These days it seems everyone wants to set up an e-store. My preference is for total control and I use OsCommerce. It’s widely supported and feature packed. Here’s a brief guide to help you get started thinking. It’s not an easy task, will require lots of work, and planning to get started. First, you need something to sell. Make sure whatever you sell will have enough profit to make the setup work worth your while.
Find a hosting provider by Googling ‘OsCommerce Hosting‘
You might need to charge sales tax. Try to find a host that supports SEO friendly URLS (i.e. www.site.com/tee-shirts.php and not www.site.com?id=1 — it’s high value to have keywords in URL). To do this find an oscommerce host that uses something called mod-rewrite to do it.
Be A Business
You should run the store as a business. So Set up an LLC and get a bank account for the LLC. This will seperate the stores money and liabilities from your personal liabilities and assets.
If you want credit cards, you’ll need a merchant account. You should then also consider a dedicated host so that you are not storing credit cards on a shared host. This adds considerably to the cost of web hosting. Shared web hosting can range from $5.00 a month to $40.00 a month. Dedicated hosting is bare bones at $150.00 a month and more likely to be 350.00+ a month. As for the merchant account itself, you can get a merchant account from anywhere — that is it doesn’t have to be with your bank or with the credit card gateway you choose. In the US, Costco and Sams offer discount merchant account fees. This will tie to your bank account and money will be deposited daily (hopefully you’re selling stuff). A good OS/Commerce Host can help you with all of this.
But why do the merchant account yourself? Use Google Checkout or Paypal
If you don’t want to get your own credit cards (and this is useful to avoid risk), get a setup of oscommerce that supports BOTH paypal and google checkout. Then those folks will handle the transactions. Google works like a merchant account and deposits money in your account automatically. The only downside to this method is possible loss of sales because people don’t want to use those services. Personally, I love Google Checkout. All of my online purchases are visible to me in one place, and the merchants don’t see my credit card number. Sweet. The differences between Google Checkout and PayPal are major. With PayPal you see a transaction for a dollar amount. With Google, you see an order, including the items, along with the transaction. Checkout Google Checkout and PayPal for details.
Site Content -The Most Important Factor in Being Found
Rule 1: Do keyword research about your niche. Find out what people are looking for. Then create webpages.
Here is where to find what people are looking for:
Digitalpoint Keyword Suggestion Tool
The Overture data is Yahoo! traffic and it is generally assumed to show 1/4 of the searches done on Google so if something shows there you multiply by 4. Word tracker is a snapshot of Google.
Next, search Google with the keywords and see what ranks high, and look at those pages that Google values. Look at the keywords they target (by viewing page source and looking at the tag. For your site, these shouldn’t be stuffed, and should be unique on each page of the site. You should also do a Google search for back links for each of the top 10 sites and see who’s linking there. Google won’t show them all, Yahoo will show a lot more. The command to do this is to search for link://www.your-site-name-here/ in both Google and Yahoo. You can automate this all with a product called IBP & Arelis.
I digress just for a second here to mention Google Page Rank. This is the formula that originally propelled Google to the forefront of the Search Engines by using links from one site to another to count as votes about the quality of the site. PR ranges from 0 to 10. 0 is the lowest. Only a few sites are 10, Google being one of them. Now things have come a long way since the early days of Google, and Page Rank is no longer this one link = one vote formula and nowadays they consider quality of the links as well as many other factors. While it doesn’t necessarily matter if you are a PR3 or PR4 site, you will need to get other sites to link to you and for many of those webmasters will look at your PR. How do you get PR when you don’t have any yet? Read on, it’s described farther down.
What’s a Good Domain Name?
Now that you know what people are looking for in your niche, it’s time to choose a domain name. A good a domain name will have good keywords in it about whatever you’re selling. Using your research above, search GoDaddy for available names. It is worth considering buying a parked domain if that domain has good keywords and a Google Page Rank of 3 or more as this will help you get your site indexed faster. If you’re really planning on being in business a while, register the domain for at least 5 years, 10 would be better. This is because the evil spammers of Google and Yahoo use throwaway domains that are useful for only a brief period so they tend to register them for only a year.
Time to Start Building Content with Rich Keywords
You have your domain, osCommerce store, so it’s time to start building content with those keywords. The page title is huge in SEO (Search Engine Optimization). So are H1 tags (page headings). Make sure keywords are in title, h1, and dribbled around in the content. Make the content human readable, and just bear in mind that you need the keywords in there a lot. Final result should be nice reading and lots of keywords.
Keep in mind that the site will be new and it will take time to get ranked. If you bought a domain name that has been around for a while and has Google Pank Rank, you’ll be a little bit father ahead then if it’s a completely new domain. To get PR up, you need to get quality back links from other web sites which lends credibility to your site. Visit the sites you just researched above for keywords, some might be willing to link to you if you email them an honestly written email with something in the email that notes that you actually looked at their site and ask for an exchange of links.
