperCheapest ⭐⭐
MarginHigh ⭐⭐LowerHigh ⭐

Let’s dig in a little deeper and compare the to different strategies.

Investment

If you want to keep inventory at your own place you first of all need some space. My girlfriend sells jewelry and paper cards (baby shower, birthday invited, stuff like that) from home. All her inventory fits in 4 medium sized cabinets. We have plenty of room for all het stuff to be stored. If you sell clothing on the other hands, you’ll need a couple of rooms to store your inventory probably. So when you make the decision what you want to sell, take into account how much space it’s gonna take up. If you can’t keep it at your own house, you’ll immediately incur costs to store it somewhere else.

If you do have the space to store your inventory at home, you still need to buy it wholesale. Normally you can’t buy 1 item from a wholesaler or a manufacturer. Or you can, but you’ll pay a lot more per unit so you won’t be able to sell it at a price point where you make enough margin.

If the same wholesaler / manufacturer also provides dropshipping, you can compare prices and margins.

If you want to keep inventory at an external warehouse, you still have the high investment like you would if you kept your stock at home, but your shipping costs and shipping times are much better. Your margin is a bit lower because they charge a fee per SKU you keep at their warehouse. You also get charged for every stock item they process and even more if you ask them to add EAN codes to your products. You have to invest a bit more in packaging and shipping if you keep your inventory at a warehouse. Your products are first shipped to you. You check them for quality / add EAN stickers and make the products compatible to be kept in the warehouse. Then you ship them to the warehouse. That’s the part of the warehouse process that costs a bit more money and time.

The other downside is that you’re charged a monthly fee to keep your stock in their warehouse. It’s based on the number of different SKU’s you have stored (a SKU is just a hard word for different products) and based on the amount of products from one SKU you have stored. If you don’t have a lot of sales data it will be harder for you to determine how much stock you should keep at a warehouse. That either inflates your (monthly) costs or, if you don’t have enough stock, will hamper sales. Plus you’re making your investment amount dependent on more factors. That usually means you make poorer decisions.

Shipping time & returns

The fastest shipping is obviously via an external warehouse. The problem can be that they charge you more if you want to offer next day shipping until later in the day. Say 8 PM or 10 PM. Other than that, they can probably offer better shipping times than you could ever do because they have big contracts with the postal companies. The warehouses are able to ship all their products with a big truck directly to the main sorting centres that’s not open to the public.

Returns are easy to do via the warehouse. Everything is automated. You pay a fixed fee per returned item. The shipping cost to return something (if you offer free returns) is a lot lower then if you would do it yourself. The problem is: returns aren’t very carefully checked for quality and it’s hard to get a hold of the warehouse for specific questions about shipments.

With dropshippers you usually have the worst shipment times. The close their shop earlier. They might not always be fully stocked. They give priority to bigger stores. So as a small business you always come last.

Returns are a hassle with dropshippers. They normally don’t accept them. You have to take care of that yourself. So all the returns will probably end op at your house and it’s hard “to get rid of them” once you have them in your possession. For example: what happens if you sell one of the items you have at home and one that’s at the dropshipper? Do you incur shipping costs twice? Do you have it al sent from the dropshipper? Write off the stock you have at home? Probably the best solution is to have a sale once a year with all your returned items.

If you hold stock at home, your shipping time is OK. The problem is you always have to be at home at the end of the day. Next day shipping until 5 PM? You have to be home before 5 PM every day to package all your orders and bring them to the nearest post office.

Offering free returns if you hold stock at your house is almost impossible to do cost wise. Margins are usually too low to be able to give free returns. That in return hampers sales. People want to have free returns as well as free shipping. They’re used to it because a lot of big retailers offer it.

Monthly cost

Normally if you keep stock at home or at a dropshipper, there’s no monthly fee involved. Only when you need to rent a separate space for your inventory will you incur additional monthly costs. If you start to grow you can also ask the dropshipper to keep some stock for you. They might ask a monthly fee for that too.

The monthly fee the warehouse charges is probably your biggest hurdle to deciding wether you want to use a service like that. Because wether your sell something or not, you still have to pay them for the space. You’re actually renting a piece of their warehouse and that costs money.

You won’t go broke on the monthly costs though. Normally these warehouses charge anywhere between 1 and 10 cents per product, unless you sell something like TV’s. Amazon charges per cubit foot. Others charge per product. If you store 50 different products and have 10 items of stock an average per month you pay 25 Dollars a month when you’re charged 5 cents per product.

Prices are of course a lot higher in the holiday season. Usually starting in October monthly storage prices triple or even quadruple. That’s also usually when you have the most stock available. Don’t be surprised if those 25 Dollars turn into 200 – 400 Dollars over the course of October through December.

You can really save on the fulfilment part. It only costs you a bit of time to package an order. If you package 20 orders a day, you can easily save 20 – 60 Dollar on fulfilment. The downside is you have to be at home like I talked about before. Plus you have to pay / process returns.

Shipping cost

When you’re a small business, you have no leverage with shipping companies. In order to get a better deal, you need to hook up with the next best thing. Brokers who make deals with shipping companies. In Europe there is a big one called Sendcloud. In the US you can use a tool like Shipstation. I don’t know however, what the savings are on shipping rates.

One thing you can do to save on shipping is register for an online account for your preferred shipping company. I know UPS gives you a discount if you register online and register your shipments online.

My girlfriend prints here own stamps with a sticker printer. It saves her a few cents per order. She only sends her orders in envelopes that fit through the mailbox so her costs are also a lot lower.

The dropshipper should have a little bit better shipping rates than you. But they might not transfer that on to you. So you probably won’t save on shipping cost.

The cheapest shipping option is the external warehouse. With the external warehouse you can’t split the fulfilment from the shipping costs though. Fulfilment is a big part of the total cost per order. For the smallest items you have in stock, it will be cheaper for you to send them. Same goes for the largest items I think. The only thing where you can really save on is the bulk or your products which fit certain dimension. Use the online tools from the warehouse companies to see how much they charge per product category.

