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Unofficial Guide to Starting a Business Online, 2nd Edition

ISBN: 978-0-471-79227-7
456 pages
March 2006
Unofficial Guide to Starting a Business Online, 2nd Edition (0471792276) cover image


The inside scoop... for when you want more than the official line!

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to capitalize on the fastest growing marketplace ever, the Web, this is the book for you. From choosing the product or service you offer to designing your website to marketing and managing your online venture, this guide gives you step-by-step guidance and helps you avoid common pitfalls. You don't have to be a computer guru or programmer, and you don't have to invest big bucks, thanks to the unbiased recommendations, practical guidance, and insider savvy this book puts at your fingertips. Updated with advice from experts, current statistics, new tips and strategies, and information about hundreds of resources, this guide gets you in business online with:

Vital Information on choosing a unique product or service and targeting a specific niche market

Insider Secrets from entrepreneurs who have launched successful online businesses

Money-Saving Techniques, including using services from Yahoo!, Microsoft, eBay, and others to create a small-business website

Time-Saving Tips for obtaining prominent listing placement on search engines and in Web directories and information portals

The Latest Trends in online advertising, marketing, and branding, plus the online auction phenomenon

Handy Checklists to help you create and operate your online business
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Table of Contents

About the Author xi

Introduction xiii

I In Business, Preparation Is Everything 1

1 Making the Right Business Choices 1

What’s involved with starting an online business? 5

Is an online-based business right for you? 11

How best to invest your time and money 13

Which business ideas are best suited to the Web? 15

Defining your business idea 19

Should you give up your day job? 20

Establishing your existing business on the Web 23

Be careful what you get involved in 24

E-commerce in the new millennium 25

Just the facts 26

2 Laying the Groundwork for Your Online Business 27

Starting your business: some considerations 27

Developing a business plan 30

Getting help—people and software 33

Elements of a business plan 35

Seeking expert business advice 38

Setting up an office 39

Just the facts 47

3 Your Online Biz’s Finances 49

Benefits plans and compensation packages 50

A few words about hiring employees 52

Should you incorporate? 53

Other considerations involved with launching a business 55

What needs to be done before going online? 57

Planning your business operations 60

Setting up a merchant account 60

Acquiring a merchant account: strategies from Aria Financial Corporation 62

Ten strategies for obtaining a merchant account 63

Financing your business 67

Just the facts 71

4 Planning Your Site 73

Making your site look professional 73

The first steps in developing your site 78

Developing your site’s basic layout 79

Choosing the perfect content 81

Types of graphic files 91

Graphics programs 94

Choosing website-creation software or a turnkey e-commerce solution 96

e-commerce software solutions for small online businesses 97

Complete turnkey solutions for website design and operation 99

eBay ProStores: another turnkey e-commerce solution 107

eBay ProStores add-on services 109

osCommerce: a totally free, yet powerful, website-design solution 111

The scoop on copyrights 113

Avoiding the most common Web design mistakes 114

Using outside creative talent 119

Just the facts 120

II Getting Your Business Online 121

5 Selecting and Registering Your Domain Name 123

Understanding domain name syntax 124

Choosing your domain name 127

Domain parking is available: plan ahead 130

Determine whether a domain name is available 131

Registering your domain name is easy 134

What to do if the domain name you want is taken 136

Getting help registering your domain name 138

Consider the costs 138

Just the facts 139

6 Selecting Your Host: The Ins and Outs of ISPs 141

The costs associated with going online 142

Services you need at prices you can afford 144

A typical website hosting offer 146

All-in-one turnkey solutions 148

Getting technical support from your ISP 149

Finding an ISP/Web-hosting service 150

The computer equipment you need in-house 151

Just the facts 154

III An Internet Presence for Existing and New Businesses 155

7 Expanding Your Existing Business into Cyberspace 157

The basic steps for getting online 161

How virtual and traditional businesses differ 162

Creating an online presence for a traditional business 163

Converting hard-copy assets into an electronic format 166