Use Web Directories to Get Initial Back Links
The easiest way to get some links is to use web directories to get started. You can find about 300 directory listings here:
What I would recommend, is you post to say 10 of these that are free so you understand what they are about. Wait for the reviews and see if any accept you. USE A SPECIAL EMAIL ADDRESS BECAUSE YOU WILL BE SPAMMED — GUARANTEED. The only reason I could see for directories not accepting a new site with good content [which incidentally means you have written unique content already] is that it doesn’t have a page rank yet (and sometimes that’s a sign of evilness and being kicked out of Google for being bad and no one wants to link to bad partners.) You need to be accepted by a few of these directories to at least get a page rank of 1.
But what’s my Page Rank?
To see Page Rank, get the Google Toolbar, install it, and activate the Page Rank Display in the Options section of the Settings menu. Once active, you’ll see a bar indicating Page Rank in the toolbar. Every page you visit from then on will be sent to Google and the Page Rank shown, so it does have privacy implications. But you should have it installed, and visit your pages often so Google sees the visitor — better if he has several friends do this and if you can do this from other places like work and on many computers and connected via different IPs such as via cable and dialup so it looks like different people. Don’t go overboard, but you want Google to see traffic on your site, and they will send spiders to see the pages you visit — this is one of the reasons that you can’t hide anything on the web (i.e. there is no secret URL, they’ll be found via the toolbar or because ISPs, doubleclick, paypal, etc sell traffic data (anyone that you link an image from will see your traffic and be able to sell it).
Toolbar Page Rank isn’t Real Time
Oh, I should note that Google has an internal always up to date PR that they use, and only push toolbar PR out as snapshots about once a quarter. And the Page Rank at the snapshot update is usually a month old already. So the PR shown in the toolbar takes time to show up and won’t necessarily show the value Google currently is using.
While waiting for PR1, visit Digitalpoint SEO Forums and read and read. Also they have great set of free tools at:
Digitalpoint SEO Tools, one of which you’ve already used, the Keyword Suggestion Tool.
Besides that one, you should try to get the Digitalpoint Keyword Ranking Monitor working and check it daily:
(the only caveat is that it needs to use the Google API and so needs a Google API key. I heard somewhere that Google stopped issueing API keys but don’t know that for certain). There are setup instructions on the ranking monitor page, so follow them. If you get the key, you’ll need to check the tool daily to cause the tool to get your rank(or if you can afford it, donate $500 to the company. Then you can set it up to run automatically at 4:30am PT and you’ll still need to check it once a week or the folks at DP will automatically disable the automatic checking. A plus too, if you’re considering donating and can afford it, is you’ll be able to get a PR6 link from the donors page and make sure to choose a good keyword set.
Besides the Digital Point keyword ranking tool, there are other tools available for doing the same thing that run on your computer. Google ‘SEO Tools‘ for find some.
Be A Webmaster
Get a Google Webmaster account and verify the site. Check the Webmaster tools often, Google will give feedback to you.
Don’t do anything evil. The goal is to get backlinks and traffic. Rank will come naturally thereafter. Quality content will drive traffic.
Consider a forum or blog to discuss topics. These bring repeat traffic, traffic the visits many pages, and free content. There are some free forum software, and there is paid from Vbulletin. VB is the best and has lots of features. But any forum is a task to set up and keep out the bad viagra and porn spammers. Plus you need to market the site to get visitors or else it’s empty. Some tips for operating and marketing forums can be found at The Admin Zone
WordPress is a simple easy to install blog (you want this on your site not hosted elsewhere because it needs to be part of your domain). If you are familiar with pkzip, you can do it yourself for free. Make sure to use SEO friendly URLS. These are set under Permalinks in the Options area.
Once you get Page Rank 1 for your homepage.
Ok, once you get to Page Rank 1, it’s time to start adding more directory submissions. You don’t want to start earlier because of the PR0 and the bad guys will result in a lot of rejections.
When it’s time for this, you should have 3 – 5 sets of keyword variations, 3 – 5 site title variations with keywords in them and 3 – 5 different descriptions. These should be from the top keywords shown above in the keyword suggestion tool. The content on the pages should be written with those searches in mind too — it’s looks like it is a natural fit now.
There are basically 3 types of web directories: 1) Free, 2)Reciprocal, 3) Paid.
I pay someone to do the free directory submissions because it gets old fast and it’s cheap, about $20/hundred listings. So you can get about 900 listings for $180.00. If you are considering this, don’t submit to more than 10 directories yourself. Because the submitter needs to know where you’ve submitted to. Keep track of the directories you submit to.
I don’t bother with the reciprocal, and do a few paid. Alivedirectory.com is one of those. Consider Yahoo Directory if you can afford the $300/yr they want — it has credibility (make sure your site is filled out — you want to be accepted — the $300 is for review and if you are rejected too bad). Also submit to the open directory project at www.dmoz.org (this one takes a while to get into and is what Google uses for their directory).
That will get you started.