If you’re looking at ways to optimize for margin… Don’t store everything at the warehouse. Only the products where you save a lot on shipping. Worst case scenario the customer receives two different packages. Only do this if you save a lot on shipping cost.

One last tip. If you’re considering to store your stock at home, you can also save money on shipping by integrating with shipment options your ecommerce store software supplies you. Go to step 5 to read more about this.

Margin

If you have a steady flow of orders coming in. You know approximately how much you’re gonna sell and you ship a lot of medium sized products. (Medium sized meaning bigger than jewelry and smaller than tv’s / chairs) the warehouse option will probably give you the best margins if you look at total cost for one order.

You still have high investment costs because you need to buy your product(s) in bulk to get the best prices. But you’ll save a lot on returns and shipping. It all comes down to being able to estimate the amount of sales per day/week/month in order to optimize the stock you hold at the warehouse. The better you can work with a Just In Time method of inventory management, the lower your total costs will be and the higher your margin. Just In Time is nothing more than optimizing your inventory flow so the moment the last product is sold your new shipment of products to the warehouse just arrived. The average number of products held in the warehouse will be lowest. The investment made as well because you bought just enough to last you until the next cycle.

For a small business however, this is near impossible. You need at least 3 years of sales data. You need a really streamlined purchasing flow. You’re just not big enough to optimize for JIT yet.

If you don’t order your stock in bulk but use a dropshipper, your margins will be lower than when you have it shipped to you or the warehouse. This can be anywhere between 10% and 40% difference. Quite a lot. But if you don’t have the money to buy in bulk, you have to use a dropshipper. Try to hold on to as much cash as you can for each sale you make. In time you’ll have enough money to invest in your own stock.

If you have steady cashflow you could also ask a bank to finance you some working capital. With the working capital you can immediately improve your margin with 10% – 40%.

5. Create your online store

Now that you know what type of stock management and inventory system you’ll use, you’re all set to GO AND DO STUFF!! To setup your online store and (almost) start selling.

This is where the fun begins. Because there are so many tools out there that allow you to sell online.

Some are free to use / open source. Others require a one time fee and some require you to take a subscription on their service. I’ll walk you through the options I believe are best for a small business who’s just starting out.

The below table is when you do everything yourself with the default options. Shopify is always hosted by Shopify themselves. That’s why it’s easiest to setup for example. You can get hosting with Woocommerce, Prestashop and Magento. But the only real advantage you get is that you don’t have to do the setup.

Woocommerce

Woocommerce “lives” on the WordPress platform. You can download a plugin for WordPress to run Woocommerce on your blog. You can also complete forego on the blog part of WordPress and only use the shopping functionalities Woocommerce has to offer. You don’t really need prior experience with WordPress even though the two go hand in hand. You can create amazing content with WordPress and sell through Woocommerce.

The software is free to use. They sell add ons which are pretty reasonably priced.

Shopify

Shopify is a standalone ecommerce store. The only way you can use Shopify is with a subscription starting at 29 Dollar per month. The biggest advantage of Shopify if you ask me, is the discounts you get on shipping fees and credit card fees. If you sell for a few thousand Dollar a month you should easily make back the 29 Dollar a month you’re paying for the software.

The downside is the vendor lock in. Once you’re on Shopify it’s hard to get off. All your data is in there. They don’t make it impossible for you but it is a lot harder to migrate to Shopify from other online stores.

Prestashop

Also used by a lot of people. Just not really well known. I think it’s pretty good ecommerce software. The only thing I don’t really like is the expensive add ons. They really charge a hefty premium for basic add ons like an SEO add on. In my honest opinion I think this should always be part of any online store and you shouldn’t have to pay so much money (over 200 Dollar at the time of writing) for such a basic and must have feature.

It’s also a standalone ecommerce store. So it’s optimized to only sell sell sell. Quick search functionality. Fast response on the right web hosting. Pretty good!

 

WoocommerceShopifyPrestashopMagento (2.x community)
Setup easy?⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Speed⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of use⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Features⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Support⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Base cost⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Savings (ship / cc)⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Base fee per month$13.99$29$7.99$9.95
Start with WoocommerceStart with ShopifyStart with PrestashopStart with Magento

I host all my websites and online stores myself. But if you’re just startign out as an online entrepreneur you should buy yourself a hosting package. That’s the easiest way to start. You don’t need any technical knowledge. You can just click your way through the setup and you’ll have your store up and running in a matter of minutes.

If you do have some technical knowledge about web servers and stuff, you could consider hosting it yourself. All ecommerce software I mentioned except Shopify can be self hosted. Shopify use to have a WordPress plugin but they stopped supporting it a while back.

Easy to setup

Shopify is the easiest to setup. It was built as a standalone shop. The primary reason why Shopify is so popular is because there’s no programming involved in setting up your online store.

With Shopify you can just start your 14 day free trial by filling in some really basic details.

Woocommerce and Prestashop are equally easy to setup with Bluehost. You can install the online shopping software with a few clicks and setup is pretty easy to go through.

Magento is the most extensive software around. It also takes a bit longer to install and configure. Magento was one of the first ecommerce store software around. Started over 10 years ago and it has a very large community of people who’re constantly updating the software and building more modules for you to use.

Speed

On the right hosting package, all of the above mentioned stores run well. Take into account that once your online store grows and you get more traffic and sales, that you should go to a dedicated server. That means your website is the only one hosted on it. It’s faster but also a bit more expensive. Once you’re above the 1000 Dollar / month mark is a good time to check your options.

The speed of the software is also greatly influenced by the number of products you have in your store. Magento and Shopify are the best when it comes to having a lot products. You do need LiteMage caching with Magento to take full advantage of Magento’s speed capabilities.

