Before you begin planning out your website, make sure you have a good idea of what success will look like. Your goals for your website can lead to very different planning, design, and promotion strategies.

Here are some goals you might have for you website:

Provide current or potential customers with information

If your customers or potential customers are asking for your website and you don't have one, this would be your goal. Your primary advertising will be telling your customers about your site. A site to meet this goal could be a simple site with information on your business, or a more in-depth site with an Online gallery. Success would be reports from customers that they found the site helpful.

Generate new leads

If this is your goal, your website will be part of your advertising strategy. You will want to provide information, but also solicit responses. Search engine placement will be more important and you will need to incorporate search engine optimization concepts into your design and site implementation. Search engine optimization means designing your site in such a way that you come up higher on search engine search results. Search engine placement is a long term goal and requires commitment to building content (text that people want to read) and quality links to your site. Success would be the acquisition of new leads or customers through the website.

Sell products

If you want to open an Online store, there are several things to think about. The first is if your product is suited to selling Online. Products that are usually impulse buys (like tabloids at the supermarket) or don't ship well (like fresh produce) obviously wouldn't do well Online. Consumer items like books and consumer electronics are highly saturated markets that would be hard to break into. Since the internet makes it very easy to compare prices, selling mainstream retail items may be hard. Selling unique items like handcrafted gifts or self-published books would be a better choice.

Search engine placement will also be important because most of your customers will find you this way. Since search engines search for words, it is important to provide content for them to find. For instance, if you sell widgets, write up some information about them. Tell the customer why your widgets are the best, but also tell them how to use their widgets, where widgets come from, widget get the idea. This may sound silly...why would they want to know about widget history? But there is always some information your customers might want to know. For instance, FreeAutoMechanic sells auto repair manuals, so we put up information on benefits of purchasing Online repair manuals. This provides value to the customer who may not know how to use the Online manuals or may want to know more about them. Additionally, if someone finds the information through the search engine, they may want to buy the Online manual as well, and then we get a new customer. And—here's the strategic part—to search engines, the site looks like it is all about free manuals, so when someone searches for “free auto repair manuals ” it is in the top 10 results.

Success for an e-commerce site is when you are getting orders and making money. This can take a while because it is dependent on search engines which are slow in adding new pages and updating them. You won't get rich quick—but if you are patient and think of it in terms of a long-term investment, you will succeed. There are many people selling Online, and the money spent Online is always increasing.

Provide information to the public

Many people like to start sites about their hobbies or a public interest issue. Sometimes these can provide revenue through selling advertising space or through affiliate links. Affiliates are sites that have links to other sites that sell products, and the original site gets a percentage of each sale resulting from following the link. For example, on this FreeAutoAnswers site, you'll find a link to the site Ask a Mechanic Online , and if someone follows through the link and spends money the site owner receives a small commission. This is a long-term project and search engine placement is crucial. Success would be having lots of traffic and getting good conversion rates on affiliate links if you have them. Conversion means how many visitors turn into buyers.

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