Friday, October 05, 2007

Starting a Green Business Online- free advice

I had breakfast with a friend who mentioned that his wife has started a great new business, importing a novel "green" product which I think should have strong appeal in the US marketplace. Being an overly enthusiastic techie, business-guy, and "save-the-earth" type, I gave him an earful of free unsolicited advice.

Here's the thoughts that I had.

1. Pick your domain very carefully and with an eye on search engine optimization, a second eye on people and their ability to correctly type in URLs, and a third eye on messaging (fortunately, the toxins in our environment means many of us have mutated to three eyed beasts). The choice of domains will do more to determine your search engine success and messaging than anything else. If you are Amazon, you can afford to educate the public who you are. Otherwise, pick a domain that has your keywords in it and which messages somehow. BTW - Time4Learning is only a partial success on this count. Say an A-. Some of my favorites sites and blogs in terms of naming are: Web-Home-School, Todays Learners, Learning Games for Kids, Reading Skills Pyramid, Parenting in an electronic age and SpellingCity .

2. Don't spend much money up front on a website. Instead, blog it. Install wordpress (it comes on many sites ready to install with a click) or use blogger (which can be positioned onto your domain easily). The process is simple. A - Pick and register your domain (I use or for this - under $10 and easy). B - Get some pictures and key messages and topics ready. C- have a webdesigner with blog experience and in 3 hours together, pick and install a template, customize it, and get trained on how to post. Be sure to get the mods on wordpress that make the page name & URL reflect your articles topic, not just the site name and some codes (This is key for SEO). In fact, I would just use blogger to avoid this complexity.

3. Write blog articles to cover the key issues. Fill in the profile with how you want to be contacted Don't use your home number - use a line that can be turned off!). Write a blog article with your pricing. Write another on product issues. Write another on Green stuff. Etc etc . Write articles on when you first got interested in the environment. Write about stylish clothes. Basically, write a post every few days. Or every day. Keep them short, professional, on or around the topic etc

4. Revisit the blog structure monthly. By this, I mean the menus and key message. Easy navigation to key sections is critical. To get a sense of this, look at how we keep moving these two blogs around. Karate at 50 and Moms Homeschooling. Nobody gets it right at first. Just adjust it slightly every month based on what you're learning.

5. Socialize and promote online. Alot. Find forums that are relevant and join them and participate. It's your signature line with your key message and a link that is your marketing. Find communities and blogs of people with similiar interests and get to know them. Write about them. Spend $1K on promotion getting people to blog about your products. Think about using the blog to market.

6. Once you get going, learn to track your traffic (thru your hoster or feedburner or google's webmaster tools or google analytics).

7. When you get going, learn to use the social bookmarks (technorati, delicious) and social networks (linked in, myspace, etc).

8 Keep building you understanding about keyword mechanics, SEO onpage issues, keyword volumes that are relevant to you, and the leading sites in your sectors.
Build relationships with them. I, for one, have an intimate relationship with the keyword "homeschool curriculum". I know who it likes best and why. I have relationships with the other leading sites. And homeschool curriculum likes me too!!!! ;->

9 Someday, build a regular website. Or don't. Blogs are flexible and powerful as content mgt systems that there's no reason to keep looking.

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