I was surprised to hear at a recent seminar how many people think the internet is just too saturated for new online business owners to be successful--and that if you didn't get in on the ground floor, you're out of luck. Nothing could be further from the truth! That's why I wanted to write this article to show you why now is probably the best time in internet history to start a wildly profitable online business.
Sure, there's more competition online these days, but if online sales are any indication, the number of people who are actively shopping online is also on the rise. According to Forrester Research, online sales reached a staggering $172 billion in 2005--a number they predict will rise to $329 billion by 2010!
New technologies and new tools have opened up worlds of opportunity that make it easier--and cheaper--than ever to start an online business and immediately start profiting.
Let's take a look at some of them, and the tremendous opportunities they offer.
#1: Instantly Boost Your Traffic With Pay-Per-Click Advertising
The search-engine landscape has changed dramatically. I used to recommend getting listed on eight major search engines: Altavista, Excite, HotBot, InfoSeek, Lycos, Northern Light, WebCrawler, and Yahoo!. Today, clear leaders have emerged: Google, Yahoo! and MSN.
With this narrower field, top search-engine rankings are harder to come by. But paid search has exploded, becoming one of the fastest ways to drive qualified traffic to your site--and if done properly, won't break the bank. With each passing year, it becomes more sophisticated, allowing you to zero in on your target market with greater precision. The top three search engines are also the top names in paid search:
- Yahoo! Search Marketing : Yahoo's sponsored search lets you advertise your site in the search results of the following search engines: MSN, Yahoo!, AltaVista, InfoSpace, AlltheWeb and NetZero.
- Google AdWords : With Google AdWords, you can have your ads show up in sponsored search listings for certain keywords--and you can also advertise on other sites that match your audience.
- MSN AdCenter : MSN has recently entered the arena of paid search with MSN AdCenter. So far, it's the only PPC engine to offer keyword-based demographic targeting.
#2: Make Sure Your E-Mail Gets Delivered
E-mail marketing is still highly profitable. Not only is it a great and inexpensive way to establish relationships with your customers, your promotions and follow-up offers can be completely automated.
However, while you used to be able to send e-mail to absolutely everyone, these days you have to be very careful. Spam cost U.S. businesses an estimated $17 billion in 2005 (Ferris Research), and now accounts for 57% of all e-mail (Ipswitch 2006)!
The consequences of spamming have grown far beyond a slap on the wrist from your internet service provider or a few nasty e-mails from angry recipients. The bottom line is that if you want to take advantage of the profit-boosting power of e-mail marketing, you must make sure your e-mails comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. You can read the full text of the CAN-SPAM regulations at www.spamlaws.com/federal/can-spam.shtml .
#3: Promote Your Business With New Internet Marketing Technology
Technology has been furiously advancing, paving the way for new and highly effective ways to promote your e-business. Let's look at some that have had the biggest impact:
When used right, audio and video as part of your sales process can now have a dramatic impact on your bottom line. Use short audio and video clips of you and your customers to personalize your site and reassure visitors that you're a credible business.
- Blogging: Blogs are informal web forums that invite feedback and discussion. They're free to set up and use, and so simple that they can be created in minutes using sites such as Blogger.com . As a result, blogging has exploded in popularity over the last few years.
With a business blog you can reach a wider audience, generate better search engine rankings, boost your revenue, and develop a rapport with your customers. And because blogs are updated frequently, search engines love them. Read " Create a Blog to Boost Your Business " to learn how to set up a business blog today.
- Podcasting: Podcasting (the delivery of audio files--typically MP3 files--via the internet) is one of the hottest new technologies to hit the market. It allows you to publish audio content that interested listeners can subscribe to via RSS "feeds" so they can automatically receive your audio broadcasts without having to go to your website. For more information, read " Using Podcasting to Promote Your Site ."
- Direct-to-Desktop Technology: Direct-to-desktop technology is a way to deliver information straight to your subscribers' desktops--without having to wrestle with e-mail filters, bouncebacks, or your competition!
Here's how it works: The sender uses an application that formats and sends the information straight to a "reader" that's been installed on the recipient's desktop. Once your customers sign up, they don't have to check their e-mail or visit your website to get your latest news or updates. A flashing desktop icon alerts them as soon as they receive your message--and all they have to do is click to read it.
The unique benefits of having an online business (low overhead, inexpensive advertising and a global reach) can produce huge profit margins--and for tens of thousands of internet entrepreneurs, a level of personal and financial freedom they could only dream about before.
Sure, there's more competition online these days, but the opportunities are also growing! So if you you've been putting off starting your first online business because you thought you missed the boat--or if you want to ramp up an existing one--there's never been a better time to take action and start generating life-altering wealth of your own.
With the explosion of technological advances and resources, running an online business is now so accessible that literally anyone can get online very quickly--and immediately start profiting from their own internet business!
Derek Gehl is the CEO of the Internet Marketing Center, an internet marketing firm that has helped thousands of people learn to start and run their own online businesses.IMC hosts a new Search Marketing Lab Forum, where members have their strategy questions answered by search marketing specialists.