If you’re thinking of taking advantage of the business opportunities offered by the Internet, you may be asking yourself how to go about making money. The answer is simple: build a niche website. According to Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of “Wired” magazine and author of the groundbreaking business book, “The Long Tail,” the true potential of the Internet lies in the possibility of reaching a huge number of niche markets. When you build a niche website, you reach a worldwide audience. Learn how to build a niche website that attracts the right kind of visitors in quantity and helps you make money that could not be made using traditional commerce models.

1. Decide on a profitable niche that is still untapped on the Web. This is easier said than done, so use your intuition. Follow the example of Pierre Omidyar, the man who started eBay. He saw a niche that needed filling and filled it with his online auction house. Ask yourself what people want or need, looking around at the people you know for ideas: Information? Services? Tangible goods?

2. Think both big and small. The niche that will be the focus of your business website could be as simple as the answer to an oft-asked question or as complex as a set of financial data organized in a user-friendly way. The best niche website to build is one that can grow, evolving from a small business idea into a “hit” as did website-based businesses eHarmony and, under the leadership of Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com.

3. Decide on a format for your niche website–in other words, build a niche website appropriate to its content. If you want to sell niche products on the Internet, then your ecommerce website shop will have a secure shopping cart and payment system to process credit cards. If you want to offer niche content such as articles or music downloads in order to attract visitors and win advertising revenue and affiliate sales commissions, then your website will benefit from a design that features content in easily accessible, well-organized, bite-sized pieces that encourage your visitors to navigate through the website. Or build a niche website that is simply a filter for other Web content, helping your visitor choose quality sites and products from amongst the impenetrable “noise” on the Web. Examples of this type of website include a product reviews website or a forum-based website, with membership fees or with advertising lurking in the background.

4. Design the layout and visuals of your niche website. Examine the websites of your competitors to get ideas for both what to emulate and how to distinguish your own website. Think, too, of your potential visitors and what they expect to see. Certain standards tend to be successful. For example, aim for a combination of static as well as dynamic navigation links–static being links within frames or on menus that your visitor can count on accessing no matter where she is in your site, dynamic being content your visitor scrolls through or that changes the web page. Choose light text on a dark background, since it’s less likely to cause your visitors eye strain. Make sure every page on your site has multiple routes to get there.

5. Decide on a name for your niche website. The name of a niche website business is not just important for marketing purposes and to evoke an image that encourages visitors to stay. It’s also critical because it is related to your domain name. As part of the URL, the domain name of your website will be one important way visitors will find you–if it’s memorable, easy to pronounce and easy to spell, that is.

6. Buy a domain name. Purchase multiple related domain names, if applicable. You may do this step in tandem with signing up with a website hosting service. A good website hosting service will offer excellent customer service, be communicative about downtimes and furnish a wide array of webmaster tools to help you analyze the traffic and statistics on your website.

7. Hire a website designer, use your expertise in HTML and other Web programming languages, build Web pages with professional programs such as Dreamweaver, BlueFish and Microsoft Visual Web Developer. Or create your own simple Web pages using an HTML editor made for non-experts, also called WYSIWYG software (which stands for “what you see is what you get”).

8. Add content, including text and images, that you either create or that you hire a professional to create with SEO (search engine optimization) in mind. Once your Web pages are done, you’re ready to upload them to the server and go live. Continue adding content to the site on a regular basis to encourage higher Google ranking and better placement in other search engines, such as Yahoo!

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