The decision to run an online business is a great one. You get to be your own boss and start a business that doesn’t require too much initial investment. On the downside, there are thousands of people starting an online business every day which means the competition is stiff. What is more is that of the businesses started, only a handful of them succeed. Just like starting any other business, it is important that you take the process seriously and research every step that you will take. In spite of most online startups failing, the good news is there are a couple of things you can do to start a business that succeeds. There are basically 7 prime rules that you have to follow when starting a business online. #1. Create a simple and well-organized website A common mistake most people make when it comes to creating a home for their business is focusing solely on what they desire rather than what their consumers need. As a result, most people have a tendency of over-designing their sites. This effort only succeeds in bloating their website with clutter. It is cool to create a website that stands out because of its unique design and elements but in all that you do, you must ensure that it is user-centric. The use of too much flash animation, background sound, too many images will slow the load speed of your website. If you have been keen on web development, you may have read that most consumers will click away from any website that takes longer than 5 seconds to load. The most important thing to do when setting up a home for your website is to ensure the design is clean and well-organized. Your consumers should not be left to guess where certain features are. The navigation should be intuitive and the text should be easy to read. Avoid adding music or videos that auto-play. Such elements will only be a distraction. Taking time to look at the websites of some of the leading brands in your target niche will give you some idea on how to build yourself. Look at their layout, features and how they format their content. #2. Respond to visitors promptly Setting up your website is just the first step. To make money and succeed in online marketing, you have to respond promptly to your visitors. When you receive an email or when a potential customer fills out the contact form, it is critical that you get back to him as quickly as you can. People take mental notes of how long it takes for them to receive a response from a potential service provider. The same goes for social media messages. Today, it is imperative that you have accounts on at least three leading social networking sites. When a customer sends you a message or posts on your wall, you have to respond as soon as possible. But what happen if you are on holiday? Your business should be able to run 24/7/365. When you are on vacation, hire an employee to answer the emails of your customers in your absence. Alternatively, you can use auto-responders to inform customers of when you will be back. There is too much competition out there for you to risk losing a potential customer. It is how well you respond that will determine whether customers will consider your service or that of your competitors. #3. Keep your customers engaged To increase loyalty and sales, you need to turn your visitors into active participates on your eCommerce site. The best way to do this is to create a blog that is open for comments from visitors. Always encourage your visitors to leave a comment on your posts or newsletters. As your business grows, you can add a discussion board where visitors can create their own topics. Social media platforms are also inevitable when it comes to engaging customers. Set up accounts on at least three of the leading social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Make sure you keep your accounts active with regular updates. You should also encourage your followers to ‘Like’, and/or ‘re-post’ your posts. This will be essential in both customer engagement and search engine optimization. #4. Give customers reasons to come back Repeat customers are what drive an online business. They are what increase your sales. To give your visitors a reason to come back, start by posting quality content on a regular basis. Dormant websites are seldom visited because they offer stale content. Let your visitors know what you add new posts. Simply adding quality content regularly is the key to keeping visitors coming back for more. Offer something that your audiences really like. #5. Don’t oversell The last person you want knocking at your door is a pushy salesperson. The case is the same when it comes to online marketing. If you are too pushy as a salesperson, your visitors will choose to avoid you. People don’t like to be pressured to buy something. Instead of being pushy, focus on how the product can benefit your consumers. For example, you can outline the advantages of the products or services but don’t overdo it. Do not forget to give some of the disadvantages. This gives credibility to your content. #6. Avoid black-hat SEO practices Getting on top of search engine results is the goal of every online business owner. It is never easy to do this. However, you should never let the pressure push you into black-hat practices. Search engine algorithms are smarter and can easily spot bad practices. You have to optimize your site while keenly following the SEO rules. You may succeed with black-hat practices but your joy will be short-lived. #7. Monitor who you link to Still on SEO, backlinks are probably some of the most effective tools you can use to boost your search engine ranking. However, you have to make sure you don’t link with websites that have a bad reputation. Their reputation will rub off on you. The aforementioned 7 rules will help you get started on the right foot. However, to really succeed as an online business, you have to keep your customers fast. Everything you do must be about the customer and not solely about you. mages: ”Online Business / Internet business concept note on laptop in office /Shutterstock.com“ ____________________________________________________________________________ Tweak Your Biz is a thought leader global publication and online business community. Today, it is part of the Small Biz Trends stable of websites and receives over 300,000 unique views per month. Would you like to write for us? An outstanding title can increase tweets, Facebook Likes, and visitor traffic by 50% or more. Generate great titles for your articles and blog posts with the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator.