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How to Sell Products on the Web...

A Basic Time Line for Small Business Web Sites

For the small business person or the "starving artist" it is necessary to begin slowly. The basic components of a web site with a shopping cart must be gradually built to be affordable.

Shopping Carts???
Initially one should have a simple website, displaying photos of the art or merchandise, having both an email and phone number listed. One should wait on developing a shopping cart type of site until there is regular, weekly demand for the products so as to warrant upgrading to that type of site. The purpose of a shopping cart site is to display lots of products and to simplify what would be a complicated bookkeeping system. If one is an artisan, then bookkeeping is certainly not something one would care to spend time on. If you are commissioned to do work that is infrequent, a shopping cart software is not warranted. If you have many small or inexpensive items then this could become a bookkeeping chore and you would then want to operate a shopping cart system for that type of business.

If you basically only have one product with several themes then it is best to start out with a simple one-page site. Once you begin making regular weekly sales and bookkeeping begins to become burdensome or inventory has become varied, then is the time to upgrade to a shopping cart.

Once a web site is up and running on the web, the next expense should be an 800 number. The local phone company will be able to provide information on the expenses involved for an 800 number.  With an 800 number business will grow quickly. This will generate enough income so that the artisan can afford to have a shopping cart system put in place. People are less inclined to call a long distance number so this is critical if one wants to draw on a national audience of customers. In the mean time your sales will probably be made to people who have email access and can mail a check or money order to you.

How do I get paid for my merchandise?

Setting up a free PayPal account will allow you to accept bank wire transfers via email instead of paper checks, including ATM cards with the Visa logo. Paper checks are a liability and should be avoided. Money orders are acceptable and are of low risk  To set up a PayPal account, you will need to have a bank account or a card with the Visa logo. It will take two days to confirm your account. Credit cards are also accepted through PayPal for an additional pay as you go fee if you set up a Merchant Account.

Go here to do that: www.paypal.com.  PayPal has an 800 number posted on their website if one needs help or has questions.

Other Payment Methods

There are several other payment companies that one can use if you are posting things for auction in addition to selling through your website. However, PayPal is enough to get started until one has a better grasp of how things work on the web.

 

Web Site Design and Web Hosting

Initially your only expenses will be the web design and the monthly fee for web hosting. The expense of a domain name need not come into play until after all of these other things are set up.

Domain Names

One thing you need to consider is that your domain name is a critical part of how people find you. National companies rely on their established reputation and customers' who are already familiar with their name. Such customers usually don't use search engines, they simply type in the name of the company such as Mrs.Fields.com, MJDesigns.com or HomeDepot.com.  Small business customers without national name recognition must rely on search engines to draw in new customers and that is where the domain name comes in to play.

Two ways that you can get recognition are by keyword searches and link sites that serve as directories, similar to a phone book  First, I will address keywords. Search engine spiders will direct more customers to your website if your domain name uses the key words that apply to your product. In the case of end tables made out of rock with a Hawaiian, western or pond theme, key words such as the latter should make up the domain name. It is not necessary to use your company name at all though it doesn't hurt. For example,  rocky_waters_furniture.com or rocky_waters_decor.com would grab the attention of a search engine. One uses underscore marks to help a search engine see the words separately. If one runs them all together, such as rockywatersfurniture.com, the search engine will try to read it as a whole word. No one would ever type such a word into a search engine. Search engines are programmed to think that hyphenated words are also one word, such as rocky-waters-decor.com.  Only the underscore mark allows a search engine to see separate keywords. Nationally known companies are immune from these rules.

The second way that a domain name comes into play is through directory sites. These sites tend to list massive numbers of companies that deal in a particular type of product. The listings are almost always alphabetical. In this case, it pays to have a company name that starts near the beginning of the alphabet. The easiest way to come up with an acceptable name is to make a list of every key word associated with your product or service and then alphabetize them. Not only will this help you choose a name combination but it will also provide you with the list of keywords that your webmaster will need when building your website. This same list of keywords will be used to create the text found on your home page. It is standard for pages to be designed around a set of 500 unique keywords or keyword combinations such as rocky waters, rocky end tables or original end tables. After coming up with the keywords, the commas should be removed for increased recognition through Boolean search methods.

I hope this has shed some light on the basics of starting up a web site! .