What features your business could offer on the Web 169

Spreading the word about your online presence 170

Just the facts 172

8 Fine-Tuning Your Business Before Going Online 173

Research: the key to success 173

Becoming a niche-marketing expert 178

Identifying the needs and wants of your potential customers 179

Beware of get-rich-quick schemes 181

Twelve common scams 184

Other online scams to watch out for 189

Always pay attention to details 190

Making online ordering fast, easy, and secure 191

Make building customer confidence a top priority 192

Post your privacy policies 193

Just the facts 193

9 Generating Revenues from Your Site 195

Using your site to accept purchase requests 196

Selling advertising space 196

Membership fees 198

Selling and trading online advertising space 199

Affiliate programs 204

A few words about Web rings 207

Selling software or other downloadable goods 207

Charging visitors for access to your site 210

Just the facts 211

IV Promoting Your Site 213

10 Promotion Is the Key to Success 215

The importance of promoting your online biz 216

The target audience 216

Promotional and advertising opportunities available online 221

Internet newsgroups 222

Internet mailing lists 224

Why you should avoid using spam 226

Paid online advertising versus free promotion 229

The ins and outs of banner advertising 229

Banner ad trades: the ad barter system 233

Press-release distribution 234

Tips for writing an effective press release 237

Online chats and communities 238

Taking advantage of traditional advertising 239

Blogging as a promotional tool 240

Podcasting as a marketing tool 243

Online newsletters are excellent promotional tools 244

Just the facts 245

11 Search-Engine Optimization and Search Marketing Made Easy 247

Internet search engines and portals 249

Understanding search-engine lingo 252

The Web-directory aspect of certain search engines 253

Make sure your site contains meta tags 253

What a meta tag looks like 254

Search engines: the next millennium’s Yellow Pages 256

Generate traffic with Google AdWords 259

Using banner ads to boost traffic 262

Tips for banner ad creation 263

Utilizing price-comparison websites 265

Just the facts 267

V Improving and Analyzing Your Site 269

12 Making Your Site Look and Sound Great 271

Web browser plug-ins 272

Chatting within your site 278

Beware! Not everyone uses plug-ins 279

Using Java applets and other graphic technologies 280

Should your site use cookies? 282

Paying attention to download times 285

Test browser compatibility 286

Giving visitors something of value 287

Think before you act 289

Look to the future . . . wait, it’s already here! 290

Just the facts 292

13 Analyzing Your Site 293

Pre-grand opening checklist 294

Determining how your site is perceived 297

Soliciting comments and feedback from visitors 298

Keeping your site’s content fresh 300

Just the facts 301

VI The Experts Speak 303

14 Doing Business the eBay Way 305

eBay auctions 101 306

Reasons to use eBay 308

Create effective product listings 309

Your feedback will make or break your reputation 311

Strategies for listing items for an eBay auction 312

eBay spin-off businesses generate huge profits 318

Establishing an eBay store 318

An eBay store is scalable .322

eBay ProStores: another turnkey e-commerce solution 323

Just the facts 323

15 E-commerce Industry Experts Share Their Knowledge and Secrets 325

Sandy Bendremer, Cofounder, Galaxy Internet Services 328

Rich Riley, Vice President/General Manager, Yahoo! Small Business 338

Jimmy Duvall, Senior Product Manager, Yahoo! Merchant Solutions 338

Jeff Vikari, Executive Director, Clickincome.com 347

Troy Stevens, General Manager, Clickincome.com 347

Barry Schnitt, Spokesperson, Google AdWords 352

Just the facts 356

16 Successful E-commerce Entrepreneurs Speak Out 357

Taeyoung Oh, Founder/CEO, Louisdog.com 359

Jeremy Alicandri, Founder/Owner, SimplyCheap.com 365

Carole Jane Rossi, Founder/Owner, JOriginals.com 372

Christian Girts, Founder/Owner, AnglersVice.com 376

Scott Meyer, Founder, OnlyOneCreations.com 382

Chris Gwynn, Founder/CEO, Fridgedoor.com 386

Just the facts 392

A Glossary 395

B Resource Guide 403

C You Sold It, Now Ship It 409

D Important Information About Copyrights and Trademarks 413

Index 421

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Author Information

JASON R. RICH is the author of nearly thirty books and numerous articles on career-related issues, technology, e-commerce, entertainment, and travel. He authored the first edition of The Unofficial Guide to Starting a Business Online (Wiley), which appeared on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list.
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"…a must read for any budding Richard Bransons…" ( Windows XP Made Easy, November 2006)
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