Having a Blog is an essential part of your overall marketing strategy. Yet, many small business owners don’t know how to create a blog. In this post, I try to provide instructions on how to create a blog using free WordPress software from scratch.

Some web hosting providers have an Installation Center that will install the WordPress blog with one button click. Check with your provider to see if they have it.  iPage has this feature. If you need to do it on your own then follow the process below.

 First, there are a few preparation steps that you need to complete:

A. Obtain a domain name for you blog (see my post Registering a Domain Name for your Website) and a web hosting provider. Popular choices include 1and1.com (I use them), bluehost.com, iPage and godaddy.com. 

B. Have access to a file transfer/ftp program. Many of the web hosting providers have a way to transfer files. I used a free file transfer program (FTP) called FileZilla. You can download FileZilla Client from http://filezilla-project.org/ .  This is an optional step if you don’t have other program to transfer files.

 Now you are ready to create your blog.

The overall process of creating a blog includes the following 6 steps:

 1. Using your web hosting provider’s Control panel, create an FTP directory for the WordPress files (Step 1a), create an FTP user account (Step1b) and create  MySQL database (Step 1c).

 2. Download current version of WordPress software file from http://wordpress.org/  to your local drive.

 3. Update WordPress configuration file wp-config-sample.php with your MySQL database information.

 4. Transfer WordPress files from your local folder to your web hosting FTP directory.

 5. Install your WordPress blog.

 6. Customize your WordPress blog.

 I hope you are on your way creating your first blog.

 Happy Blogging!

 Click here to visit my silver fashion jewelry store and shop special Holiday savings.

Below is the detail description for each step above:

 1. Create FTP Directory, FTP user account and MySQL database

Login to your web hosting account. Using your web hosting provider’s Control panel, create an FTP directory, an FTP user and MySQL database. I use 1and1.com so the instructions use their menu options. Other Control panels might have similar options.

 1a. Create an FTP directory for your blog on your web hosting provider server. You will later copy the WordPress software files into this directory.

On Control Panel choose Domains menu option
Select you domain and choose Edit Destination
You will see a screen where you can create a new destination. You want to choose Domain Type – “Home Directory” and create a new directory. I typically use the same name as my domain name (for example – /startnetbiz if my domain name is www.startnetbiz.com)

 1b. Create an FTP user account

On Control Panel choose FTP Account option
Enter user name and password
Select FTP directory previously created in step 1a.

 1c. Create a MySQL database

On Control panel choose MySQL Administration
Select New Database Option
Enter description and password and create the database
After the database is created you will receive a screen with database information. Keep this screen open. You will need to enter this information into WordPress configuration file.

 2. Download current WordPress software to your local file from  http://wordpress.org/ . The download is provided as a zipped file. You will need a zip software like WinRAR or other to unzip it and extract it to a local folder on your drive (like C:\Documents and Settings\your name\Desktop\wordpress).  

At the end, you should have a WordPress icon on your desktop.

3. Update WordPress configuration file with your MySQL information from step 1c.

 Click on the WordPress folder and locate a file wp-config-sample.php. Change the extension to .txt and edit the information in DB_NAME, DB_USER, DB_PASSWORD, DB_HOST as provided in the MySQL screen in Step 1c.

 // ** MySQL settings – You can get this info from your web host ** //

/** The name of the database for WordPress */

define(‘DB_NAME’, ‘xxxxxxx’);
/** MySQL database username */

define(‘DB_USER’, ‘xxxxxxx’);

/** MySQL database password */

define(‘DB_PASSWORD’, ‘xxxxxxx’);

/** MySQL hostname */

define(‘DB_HOST’, ‘xxxxxxx’);

Update and save the information and rename the file to wp-config.php.  

 4. Transfer WordPress files from your local folder to your web hosting providers FTP directory previously created.

 Using FileZilla or your preferred FTP method you can copy the WordPress files to your web hosting FTP directory.