Ease of use

This is more a taste kind of thing. I like Woocommerce a lot because I’ve worked with it before. Same as Magento. Once you get to know Magento, it’s a very nice system to work with, but it takes a long time. It has so many options, it’s such an extensive ecommerce software, it takes a long to get to know and years to master.

Shopify is easier to use. Made for people who’re not used to running an online store.

Support

Shopify is Software as a Service (SaaS). That means you pay for the software to use but you also pay for some level of service. Bugs get fixed quick because you pay for the software. There’s an extensive knowledge base where you can lookup how to setup Shopify and work through issues you’re having.

If you haven’t purchased a module for Woocommerce, support is only through their forum. There’s no way to file a ticket of get into contact for a support question if you’re a free user. That’s also why it’s free. Remember: there’s always a cost to free. Once you gain traction with your online store, it’s important to move away from free. Because free starts to cost money when your livelihood depends on it.

The same goes for Magento Community edition and Prestashop. They are free and that comes at the cost of not having priority support and having to rely on the support forums. If you’ve paid for a module on Magento you can get support from the company who your’ve purchased the module from. Most modules you pay for are created by the community. So you can’t get support from Magento themselves.

Base cost

For the amount of functionalities and options you get from Magento, it’s the best value for money (you paid nothing for the software just for the hosting). I think Magento has by far the most needed and most necessary functionalities available in its free community edition.

Prestashop is a bit less expensive to run. It’s not as extensive as Magento so you don’t need a super fast web server to run it. Hosting is subsequently a bit cheaper than Magento hosting. Prestashop itself has fewer options than Magento.

Woocommerce hosting is a bit more expensive again because you need to run WordPress + Woocommerce on one server. Woocommerce has quite an extensive suite but definitely not as extensive as Magento or Shopify.

Cost saving

If you are really serious about your online business I think you should choose Shopify. You pay a little bit more when you start out but you get the most discounts because you’re on a paying plan. So once you reach a few thousand dollar of revenue you’ll start to see the scale swing. It’s also a good to pay for something because it encourages you to really make something out of your store.

All the cost saving is built in the software already. No need to download any other plugins or modules. Just benefit from the savings immediately.

Which one to choose?

If you’re planning on sell hundreds if not thousands of products, I would go for Magento. It’s ready for large volumes of products. It’s optimized for high volume high traffic. It has the most options for the least amount of money.

If you’re planning to sell up to one hundred products. Grow organically, go slow but steady, I would choose Shopify. You don’t need any technical knowledge. It’s installed in less than 10 seconds. Shopify has a nice guide for new users that takes you through all the steps you need to take before you can launch your store.

Once the creation is done you can be ready to launch your store in minutes.

Start by adding your products. Click on the purple button.

Add all the products you want to start selling. Make sure you have all the information you need at hand.

  • Product title
  • Product description
  • Professional photographs (Use Fiverr if you don’t have professional product photo’s)
  • Pricing
  • SKU number
  • Barcode
  • Amount you have in stock
  • Weight
  • Etc.

 

Once you’ve a few (or all) of your products. Move to the next step. Choosing a (free) theme.

There are about a dozen free high quality themes you can choose from. You can always customize later. It’s important to go online first and learn what your customers want.

Choose one based on how you feel about it. Technically they work all the same. Just make sure you feel comfortable with it. All themes have multiple colour options. So if you don’t like the light version, there usually also is a dark version and vice versa.

Once you’ve selected your theme it’s time to connect a domain to your Shopify account.

You can either add an already existing domain you purchased or buy one through Shopify.

I already have a domain I want to connect.

Once you added your domain you have to go to your hosting provider and change some DNS settings. This is probably the hardest step. If you don’t know how to do it, contact your hosting provider directly and show them this image. They’ll know what to do or can direct you how to do it.

Once you’ve taken care of the above things there are just a few more things to do. Go to Settings (Bottom Left) and click on Legal Pages.

Fill in the Refund Policy, Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, Shipping policy, etc. If you don’t know what you’re doing, consult a lawyer. To get you going… Visit other Shopify Stores to checkout what they mentioned in their policies. Do remember that every store is different and every country has it’s own set of rules you have to abide to.

If you have any questions about any of the above mentioned platforms, please leave a comment and I’ll try to help as much as I can.

6. Take care of the necessary paperwork

You’re almost ready to open your doors. You’ve gotten familiar with your online store. You know how to add products, add shipping rules. You made your store look nice with a (pre built) theme. You can start buying your first products and even more important start SELLING them too!

But before you become a real entrepreneur, you have to do some paperwork unfortunately. If you’re serious about doing this… Go to your local chamber of commerce and register your company. File a form to your local tax authorities to get a Sales Tax ID (or VAT or equivalent ID).

I’m not a World Wide Tax Expert so always consult with a local accountant to make sure you’re following the rules.

In the United States they work with something that is called a Nexus. You have to pay State tax if you have a presence in that State. So if you only sell from (your garage) in California and have no other physical presence (meaning: no stock, people, warehouse) in any other state you have 1 Nexus. You only have to file for Sales Tax in one state.

When you’re growing and start to have other locations, you’ll also gain more Nexus. That’s one of the benefits of being an online store. People who order at your store (in The United States) but don’t live in your state you have a Nexus in, don’t have to pay sales Tax.

You need to go to the State’s Department of Revenue to file for a Tax ID. You need to do that for every State you have a Nexus in and BEFORE you start collecting Sales Tax.

This is also where the burden of having your own business comes in. For every Sales Tax ID you have, you have to file for Sales Tax every month or quarter.

Depending on where you live in the world you have different Tax requirements. Here in The Netherlands I have to file my taxes once every quarter. I pay my income tax, because I’m an entrepreneur, directly to the tax authority on a monthly basis as a provisional sum because I’m never exactly sure what I’ll earn in a year. This way I avoid paying interest on the amount I own for my income tax. It saves me more than a thousand Dollar per year.

