It has never been so easy to set up your own website – but generating your main income online remains challenging.
While there are now myriad tools for non-techies to build a website from scratch, even generating traffic, let alone revenues, is an arduous, time-consuming process.
Buying a website
Fortunately, you can fast forward beyond the tricky formative phase by buying an existing website.
This way you inherit a domain with the fundamentals in place: the site architecture, content and possibly services like an e-commerce facility; domain authority; recurring traffic and possibly revenues; and potentially some number of (ideally, but rarely, paying) subscribers or members.
Of course, this is initially a more expensive route to owning a web domain. You’re paying for the years and cash invested by the outgoing owner to put those assets in place.
However, since websites don’t generally come with, or need, premises or staff, then they’re still often much cheaper than bricks-and-mortar businesses.
Indeed, a website can cost as little as a few thousand rand. Those generating significant revenues – generally those selling physical goods and popular online services – can cost considerably more.
The merits of being lean and agile
Are you a small operation with modest revenues?
If you’re paying for office space, then you may wish to consider whether you could tolerate working from home. In the online economy, such a move can slash your operating costs without compromising your operational effectiveness.
Even if you have staff, technology has matured to a point where remote working is now very doable, while the Covid-19 lockdown has accelerated the trend. If you have any concerns about the productivity of dispersed teams, just look up GitLab, 10up and Automattic – all thriving businesses with fully remote workforces.
Websites, of course, operate round the clock, even while web admins sleep. This is one reason to pay for skills on a per-job/project basis rather than hiring permanent employees.
That hiring coders, copywriters and web designers through platforms like Upwork, Freelancer.com or PeoplePerHour.com minimises your recurring costs is also invaluable if you are generating only modest revenues through affiliate marketing or display advertising.
User experience and domain authority
Web development is a fast-moving field with applications generally improved continuously, rather than periodically, as was once the case.
This ‘DevOps’ philosophy is worth emulating as much as your resources allow.
Continuously tweaking the site to improve domain authority and the user experience includes tasks such as reducing page load times, eliminating 404s and mobile optimisation.
Optimizing your on-page SEO, while an ever-evolving science, remains underpinned by well written, well researched content, appropriate use of keywords throughout the page, and a judicious combination of internal and external links.
A link should always add value to a user or, in the case of facts and figures, credit sources.
You can’t really explain every single topic or fact that you reference, so sometimes you might point the reader to an authoritative source if you think they might want to know more.
Having strong images can make a world of difference. You can often find free high-quality images to meet your purpose via Wikimedia and free stock image websites, but it’s worth buying some image credits from a premium platform like iStock or Shutterstock for those occasions where you can’t.
Finally, it’s all too tempting to maximise every square centimetre of your ‘real estate’, but beware of how off-putting cluttered sites are to users.
Running an e-commerce website
If you’re in the market for an ecommerce business, then internet shopping giants like Takealot.com cast a long shadow.
However, Scalefast, an e-commerce solution provider, has offered six tips for competing against market leaders like Amazon, which is also rapidly growing its market share in South Africa.
Noting that “Amazon has deliberately made it difficult for consumers to distinguish one brand from another”, the post suggests small operators can stand out by forging a distinctive brand.
In lieu of trying to compete on price – nigh on impossible – this could mean offering unique products that are hard to find elsewhere, including limited-quantity or collector’s items. Demonstrating your expertise in your chosen niche, through how you handle customer queries and your website content, helps too.
This also ties into another Scalefast tip: a relentless focus on user experience.
Website owners are also advised to offer free shipping. In South Africa this means setting thresholds that are at least comparably as generous as Takealot’s delivery costs.
Finally, rewarding regular customers with special offers, discounts and bonuses can lead to customer retention rates exceeding 90 percent.