In FileZilla, click on the Site Manager menu icon (first icon on the left) and create a new site. Update General Settings as following:

Change Logon type to Normal
Enter ftp account user and password as created in step 2
Enter Host – your domain name without the prefix www. (for example startnetbiz.com)
Click Connect to connect to the site or click on Site Manager menu icon.

 On the left side of the screen (i.e. your local site) click on the Desktop and locate your WordPress folder. Click on it to get the list of all the files in the folder (you can see it in the bottom section). Select wp-admin file and all the files beneath it and drag them to the right section. This action will copy these files from your local drive to your web hosting directory.

5. Install your Blog

In your internet window type www.yoururl.com/wp-admin/install.php(for example www.startnetbiz/wp-admin/install.php)

And click Install. This will complete the installation of your WordPress blog.

 6. Update Settings and Add Plugins to your WordPress Blog.

Login to your WordPress account (by typing http://yourdomain.com/wp-login.php) and customize the settings for your blog.

I like to add the following plugins – Akismet – to prevent spam comments posted on your blog, All in One SEO Pack – for SEO optimization and Google Analytics for WordPress to monitor traffic to your blog.

If you are a 1and1 user and having a problem with installing Plugins there is a fix available on http://wordpress.org/support/topic/auto-upgrade-fix-for-1and1-users .

Having a blog is a great way to promote your online business or professional services.

Blogs are relatively easy to optimize for specific targeted keywords and therefore rank well in Google.  High rank in Google is a free way to drive traffic to your blog and acquire potential new customers.  

Here is a list of  4 simple steps than you can do to optimize your blog entry:

1) Select a main keyword for your blog and category topics using a Keyword Research Tool (see blog post Product – Nich Market Research).

2) Include selected keyword in the blog Title and the first and last paragraphs in your blog post.

3) Enable SEO Plugin for your blog (I use “All in One SEO Pack” for my WordPress blog) and include selected keyword in the Title, Decription and Keywords tags.

4) Modify your default Permalinks Setting (you can find it under Settings in WordPress) to include Month and Name. This will generate a Url name for your blog entry with the blog name in it which is very important for Google search.

Remember it can take time for Google (days or weeks) to scan and recognize your changes.

Click here to visit my silver fashion jewelry store and shop special Holiday savings.

Search Engine Optimization of your website will help you to rank higher with Google search and bring free traffic to your website.  There are two main parts to SEO – first is the On Page Optimization and second is about creating backlinks to your website. 

To get started with On Page Optimization, you can follow simple guidelines below: 

1) What Pages to Optimize
You would like to optimize your Home page, your Category pages and key Product pages (20%-30% of your product pages).

2) Keyword Selection
The first step in optimizing any web page is to find the most relevant keywords for the specific page using a Keyword Research Tool (see blog post Product – Nich Market Research). You can find keywords (typically one keyword per page) for your Home page, Category pages and key Product pages.

3) Optimizing web page Title, Description and Keywords tags
Every web page has these three important tags.  You should include your selected keywords in these tags. Google considers the sequence of what you write. So you want to place important keywords first or at the beginning of the sentence.  You can check you current page Title by looking on top of the Menu bar. You can check your Description and Keywords by revewing the information available at Tools/Page Info menu option on your toolbar.

You want to update those tags for your Home page, every Category page and Product pages. If you are using an ecommerce platform (like BigCommerce) those tags are available under Store Settings, Category Updates and Product Updates.

4) Optimizing the Home Page
In addition to setting Title, Description and Keywords for your home page, you want to include keywords in the content of the web page. You can do it by writing direct content and/or featuring specific products that you want to promote on the home page.

5) Optimizing Product Pages
SEO efficient ecommerce platforms generate web page url based on the product title. So you want to include important keyword in the title. It is best to keep it short and most relevant to the keyword or in other words to what people will be most likely to search.

It takes time until Google recognizes your optimization changes. It depends on how frequently Google scans the pages on your website. In my case, it took 4-6 weeks for my Home page to appear in Google search results and approximately 8-12 weeks until Google indexed the majority of my Product pages and they start appearing in Google search results.