7. Start your first (online) marketing campaign

When you build it they will come doesn’t count for online stores. Nobody will know you exist when you just start out. No one will find you. You’re basically a ghost. Take that into account 🙂 This is not for the faint of heart.

What do you do when you’ve done something exiting? You tell you family. You tell you friends. You share it on Facebook and on Instagram. DO. IT. NOW!

See what people think of who are close to you first. Call them, ALL. Ask them, beg them, to visit your store and give you pointers. Listen to what they have to say, How can you make your store look more trustworthy. More personal. More you?

Make the changes the majority of your inner circle suggest. Only question them if you’re really sure you want to do something else. Usually other people can see things better than someone who’s judge their own meat.

Once you’ve made the changes, call your friends and family again. Ask them what they think now. Are they happy??? Good! NOW you can start to spend some cash and see if you can make more.

You can market your online store through different channels. It depends on what kind of products you sell where you should market your products.

Where can I advertise my online store?

  • Google Ads
  • Facebook Ads
  • Instagram Ads
  • Twitter Ads
  • LinkedIn Ads
  • Email marketing
  • Pinterest Ads

Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest can be used to create market demand. This is mostly useful if you have products people don’t know they want yet. Like a backpack that has a zipper close to your back so you can’t get stolen. Or a towel that doesn’t hold sand when you’re on the beach. These are products you’ve probably never seen. It’s not something you actively search for. You, as a store owner, have to create demand for these kinds of products.

Google ads

This is a platform you want to use when there’s already demand for your product. A running shoe. An avocado slicer. As I mentioned earlier, you can use Google’s Keyword planner to see if there’s demand for you product.

I’d suggest to only advertise on Google and not on their content partners / Google’s Display network first. You get the highest quality traffic when you advertise directly on Google.

As a Google Partner I receive voucher codes where you get between $50 – $100 free advertising. If you want to start with Google ads, leave a comment and I’ll send you an email if I have a coupon code left.

Facebook Ads

You can use Facebook both to create demand and to convert (existing) demand to sales. This works best if you already have an audience which you sold to. You can create an audience on Facebook and create a similar (look a like) audience from your known buyers. 100,000 people who resemble the people who already bought from you will be added to a list.

Facebook has an extensive list of ways to advertise. You can generate leads. Create demand with video views. Drive sales through product ads.

Instagram ads

Instagram has 2 ways to advertise. You can add sponsored stories to peoples timelines. You can literally tell your story to other people.

Or you can just show up in peoples timeline.

All advertising is run through Facebook’s Adsmanager. You can select on what ad network you want to run. The type of ad decides where it can be shown.

Instagram is a place to be for all new online store owners who follow the customer intimacy model from Tracey & Wiersma. The visual way you communicate on Instagram is a great way to become intimate (in a professional way) with your followers.

Twitter ads

Unless you already have a presence on Twitter, I wouldn’t suggest advertising on Twitter. You can always test if the audience options work for you. Twitter has become a pretty niche platform. Definitely worth your while if you’re already on it and built a following. Not so much so if you’ve yet to make an account. Getting organic followers on Twitter is a lot harder than on Instagram. So if you still have to start with any of these 2 platforms, I suggest you start on Instagram and see if you products and your story get some traction on it.

Email marketing

The first thing you should do once you start your online shop is to add a form where people can signup to your newsletter. Be up front with it. Just offer people a 10% – 20% discount. (Experiment a bit with the different offers to see what converts best with the lowest loss of margin)

It’s important to stay in contact with your buyers. Email marketing is by far the least expensive marketing channel an online store can have. Take advantage of it.

Email marketing is also a great way to automate your sales. You want to get about 50% of your email marketing sales from automated messages. Abandoned cart emails. Happy birthday emails. 4th of July. Fathers day. You name. Set it up once. Keep getting revenue over and over again.

Pinterst ads

Pinterest is the inspiration platform. Mostly used by women. But everyone goes there because they don’t know what they want yet. They know they want to get married, redecorate their home or plan a holiday. But they don’t know how and what yet.

An excellent time to get in front of an audience and get in their evoked set. Meaning: the brands / products they evaluate before they make a purchase. This is the beginning of the sales funnel. The moment you want to shine and show yourself as a genuine alternative to all the things that are already out there.

Bonus tip

From the moment you start your online store, you should be very active with SEO (search engine optimization). It’s the art of getting people to your store without having to pay for it. You rank high in Google’s Organic results and that gives you a constant flow of free visitors to your website.

Use Google’s Keyword Planner to find out what the search volume is on your (product related) keywords like we did earlier. Do it more extensively now. You should create a list of at least 50 – 100 keywords.

Use Wincher to track your rankings in search engines. If you don’t know where you are, you can never measure progress.

For the 50 – 100 keywords you found, do a search on Google. Have a look what results come up. Are there only text results? Or do you see video results, image results and map results too? Click on each and every result and find out what’s behind the click. Why does it rank top 10?

You should create a list for every keyword to help you “win” in Google. Meaning: write down what you see in the top 10. What haven’t you thought about? Why is this image ranking so high? Why is this video here? How come this article made it in the top 10?

You should try to do a 10x better job. Add the information you’re missing on your product and category pages. If you do, you’ll gradually end up in the top 10 as well. But not without this:

You need links from other websites!

If you don’t get links from other websites, you’ll never rank high in Google (or Bing). It’s the number one ranking factor. If you know any friends or relatives that own (personal) websites, ask them to link out to you.

Do you know anyone in your niche that has a website? Hook up with that person and see if you can add value to their website by providing them with a guest post.

I’m going to make some guides for all the mentioned marketing platforms / channels. I’ll walk you through how to setup your own campaign and how to measure results.

