Our First Internet Business – Gifts and Collectibles Galore
1999 – Our dream began in 1999 as we started a new business on the internet. Boy were we excited! We had high hopes and high expectations. …. we could just see the orders coming in and taking the money to the bank!! Boy… were we in for a reality check! But, back to our story.
Putting the Cart before the Horse
First, we did not have any knowledge about the internet. But… we both were smart… both had college educations so what else did we need? We just knew we could learn as we went along. Boy, as we look back…what a way to start an internet business. (NOT!!) Talk about foundations made of sand. ..We were building a pyramid on sand and didn’t realize it. With the excitement of owning a business, we pushed ahead. We needed a name for our new business, and we needed to buy a domain name. RIGHT? (Wrong…we were putting the cart before the horse). We talked to our youngest son who was living in Carbondale, IL for ideas for a domain name and he came up with the name we agreed upon. So “like2shop” became our domain name. Next, we decided to call the website “Gifts & Collectibles Galore”. (This was another mistake…title too broad but we didn’t know this. We were leaning!). We didn’t know anything about a NICHE or how to research a product. In fact, we didn’t even know what a niche was. But we did register with our county for the name… had it run in the newspapers… proceeded to get registered with the IRS… and most importantly hired a webmaster to help us design the actual website. (Selecting a webmaster in our area was slim pickings because the internet was just coming into our area.) Talk about leaning fast… we felt old…like coming out of the dark ages… and this was just getting a dial-up internet!) We had no choice but to go with the webmaster who was setting up the internet in our town. Looking back, we realize he knew the logistics of setting up the web page, shopping cart, and hooking up to a merchant account……but that was as far as it went. He would do whatever we thought we needed and that was all. No recommendations were forth coming…we were too naive to ask questions about how to market the webpage.
Pitfalls…There is more to this business behind the scenes!
Since we did not have any knowledge about setting up a webpage, we continued to go along with the webmaster and his charge of $60.00/hour! Oh… we didn’t mention…there was an upfront charge of over $1,000 just to set up and design the website. Remember, this was back in 1999. $1,000 was a lot of money then. Any other changes (adding products, changing text) would cost us $60.00/hour. Even if he would make a small change under an hour…there was still a minimum change of $60.00. This was adding up, so changes were limited and held until they could be done all at once. In researching about product listings and placing them on the website, we ran into the program Wordtracker and learned about keywords and how important they were. So we made sure our front page and each product page was loaded with keywords. Guess What?… Of course Wordtracker had a weekly charge, or a monthly charge, or a yearly charge depending on the plan I would use. Now this website is getting expensive: hosting fees, webmaster fees, shopping cart fees, merchant fees, membership fee to join a wholesale group for our products, and now Wordtracker fees. But we were both working full time, so the money came from our pay checks…we wanted our internet business to succeed for retirement.
A New Webmaster – David our Giant Slayer
As the website started getting more and more business, it was necessary to update more frequently using new keywords and new products. But now we were having problems with the webmaster delaying in getting the work done. Also when we would check his work…there would be errors. It was time to find another webmaster. NOW, it just so happened David, one of my peers at work had computer knowledge and was highly competent in developing web designs. His goal was to continue doing his computer designs after retiring. And, so David became our new webmaster. Since his time would vary as to the work load on reworking my site, it was decided to pay him a monthly fee instead of trying to keep track of all the times. So we turned over our webpage to him…he spent hours re-organizing the website getting the current pictures and text in files for each product page and deleting all old pictures and text. We found David’s work to be perfection, and finished in a timely manner. Dave has been our giant slayer…he took on the website problems, he customized, organized, and de-traumatized us!
Our webpage started picking up orders, so knew we were in the right ballpark. This website was going to help support our retirement!!! Boy have we learned many lessons from our first webpage. Here are just a few of the major ones:
- Develop your niche – Research your product. Is there a market for your product? Choose good keywords to sell your product. How much competition is there for your product? Are product sources available? Boy if we knew all this back in 1999, our approach would have been much different and we would have save BIG BUCKS!
- Match your domain and Site title – Have your domain match the title of your webpage and be sure both have good keywords.
- Have your domain URL end with a “dot com”. The like2shop.com was taken when we started Gifts and Collectibles Galore, so we had no choice but to go with like2shop.net. It wasn’t until the last three years we were was able to obtain like2shop.com. But it has set idle thinking.. we thought we would set up the new website without making the same mistakes as with the first. So guess what??? We were making another BIG mistake. We could have had the like2shop.com domain be directed to the like2shp.net website.
- Choosing the Webmaster – Don’t just pick a webmaster based on how much he/she charges, check to see if they are knowledgeable on web designs, web marketing, and if they work in a timely manner . Ask for some customers references and check out the webmaster’s feedback, flexibility, and reliability.
And so the struggle goes on with our first web site Gifts and Collectibles Galore as we try to revive it. Thanks for letting us share our challenges and lessons learned in developing our first internet business.
Coming next post, a secret weapon. We have found a secret weapon to help us in this long journey.