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Starting an E-Commerce Website
E-commerce is a rapidly growing, multi-billion-dollar industry. If you’re thinking about taking part, in order to compete, you will need to consider the following.
Do some research before you start. Find out about your market: who are your main competitors, and what are they doing right? What keywords are they targeting? You can find out how busy a site is at alexa.com. Overture.com may also be useful, as it can check how many searches have been performed on particular keywords.
You need to find yourself a domain name. domain registration is a pretty simple process, but your domain name can make or break the success of your business. See articles tagged "Find a domain name" and "domain registration" for more information about how to choose and register a Domain Name.
You will also need some web hosting. Make sure that the hosting package you choose is scalable (that is, you can upgrade to more storage and data transfer at a later date if you need to), and that it offers all the features you will need for your e-commerce site. In particular, consider shopping carts and real-time credit card processing. You will need SSL capability if you are processing transactions online. You could consider using PayPal (the eBay-owned secure online payment system); it is fast and secure, and your customers will trust the brand, but be aware that the costs are quite high. Nochex and WorldPay offer similar, but less well-known services.
E-commerce sites are most likely to require professional web designers because of the applications and scripts involved in the smooth running of the transaction side of things. Try to choose a web designer with experience in e-commerce sites. Perhaps you could look at which designers your competitors have used.
Keep an eye on your site statistics. Your hosting company may well offer a statistics package. These can help you to promote your site effectively: optimise for search engines (there are many articles on this subject on Domainmonster.com), and consider joining the Google AdWords programme for pay-per-click advertising. Also, don’t forget to submit your site to the leading directories including Dmoz and Yahoo, as well as specialist ones related to your field.
There is lots of help to be found on the web, particularly in forums – join an internet community and ask lots of questions. People will be only too happy to give you free advice. Good luck!
By Natalie Catchpole