Ask yourself these 7 questions to find out if you can become a blogger

Blogging isn’t for everyone. You should know before you start if you’re up for the challenge. Otherwise you’re just wasting your time and throwing away money for nothing. I’ve been blogging for 12 years and I still enjoy doing it. If you ask yourself these 7 questions, you can find out if blogging is something for you.

1. Do I have the grit and perseverance?

If you start to blog you need a long term goal. Creating great content and people will come, won’t work. Great content isn’t enough. You need to be willing to spend a few hours a day for at least 5 days a week for YEARS to come. What’s your goal? Because if it’s to make money online quick, you might as well not even start.

Ask yourself the question: Am I willing to put in at least 2 hours a day, for 3 years in a row. Am I willing to invest time in weekends? Am I passionate enough about my blogging idea that my motivation will stick around for a couple of years?

Are you willing to invest 100’s of hours for months at a time without seeing any real results? Less than 1% of all the worlds blogs end up getting any significant amount of traffic. Are you the one in a hundred that will get traction? Can you take a beating? Can you go a long time without a big win? Can you celebrate the tiny wins and get a thrill out of those?

Did you know that there are more than 300 million domain registrations every quarter? And that blogs that report they post new content daily or almost daily are the strongest performers? That means you should have a post ready every day or every other day.

Courtesy of Hostingfacts

On average a post is about 1150 word long up from 1000 a few years back. It takes about 3 hours to write a post. So that means you would need to invest about 15 hours a week to write the necessary content to see the results you probably want. Are you up for that task?

Courtesy of Orbit media

If your answer is yes to most questions you have enough grit and perseverance to become a blogger. You’re going to need it. Because before the traffic needle will start moving you will have spent 150 – 300 hours on creating content. Let’s move on to the next question.

2. Do I have the writing skills and vocabulary to write compelling stories?

Blogging is not just about having a lot of knowledge and writing it down on a piece of paper. It’s about conveying a story to people. To take someone from point A in their lives to point B through your story. Through what you’ve been through. What you’ve done that made an impact.

You’re not writing a book when you’re blogging. You’re taking people on a ride and you should have (create) your own writing style based on what niche you choose, what type of audience you want to address or based on how you want to be perceived by your readers.

Are you ready to amplify your content with fame, controversy, storytelling or another unique value?

3. Am I an expert in a field or do I bring a new angle to the crowded “Blogosphere”?

The world has enough of so-called experts. Not everyone who’s read a book is an expert in something. Not everyone who has 3 years experience in digital marketing is a “guru”.

Through the years I’ve been reading and doing a lot of different things in the digital domain. I learned a lot. I experimented a lot. I also saw how not to do things. I did things the wrong way. I failed at a lot of stuff. But I’m also an optimist that always sees opportunity.

I started this blog because of a challenge. If had no plan. I just knew that I had enough knowledge to get this blog going. Only when I was underway I saw what opportunity their actually was. I’m looking at this from a Search Engine Optimization opportunity mostly. I’ve done quite a bit of research the pas 2 weeks and I’ve seen a lot of options to improve on “what’s out there”. I’m writing them all down along the way so I know where to invest my time in.

So even if you’re not sure if you have the skills right now, I would just say: START!! The road to Rome wasn’t built in a day. It did get started in one day. With the first stone. That first stone can be your first article. Along the way, along the road you’re building, you’ll see a lot of opportunity because you’re building the road. If you only walk the road you miss the experience of digging deep in road building.

4. Do I want to become a personality (these days known as an influencer)?

If you prefer to remain in the shadows and don’t get your name out there, starting a blog probably isn’t the best thing you can do. You need to show yourself. People need to see who you are. Know who they’re talking about and talking to. There aren’t many blogs that feature anonymous bloggers. There are a few mystery guys and girl out there. But few of them are really successful. Probably 99% of successful bloggers are successful because they are very upfront about who they are. They show a picture of themselves for every to see.

It doesn’t mean you should have a personal Instagram account with millions of followers or a YouTube channel with hundreds of videos of yourself. It does mean being “out there”. Not being afraid of showing yourself and to make mistakes.

Showing yourself to everyone and telling stories people can relate to is probably the most important thing you can do as a blogger. That’s why you see my face on every page. That’s why I always try to tell a story with every article I write.

5. Do I have a big network (which can help me launch / grow)?

Build it and they will come is a myth. There’s no such thing really. Building a blog and growing your blog is hard work. You already answered the grit and perseverance question (hopefully with a yes). That means you already know that it’s going to be a long road for you. You won’t be able to do it yourself? You need family, friends, colleagues and partners to make your blog successful.

Before you start a blog, write down all the names of people you currently know that can help you out. I’d say you need at least 50 people to help you. Ask them before you start if they’re willing to share your content. Maybe link out to you.

Having a dozen or so friends with websites can really help you in the first few months. It’s hard to gain traction when you’re new. People don’t know you in the blogosphere. You have nothing to show for. If you can get yourself featured on your friends websites you can make a reference to that in future outreach. If people you outreach to see that you / your blog has already been featured somewhere, you’ll have a bigger chance to be featured on their blog too. Most people don’t want to make a mistake of allowing some weirdo who doesn’t know what he’s talking about on their website. But if you can show previous (guest) posts which look good, you have a much easier entry.

In the end if you want to be successful in building a blog, you need a lot of links. A big part of a blog’s success comes down to being able to build links to your blog. The linkbuilding is a means to an end and links are a very important part of Google’s algorithm in determining which website should get a top spot on their page for a certain query.

There’s nothing wrong with asking your family to help you out with some social luvvvv and some link luvvvv. That’s what any startup founder would do right? They would ask their friends and family for help.

Do you have enough people who can help you? Can you make the right connection with people? If you can’t persuade your friends to help you or are too scared to ask them, what do you think will happen when you reach out to total strangers?

