Internet Marketing & Online Business FAQ
I've been building websites for profit for about 8 years now. These are some of the most common questions about internet marketing, online business, and making money online. Let's clear things up! Let me know if you have more questions below.
1. Does it take money to make money?
Yes, but less than you think. You can actually make money online at no cost to you, but I don’t recommend it. It takes a ton more work to use free websites, and puts your business you at unnecessary risk. The minimum I recommend you spend is to buy a domain to make your own website, and that will come with hosting costs as well. That’ll cost you about $11 for the domain and about $80-$150+ for a year of hosting.
The reason I recommend these two as a minimum is because this means you OWN your business, and can do whatever you like with it. If you build a site on some of these ‘free’ platforms out there, many times you have to feature THEIR advertising, and you’re also subject to their Terms of Service. Many times this means there are limitations on subject matter, style, and methods of promotion.
While free websites can supplement your campaign nicely, I don’t recommend making them the core of your business. It means that ultimately, someone else has control over your website. It's still a good idea to start as cheap as possible though! There's nothing wrong being on a shoestring budget. Spending money won't make you successful any faster. There’s no use dropping $199 dollars on video creation software or $499 on a pre-built website if you’re going to quit in 2 months’ time.
2. Do I need to know how to make a website?
No, but you need to be willing to learn. Everyone is a beginner at something, so not knowing how to make a website shouldn’t stop you from learning to build one. Actually, it’s a lot easier now than it used to be; Most of the hard work has been done for you already!
There are many tools to automate the process of building and customizing a website. It doesn’t mean it’s always going to be easy, but to get a basic website up is no problem. In fact, you can do it right here, right now. This is a free website creator. You can always re-direct your free site to your own .com at a later date.
Of course, the more you want to add to your site, and the more you want to improve, website creation and maintenance can get complicated (but interesting!). It just depends on where your marketing campaigns take you, and how much time you want to spend on this aspect of your business. The core concept of making money how I do is just based on writing though, so if you can figure out how to publish articles, you're set for the next decade.
3. How do you start a website?
No matter what your business is, you’ll need a web builder (like WordPress), someone to host your website, and a great domain name.
Some affiliate marketing networks provide help for building your first website, and this can be great for someone just getting started with an online business. Walking through the process with a built-in support system can make creating the next one that much easier.
If you’re getting started on your own, my advice is to stick with WordPress as your builder. It's open source (free), and is the most used platform for independent website owners. It has a lot of advantages over other “drag n drop” website builders like Weebly.
For your website you'll need two components: A domain and a hosting service. The domain is like the mailing address, and the hosting is like the house. The hosting part stores your website files, and the domain tells people where they can find your files (articles, pictures, etc). You can having your hosting and domain from the same company, or from separate companies.
4. How long does it take to begin making money?
This is a tough question to answer. It’s different for everyone.
If you've read my story, then you know it took me three months to make my first $5. Six after that, I could see sales coming in every couple of days. I made $4000 in my first year of online marketing (spent $600 on training). I quit my job after 18 months, and have been a full time online marketer for 8 years now.
Some people make money in their first week, and some take 6 or more months to crack the code. Others have some quick successes in the first few months, then crickets. (The ones that survive this are the people that strive to learn from mistakes and ask questions when they get stuck). What will your story be? You won't know unless you try.
5. How much money can I make?
It had to be asked. And I know you won’t believe me when I tell you that you can make as much as you want.
- There are 316 million people in the US but only 201 million currently shop online
- 1,400,000,000 was spend in online shopping last year (globally)
- Ecommerce sales are growing at 10% per year
- Mobile ecommerce shopping is still in its infancy
There are literally billions of people online, but more than 1/2 of the world does not have internet access right now. As more people get online, more people become comfortable shopping online, and everything gets faster/easier/safer, growth is unstoppable.
So, like any other business in the world, but even so much more so due to the internet's growth and scaling possibilities, you can make as much money as you want. You can earn $1,000 per month and decide to pay someone to run your business while you hang out with your kids, or grind until you make $10k per month then sell your website for $400,000 (yes, that's the actual price you can sell a $10k/month website for), and retire. You could also build business systems to allow you to earn $100k per month or more.
