Technology

How to start your ecommerce business

So you want to start an online business. And I ask myself what to do. Well, there are two options: get a professional company to build your store for you and spend much of your hard-earned money, or build it yourself.

These days creating a website is not that difficult, there are many community programs and tools that make the job easier, and best of all, they are free. So the first thing is to make a checklist of what you need, then I’ll explain each of the items on the checklist.

  1. Domain name: the name of the website in the navigation bar www. your keywords here.com
  2. Hosting space: the place where all the information on your site is stored.
  3. The actual website: the codes, the text, the images that make up your site.
  4. A payment gateway: ways to accept online payments like PayPal or credit card
  5. Time 🙂

Now, before we start to analyze each of the above points, here is something important to keep in mind. The domain name of your site plays an important role in search engine optimization. This is something that I did not know when I built my first site, which led to a bad ranking on Google and therefore few sales. You need to make sure that your domain name contains keywords that best represent your products. I highly recommend seeking the advice of an SEO specialist before choosing your domain name.

Then let’s get started, where do i get a domain name? There are many domain registrars that offer domain names and good prices, for example, Godaddy.com, netfirms.com, and planetdomain.com, to name just a few. Personally, I have been using godaddy until now, which has a fairly fast and professional service. Once you have purchased your domain you must point it to your Hosting Space. This is done by editing the A or CNAME record in your domain settings. Most of the big registrars will help you target your domain and it is usually even faster and easier if you get both the domain and the hosting space from the same company.

No, it has your domain name, it’s time to choose a hosting company there are hundreds, if not thousands, of hosting companies. These are the important thoughts to keep in mind before choosing a hosting company.

  • Where is the server located? If you host a website that targets an audience in Cyprus, for example, and you choose a host in America. So you probably have a slow ping and the shopping experience on your site is slow and buyers like fast sites.
  • What kind of support and warranties come with the server? Is there a guaranteed uptime? Is there 24 hour support? What does the support include? Some of the host providers will pre-install the CMS (content management system) for you.
  • And finally what is the cost per month. Some hosting companies offer shared hosting which is basically a physical server divided into many virtual servers with individual control. This solution is usually cheap and a good way to start your first website.
  • What operating system does the hosting company use? I personally recommend Linux, it is very fast and reliable and so far I have had a great experience with it.

So now that you have your domain and hosting space, it’s time to choose the CMS or Content Management System.

What is a CMS? A CMS is one of the most important parts of your online store. The Content Management system has on the sides, the front-end and the back-end also called Extranet. The frontend is what the customer sees, while the backend is where you enter your products, check your sales, and add content to your site. I have personally tested Joomla with Virtuemart Plug-in and Magento. And here is information on both.

Joomla is one of the largest community-supported CMS. It has hundreds of free modules and components, as well as thousands of forums on the Internet. Joomla has a component called Virtuemart which is also an open source community program. It is easy to install and has many additional plugins, as well as a great support community. Joomla and Virtuemart run on very simple servers and don’t have many special needs. I have used this solution for my first web store (which I still run today).

Magento is an e-commerce solution built and designed to sell, while Joomla can be used to create non-e-commerce websites. Magento is strictly business. One of my favorite parts of Magento is that everything is integrated, here are some of the features that are already in the 1.4.1.1 package that I am currently using.

  • Integrated PayPal website payment standards
  • Canonical URLs for SEO
  • Google sitemap (SEO)
  • Reports
  • Wish list
  • Compare Products
  • Google Analytics ecommerce integration
  • Easy backup
  • Import and export via XML or CSV

There are many more options that come in the Magento package that must be installed separately in Virtuemart. But not everything is sweet with Magento, the negative side is that it is more demanding than Joomla and virtuemart, which means that you will need a dedicated or virtual dedicated server. Most shared hosting won’t be enough to run a Magento store. Which means that it will be more expensive to run, a shared host could cost as little as 4-5 euros a month, while a virtual dedicated server will start around 20-30 euros a month and a dedicated server 150-250 euros. I have been using virtual dedicated servers which have worked very well in all my stores. I even added 3-4 more websites on the same server without any significant speed issues.

So now that we have almost everything done, we need to enter our products, sell them, and receive payments. There are several ways to accept payments depending on your region and country. If you are in the UK or US, for example, PayPal offers a full integration that accepts PayPal payments and credit card payments without the customer needing a PayPal account. If you are not in the UK or US, there are other options, like Moneybookers, which has a module for Magento that is easy to set up. It is important that you can accept payments, otherwise how are you going to sell? Some courier companies will make the cash on delivery, but that would be for a more localized sale.

I recommend that you hire an SEO expert to help you with optimization and give you important advice BEFORE you start building your site.

So now that you have the guidelines, do some more research and conquer the online world of e-commerce.

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