6. Do I have a little bit of technical skills to setup my blog and keep it alive and kicking?

Did you know that 90,000 websites are hacked daily? The majority being blog websites like the one you’re reading now? WordPress is the most popular blogging software out there. So it’s also the most “lucrative” to target by hackers. If they find a vulnerability for a WordPress version (or WordPress Plugin) they can try to exploit it on millions of websites!

Most WordPress websites are hacked because their Plugins aren’t up to date. Most people still update their WordPress installation but they forget to upgrade their plugins.

If you want to start a blog you need to know what you’re doing. You don’t need to have a major in website engineering. You do need to know the basics.

  • How to install WordPress on a server (can be done in a few clicks and with an easy walk through)
  • How to install the right plugins for your blog (including some security plugins)
  • How to keep everything up to date
  • How to minimize your exposure to hacks

7. Why haven’t I started yet?

How long have you had the idea of becoming a blogger? Days? Weeks? Months? Years? If you’ve been playing with the idea for months or years but haven’t started yet, you should first sit down and think about why you didn’t make the step yet?

Is it because you don’t know how to setup the blog? Read this post here. Is it because you don’t know what your blog should be about? Create a mind map to help with creating ideas for you blog.

If you connect the dots between what you already have inside you and what people want to know about you should line up 50 blog ideas in no time.

If you’re the procrastinating type and keep postponing stuff, you should think about the following which I learned from Tim Ferris’ TEDx video about fear.

In stead of setting goals. Set your fears.

I’m afraid of starting a blog, because… Define what you’re afraid of will happen.

Ok, so lets say it’s possible that that fear will come true. How can we prevent it from happening? Talk to people who you know who can help you with this. Someone else is usually better at knowing ways of preventing someone else’s fear.

Now let’s say you weren’t able to prevent the defined fear from becoming a reality. How could you repair the effect of the fear so it’s minimized? Here again, you should talk to a friend to help you with this. Because knowing how to repair something is also often just asking a friend for help.

No once you’ve set your fears. Let’s look at the goal. You want to become a blogger. If I did start the blog, how could my life look like in 6 months, 12 months, 3 years? How will it look if I don’t do it? Get into the details. How ill your life look financially? Emotionally? What are you going to miss out on?

Answering these questions should get you into “action” mode. If you fears (still) outweigh your gains, then don’t do it. Don’t become a blogger. But if you can see the benefits. If you’ve realized that your fears can be prevented or even repaired. And that the gain from starting is so large in maybe already 6 months or 12 months, then you should take the leap and just start!!

12 years of digital experience packed in these advanced blogging tips

I’ve spent the last 12 years building my own website. Optimizing my clients’ websites. I have quite a bit of experience under my belt.

If you followed my other post you should now have a blog with at least 10 posts. You already have some traction. A few visitors per day. Traffic starting to come in. Whether you have a few visitors a day or thousands the tips in this post will get your blog to the next level.

First the basics in this advanced blog 🙂

Tip #1: Make a clear site structure for your visitors, search engines and yourself

There are a lot of “advanced” basics that I don’t see a lot of (even veteran) bloggers use. The structure of your blog. How you structure your content is crucial to getting more visitors.

In order to structure your blog, go back to Google Ads Keyword planner and the Excel sheet I used earlier. I’m gonna use the CrossFit games as an example again because I used it in the previous blog post about starting a blog as well.

When I look at the results in the Excel sheet and the Keyword Planner, this is what I came up with.

I think it’s a pretty logical way to structure your website. The structure will be your base for your url structure as well. You’ll have yoursite.com/state1 with information on the CrossFit Games in that state. Yoursite.com/state1/city1 with information on the games in that city. Etc.

Same goes for yoursite.com/winners/2017 (people are still searching for winners from years back). You can make a big page for /tickets and you could refer to the state and city pages to show more details about tickets for each city.

This not only gives search engines and visitors an easier way to find stuff on your site, it also gives you tons of ideas how to build your site. You could literally build hundreds if not thousands of web pages based on this structure.

Tip #2: Install an SEO plugin

There’s a big miss in the basic WordPress installation: you’re not able to enter any “descriptions”. Descriptions I hear you ask? Yes! Every Google result has a title, a description and a url. The description is the black text below the result.

This is a snippet from one of my websites. The black text is the description tag. Install an SEO plugin so you can add unique descriptions to all your posts and pages.

 

You can automate the title part. The description part your have to do yourself. You know best what the most important thing to mention is. Make it clickable. The more people click on your result versus other results on the same page, the higher your rankings. CTR (Click Through Rate) matters a lot. A higher CTR shows Google that you can engage people.

Bonus: make sure it’s not just clickbait and people leave your page immediately after clicking through. That’s called pogosticking. Google can see if the user comes back to the result page. If you have a 3000 word page, getting back to Google.com within 10 seconds isn’t exactly promising.

Tip #3: Install an AMP plugin

Do you know what AMP means? It means Advanced Mobile Pages. It’s a lightweight version of your web page specifically made for mobile phone users. Mobile phone users have less bandwidth, a slower CPU, etc. So you’re doing your users a favour by “giving” them a light weight version of your website. Google also rewards these kind of AMP pages above other more “heavy” pages. So you’ll get more traffic when you implement an AMP plugin. Just search for AMP at the “add plugins” tab and install and activate this plugin:

If you have already connected your website to Google’s Search Console you can see if you have AMP results in Google and if there are any errors.

If you’ve enabled the plugin for a few weeks now but you don’t have any AMP results in Google yet, something is wrong. Check if you don’t have any errors. Use the “reader” mode in the settings tab to have the biggest chance of not getting any errors. It’s the oldest “mode” for AMP. Works best, but doesn’t have any increased risk of having errors.

Tip #4: Add a caching plugin

When you access a webpage on a WordPress blog your web server has to collect a lot of data in order to serve the page. That takes time. And as we know… Time is money. Literally. Because if you site takes longer to load, Google will slap you. You’ll get lower rankings. And we want high rankings.