Search Engine Optimization should be an important component in your overall Internet Marketing plan.  On Page optimization is only the first step and for most high traffic competitive keywords you will need to continue with Backlinks strategy to achieve high ranking with Google. 

If you would like additional information on SEO, I recommend reading the book “SEO Warrior” by John I. Jerkovic.

Click here to visit my silver fashion jewelry store.

This year I had the opportunity to participate in Ed Dale’s The Challenge training. This program introduces people into the world of internet marketing and allows them to take an idea of a product or market micro niche and test it for commercial viability with very little money. 

Here are some details about the 2010 program:

1) Program Structure 
The Challenge consists of 7 modules. Each module includes 7 days of training videos and there is one week break to catch up between the modules. Overall duration is 13 weeks.

2) What Will You Learn
Module I - How to select and research the keywords for your product or micro niche using Market Samurai tool (available for free for the period of The Challenge)
Module II - How to write search engine optimized articles without too much pain and how setup your blog using WordPress Direct
Module III - All about backlinks, how to create accounts with web 2.0 sites like Blogger, Xanga, etc. and how to effectively publish to these sites.
Module IV and V - How to find more information about your market, where to get ideas for your blog and articles and how to participate in forums, Facebook and other networking opportunities.
Module VI - How to test commercial viability of of your product/blog using Google AdSense and Affiliate products. 
Module VII - How to make Go/No Go decision about your blog and what are the available options.

3) Program Cost
The program is free. You will need to spend under $100 for domain name registration and hosting.

4) Your Time Commitment
Daily videos can range from 7-20 minutes. It takes time to digest, practice and implement what has been learned and that can take anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours. Overall, for 49 days of training I would estimate 50-75 hours of time commitment.

It is not easy to make money over the internet but if you always wanted to know what is involved this is a good starting point.

In the 2010 Challenge over 1,000 people participated from around the world. Thank you Ed Dale and The Challenge team for putting it together and making it available for free.

For more information about The Challenge, please visit http://challenge.co/training/.

Click here to visit my silver fashion jewelry store.

You have your Google AdWords account and you are ready to create your own campaigns.

Here are some basic concepts to get you started:

1) Campaign – initially you will start with one campaign. There are several parameters that you can define for a campaign. The most important ones are daily budget and geographical location.
- Setting a daily budget will guarantee that you will not spend more than the specified amount per day for all the ads in the campaign. Sometimes, Google will exceed the daily budget for one day but then it will spend less in another day. Overall it will not spend more than the specified budget per day.
- Setting a geographical location is important. If your business is local then you want to make sure that your ad appears in the right geographical location. If you are only selling in the US and only for specific states (for example not including Hawaii and Alaska) then you want to set the geographical location correctly. When Google build my campaign they recommended to start with big metro areas in the north-east.

2) Ad Group – you can create multiple ad groups in one campaign. Typically, you will create a separate ad group for each product category. For example you will create separate ad groups for necklaces and bracelets or pearl jewelry and roman glass jewelry.

3) Ads – it is good to create more than one ad for each ad group. Normally, you will create 2 ads for each ad group. The language for each group will be very similar with small differences. Overtime you will see which ad works better and gets more clicks. In addition, you can not create Image Ads that will appear in Google Search. They can only appear in Google Display Network.

4) Keywords – Adwords has a Keyword Research tool that allows  you to review the traffic and the competition for a particular keyword. You can find the tool under the Opportunities tab. You should be looking for keywords that  have higher traffic number and less competition. The higher the competition the higher the cost of the keyword. You can have multiple keywords per ad.

5) Negative keywords – these are keywords that you don’t want in the search phrase. For example if someone is searching for “gold garnet ring” and you are only selling silver then you want to include “gold” as a negative word. It is important to specify as many negative keywords as possible.

