For the past three years, I have studied successful online business models that continuously earn money for their founders. I started to track all the innovative ways the folks I admire online are making money. Over time, as it finally sunk in that the only way I would make money online was to take action, I began to implement many of these business models and methods on my own sites, including Power Achievers and other niche sites I run. This post marks the launch of a series featuring an extensive collection of lucrative business models. Each one could be the start of a business that generates a healthy, sustainable income and allows you to stop working for someone else and focus on building an enjoyable lifestyle. Each idea presented will take full advantage of online and mobile technologies.
In this series, you will discover a collection of lucrative business models that work. Successful enterprises, large and small, are implementing these approaches right now. Many making serious money online will not reveal their sites and niche, for fear of copycats who will try to take over their position in the search engines. In this series, however, I reveal example websites for each business model presented. The sites are well-established within their niche areas, constantly updating and improving their sites to maintain their market position. It would take considerable resources to compete with the sites featured. More importantly, it is my hope that this collection of business ideas will provide inspiration for your own online business venture. Along with example sites, I also provide you with the tools you would need to implement the models (be they scripts, plugins, turn-key solutions, or custom solutions.) So, let’s get started making profit online!
HOW TO CREATE VALUE[sociallocker]
All of the profitable businesses featured in this series possess a unique value proposition. This means that each business does something for its clients and visitors that no other enterprise on the Internet does. How does one create a business that uniquely satisfies the needs of customers when there is so much competition? One has to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors in your market segment. In most cases, no matter how well you research a niche there will be others already offering the same products that you plan to or similar products and services. That is a good thing because if there are others in your market space you know it is a profitable niche.
Identifying Your Unique Value Offer
Competition is good, because it means a real, paying market exists. You just want to figure out a unique angle (also known as niche or the long tail) within your sector where the competition is weak enough that you can rise to the top of the search engine rankings for many long tail keywords (phrases your customers use to search for what you provide.) In online terms, weak competition has more to do with the optimization of online presence (backlinks from high ranking, relative sites, use of key phrases in titles, description tags and in content,) than the size of the business. The upshot is you can outrank a behemoth like Amazon for some niches. Niche selection is part art, part science, and part gut instinct. There are several excellent quality guides online that show you how to go about it, including here and here.
That means the real challenge, when entering a crowded market, is to stand out from the crowd. The way you do that is by studying the top competitors in your market. You can begin to do this systematically with products like Market Samurai or the free (with registration) tool Rank Checker, available at http://tools.seobook.com/rank-checkers/. Glenn Allsop at Viperchill has an excellent post on how you go about learning more than anyone else knows about your niche in 45 minutes and going on to dominate it.
Starting this process can be as simple as opening a spreadsheet or table in a word processing document and creating two columns: one called What’s Hot and one called What’s Not. In the column marked What’s Hot, list all of the good things your competitors are doing. What kinds of products (and product variations) do they offer, how are their sites laid out, where do they connect with followers, who links to them, where are they being discussed, and so forth. In the column marked What’s Not, list what seems to be missing from your market. What is not being offered. For example if your competitors only sell books, then maybe you should offer videos or workbooks or mindmaps or podcasts or a new app, software, web service, etc.) What topics are not covered well? Cover them comprehensively and insert yourself in the conversation. What could be improved about the user experience on their websites? Find out what they miss or their mistakes.
From this list, your goal is to surpass all the hot things and create what’s unique in your market. The good thing is this does not require you to invent new products, services or applications from the ground up. If you do, that is fine, but what is usually required is making an incremental improvement that sets you apart and makes you look like a genius to your market. An important side benefit of directly identifying what your market is missing or does not do well, is that you can create some terrific sales page and marketing materials. Your sales pages will reveal exactly how your product, service and website differs from the competition.
Moreover, you can strengthen your unique value proposition by also creating a strong brand identity, logo and slogan. The public should begin to equate quality and your brand with being the go-to destination for the products and services that you offer.
HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS
Traffic generation and increased engagement with your visitors are the most valuable things to focus on after establishing your site. Initially, the way you do this is by building strategic partnerships both online and off-line. You should also think about building a lead capture system and regularly follow up with site visitors. This can be accomplished by capturing their e-mail addresses. This can be as laid-back as adding an RSS feed that has e-mail subscription capabilities. (Google Feedburner is an excellent free tool you can use). Alternatively, you could pay for a monthly mailing list service with companies like MailChimp or Aweber, which offer fully featured autoresponder services.
So how do you increase traffic to your site? If you have a blog or are running your site as a blog, then this is easy. Posting new content invites search engines to crawl and spider your site. Search engines like this as it keeps their search results updated and relevant. Be sure to put a sitemap.xml file in the root of your site. Businesses also build traffic organically by optimizing their websites for search engines (referred to as Search Engine Optimization or SEO).
