Fast Track Guide: Planning Your Digital Business
Marketer Napoleon Hill once said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Many people have great ideas for starting up their own business. However, many of them do not have a practical plan in place that can help them succeed financially.
This is particularly true of online businesses. It is now so easy to start an Internet-based business that even people with no computer skills can create a store and start selling online in minutes. These sites termed e-commerce aggregators, give access to a range of tools. Top sites include Gumroad, Shopify, and Bigcommerce.
However, just because you can start a store so quickly, does not mean you should. It’s important to look before you leap. This is because a store and a business are two different things. It takes time and effort to build a real business. You don’t want to waste any time on false steps.
The statistics of the Small Business Administration (SBA) in the US show that 50% of all businesses will fail after the first year and up to 80% will fail after the fourth year. It would be a shame to put in lots of work on your new business and not succeed.
Fortunately, there are ways you can set yourself up in business in such a way as to give you a much greater chance of starting and growing a solid business.
One of the main areas where new business owners fall is in not doing enough research to make sure that they have a viable business within a viable market. Researching from the outset will help you determine if your business will be a paying one, and what kinds of products you should consider providing.
Let’s get started by looking at what area or niche you would like to work in.
Choosing your niche is one of the most important decisions you make in your business. You need to pick a niche that interesting to you and it has the potential to profit as well.
What is a Niche?
A niche is a particular topic or area of interest within a broad market or industry. As a relatively small business, you do not want to sell a little bit of everything like Amazon, a mega store.
You want to sell more like a specialty store/shop, with a narrow focus such as Best Buy, Staples, or AutoZone. Online, this type of business/store is usually termed an authority site or niche business. This narrower focus enables you to attract the right audience for your business, while it also increases your chance of making a profit.
Online niche marketing works for two reasons. The first reason is that people interested in your niche are actively looking for what you have to sell. The second reason is that your position as a niche retailer means you provide products and solutions that are in high demand.
Setting Your Goals
Another important aspect of successful niche marketing is setting your business goal from the start. How much money do you want to make? Will it be just a small bit of extra money to help pay a few bills? Is your goal to replace your day job?
Your goal may have a strong influence on the niche you choose. For example, the pet industry brings in more than $65 billion annually in the US alone. If you love pets, this could be a chance to earn money doing something you love.
Choose Your Niche
When you choose your niche, pick something you are already interested in and know something about. For example, you could start from scratch with consumer electronics, which you know is always going to be a high-paying niche with high-ticket items.
If electronics aren’t your thing, your lack of knowledge will start to show. Your lack of passion and expertise will be obvious compared to websites, blogs, and eCommerce stores created by gadget enthusiasts.
There are several basic questions to ask about the niche you are thinking of working in, and research steps you can take to confirm viable options, which meet your interest needs as well as income requirements.
Let’s look at the questions you’ll need to answer before we get into the research aspect. They include:
- Is it evergreen? Is the niche broad enough to create and support interest throughout the year? Is the niche based on long-term or sequential needs?
Parenting is a good example. At each stage of childhood, parents have a variety of questions and issues. There are also seasonal issues to address. This means that parents will need advice for many years and as well as year-round.
- Is there a built-in urgency regarding the niche? In other words, is your target audience eager or even desperate for solutions to their problems related to that niche?
If you think of pets, for example, then dogs, the sub-niche of dog training will always be in high demand as frustrated owners try to get their dogs to sit, stay, and not destroy the house or go to the bathroom everywhere.
- Are there any existing pay-per-click ads on the topic/niche?
Pay-per-click (PPC) ads are a popular way for online marketers to attract customers. Google AdWords is the premier network. If you see a variety of ads on your niche topic, it is a good indicator that the niche is quite possibly profitable and has enough people interested in the topic to support your business.
Answering these questions is important to develop your business. From choosing the niche to planning and creating products/services, your business success will hinge on the accuracy of the in-depth research you do now.
Now, let’s look into researching these questions.
Google is the king of search engines, so it is important to pay attention to what they are doing in terms of online searches and ads. Google’s searches can be a combination of general and local results, that is, local businesses.
If we search for dog training, we see 5 ads about the topic, so we know it is a popular one. The fact that businesses are running ads is also a good hint that the niche is going to be a profitable one.
Here is an example of an ad, and a marketing best practice.
The free PDF in this ad will entice those who click to give their email address. This means they will be put on an email marketing list. Then this business will be able to market to those subscribers over and over again. Ten Tips to train your puppy is something almost every new puppy owner could use. The word experts and the phrase “the seeing eye dog way” suggest you will get real results from this guide.