Initially, it is good to monitor your campaign on a daily basis and continue to adjust your keywords, your negative keywords and the wording of your ads until you will reach a state that you are happy with.

Click here to visit my silver fashion jewelry store.

Using Google AdWords or other Pay-Per-Click program is an immediate way to get traffic to your site. The basic idea is that customer enters a keyword in Google Search to look for products, Google Adwords displays your ad based on the search keyword, customer clicks on your ad and gets to your website, you pay a certain amount per click.

To get started with Google Adwords you will need an existing Google account (you have one if you have Gmail or using Google Analytics) or  sign up for a new account. Follow this link to get started with Google Adwords .

There are many starter coupons available for Google Adwords ranging from $50-$100. You might have it from VistaPrint or your eCommerce provider.  It is best to wait 10-14 days after you sign up before you start your first campaign. This is because Google has a program for new customers. If you qualify, most likely they will reach out to you via email or phone. 

Here is what you get under Google’s AdWords New Customer Program:
- $100 coupon to get started. You can only use it if you haven’t used any other AdWords coupon. So if you have a $50 coupon don’t use it. Better to use the $100 coupon you will get from Google.
- Googe AdWord’s team will create a professional Pay-Per-Click campaign for you and work with you for 30 days free of charge. In return you will need to spend X dollars per day for 30 days. In my case it was $11 per day.

During the 30 days period you will learn what keywords and ads work best for you. It is good to check the campaign using Google Analytics on a daily basis so you can make adjustments quickly.  In Google Analytics you will be able to see for each keyword how much time visitors for this keyword spend on your site and how many pages they visit. A specific keyword is better when visitors spend more time on your site and visit more pages. Keywords that generate sales are the best.

Google’s objective is to generate many clicks for your website (it is natural as they make money per click). Your objective is to generate sales. So, it is important to pay attention to what keywords work best for you.

Google AdWords is also great to learn what products on your website are visited the most and therefore most popular.

Ultimately, you will decide if AdWords is an effective tool for you by comparing Sales and overall costs of the campaign. There might be other options (like Facebook, shopping directories, etc.) that might be less costly and more effective.

Click here to visit my store www.musebazaar.com.

Internet marketing and the ability to drive traffic to your website are essential to the success of your online business and most likely will be a big part of your overall expenses. 

It is important to understand the various components of internet marketing and plan for it from the start:

1) Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 
This component focuses on optimizing your website so it appears on first page on Google search and drives free traffic to your website. It requires both on page and off page optimizations. On page optimization deals with optimizing each specific webpage title, description, webpage content and url for specific keywords searched in Google. Off page optimization deals with creating backlinks from other sites to your site.

2) Blogging 
Creating a tightly focused blog for your niche keywords is one of the fastest ways to appear on first page on Google.  It is also useful in creating backlinks.

3) Pay Per Click (PPC) Ad Campaigns 
This is an immediate and effective way to generate traffic to your website. You create an ad with Google AdWords or shopping comparison directories and pay for every click on your ad.

4) Marketing Promotions
You create daily, weekly and monthly promotions on your website and via email campaigns.

5) Social Networking
Promoting your website on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.

A succesful online business most likely will require the implementation of all of these components.

Click here to visit my store www.musebazaar.com.

Congratulations! Your new store is open for business. Now is the time to tell everyone about it.

The best way to let people know about your new store is by using email campaigns. You can use your email software (like Outlook) but it is better to use email management software because it will allow you to see who opened your email, and how many people clicked on your link.

Two popular choices are MailChimp and Constant Contact. MailChimp is free for the first 500 subscribers.

Here is a feature comparison between MailChimp and Constant Contact (it is prepared by MailChimp so take it with a grain of salt) http://www.mailchimp.com/features/compare/.

You can use this link to sign-up with MialChimp for free http://www.mailchimp.com/signup.

After you have chosen the email management software, you will need to prepare your email campaigns. There are a few steps involved:

1. Prepare your email lists.
Initially you will not have customer lists. So you can create several lists with your family, friends and colleagues. Be sure to include only people that you trust that will not complain or report you as spam. This is very important because you can be banned.