Use the below settings to have the most basic setup which should decrease load time a lot already. A cached page can be viewed as a picture taken from your web page. The picture looks the same but has a lot less technical stuff involved to make if compared to the actual page. Because it’s easier to “show” the picture, your website’s load time will go down.

You can tell your browser to cache certain files like css (how you websites looks, what colours you use, what font, etc.), images and scripts. Because images don’t change (at all) once an image has been downloaded, you can tell the browser that the image won’t move or change for the next 24 hours, 30 days or even a year. The browser remembers that for each type of file and if it already has that file and the cache hasn’t expired yet won’t download the file again. This way you make your page lighter (I don’t need to download everything again) and faster (I don’t need to send stuff twice, I can concentrate on the important things).

Scripts are the single biggest cause of slow website loading. Images are the biggest part to download but are pretty easy to interpret by your browser. Scripts on the other hand are a lot less “heavy” to download but take a lot longer to execute. So your browser is busy making sense of a Javascript file while it should actually be showing your the page. Not all javascript files are necessary to be loaded before the page can be rendered. A lot can be executed once the rest of the page is done. You can speed up your website by “deferring” the Javascript files to be loaded at a moment that’s more optimal. Like an Analytics Javascript doesn’t need to be loaded before the content shows. Same with Javascript that displays ads. People hate ads. They don’t want to see the ads (at all) before the page is done loading.

Change the settings to the ones you see below. IF YOUR WEBSITE STOPS WORKING, revert back! After you made the changes you should empty your cache to see if the changes worked. Also view your website in a different browser to make sure you’re not still using the old cached version of the site.

Tip #5: Smush it baby

There are two things that up the bulk of your web page’ “weight”. One is the amount of scripts you have (css and javascript). The other one is images. Images are great. They say more than a thousands words. But they’re “heavier” than a million words if used incorrectly. The amount of time it takes to load an image over a few thousand lines of text is huge. So you want to optimize your images. There’s a neat little plugin for WordPress that’s named “resmush.it”. Install it. Let it run and automatically optimize your images. That will save you bandwidth and will get you bonus points at Google. Once you activate it you can find it under media.

I’ve only been working on this website for a couple of weeks, so I don’t have a lot of images yet. Yet I’ve already saves 73MB! That means less loading time. More bandwidth to use for other things. Win win!

These were the basic tips. I’ll now give you some advanced blogging tips to get more traction online.

Tip #6: Don’t use all the functionality WordPress has to offer

Categories, recent posts, tags, people also read, archive links, footer links, etc. etc. It all means only one thing: more links. More internal links. More internal links means less grip on how to “sculpt” your websites’ link juice.

Basically the more links you have on one page (to your own content) the less you can sculpt you websites’ authority. 1 article could be found via 4 or more different ways. Recent posts, via categories, tags, other people also read, etc. etc. You don’t want that. Also because you might be creating duplicate content. /category1/blog1 might contain exactly the same info as /blog1. How do you want search engines to know which one to focus on? You create problems you don’t want.

If you have an ecommerce website this tip is especially for your. You can easily have 100 products on your website. Those 100 products can turn into 1000 pages if you don’t be careful. Google throttles the amount of time it spends per website. If you don’t have a very authoritative website it won’t stick around for long and won’t browse through all your pages. So you want to be upfront with Google and have the least amount of pages possible so you’re spending your “Crawl Budget” well.

Check your product overview page and have a look at how many links 1 product list has to your product detail page.

Is it like this?

 

Or like this?

 

You want the latter. It doesn’t create 6 duplicate links. It sends a clear signal to Google. It’s easier to click on for people on tablets and mobile phones. This is best practice.

Tip #7: Don’t be afraid to share your content more than once

A lot of people think that sharing an article more than once is harassment of your audience. Nothing could be further from the truth. Do you really think that everyone, even your loyal, or your followers sits behind his / her email waiting for you to post your next piece? Or refreshing your social profile constantly to be the first one to see your next post? WRONG. Or course not.

Your audience is not on your website. It’s probably one of the last places they’ll come to. They have friends and family and a life right? Telling them more than once that you’ve made a new post wont in any way or form hurt you. Probably less then 1% of your audience will see that you mentioned your post twice.

If you’re really so scared of mentioning something twice… Update your post again before sending it out in the big bad world. Not just adding a few paragraphs but really taking a good look at it again. What’s new this year? What companies died that I wrote about? What new things can I add that are really useful to my audience?

Once you’ve done that, don’t be scared to even email your entire list about something they might have already read. You made a great improvement just now. Your audience should know about it.

Tip #9: build relationships often and early

If you build a blog you’re a nobody. A nothing. No visitors. Barely a few links from your LinkedIn profile and your Twitter profile. Nothing to show for really. But if you want to make it big as a blogger, you need other people.

Find bloggers who’re just passed the “they’re a nobody” phase. Comment on their blogs. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook. Act like a friend. Genuinely add value to their blog.

Once they make a post where you can really see yourself making a prequel or sequel to… MAKE IT. On your own blog. Comment on theirs saying you really enjoyed their post and that you have a piece people will also love if they loved reading theirs.

This should get the other blogger also interested in your blog. Don’t be too cheeky though. Don’t steal their visitors. Add value first with the comment. You blog post should become second. Otherwise your comment could be deleted and the new found friendship destroyed before it became something real.

Tip #10: Use other platforms as a springboard

Wether your a new blogger or someone who’s been at it for years… Your reach is nothing compared to Medium’s, Quora’s or LinkedIn’s reach.

Always combine your own writing with writing on these platforms. They can multiply your own efforts. The easiest way to make use of these platforms is to just post a link to your article. But that’s also the least effective.

All those platforms want is to keep their audience on their website. That means you need to always make native content. If you don’t have anything to write about this instant, copy what you’ve written on your blog and paste it on LinkedIn or Medium. Chances are you’ll reach a new audience with little or no effort.