SEO includes having complete meta tags (title, description, and keywords). It also includes web pages with clear hierarchies and page layouts (indicated by heading tags and typographic elements like boldface and italics). Optimization also means focusing each page of your site around select keywords. In addition, write each page so that it is clear both to human visitors and search engine robots what your site is about.
SEO is also about off-site factors, like encouraging other sites to link to you because of the novelty and usefulness of your site or the quality of your content. It also means building backlinks to your website or to URLs that point to your website. To the leading search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo! such backlinks are like a vote for your site, indicating its importance and relevance for your topics. Offline factors can also increase search engine rankings. Examples include having a variety of backlinks from different kinds of sites (blogs or other articles on other sites, press releases, forums, comments, article directories, video directories, document sites, slide websites, and the like). Ensure these links are relevant to your niche and high quality (aged domains with lots of backlinks and traffic themselves). Other strategies that help you to be everywhere online and grow your business include using podcasting and creating apps.
More Traffic Strategies
There are a number of additional strategies to get more traffic and customers to grow your business. For example, you can purchase traffic using pay per click (PPC) networks like Google Adwords, Facebook ads, or the ad networks on Bing and Yahoo (Microsoft Adcenter). You can also increase your backlinks and online presence by being an active participant in your online community, making guest posts or articles on other, complementary sites, participating in forums, and leaving comments on other sites. Another traffic generating strategy is to use social media and social bookmarking.
Social media includes maintaining a presence on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to build a loyal community of customers and visitors who follow and interact with your site and brand. Social marketing involves the use of sites like Digg, StumbleUpon and Pinterest as additional avenues to share your site and content with interested visitors and potential clients. There are tools that can help you automate a part of your social marketing efforts. If you use WordPress, there are plugins that integrate your site with Twitter and Facebook. Integration makes the latest posts from your site show up on the networks or vice versa. Other tools like OnlyWire (which also operates as a standalone service), IM Automator, and SocialMonkee automatically share new posts from your site to all of the social bookmarking sites to which you belong.
A less expensive alternative to traditional PPC models like Google Adwords utilizes social networking to drive traffic (instead of paying for ad spots next to search engine results). Three such services include OutBrain Amplify, Nrelate and VirURL. They were launched recently and could be viable PPC alternatives for smaller enterprises priced out of paid traffic. However, these services are new, and some argue that the quality of traffic from some of the new services is not as good as traffic from Adwords, despite its comparatively high cost. Be sure to do your due diligence before spending money on any service. Research the companies online and perform tests with a small, minimum ad budget. Then track statistics to see how the traffic is performing for you. These services operate like Google’s contextual ad network (an option in Adwords where you can set your ads to show up directly on other sites rather than search engine results). Getting your ads on highly trafficked, highly relevant sites could be much less expensive than PPC based on search.
If you are not directly purchasing traffic, which can be quite effective and immediate, but hugely expensive, then growing your business through organic traffic from search engines, social marketing, or interacting with your community can take several months. It takes time to get all of your data on your site, get noticed by search engines, indexed and ranked so that you show up in search results. The research cited in a white paper by eDirectory.com notes that for those businesses that actively pursue strategies to increase site awareness, such as making strategic industry partnerships increasing brand awareness, and enhancing site content and features, then financial success can follow within 6 months of your business launch.
HOW TO MONETIZE YOUR SITE
The most valuable commodity you can have when you are operating online is traffic. Traffic is what allows you to monetize your website. This occurs directly by making sales or indirectly by promoting affiliate products or sending visitors to advertisers. The more visitors you get also makes your site more attractive to potential advertisers or others who might want to purchase leads from you. If you have traffic, then you possess a commodity that others want. That means money for you.
What is evident from studying successful online business models is that businesses monetize their site in multiple ways. It is best to avoid being dependent on one sole source of revenue for your business. Think about multiple direct and indirect income streams. Direct income can come from sales of physical or digital products or packaged services, fees for consulting or customization, collecting monthly membership or listing fees, and usage fees for accessing your site-based services. Indirect income can flow from advertisements (ad networks or direct ad sales on your site. It can also come from affiliate promotion (selling the products of others through links that have a unique code that allow you to earn a commission from sales and actions taken by customers referred from your site). Another source of indirect income can come from ads in your extended market campaigns in other channels, such as YouTube. The large variety of ways that the successful companies and entrepreneurs mentioned in this book are generating revenue from their online and offline businesses can be surprising.
I hope you have found this ultimate guide to online business creation useful in launching or expanding your own business. Stay tuned for the rest of this series, which will feature business ideas, examples, resources and inspiration for your own successful online business launch.[/sociallocker]