What are the worst mistakes to avoid when starting a business online?

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Answered by: Elaine, An Expert in the Internet Marketing Category
If you feel trapped in your day job, and dread the daily commute, the idea of starting a business online can seem very attractive. You may have read all the e-books telling you how to become an Internet millionaire, and think it all sounds very easy. You dream of joining the jet-setting lifestyle, while only working a few hours a week in your pyjamas.

Sadly, thousands who have this dream wake up and find that was all it was - a dream. Make no mistake - you can succeed in Internet marketing. But the people who sell these e-books can't tell you how to do it - they make their money by selling the ebooks.

So why do so many people fail, after setting out with such high expectations? It's usually because they make one or more of the most common mistakes. Avoid these and your chances are very much improved. So what are the worst mistakes you can make?

Not Understanding that It's a Business

There seems to be a common perception that the rules of business that apply in the real world don't apply to an online business. This could not be further from the truth. It's still a business and must be treated as such. Every business, online or offline, requires a business plan. It requires investment - you can't start a business with nothing. And it requires careful costing and pricing, if you are going to make a profit.

Not Researching Your Market

This is one of the biggest and most common mistakes of all. It's no use launching a product or service on the market just because you like it, or it seems like a good idea, or even because nobody else has done it. If it doesn't solve an existing problem, meet an existing need, or fulfil a real desire, it won't sell. The only way you can find this out is by doing diligent keyword research, and by going on forums to find what questions people are actually asking.

Not Being Sufficiently Niche Focused

This follows on from the last point. It's no good trying to target a vast general market, however popular your product may be.

For instance, you may be passionately interested in guitars and know that you would enjoy spending your life selling them, or teaching people to play them. However, if you have a site devoted simply to guitars, you as a beginner will have no hope of ranking anywhere in the search engines - the competition will be just too huge.

Instead, you need to focus on a small and specialized segment of consumers within this larger market. Perhaps you can narrow it down to acoustic guitars, then narrow it down further to steel-string acoustic guitars, and perhaps even further to second-hand steel-string acoustic guitars. Rather than selling, you may want to promote a service - teaching people to play steel-string acoustic guitars. You still have to do your research in order to know whether there is a large enough market for this, but if there is, half your work is done.

Taking Your Website for Granted

This is a mistake countless people make. You can have the most fabulous site on the Internet, but if nobody knows it's there, obviously you will have no visitors, and no sales.

Your site is the shop window for your product - it doesn't actually do the selling. If a beautiful shop is hidden away down a remote side street, nobody will see what's in the window. Similarly, if your site is hidden away on page 98 of the search results, how many potential customers are going to see it?

The fact is that your site is not the Field of Dreams. Because you build it, you can't assume that they will come. You simply must optimize your site for the search engines, include plenty of good and updated content, and figure out which are the most competitive keywords, in order to ensure that people will see your site. If you aren't an expert in the technology of optimization, it really is worth getting a professional to do it, at least to begin with. It's part of the initial investment that you have to factor into your calculations.

Not Getting Started at All

You may be reading this and thinking that there are so many pitfalls to starting a business online, it will take for ever to get off the ground. But not getting started would be the biggest mistake of all. If you don't jump into the water, you will never learn to swim. You definitely can succeed on the Internet, and if you don't make it the first time, by learning from your mistakes you will be much better equipped to succeed in the future.

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