I would advise you though to make original content that fits the platform. In the end that’s what’ll give you a larger following and what creates a multiplier effect for your efforts.

Tip #11: Use these websites if you want high quality free images

Everyone loves these images right?

WRONG. Everyone hates them. They are so fake. So unhuman. If you want the opposite of this. Real humans in real situations without paying use Unsplash or Pexels. I love these sites. They’re free and have a lot of high quality photographs.

Tip #12: Create a habit of blogging

If you only blog occasionally you’re going to lose grip on the growth of your blog. What happens if that one day per week that you planned to write goes out the window? What do you have as a stick that keeps you on the right track?

How about a wager with one of your friends? How about you giving them 100 Dollar if you miss your blogging day? 100 Dollar if you don’t write at least one great piece a week + do some outreach for it.

That’s quite a good stick to keep you on track right? Don’t overdo it though. Don’t tell yourself you can blog 5 times a week when you know you can only do 1 or 2. It’s the quickest way to failure. Set yourself a goal you can reach. An ambitious goal but a realistic one.

Tip #13: Remember that you are building an asset

Spending time on your blog is totally different than spending time on your clients’ website. One hour spent on your client is one hour billed is one hour earned. One hour spent on your blog should pay itself back 100 times over. I’m not joking about this part.

I have 4 websites where I spent less than 4 hours on them to build them in total. They are plain HTML websites. Just grabbed the source code straight from Dreamweaver and added a bit of content and made it responsive. I spent another hour to make AMP versions of the webpages.

If I would’ve spent 4 hours on my clients websites I would’ve billed him under 1000 Dollar. Do you know how much money I made with those 4 websites in the past 10 years? Over 15k. That’s 15x more than I would’ve made if I billed my clients. In stead I’m still reaping the benefits of my assets. They continue to produce cash for me with no end in sight.

Tip #14: Build an email list quickly and early

The best thing you can build is your website / blog. The second best thing? A huge email list. Because an email list is the only asset you have that can make a connection straight to your audience without a middle men like Facebook or Google.

It’s you data. They’ve consented to receive your emails. It’s the single most important way to create (free!) traffic to your blog without a lot of hassle.

Tip #15: Create assets that serve as link magnets and list (lead) magnets

In order to build an email list you need magnets that attract signups. Some people are interested in hearing from you on a regular basis. Others need a nudge in the right direction.

A list magnet can be a (free) ebook, a checklist or tool people can use or read once they’ve signed up for your list.

Anywhere from 60% to 90% of people will never visit your website again. You have to build a really strong brand to get people to come back to your website. So you need to grab them by the P… I mean grab them with your Pen and show them what they’ll miss out on if they don’t signup to your newsletter right away.

To create a lead magnet your have to know your audience.

  • Whats driving them
  • What are their pains
  • What do they want

Based on their wants and need you can create a lead magnet.

Here are 15 examples of lead magnets

  1. Checklist (When you post a new article you should do these 10 things)
  2. Ebook (pdf with tips)
  3. Spreadsheet (with prefilled budgets / formulas)
  4. Recipe book
  5. How to … create great photography, start your first … etc.
  6. List with resources
  7. Slide deck
  8. A book chapter
  9. Industry trend report
  10. For online stores:( 20% off) coupon code
  11. Assessment
  12. Access to a private (Facebook) group
  13. Step by step guide
  14. Previously recorded event
  15. Email course

Tip #16: Format your articles like a pro

Nobody likes to read endless paragraphs of text without headings, spaces, lists, etc.

If you make your articles an enjoyable activity to read people will stay longer on your website. Websites / web pages that have higher engagement rates tend to rank higher in search engines. It’s a public secret that Google knows how long people stay on a website and if they pogo stick back and forth.

If someone searches for something on Google and clicks on your result but returns after a short while to Google’s result page to click on another page you could be pretty safe to say that the user isn’t satisfied with the answer they got on your website.

It could be because they didn’t get deep in enough on your page because you have poorly formatted articles. Same with spelling errors. Having one of those in every articles isn’t the end of the world. Having one in every paragraph is pretty bad. People hate reading mistakes. They will quickly close your page and move on, never to return again.

Tip #17: An SEO walks into a bar pub club café

Don’t write your articles for search engines. They know that another word for bar is pub. Search Engine Optimisation is nothing more than the art of giving your users a great experience with maybe a little bit of technical knowledge and outreach.

Don’t overdo the use of synonyms. Search engines have become really smart in the past few years. They know that saying Hello is the same as saying Hey!

Until a few years back Google (and other search engines) weren’t really focusing on user intent yet. They just wanted to give the best result for the query but they didn’t really know what intent a user had. These days you see a lot of different search engine result pages. One is filled with images, the other is filled with maps results yet another one is filled with videos. Google has really made a lot of progress in understanding user behaviour and in knowing what the question behind a user’s question is.

Tip #18: Focus on (real) site speed

Google PageSpeed is a good tool to use to optimize your website for speed. But it’s not the all seeing God.

One important thing to understand is that Google has servers everywhere. So wether you’re in India, the United States or Senegal, Google is near you. But your website might not be near your user.

Even in the US your server could be on the West coast but your user could be on the East coast. The distance the data has to travel will really impact your site speed a lot. The round trip time (the time it takes to do a request, receive the data back from the webserver and close the connection can be quadrupled) on longer distances.

If you live in a large country like the US or your customers are spread throughout the world you should use a CDN (a content delivery network). In a sense they make a duplicate of your webpages near the user’s location so your website can be server quicker.

Besides using a CDN, the single biggest impact you can make is having quick web hosting. Bluehost is a fast and reliable web host. Once your website grows and attract a lot of traffic you should move to a dedicated server. You can always start with an optimized shared hosting account with Bluehost and move up to a dedicated server as you grow.