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Oct 10, 2003
Part 4: Choosing a Host for your Internet Store

Part 4: Choosing a Host for your Internet Store

We’ve been through the fact that scam artists will cheat you into a losing business. We’ve talked about the basics you should have for your computer to start an Internet business. We’ve delved into the confusing world of the Internet, and simplified that concept a bit.

Now, let's talk about your Internet Store Hosting.

A "Hosting" company is the company you choose to actually lease that sliver of Server hard drive space from. That's where the computer files that make up your Internet Store will reside, and that's how your site actually gets out there on the Internet where people can find it. Different Hosts provide different services, and it's important to know something about them.

There are two LEGITIMATE methods you can use to start an Internet Store. Neither one of them involves sending money to any company with a name remotely like “Ace Complete Internet Stores And Products, Inc.”, so let’s rule the scam artists out entirely and concentrate on reality.

In Reality, there are LEGITIMATE Internet Malls, and there are LEGITIMATE ECommerce Hosting Providers. I personally use them both, and find that there are different advantages to each one.

Method One: Using an Internet Mall

Let me explain this concept like this:

My teenage boys love to go to the Mall. They’ll spend an entire Saturday there, along with a week’s allowance. When asked what they’ve been doing all day, they’ll just say, “Um…chillin’, that’s all.”

When I was a kid, it was called “hangin’ out”, but it’s the same thing.

Why do they like it there so much? Well, according to them, the Mall has “EVERYTHING!” They’re right. People to see, places to go, things to do…everything they’re looking for, right there in front of them, within walking distance.

Your Internet Store can do the same thing. It can “chill” at the Mall. In this case, that happens to be an Internet Mall. When your Internet Store is at the Mall, it's not laying around the house grumbling, it's having fun, and it's probably not getting into TOO much trouble. Just like my kids.

Why let your site go to the Mall? Because it's right in the middle of things.

There are two main things you should be thinking about when starting out on the Internet.

Money and Traffic ("Traffic" is the Internet term for Customers).

There’s never enough of either at first. To earn the Money, you need the Traffic. To get the Traffic, you need to spend Money. I spent years telling all my kids never to play in Traffic, and when my Grandson gets a little older, I'll be telling him the same thing. My sites? I booted them right out there on the freeway from day one.

Here’s what I do when I build an Internet Mall site:

I go to my Internet Mall Provider, and open a new Store. This typically costs about $50 a month or less.

I create the Store itself using basically just my Internet Browser, Microsoft's "Internet Explorer". (For those who don't know, this comes free with virtually every home computer sold today).

My Mall Provider has a "template" that can be used to create a store. Using just my Browser, I can tell the store what color and style it's text and background should be. I can tell it to put my "Buttons" (links to other pages within the store) across the top or down the side of the page. I can upload (send) images of my logo and my products directly to the store from my computer, and put them in the right places. I can create product pages with pictures and descriptions of the products I want to sell, and activate the "Sale" button on each page, so that my store can collect money from my customers.

I play around with it until I have things the way I want them, then I tell the Mall Provider to open it (make it viewable to the Internet Surfing public). I can access and edit my store from anywhere I can get an Internet connection. There have been plenty of times I've run my business while traveling, using a laptop computer plugged into a hotel room phone jack.

The Store Manager (the area provided with your store where you manage it's functions) is loaded with all kinds of easy to use tools, from Excel spreadsheet exports to email forwarding to charts of my hits and sales. But that’s not even the good part.

The good part is this: 24 hours after I place a product in my Internet Mall Store, it shows up in front of MILLIONS of shoppers, in the actual Internet Mall itself. Picture, description, price and all. The last site my partners and I opened on our Mall Provider paid that fifty bucks back in it’s first couple of DAYS, and has gone on to make very good money.

The biggest advantage to a good Internet Mall is that they ALREADY have shoppers there in that Mall, who will see your store right away when you open it. Just the same as if you rented actual physical store space at your local shopping mall. The shoppers are already THERE, you just insert yourself into that space and the shoppers will see you. That way, you can start to bring in a few customers right away, while you work on other ways to promote your site.

The disadvantage to an Internet Mall is that the stores all pretty much look the same. You can change background and text colors, and arrange the pages a bit differently, but they all end up being very similar to each other

You'll find detailed information on the Internet Mall Provider(s) we recommend in our online Resource Center. Click on "Ecommerce Hosting Companies We Recommend".

Method Two: Using an ECommerce Hosting Provider

There are advantages to using an ECommerce Hosting Provider instead of an Internet Mall.

The main advantage is that you have much more control over the way your site looks and functions. You can create your own unique presence on the Internet, without being limited by a choice of just a few "templates", such as you would be in an Internet Mall.

The disadvantage to an ECommerce Hosting Provider is the fact that there is no built-in "traffic".

Have you ever seen a Wal-Mart on a dirt road in the middle of a forest? I haven’t. There’s a reason for that. There’s NO TRAFFIC. The same principle applies to the Internet.

