I have been involved in online business for 8 years and the biggest lesson I learn from my experience is that, whether you like it or not, you need to understand SEO to a certain level in order to minimize your failure rate.
You could hire an SEO professional to do that for you, but there is one reason why you should understand SEO – at least in making sure that there is enough demand for your product and service in your target market, and when people are looking for something, your business is among the first that they discover.
Throughout my career, I’ve made numerous mistakes, and the causes are quite similar: My target market is too general – given the niches I chose, I should optimize my websites for local markets.
A case study: My online store failure
Please allow me to share my newbie mistake in starting a natural treatment online store. Product sourcing is via dropshipping, and my supplier was one of the best in the niche (it still is today).
There’s nothing wrong with the product; there’s also nothing wrong with the on-site SEO of the website (I self-taught SEO, and optimize the site myself – largely due to the lack of budget.) The traffic is decent, but there’s one major problem: The conversion rate is very, very low. In other words, there are plenty of visitors, but none of them buy.
I ended up closing the website, after only selling $20-worth of product in 6 months.
Here are the lessons I learned from my failure that I’m sure will help you avoid wasting your time and money in starting up an online store.
Validate your market
My biggest mistake that caused me losing time and money is the fact that I don’t validate my market well enough.
I do my research quite extensively, using keyword research. I use what is now called Google AdWords Keyword Planner to identify my target keywords and the volume of search. I also use Google Trends to see interest over time for my target keywords.
What I failed to do was to research my competitors thoroughly. I knew the market was there, but I failed to discover that the main keyword I target (it was “natural remedies” because my online store is on natural treatment niche) is a fairly difficult keyword to rank for.
The lesson learned: I should create a seed list and use it to go long tail with my keywords and focused on a more niched market.
Instead of targeting a tough keyword like “natural remedies” I should aim to rank for the long tail keyword variations – such as “natural remedies for eczema” or “natural remedies for sinusitis”. It’s making more sense to get ranked in the top 3 on dozens, hundreds even thousands of long tail variations, than trying to get into the first page of SERP for a main keyword.
Selling to as many markets as possible is great – if you have the resources to do so. But selling to a market that is too huge and/or general, the idea of competing with the established players in the market is a bad idea. That what I exactly did: My store was in a somewhat niche market, but there are plenty of established players in the market. I just don’t have the resources to compete with them.
Did you know why Apple wins big time when they introduce iPod? It’s because there wasn’t a single competitor in the niche. You see, MP3 players are not a new thing. However, those are initially aimed at tech-savvy consumers. Companies that make MP3 players at that time are competing in the “who has the most feature” game.
Apple, on the other hand, sees a gap in the market: Non-tech savvy consumers who just want to keep their favorite music on a portable device. So, they capitalize the niche by positioning iPod as a music player that everyone can easily use.
The lesson learned: Focus on a niche and be the authority in it – starting from your content.
My target market is so confusing. The truth is, I don’t have a target market. I always think that I should cater global market – a mistake if you want to promote products, especially related to wellness.
Identify a target market right from the early age of your startup, and focus your effort on local SEO.
The lesson learned: Target your local market first. You can always aim for a wider market when the time comes.
Make sure you know what you are doing with your SEO. You can’t afford to make any mistakes with your optimization endeavor. I’ve learn the hard way that the costs of repairing it is far more expensive than the costs for making the silly mistakes.
If you still think that you could use some help, I recommend you to consider hiring a local SEO specialist. Their expertise can help you in getting your website found via various services, such as content creation, link development, and SEO data analysis.