Let’s take a look at how to do this…
- Run a search from the Google home page.
The Google homepage will give you autocomplete results, which are their guesses as to what you might be looking for. Consider these as useful keyword research. They are what people interested in your niche will type into a search engine to find something that will meet their needs.
- Look at the Related Searches suggestions.
Google will also show other searches similar to the one you have made. Some will be local, others more general.
- Search Google Trends for your niche to see how much interest there is for it.
If you look at dog training, you see an almost steady level of interest, with 100 being very popular and 75 quite popular.
Below, you can also see the countries with the most interest.
Related topics can also be identified, as seen here.
Rising search trends can help you see what is currently popular with your potential niche audience as well as topics/niches that are falling out of favor.
All of this data can help you determine just how active your niche is going to be, and be part of your keyword research and overall marketing plan for your business.
- Dig Deeper with Spyfu
Spyfu can give you an incredible amount of information about your niche and important keywords related to it. It has a free and paid version. The free one will give you plenty of information to get started.
Go to: https://www.spyfu.com and enter a keyword. Let’s use dog training again. Look on the Keyword Overview tab. The results look like this:
There are 49,500 local-based searches (like dog training NYC) and 100,500 general searches. The ads get a clickthrough rate of 2%, which means 2 out of every 100 people who see the ad click on it, which is about average.
As we just mentioned, chances are if someone is running an ad about the keyword, they have to be making money from it.
The ranking difficulty is a number Spyfu allocates, based on a scale of 1 to 100.
Ranking difficulty refers to your chances of getting into the top search engine results pages for organic search, that is, the listings which are not ads. As Spyfu states, their ranking “takes into account the strength of the domains, on-page signals like “keyword in the title,” and the number of .gov and .edu domains” linking to your site.
Those domain types are considered more reliable and unbiased. They, therefore, give you more Search Engine Optimization (SEO) credit with Google than .com sites, for example. This is good to know when you are planning where to market your business in the future.
The cost per click data shows us that the average cost per click is $1.40. Any company paying that much for each click would have to be sure they were going to make a good profit from the sale.
The monthly cost per click is $31,700. Again, we can guess this is a profitable niche if companies are willing to spend that much on advertising for their products and services.
The statistics show how many advertisers have marketed using this keyword in the last 12 months:
So, if you were selling dog training services online, for example, you know you are competing with at least 59 other people or companies.
Looking at the next section of the page, you will see their recommendations for good keyword buys, if you were going to advertise.
These words can also be good keywords/phrases to use when planning content for your site or blog.
In the next, section you will see related keywords and rank.
This is a quick overview of pay per click possibilities and competitiveness and shows this is a paying market. Be sure to use these keywords in your marketing copy if appropriate.
In the next section, you will see the best-performing ads.
You can imitate them or try to come up with something even better when you are writing your marketing copy, or if you ever start to create your PPC campaigns.
If you keep on going down the page, you will learn more about top sites, their backlinks, their history in terms of page rank positions, number 1 for the top spot on Google, to 10, the last spot on the first page. Your goal will always be to try to get to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs).
So far, we have more than enough information to be certain this is a paying market with eager customers. So, let’s look a bit deeper at keywords for this niche.
While you are researching the niche, take some time to find keywords related to your niche to help you plan your content for your future website and marketing material. We’ve seen how powerful the wording of ads can be in making a sale and discovered top words and phrases related to dog training while we’ve been analyzing the niche.
Those who advertise on AdWords use the keyword planner. It gives an idea of the search term, number of searches per month, and related words if you click the More like this button.
Google is the top search engine, so you can predict these numbers will be reasonably accurate. Google owns 70% of the search market; add another 30% to these numbers to account for searches run on Yahoo! and Bing.
SEMRush has extensive reports in its free and paid versions. Its results might be a bit different from other tools you’ve used but should give you plenty of data to decide if this is a paying niche and what the top keywords are.
It will show you the number of searches, the number of webpages, the cost per click average, and how much competition there is for your search term. It will also show you the geographical distribution of interest. For example, the top 3 countries are the US, Austria, and Hungary.
You will see the Related Keywords report and market data about each one.
Click the Export tab on the right to save the information. Use it to help plan your content and marketing.
Other tools to try include:
You can use these to dig deeper to find hidden treasure in your niche.
Now that you have done your niche and keyword research, it is time to do product research to decide what to sell.
In terms of product research, there are several places to check to see what is selling as well as their price points.
