Choosing a Host for Your Internet Store

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choosing a hosting provider

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 Online business. We've delved into the confusing world of the Internet, and simplified that concept a bit.

Now, let's talk about your Online 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 Online 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 Online Store. Neither one of them involves sending money to any company with a name remotely like "Ace Complete Online Stores And Products, Inc.", so let's rule the scam artists out entirely and concentrate on reality.

In reality, there are LEGITIMATE Online Store Solutions, and there are LEGITIMATE ECommerce Hosting Providers. I personally have used them both, and find that there are different advantages to each one.


Method One: Using an Online Store Solution


There are two main things you should be thinking about when starting out online.

Money and Traffic ("Traffic" is the 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 Granddaughter gets a little older, I'll be telling her 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 Online Store Solution site:

I go to my Online Store Solution provider, and open a new Store.

My Store provider has a "store builder" that can be used to create a store. Using just my browser, I can tell the store what color and style its 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 "Sell It" 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 Store Solution provider to open it (make it viewable to the online customers). 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 my laptop.

The Store Manager (the area provided with your store where you manage its functions) is loaded with all kinds of easy to use tools, from spreadsheet exports to email forwarding to charts of my hits and sales.

The biggest advantage to a good Online Store Solution provider is ease of use. You can create one store or several stores, easily navigate through them and change your products and pricing, and it's all done by "point and click". There is virtually no programming to learn. The Store Templates look very professional, which definitely helps our sales. The Sales and Customer Tracking tools are tremendously helpful.

The disadvantage
to an Online Store Solution is that the stores CAN all pretty much look the same if you're not careful. With some providers, 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. The better Store Solution providers allow you to choose from various templates, so that your store doesn't look virtually the same as the stores built by all their other customers.


Method Two: Using an ECommerce Hosting Provider

There are advantages to using an ECommerce Hosting Provider
instead of an Online Store Solution.

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 online, without being limited by a choice of just a few "templates".

The disadvantage
to simply renting server space from an ECommerce Hosting Provider and building your own storefront is the time and knowledge it takes. If you're not already a pretty good programmer and web designer, you'll need some help from a REPUTABLE company to do this.

ECommerce Hosting Providers
will all set you up with the basic needs at a good price. Online hosting (rented space on a Server hard drive, remember?). You'll need a Shopping Cart (the software program that holds your products and prices), and 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 if you're comfortable creating your own HTML pages. SOME of these companies DO offer some basic templates that can be modified, but for the most part, you're on your own.

The main reason people use these providers today are to create REALLY super-customized sites and stores. Mainstream Online Sellers, for the most part, don't need to go this route when first getting started.

No matter which way you go:

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 online. In the ECommerce world, "Traffic" means "Customers". 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!

When you build a store online, your number one concern is this: "How am I going to draw people to my store? How,
among the millions of online stores out there today, are potential customers going to find my one little site and buy from me?"
You will need to promote your Online Store, no matter which method you use to build it. How do you do this?
Here are the most common methods:


Search Engine Optimization:

People who shop online use Search Engines to find Online Stores. They type in the product they're looking for, and they get back a bunch of results that lead to different stores like yours. Google is by far the most popular Search Engine; the others all rank behind Google with varying degrees of success. By far, the most common method of advertising your Online Store is through Search Engine Optimization.

"Search Engine Optimization" means that you place the words that you think people will use to find your store, in your pages in the proper places. At its most basic level, here's the idea: If you sell toasters, use the word "toasters" often on your Store pages.

Of course, the reality is much more than that. Meta tags, keywords, jockeying for position with thousands of other webmasters who are trying for those same top listings that you's not all that easy, and it takes time and patience. When you're using On-page Optimization, you're trying to get what are known as "Natural Listings" in the Search Engines. That means that your pages just "naturally" rank well in the Search Engines because you did a good job "optimizing" them. However, here's a rule of thumb: If your store is not found in the FIRST PAGE (the Top 10 listings) of 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 On-page Optimization attempt panned out, only to find yourself ranked number 13,426 in your latest search. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

If you need help, check around for companies that provide Search Engine Optimization 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 a couple of search engines out there that really matter. You know which ones they are, if you've spent any time surfing the 'Net. Google tops the list. 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" on the keywords that YOU want. MOST companies out there who claim to do your SEO for you are blatant frauds. Be careful!

Remember that these days, MANY of the better Online Store Solution providers INCLUDE help with Search Engine Optimization when you buy into their Solution packages.


Social Marketing:

Blog posts, article writing, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook,Instagram and more are the things that make up what we call "Social Marketing". Yes, you do have to do this even if you don't want to!

Social Marketing is the flip side to the Search Engine Optimization coin. If your site has SEO and no social marketing, forget it. If it has Social Marketing and no SEO, forget it. The search engines rank your site based on a combination of both SEO AND something called "Backlinks". Backlinks are what we develop when we do Social Marketing.

In Social Marketing, the idea is to create information about what you sell in such a way that it doesn't look like a sales pitch. Get it? No? You're not alone. Let's put it this way. Writing a blog post that says "We have great skin care cream on sale right now! Get it today before it's gone!" is HORRIBLE Social Marketing. Social Marketing is SOCIAL. Never use a blatant sales pitch.

Instead, you'd write about a good daily regimen of skin care that is proven to work. Teach your readers what they need to know about good skin care without trying to pitch them on what you sell. Why? Because the idea behind Social Marketing is to get people online to SHARE the information you create with other people in the social areas.

Every time they share something you create, they create a "backlink" to your site. The search engines count backlinks as popularity votes for your site. That's what you need, and that's the reason we get into Social Marketing in the first place.

PPC Advertising


PPC (Pay Per Click) Advertising is a way to get your site noticed faster in the search engines. You go to Google, for example, and open a PPC Account. Google calls their program "Google Ads", and you can find it here: You create small text ads for your Online Store, then place a daily or monthly spending limit on how much you want to pay for your ads. When your spending limit is reached, the ads stop showing up until you replenish your funds.

These text ads show up either ABOVE all the "natural" listings on Google, or on the bottom of the first page. Just search for anything at all on Google; you'll see what I mean.

The reason this is called Pay Per Click is that you are only charged for each appearance of your ad IF someone actually CLICKS on it and goes to your store.

In recent years, Pay Per Click has turned into a HUGE business. The search engines have definitely figured out how to make THEMSELVES rich. Does that really help you? Only if you manage your money carefully when you do this. PPC can easily turn into a life-sucking money pit from which there is no escape.

The right way to approach PPC is to use the natural methods first (SEO and Social Marketing), figure out which of the keywords used in those methods are working for you, and then starting a very small PPC campaign based on just those keywords. If possible, you should not use this method until after you start to make sales from the natural methods. That way you can pay for advertising out of your profits, not your pockets.


In conclusion:

You can successfully use either an Online Store Solution provider or an ECommerce Hosting Company. As I've said, the trade-off between a Store Solution and an ECommerce provider is ease of use versus endless customization.