2. Upload your email list to the email management software
You will need an email list in a .csv file or an excel file. Include email address, first name and last name.

3. Create a campaign using the email management software.
You will have a choice of creating a text based email or use a template. Using a template is a better choice as it allows tracking of opens and clicks. Choose a template from the many choices provided and enter the text for your email. When setting the campaign settings you want to have Google Analytics on and enable tracking of opens and clicks.

4. Send your campaign to your target list

After sending your campaign, you can track the results of your email by reviewing open/click reports in the email management software and Google Analytics reports. I have found that for Friends and Colleagues lists about 50% of the recipients clicked and visited the website. Industry average for eCommerce stores is 14.3% for Opens and 3.2% for Clicks.

Overtime, your goal is to build targeted lists using the Newsletter Subscribe feature on your website.

Click here to visit my store www.musebazaar.com.

What does it take to start an internet store? Apparently, it is easier than I thought. You can do it in less than 15 steps.

Here is the summary of the main steps to get your store up and running:

Step Blog Post
1. Find your product niche Product – Niche Market Research
2. Choose a name for your website Choosing a Name for Your Website
3. Register a domain name Registering a Domain Name for your Website
4. Choose a name for your business Choosing a Name for your Business
5. Decide business entity type for your business Starting a Business: Legal Steps I – Choosing Business Entity Type
6. File for an LLC Starting a Business: Legal Steps II – Filing for an LLC
7. Register to pay taxes Starting a Business: Legal Steps III – Tax Registrations
8. Open a business bank account Opening a Bank Account for your Business
9. Create a website Creating a Website – Choosing an eCommerce Product

Create a Website – Custom Designs

10. Source your product Sourcing your Product – Business Models

Sourcing your Product – Working with Doba

11. Choose your store payment options Store Operations – Choosing Payment Options
12. Choose your store shipping options Store Operations – Shipping Options
13. Register your store with Google Internet Marketing – Starting with Google
14. Register with Google Analytics Internet Marketing – Starting with Google Analytics

Click here to visit my store – www.musebazaar.com.

How do you know what products to sell?  Do you just decide to sell what you like or do you decide based on what people are looking for? Even if you have a unique product from the start, it is best to do some market research before you invest your money in the product. 

The concept behind niche market research is that Google keeps all the keywords that are being searched in its database. This allows you to know how many searches for a particular keyword/niche  are done on a daily or monthly basis. Then, you will need to know how much competition is out there for that niche and how strong is the competition from Google’s search engine optimization point of view. The strength of the competition is one of the most important consideration in choosing to sell a product in a certain market niche.

Here is an example to illustrate the concept of niches and micro niches - You start with a broader market like “Silver Jewelry”, then you drill down to a niche  “Turquoise Silver Jewelry” and then you can drill more down to “Turquoise Silver Watches”. You will be surprised to see what you can find.

Luckily there are tools available that make niche market research relatively easy and provide you with both keyword traffic information and competition information:

1) Google Keyword Research tool - free tool that provides number of searches for the keyword monthly and a high level sense of competition. For highly competitive niches you will need more information on the strength of the competition.
2)  Traffic Travis – free tool you can download at  http://www.traffictravis.com/2/
3) Market Samurai – you can download a free trial copy at  http://www.marketsamurai.com/
4) Micro Nich Finder – http://micronichesfinder.com/

Market Samurai and Micro Nich Finder are both very good tools that cost around $99 and each has its own pros and cons. I am currently using Market Samurai because of the extended free trial and free training to find niches within the market that I have chosen.

Knowing what people are searching for and knowing the strength of the competition gives you the necessary insight on what products will be commercially successful. This is a highly recommended step before you decide on what products to sell or to find specific micro niches that will sell better within your current market. It becomes increasing important to specialize around a micro niche in today’s competitive marketplace on the web.

Click here to visit my store – www.musebazaar.com.