Literally anything is possible.
6. Is there one best way to make money online?
There are a lot of great ways to make money online. I try to list many of them here on onemorecupof-coffee.com. I also warn people against scams and frauds that are sometimes promoted as job opportunities. Please feel free to browse through this site to get ideas for real online businesses that might work for you.
Having said that, you should know there are a few really great legitimate ways to make money. No single way is “the best”
One way to open an online business is to become an online merchant, where you make and sell goods or services online to buyers. Because you have to come up with your own products to sell, this can require a significant investment of time, money, or both. This is called “ecommerce”
Another way to make money online is to become an affiliate marketer. In affiliate marketing, you earn the equivalent of finders’ fees for helping merchants sell their products. You still invest time, but the pressure of having to come up with your own products to sell or to find products to resell is gone. You don’t have to manage an inventory, either.
Another concept I cover with my site is called Amazon FBA. This is like being an online merchant, but instead of selling through your own website, you sell through Amazon (or a combination of both).
Many more concepts are covered in my post about the best online business strategies. Which one is most attractive to you? It depends on your experience, timeframe, goals, interests, and sometimes a bit of trial and error to see what “clicks” with your personality.
No matter what online business you choose, think about how much of yourself you’re willing to give this project. Like any business, an online business takes time, commitment, and sometimes a few learning curves before you’re comfortable.
7. What is niche marketing, and why is it important?
Niche marketing refers to selling to a small segment of the total population, but that segment is well defined. There are some real advantages to niche marketing.
- Marketing efforts can be targeted to the people who actually want to see them
- Because the marketing efforts are targeted, resources like time and money aren’t expended blindly. Marketers save these resources, and consumers who are searching for products and services like these save resources, as well.
- Because you are catering to the needs of a specific population, you can build long-term relationships with them that will result in repeat sales or in word-of-mouth marketing when they tell their friends about you.
What's a niche though? It's a specific subgroup of people. For example, “health and wellness” is an industry, not a niche. In fact, “weight loss” is a subset of that, but still an industry in itself. Not everyone who wants to lose weight has the same needs. Here are some weight loss niches.
- lose weight before a wedding
- ketogenic weight loss
- “cutting” or weight loss for bodybuilders
- weight loss with diabetes
- weight loss for women over 50
- paleo diet weight loss
- swimming for weight loss
- weight loss with no exercise
This can be applied to just about anything. What about sports?
- how to coach little league baseball
- running shoe reviews
- bluetooth sport headphones reviews
- soccer dills
- vintage football jerseys
- how to train for a marathon
Often the most confusing part about starting an online business is choosing a profitable niche. Start by thinking about what excites you. If you can find a passion, you’ve got a good place to start. The next step is to decide how to make money from that passion, which, in the case of affiliate marketing, means you'll seek out affiliate programs that match the stuff you write about on your website.
8. What should I make my website about?
This is an impossible question for me to answer! I could tell you to make a fitness website or a drone website because I know those topics can make money…but so can smartphone cases or digital photograph editing. So can calligraphy, organic gardening, and men's fashion.
Literally ANY topic can make money because people buy everything online these days. If I told you “one” way to make money, I would be leading you down the wrong path.
You have to choose something you are interested in! There will definitely be times when you get bored or frustrated with your website, and having a personal interest in the topic will help you get through those tough times!
9. What do I promote?
This is the question that took me a long time to answer when I first started looking for ways to make money online. With my first venture into online business, I remember it being particularly frustrating watching webinars that just kept saying “grow your business”, or “make more money from your current customers”.
I just kept thinking, “I don’t have a business! I don’t have any customers! How the hell do I get started?”
Assuming you're doing affiliate marketing, which is what I do and what I specialize in teaching, you won't “sell” anything at all. You'll “promote” products. You'll link to products with a special code that gets you credit for the sale.
Using those basic concepts, you can make money from anything that has an affiliate program. Sometimes these are physical products like you see on Amazon. If this is the case, you can sell stuff from Amazon like barbecue grills, sports headphones, or computer parts. There are also service-based affiliate programs, in which you promote a service. You could promote Lyft for example, or local companies like doctors/lawyers/cleaning services.
10. Why is website traffic important, and how do I increase it?
The simplest answer to why website traffic is important is because it increases sales. The more people that come to your site, the likelier that some portion of those people are going to buy something. If 1% of your visitors convert to sales, with 100 visitors, that's one sale per day. With 10,000 visitors per day, that's 100x the sales, so you'd be making 100 sales per day. If you earn just $5 per day, that's a difference of $5 per day VS $500 per day.
One of the best ways to increase website traffic is to consistently write good web content. Blogging frequently or posting interesting articles on your website will attract more and more visitors over time. More people will find your content in Google, and more will want to share it on social media.
One time, I had a Pinterest pin go viral and double my income for three days!
The more articles or posts you have, the more likely it is one of them will address a question someone is asking online. When they search the internet for answers, your post might provide just the answer they’re looking for. They’ll share it with their friends who have similar questions, which will bring more visitors to your site.
11. How do I rank in Google?
There is no real answer to this question. The truth is that no one knows. There are so-called “SEOs” out there that claim they have a ‘surefire’ way to rocket you to the number one spot in Google search.
I call BS on that. No one knows what Google’s algorithm is except Google.
And besides that, the way Google ranks pages changes many times during the year, so even if someone did figure out a ‘secret’ of how to rank, it probably won’t be useful for long. There are some techniques to get your content found more easily, and push you in the general direction of Google Page 1.
But much of your ranking is going to depend on how many people visit your site, how many people talk about it, leave comments on it, and link to you. To answer your question as best as possible, to rank well in Google, you need to write high quality, engaging content, and interact with other people on and off your website.
There are some basic steps you can take, so SEO is not completely worthless! However, much of of it is speculation by people that want to sound smart and have something to publishing on their website.
12. Do I need to worry about SEO?
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, changes so frequently that no one but the people in charge of the search engines really know what the secrets are. However, there are a few things you can do to help your site get recognized:
- Consistently write good content. This is a common sense idea, but it’s often overlooked. If you write what other people want to read, you’ll build a following. That will eventually translate into sales and an income stream for you. Too many people write for search engines instead of writing for the people visiting their website.
- Dig into low-competition keywords and optimize your site for these. I’ve written a post about keyword research to help you get started.
13. What do I need to know about sales and marketing before I get started?
It’s a good idea to get a feel for what you’re going to be doing, but you don’t need a degree or certification to get started. You can learn what you need to know along the way. Because the core concept of what we're doing is providing information to internet readers, we really don't have to know anything about “selling” in order to make sales.
That being said, as you grow your business, learning about basic concepts can help you improve your sales over time. A page that gets 100 visits per day can get 1 sale or 10 sales depending on how you optimize the page.
Understanding the key terms is a good place to start. For instance, a sales funnel is the process a business leads a potential customer through, from attracting their attention to making a sale. When a person lands on a page of your website, where do they go next? Do they leave your website or go to another page? Do they sign up for an email list or buy a product linked in the last paragraph? These are ideas to consider to help you make more sales from existing content.
14. How many hours a day should I plan to work on my online business?
An easy rule of thumb, but not an absolute, I split my time between research and action. Especially in the beginning, it's important to learn new concepts, but not get stuck in “understanding” before taking action. Taking action is what gets results!
While packing anything extra into an already full day is challenging, this relatively small block of time can be split up across the day. You can work during commutes, in the early morning hours, late at night, or over lunch. It's especially hard for parents with full time jobs to find the necessary time to run an online business. If this is your case, you'll need to find things to sacrifice, even if the only answer is sleeping less.
A business will not magically appear. You have to put in the hours. When I started, I just did one hour per day, split 30 minutes learning, 30 minutes of action. I soon ramped up to more hours, and started to see faster results. The more you do, the greater your chances are of making money.
15. Do I have to work every day?
The more you do, the sooner you can start making money. Running an online business is a game of consistency. Like any job, you have to show up. You have to complete your tasks on time. You have to do good work.
However, once your sites are set up and you’re getting on your feet, you can write posts ahead of time and schedule their publishing dates in advance. This allows you to think ahead, to have some creative leeway and to plan for emergencies.
It also allows you the freedom to take off for a vacation if you need to. It’s a good idea to have an internet connection and ways to keep up with comments if you’re going to be gone for more than a day or two at a time, but the writing can almost all be done in advance.
There's no requirement to work every day. This is your business, and you will decide its destiny. You create your own schedule! Just make sure the work gets done. I find that the consistency and routine of working every day keeps me on task, but you might find it easier to batch your work over the weekend, then take the week off.
16. How do I handle tax issues and bookkeeping?
Speaking from personal experience in the USA, you just claim any income on your tax return like normal income. This is totally fine in the beginning. If you use a tax software like TurboTax, they'll ask you if you had any extra income from other sources, and you can enter it there on your Schedule C.
Meanwhile, investing in apps to help you keep track of your expenditures can be helpful. Since your work is online, you'll have an email paper trail of everything you buy for your business, but apps can help keep track of IRL receipts like office equipment. Track the mileage on your vehicle when you use it for work purposes, and know how much you spend each month for your internet services, business telephone services, and website services.
You’ll also need to know the square footage of the area you use as an office, if you have one. These are all things you can write off during tax time.
Once you really start cooking and making money, you may want to think about incorporating to protect your business, or even putting yourself on payroll as an S or C corp to save on taxes. Worry about that later though! For now, just being an individual, sole proprietary is fine and you don't need to take any special action other than to add any online income to your taxes during April tax time.
17. What will I need for my home office?
In the beginning, you’ll need a reliable internet connection and a computer. I started a laptop. You may want to do the same since building up to making money can take some time, and you may be working on your commute to and from your day job until you start making enough online. Laptops are cheaper too. I think a Chromebook goes for just a few hundred dollars these days.
However, a full size computer monitor will help you be more productive.
It’s also a good idea to have a decent camera. Some mobile phones are perfectly equipped for taking snapshots that can be used to illustrate your blog posts. Having unique pictures (especially of products) will help make your website more unique, and give your brand more authority.
You might need to invest in some accounting software or other software applications to help you track your time, cash flow and investments, and you’ll probably want to invest a little bit of money in a website you can work comfortably with. I used Godaddy Bookkeeping for a while, but I use Quickbooks now.
An ergonomic computer chair is also a good idea, especially if you plan to put in many hours.
You can add more bells and whistles beyond these necessities, but for a very basic, marketing-type online business, this is all you need to get started.
18. Will I need employees?
In an online marketing business, the answer is not unless you want them. One of the beauties of running an online business is that you can do this by yourself, from home.
Of course, if you want to hire someone, you can outsource work on websites like UpWork.com or Fiverr.com. If you’re an online merchant, it might be helpful to hire someone local to help out with items like shipping, tracking inventory, or creating products.
Personally, I like the freedom of just hiring contract workers to do some specialized tasks like coding, image design, and troubleshooting. The job starts and ends, and I don't have to worry about things like paying unemployment insurance, health insurance, or worry about whether or not their work will be productive for my business.
19. What if I get started in a niche and discover that I hate it later?
The great thing about running an online business is that you’re not stuck in one spot doing something you hate. If you don’t like what you’re working on, you can switch to something you enjoy better.
When I first started niche marketing, I wrote about financial investments. It took me some time to figure out that I much prefer writing about online businesses while exposing scams and protecting others who want to work from home.
Now I run a quite a few of online businesses, each in a different niche, but I don’t feel locked down. If I decide I don’t enjoy the topic anymore, I can sell the site and start one on a topic I like better. Many times, I'll just tweak the overall site concept to include what I want to write about.
20. How do I keep from getting overwhelmed?
Depending on the type of online business you choose, you can keep your workload manageable. The type of online business I run is very simple. You find a niche you want to work in, pick a domain name, find products to talk about, start bringing traffic to your website, and work on converting traffic to sales. The rest is all consistent research and writing.
In fact, it’s so simple that at sometimes, I’ve called it underwhelming. You can run a handful of these types of websites at a time.
If, however, the idea of online marketing scares you and that makes you feel overwhelmed, here are some tips to try:
- Slow down. Even if you work really hard, it takes time to build a consistent revenue stream from an online business. Enjoy the journey.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. Online marketing can be addicting as well as stressful, and you can find yourself working into the early morning hours if you’re not careful. Take care of yourself, so you can take care of your business, too.