Create a spreadsheet of top URLs for your search term. Start with the organic, that is, non-paid results.
Next, look at the ads. What are they offering, what are the terms of their deals, and what is the most important information in the ads that are going to attract a customer?
Once you have analyzed the ads, go to the URL for each website. Copy and paste the URL rather than click on the link, so the business does not get charged! Compare rates, facilities, and so on.
Yahoo! and Bing
When you are finished at Google, run the same search at Yahoo! and Bing. Look at the organic and PPC ads. Analyze the products. Also, note the SERP’s placements. Are they similar or different to what Google has?
Check the autocomplete suggestions at Yahoo! and Bing.
In Yahoo!, the top of the page is all ads, followed by local results and then organic searches.
Even though their ad network is run by Bing, the results are very different. It looks more like the old-fashioned way Google AdWords used to look, text ads on a plain white page.
Check the related searches suggestions:
Notice the word collars – another item people would be willing to buy.
In Bing, look at the ads, local results, and related searches.
Keep digging until you have a clear sense of the products and services that people want and expect as well as what they are willing to pay for them.
Notice the last term, dog-training leash. You don’t just have to sell training services, you can sell items that aid trainers and owners, such as collars and leashes. Bing lists products in their search results as well:
This is handy too because it shows you actual prices as well.
Products you can sell
Now that you have an idea of what is selling well, you’re probably excited at the prospect of getting out there and making your first sale. However, you might hesitate if you don’t have a product of your own yet.
But not to worry. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel. There are several great opportunities to sell well online even if you don’t have your product. These opportunities can keep the money rolling in until you are ready to launch your product.
Affiliate marketing allows you to earn a commission on products and services that have already been created, and in many cases are tried and tested. It would take a lot of time, effort, and money to develop a product like a dog training video series, or a dog training collar, from scratch. But there are many companies with affiliate programs who will pay you every time you make a sale from your special link.
Apply for the program, create your links, and post them at your site, blog, or social media account. Every time you make a sale, you will get a commission, usually paid directly into your bank account or PayPal account.
Affiliate marketplaces make it even easier to sell products and services related to your niche. There are many sellers in the marketplace. You just need one account to work with dozens of companies and hundreds of products.
The top affiliate marketplaces for tangible/physical products are:
- Affiliates (Cj.com)
- Share a Sale
Create an account. Start searching for products related to your niche. Apply for the program as needed-some companies have certain specific criteria before they allow you to work with them. Create your links, and get paid at the end of each month, with one check or direct deposit from all of the companies you’ve sold for.
In terms of digital goods, the top affiliate sites are:
For each of the marketplaces, run a search for your niche and see what appears. Let’s look at Cj.com.
Here we see sites we can sell dog-training products for. The second one, Cesarsway, is the dog training material by the “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan, so you know it is going to be a high-quality, popular product.
Baxter and Boo sell more than 20,000 different pet products.
Pet Street Mall also offers a range of pet products. You can get an idea of earning from the entries next to each vendor.
The EPC means earnings per click. The 3 months is an average of how much the average affiliate has earned in the last 3 months from the links they have created, and the 7 day is the weekly average. A 3-month EPC of $60.09 and a 7-day EPC of $25.36 translates to an earning of $2 to $3 per day. You won’t get rich, but you don’t have to do anything risky either. All you have to do is create and post a link. The more links you post, the more chances you have of earning a commission.
ClickBank commissions are higher than the 10% to 15% that physical product sellers give as commission. The commission for digital goods ranges from 50% to 100% depending on the vendor and marketplace. Let’s look at a couple of listings.
The list price of this item is $47 and it has a 75% commission, which means you will earn around $30 to $35 per sale.
Here’s another product at a similar price point and commission level.
Note that this product has a Gravity of 8.67. Gravity is a ranking system created by Clickbank to show which products are hot. The higher the number, the more sellers there are making money from this item.
Amazon also has an affiliate program, known as the Associate’s program. Amazon is the most popular shopping site in the world, with more than $1 trillion in sales, (yes, trillion!) in 2016. You can tap into their marketing success by joining the program and creating links to top-selling products.
Start by looking for Best Sellers:
Puppy pee pads appear twice, #3 and #14. At around $18 per pack, with owners needing a regular supply of them, you could earn a steady stream of income from that product alone. But of course, there are hundreds of others to choose from.
Dog training shows these search results, among others
The word Sponsored shows that these companies are advertising their products at high price points like $129.95. A 10% commission would be $12.99 just for creating one link and driving traffic to it. Amazon also lets you choose by category.