ECommerce Hosting Providers will all set you up with the your basic needs at a good price. Internet hosting (rented space on a Server hard drive, remember?). They should include a Shopping Cart (the software program that holds your products and prices), and may include some kind of Merchant Account (the “gateway” software that collects money from your customers’ credit cards, and puts it in your bank account).

All these things are well and good. Chances are you’ll have to learn to create your own HTML pages, but some of these companies even offer to supply pre-created pages FOR you that CAN be modified to look the way you want them to; and all you need to do is plug in pictures of your products, and prices. These pre-created templates are generally MUCH more flexible than you would find with an Internet Mall, and if you want to create your own pages from scratch, you can.

As I said, I use Microsoft FrontPage to create the pages that I host on an ECommerce Hosting Provider. The software is easy to learn and use, and you can create an Internet Store with a unique "personality" that is usually missing from an Internet Mall Store.

When using an ECommerce Hosting Provider, the issue to keep in mind is TRAFFIC. When you open a store, you need customers. Imagine that your store is a real, physical building. It’s going to be called Toasty Buns, and you’re going to sell all kinds of Toasters. Where would you want to set it up? At the corner of Logging Camp Trail and Boggy Swamp Road, forty miles outside of town? NO! There’s nobody there to stop in and buy anything!

TRAFFIC, as I've said, is a very important key to success on the Internet. When using an ECommerce Hosting Provider to build your own Store, you gain far more control over your store, but lose the instant Traffic generated by Internet Malls.

When you build a store on the Internet, your number one concern is this: “How am I going to draw people to my store? How, among the millions of internet sites out there today, are potential customers going to find my one little site and buy from me?”

So, you will need to promote your site yourself. How do you do this?

Here are the most common methods:

Banner Advertising:

There are any number of Banner Exchange programs out there. Many are free. They operate on the idea that if you put an ad for my site on yours, I’ll put an ad for your site on mine. Well, that’s just dandy, but almost everybody on the free Banner Exchange programs are there because they HAVE no traffic in the first place. You exchange banners with another site that has no traffic, and end up with TWO sites with no traffic instead of just ONE.

You need to make sure that if you use a Banner Advertising Service, your ads are getting exposure on sites that are actually relevant to your product line(s), and those sites where your ads appear are getting hits (traffic). Ask the Banner Exchange companies you talk to about these things.

Email Campaigns:

There are a lot of companies providing Email Campaigns that you can buy into. This is a tried-an-true marketing method that works very well when done right. But be careful. A cheap email campaign will send your hopeful, starry-eyed emails out into the world, only to crash-land in Servers that reject them because the addresses are no longer valid. Or, you'll get in trouble for "Spamming" (sending unsolicited junk mail).

If you buy into an Email Campaign, ask if the Email Campaign sends your advertising Emails to "Opt-in" Members. That means that the people the emails are sent to have requested to receive Emails from the Email Campaign provider. That's the kind of Email Campaign you need. Again, you don't need to get into trouble for "spamming".

Search Engine Positioning:

Meta tags, keywords, jockeying for position with thousands of other webmasters who are trying for those same top listings that you are. Rule of thumb: If your store is not found in the first THREE PAGES (the Top 30 listings) of Internet search results on any given search engine, forget it.

It takes a very long time and hundreds of dollars worth of software to learn how to do this properly by yourself. You can wait for weeks, or even MONTHS to see how your most recent attempt panned out, only to find yourself ranked number 13,426 in your latest search. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Sure, you can pay the Search Engines for top listings. Got a few thousand dollars to spare? The search engines have definitely figured out how to make THEMSELVES rich. Does that really help you? Not if you don’t have the money.

So, check around for companies that provide Search Engine Positioning at a reasonable price. They will do the work for you, and the good ones guarantee the results.

Don't let them fool you with a statement like "We submit your site to 900 Search Engines!" That is misleading, to say the least. There are only 7 or 8 search engines out there that really matter. You know which ones they are, if you've spent any time surfing the 'Net. Yahoo, Google, Altavista, etc. All those other hundreds of search engines they mention are mostly little tiny search engines on sites like "Personal ads for the Lovelorn", "How to Adjust Your Dog's Collar to get a Perfect Fit", etc. They're not going to do you any good. So remember to ask if they submit your site to the BIG Search Engines, and if they guarantee your "positioning".

You'll find detailed information on the Internet Mall Provider(s) we recommend in our online Resource Center. Click on "Ecommerce Hosting Companies We Recommend".

In conclusion:

You can successfully use either an Internet Mall or an ECommerce Hosting Company. As I've said, the trade-off between a Mall and an ECommerce provider is this: With a Mall, you get more initial Traffic. With an ECommerce provider, you get more control over your site's look and functions.

However, there are lots of scams out there. Again, for info on companies of both kinds that we recommend, you can go to our Resource Center and click on "ECommerce Hosting Companies We Recommend". We'll tell you which ones we've found to be legitimate.

For now, let’s talk about Part 5: blu_link Becoming A Stockless Retailer

Posted at 01:17 am by dropshippindan
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