- Focus on just one niche until you’re confident in it, and then add to it a little bit at a time. Don't try to make 20 websites on different topics.
- Make sure you have a good support system in place.
Any nervous feelings will probably subside as you get familiar with internet businesses and how much fun they can be.
21. What is good content, and how do I produce it?
Good content is the writing that you want to feature your websites.
Generally speaking, good content is writing that sparks conversations about the products, services, or industry you’re promoting. If people like what you write or what you write about, they’ll share it. This brings more traffic to your site, which ultimately results in more sales.
To produce good content, plan to spend some time researching your niche every day and some follow-up time writing about it. As you research and write consistently, you’ll understand your niche better. This will help you write faster, but it will also help you write deeper, more meaningful posts with increased power to capture attention.
Good content doesn't have to be “the best”. It's a subjective option what's good or not. Good content just has to be unique and honest to your opinions. Good content is also simple to understand, and complete. When you write an article, think about what follow up questions people might ask. Write an article so that someone doesn't have to leave your page to go find an unanswered question. Chances are, they won't come back after that!
Check out my post about how to write effective product reviews and converting traffic to sales.
22. How much do I have to write every day?
A good rule of thumb is to write 500 to 1000 words every day for each website you’re marketing on. This cumulatively builds keywords and good content, which will raise your page rankings over time and bring in more traffic.
If you can’t write every day, try to post something in the 500-1000 word range at least three times a week. The minimum word count for a page should be about 1000 words. This FAQ is 5000 words though, and some articles on my site are more than 30,000 words! If you can't write that much to begin with, don't worry. You'll get better with practice. Here's a great guide to get you started.
23. What are common mistakes that I should avoid?
Common mistakes I see newbies make include the following:
- Giving up too soon. Every business takes time to grow, and online businesses are no exception. Give yourself and your websites at least a year.
- Trying to rush things. This means they buy expensive things they don’t need, like SEO guides, to speed up the process, but those kinds of gimmicks don’t work. The best way to make money is to work consistently to write good content and to interact with people online as much as you can.
- Focusing on website design instead of content. A beautiful website with no content can't make money. An ugly website with lots of content can definitely be profitable!
- Worrying about big websites in their niche. Established competition will always look impossible compared to a brand new website. But they took years to grow that big. They likely started out just like you
- Burning out. Spending 10 hours a day for the first three weeks is great, but you need a schedule you can keep consistently
- Writing content that's too short. Posts should be at least 1000 words. If you haven't written that much, your topic is too narrow, you aren't covering your topic completely, or it's not worth writing about
- Copying. Never copy/paste content onto your website unless it's a famous quote, or it's just a few sentences to make a point and you plan to link back to the original content
- Taking copyrighted images. Never take images unless they are marked as copyright free or fair use.
- Doing too much social media. Stick to one or two of your favorites for promotion and ignore the rest. It can be a huge time suck
- Underestimating your own potential. You absolutely have the potential to make money online, no matter your education level, race, sex, or business experience.
- Picking a niche topic because someone told them it's the “best”. Pick something you think is interesting and something you want to help people with
24. This is hard. Is there an easier way?
Sorry, but building a business from scratch is hard. If you don’t want to work, you will not be successful at internet marketing.
This is the biggest disappointment that most people inevitably realize. No money comes fast and easy, even though there are plenty of people that would like you to believe that it does.
Even if you do enjoy a short round of profits from whatever $29.95 product that Mr. Guru just released exposing the secrets of turn-key internet marketing techniques (plus free bonuses, valued at $297)..bla..bla…bla… Those profits will be short lived. I encourage you to educate yourself, and build a real business—one that can be profitable for years to come. It’ll take time, effort, and commitment, but it is possible.
25. Where can I learn more or go to get help when I’m stuck?
I’m always willing to help, too. Look for me inside the online business community. My screen name is nathaniell, and you can see if I’m there. If not, there are many other members who are ready and willing to help. I'm online basically all day (unless special circumstances come up), so you can also Tweet me or send me a message via Google+. My information is also in the contact form above.