This range of products shows you that this is a profitable niche.
The golden banner of bestsellers shows top products, which can be helpful when you wish to decide what to promote.
Don’t have a website yet? No worries! Amazon will let you create your store, called an aStore, based around your niche. Once you have become an Associate, go into your account dashboard. Click Product Linking and choose aStore at the bottom of the menu.
You will see a screen that says Manage your stores. Click the button to add an aStore.
Create a tracking ID.
The default will be your account number but add a new tracking ID specific to each store. This is helpful if you decide to create other stores in the future.
Since this is going to be our dog-training store, we will try to include dog training in our URL. This helps your customer know what to expect. Click to add a new Store Tracking ID.
It will either tell you your choice is available or it will tell you it is not and make suggestions. Choose your favorite suggestion. Then click Continue.
You will then see this page:
You can customize your store in several ways. If you are in a hurry, let Amazon choose the products for you.
First, set your store settings.
If you don’t have a website of your own, then don’t use the link back to the site URL. Enable the “About” page, so your aStore can serve as your site. Write a description of your business and goals for the About page.
Next, add your first category page to your store.
Click on the link.
You will see this on the right-hand side of the screen.
Add individual products if you wish, or toggle to add products by Amazon category. We are going to add products by category, and so we will choose Pet Supplies and then dogs.
These are some of the dog sub-niches:
We chose Training and Behavior Aids, which also has sub-sub-niches.
You can drill down further if you like, or you can choose all subcategories. You can sort by keywords too within the categories if you want to be precise, like the word puppy, for puppy training aids only.
Click Save to save your choices.
Now you will see the outline of your store.
You can edit it if you wish. When you are done, go to the bottom and click to continue.
On the next page, you can customize your store colors using pre-set themes and name your store.
Choose to place the menu on the left or right and the items you want to list.
You will get a commission on everything you sell, so you have nothing to lose by checking all the boxes.
At the bottom of the page, you will see the Finish & get the link button. Next to it, you will also see a Preview Store link.
Click to preview the store to make sure it looks the way you wish.
This is what the top part of the store looks like, with plenty of bestselling items, a menu of sub-niches on the left, and links for customers to buy the products.
Go back if you need to make any changes. Otherwise, hit Finish and get the link so you can start promoting your store. Total time to create all this: About 5 minutes even if you are a complete beginner.
Create a simple link and share it everywhere, your emails, social media, and more.
You can also embed your store in an existing website page by using a code that looks something like this.
<iframe src=”http://astore.amazon.com/StoreTrackingID” width=”90%” height=”4000″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”></iframe>
USING YOUR RESEARCH TO PLAN YOUR BUSINESS
Now that you’ve done your research and dipped your toe into e-commerce with the help of Amazon stores, it’s time to use your research to plan your business.
Hopefully, you chose a paying niche on the first attempt, but if not, go back and repeat the steps until you find a clear winner.
Once you have, be sure you take detailed notes and make lists of the data you have collected, such as:
- Price points
- Organic SERP URLs
- PPC URLs and keywords from their successful ads
- Keywords and phrases people use to search for products in this niche
Use this information to start planning your content. If you don’t have a website, don’t worry. Use your store while you get your website up and running.
Your site or blog will need to have interesting content related to popular keywords in your niche. Plan articles and product reviews of items you sell as an affiliate.
Your Email Marketing
In one example, you saw a business offered a free PDF on puppy training tips. An email marketing list can be one of the best ways to market to people in your niche. You could offer the 10 tips in 1 PDF, or break it up into 10 emails in what is termed an course. The ecourse is a better option these days because:
a-the subscribers have more time to get to know you
b-you can put your affiliate links in every one of those 10 emails.
Other Forms of Marketing
Your niche-related keywords and content will work well in a variety of formats. Plan to offer a range of content types, such as:
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
All these will help create the impression you are an expert in your niche and keep your target audience coming back for more.
Be sure to post and share content at appropriate sites. For example, post your videos on YouTube and embed your video into your website site. Post your audio files and podcasts at SoundCloud.
Post your images on Instagram and Pinterest. Post images, memes, and videos on Facebook. Tweet about any new piece of content you add to your site. Just be sure your keyword all your titles and descriptions to make it easy for your target audience to find you.
Research doesn’t sound too exciting when you are eager to start your own business, but it can save you countless hours of wasted time and frustration. The research outlined in this report will help you determine if you have selected a niche that is not only popular but pays well too. Use what you have learned to plan your site, content, products to sell, and places to market.