The Newbie’s Guide to Starting an Online Business Platform – Tips from the Founders of IRL

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This post is sponsored by Karuna. The IRL team would like to thank you for your support 🙂

Starting an online business isn’t easy (trust us, we’ve been working on this site for about a year now). If you have no experience developing a business online, it’s daunting.

What do you do first? How do you even start?

Of course, we here at IRL are always willing to teach, so we thought we’d share our own experience of building IRL which hopefully, will be helpful for you.

Without further ado, here are a few basic things newbies to online business should know,

1. Research, research, research

…and then research some more. If you want to make your business a success, you should be doing this even before you develop a plan.

Research about what you ask? Well in IRL’s case, we needed to research everything. We needed to find out whether Malaysians actually were interested to read personal stories, who our biggest competitors were, and also what were the current online trends, etc.

From our experience, make sure you research these things for your own business:

  1. Your market/ target audience (who will you be reaching online? The public? Other businesses? Investors?)
  2. Your product (what are you selling? Who is your customer base? How’s your supply/production line?)
  3. Advertising (How will your customers find you online? Where will you feature your site/products?)

For IRL, we were lucky. We managed to get in touch with a great web developer, Karuna, who advised us on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Essentially, it’s the process of optimising your website to maximise organic traffic from search engines, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Now, when someone searches “In real life” on Google, we’re on the first page of the list! That’s great for growing organic traffic through simple keyword searches.

2. Design a website that is user friendly

If you’re going to conduct your business online, there’s no doubt about it – you need to have a great website.

Establishing a presence online is important for so many reasons. It’s where your customers can find more information about your product. It’s also where you can establish credibility via testimonials and product/ service reviews, and/or convert a sale from your traffic.

For IRL, we are exclusively an online business, so we knew we wanted a great website with good user experience. We spent weeks on the design, coming up with the site template and logos.

We wanted IRL to be different from our competitors, so there were a lot of customised features. None of us had any experience with website design, so we relied on Karuna to help design the features we wanted on our site.

I’ll never forget the day when we spent 10 hours straight, discussing the site’s visuals and functions. But it was worth it because in the end, we managed to create the website we envisioned.

The bottom line is, website design is important. Make sure you spend time designing the website and perfecting the look and feel. More importantly, find a web developer who can help you realise that vision and ensure that the site runs smoothly without bugs.

Here’s another thing you should do for your online business…

3. Advertise on social media

It’s no secret that social media is where most people spend their time online nowadays.

Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or other types of platforms – chances are, your target market will be on one of them.

Advertising on social media is a great way to address a larger pool of people within a short period of time.

When IRL started, we expanded our traffic by promoting our articles on Facebook. We still do in fact – we get a lot of our viewers from social media.  

When you’re first starting out, social media is one of the best places to advertise. Since they have such a wide user base, you’ll be able to reach out to your target audience through a customised advertising campaign.

The process can be a little complicated, which is why you may need a little guidance. If you really have no experience in this field, it’s best to hire a team of experienced social media marketers.  

Karuna offers a social media marketing service, which can help promote your business on social media.

Also, one other thing you shouldn’t forget is…

4. Have good copywriting

Coming from an editor, many people dismiss this. They think that copywriting is something that doesn’t need to be prioritised.

However, copywriting plays a huge role in your online presence. When users come to your site, you only have one chance to create a good impression.

Good copywriting will create a great image for your brand. This helps build customer confidence and contributes to user experience. After all, the less time your audience spends correcting your grammar, the more time for them to be focused on your product.

But good copywriting doesn’t just mean having good grammar – having an effective copy means that your site is able to communicate your brand and product information to your customers. It also converts potential customers to paying customers, thereby increasing your sales.

For IRL, I worked together with Karuna to come up with the appropriate copy for the site. Since IRL would be a collection of stories from everyday Malaysians, we agreed that a casual language would be best. We needed IRL to be a friendly, relatable brand, and the articles and copywriting needed to be something which everyone can read.

In the end, we created a relatable, easy-to-read site which gets 100,000 page views monthly.

Finally, the last tip for when you’re setting up your own online business…

5. Find a good web developer

So you’ve hired a web developer, they build the site for you, and then you pay their fees and that’s it, right?

Not exactly.

I mean, you could do that, if you wanted to, but you’d be taking a risk. See, no matter how good your web developer is, your website is like a car – it needs regular maintenance.

Eventually, a bug will spring up, or you expand your site and develop new features, or the mobile version doesn’t display correctly.

When that happens, it’s always a good idea to go back to your original web developer to fix or modify your website. That’s because they would know your website best and know how to change things without disrupting other elements of your site.

This is actually very important.

When we first launched our website and advertised ourselves on social media, we experienced a surge in traffic – we were getting about 1,000 visitors per day. We didn’t expect our traffic to grow so big so fast.

Eventually, the public servers provided by our hosting simply couldn’t keep up. Our website started to lag, which increased our bounce rate.

Karuna suggested that we shift from public servers to cloud servers instead. The advantage of cloud servers is that the bandwidth adjusts to your traffic, which helps keep our costs low.

We agreed, and Karuna helped us port our entire website to the new servers. They handled the entire process which took about a day and a half, which included fixing bugs after the export.

Because they were familiar with our site, as well as the cloud service, they managed to complete the process quickly with minimal problems. In the end, we managed to accommodate to our traffic growth without any hitches.

Starting a new business online can be scary for newbies – but it doesn’t have to be. You’ll need to do your homework of course, as well as hire the right web developer to help establish your online presence. But with the right team and right experts, you’ll be off to a good start developing your online business.

Karuna is a web development company which specialises in web design & development, digital marketing, software development and creative copywriting. They have a passion for using creativity and technology to create emotional bonds between consumers and your brands.

You can visit them at https://websitedesignpenang.com/ to receive a FREE domain and hosting for the first year. Simply key in the promo code: KARUNA18 to claim yours today.

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