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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 .

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.

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.

Google Analytics is a great free tool with many benefits that allows you to learn more about the visitors to your site and measure the effectiveness of your internet marketing like email and AdWords Campaigns.

Here are examples of what information is provided:
- Number of visitors to your site, such as number of total visits, number of unique visitors, geographical location by county and city of your visitors,  etc.
- Traffic Sources to your website – direct access, Google search, referrals from others sites, email campaigns, etc. 
- What pages on your website are visited the most

The best time to start with Google Analytics is before you open your store for Operations.

Click here to sign up with Google Analytics http://www.google.com/analytics/.

If you are using an eCommerce product like Big Commerce you need to configure your Analytics Settings to integrate with Google Analytics.

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

Inclusion in Google search results is free. Google crawls the web all the time to identify new sites or updates to existing sites. However, if your site is very new, you might want to register it with Google.  To determine whether your site is currently included in Google’s index, do a site: search for your site’s URL. For example, http:// site:startnetbiz.com. 

You can register your site manually at  http://www.google.com/addurl/

You can also register with Google Webmaster Tools account. It is a collection of free tools to help Google to understand your website.  To sign up click here www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ . You will need to tell Google what your website is. Add an entry with the regular name of your website and also an entry with the name of your website without the www. in front of the name.  Google will ask you to verify your ownership of the site. This will require adding a meta tag that Google provides you to your home page HTML template. If you are using an eCommerce product for your website you can search the support database with ”How do I verify my site with Google” to get futher instructions.

To further improve Google’s ability to search for pages on your site, you can submit a sitemap using Webmaster Tools. In your Webmaster Tools dashboard, click the “Submit a Sitemap” button. If you are using an eCommerce product like Big Commerce they create a mapsite for you that you can submit to Google.

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

If the templates offered by the eCommerce products do not work for you, then most likely you are looking at some development effort. You can hire a web developer/designer to either modify a standard template of the eCommerce product or to develop a new website for you.

There are several companies that allow you to post your project and have multiple vendors bid on it. I have tried www.elance.com and www.odesk.com.

There are several key considerations when posting a web development project:
1) You need to know how you want your website to look like.
It works better if you can provide websites similar to what you like. If you need help in this area, you will need to hire a web designer who can work with you on the look and feel of the website. Many web developers know the technology side but will not be very helpful in designing the look of the site. Ideally, you can find a vendor that provides both web design and web development and has done websites similar to the look you want. Make sure you have looked at their portfolio of work.

2) You can describe all the functionality and features of the website.
The better description of the project you will provide the more accurate bids you will receive. It is very important to have all features documented in writing especially if you are working with an offshore vendor. There are features that relate to the display of the website for example – you want the website to display related products when looking at a specific product or you want to have a sort feature that will sort products by price. There are also features that relate to back office functionality that the customer doesn’t see. For example – ability to enter new products, abilitity to bulk load multiple products from a file, ability to load images, ability to delete a product, ability to integrate with a payment provider like Pay Pal, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), etc. It can be a good idea to subscribe to a trial version of an eCommerce product and study all the features that are provided. Don’t assume that a vendor will know what features you want. Unless specified, vendors might provide a bid with the least amount of features so that their bid looks attractive from the cost perspective. Before starting a project, you should have a summary of all included features and functionality in writing so you can have an agreed upon project scope. Either you or the vendor can create this summary.

The cost for a custom website depends on design complexity and number of features. Prices can start as low as several hundreds or go up to thousands of dollars. A website designed from a known website template or another website will be the least expensive in this category.

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

There are many options to create a website that range from very inexpensive and immediate to very expensive and longer time to complete.

One of the fastest way to get started is to use an eCommerce product like BigCommerce – http://www.bigcommerce.com/?PID=1594212.  BigCommerce comes with many features like web hosting, website building, shopping cart, credit card payment, content management, marketing tools, etc. Website building is a very easy process that consists of choosing a template, customizing it and loading your product content. No programming is involved.

There are many eCommerce products and you can get started with a starter package as low as $24.95 per month. Here is a 2010 review of the popular eCommerce products available today – http://ecommerce-software-review.toptenreviews.com/. BigCommerce ranks #1 on this list. The review also lists all the important features that you should look for to help determine what is important to you.

At first, I tried the Shopify product but I realy didn’t like their website templates and it was too expensive to hire a developer to start modifying their template. After reading the review above, I tried the BigCommerce product. I liked their templates right away and was pleasantly surprised by all the features they offered. You can create a professionally looking website in a few days.

No doubt, using an eCommerce product is the fastest, easiest and least expansive way to create a website.

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

Once you have decided on the name for your website you want to register it as soon as possible. There are many companies that provide this service. Two of the biggest providers are http://www.godaddy.com and http://www.1and1.com.

There are several factors to considers before selection a provider:
1) First year cost
2) Annual renewal cost – registration is for one year and need to be renewed annually
3) Private registration cost – this feature protects your contact information from appearing in the information provided by www.whois.com.

I have chosen to go with 1and1 because they provide free private registration and that was important to me. GoDaddy charges $8.99 for this feature.

Some web hosting plans provide free domain registration. However, I plan to use an ecommerce provider that will host the website and therefor did not consider these plans.

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

You have made the decision to start a new business. Congratulations!!!

One of the first things I had to do is to select a name for the website. This was actually more involved then I initially thought.

Here are the steps that I followed:

1) First, I have googled to see what information is available on choosing a name. There are multiple sites that provide you with basic guidelines. One of the key recommendations was that it needs to be short (less than 7 characters or so).

2) My next step was to try to come up with short names or combination of names. I used http://www.godaddy.com to check if the name was available or already taken. This turned out to be a challenge since many of the obvious short names are already taken.

3) Then I realized that the name doesn’t have to be exactly describing what you are doing but can be another word that represents the essence of what you are doing. In some cases the name is totally unrelated to the actual business activities. Think about all the known brands like “Google”, “Amazon”, “Nike”, “Blue Nile”, etc. You get the picture. I tried very hard to select a cool word that was available but no luck. I tried to create a new word by combining various letters to get a word that had a good sound to it. That didn’t work for me either. Totally new words just didn’t sound good to me. I also tried to create a new word by combining together parts of two separate words.

4) I tried to use a translator http://www.freetranslation.com to see if I can come with a phrase in Italian or French. Many of the words and phrases were already taken but I had a lot of fun learning how to say words in Italian and French.

5) Another option was to use your name or initials as part of the name. There were more options available.

6) Lastly, it helps if you have family or friends who can be your sounding board as you trying to choose a name.

After about two weeks of searching, I was able to pick a name that everyone seemed to be happy with. Yee!!!

Finally, I can move to the next steps.

Search Engine  Optimization Tip – choosing a domain name that is optimized for SEO is very important in driving traffic to your site and can save you a lot of money and time. It is best to use one of the keyword research tools described in my blog post Product – Niche Market Research to find a strong keyword for your market niche and use it as a base for your website name. 

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