By Serge Thibodeau

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Building an efficient and successful e-commerce website takes a lot of learning, preparation, “tweaking” and, most of all, dedication. If you follow these five simple steps, it should greatly simplify your life so you can get on with your real job of managing your business and e-commerce storefront.

Today’s article may stray a bit from my usually “pure” SEO articles, but these 5 important tips should help you immensely.

Step No. 1

The first thing you need to do is to register a .com, a .biz or a .ca domain name. (Note: .ca domain names are reserved for Canadian companies only). Whether you're looking to reserve domain names for use now or at a later date, you should seriously consider doing it now, while a good selection might still be available, although I think the best choices in the .com range have already been taken by now.

I have found and personally registered some good domain names in the .biz, .cc, .ca and .ws category. The choice is yours. However, what IS important, if you can help it, try to get a domain name that has one or two of your most important keywords in it, as it will greatly help you in the search engines. Also, I suggest that you put a hyphen in between them, such as this:

Since some will tell you that hyphens in domain names look awkward and I agree, if you can, try also registering the non-hyphenated version too, such as this one:

On your website, for the search engines, it is best to use the hyphenated version. On your business cards, brochures or print catalogues, it is best to use the non-hyphenated version. Just make sure you are using a “301 server re-direct” for that purpose, since it can be a bit touchy if not done correctly.
If you would like an example of how this is done, look at the search engine I have built at:

Notice that once you arrive at my search engine, the URL changes to the hyphenated version: which is a real bonus as far as the search engines are concerned. The added expense is well worth it.

If you aren’t ready to build your website right away, there are also many additional options that can be added to any e-commerce registered domain name at any time, such as the ability to:

* Park the domain on a server with a “Coming Soon” page
* Temporarily re-direct the domain name to another of your choice
* Temporarily re-direct to a subdirectory of another domain name
* Start using your new domain name email address (highly recommended)
* Add relevant body text & keywords to your “Coming Soon” page

From time to time, I hear about some domain names, mistakenly or otherwise, of not being registered in the name of their rightful owners. Even if it’s just an oversight, rectifying this situation can become time consuming and costly, especially from a legal standpoint. Some domain names can be worth a lot of money. Before finalizing your domain name order, make sure it will be registered in your name or in the name of your company, if that is what you prefer.

Also, the administrative person (normally you), technical contact and billing contacts will be determined by you only at the time you are registering your new domain name(s). If you previously registered a domain name, click here to ensure the whois record is correct, updated and the domain name (s) really belong to you only.

Be sure to own your own domain name because you can have a website without owning your own domain name. Some ISPs and other organizations offer free web addresses for certain websites. Often these are easy to get and use, but there are important benefits to having your own domain name, such as:

1. Branding - Your web site address can be a valuable brand name for you. You want people to remember it and use it on a regular basis, with each use acting as additional brand reinforcement. You lose that strong identity if your visitors have to type something like

2. Independence - Should your ISP or hosting service provider no longer meet your needs or goes out of business for any reason, you will have to move your site’s URL and traffic along with the physical transfer of your site's server IP address. After all, you have invested time and money to build traffic, so you shouldn't have to start all over again simply because your needs change or for whatever other reason. In the Internet world, registered domain names are associated with name servers.

When you decide to change the location of your web site, your new name servers will be updated in the whois record kept by your domain registrar. As a result, your site visitors will automatically be sent to your new host. The bottom line is that you keep all your traffic, and all your e-commerce sales! If you don’t own your domain name, you will not have the luxury of taking your traffic with you. The many benefits far outweigh the added expense of a domain name.

3. Promotion - Your company or business alone gets to enjoy the increased traffic from every dollar spent promoting your site. If you don't have your own domain name, the company associated with your website name is also reaping the benefits of your promotional efforts.

Step No. 2

After you have carefully chosen for a domain name that best matches all your needs, the next step is to have your site hosted by a professional Web hosting company. The important word here is “Professional”. If you are at all serious about your business, you should always avoid at all costs the so-called “free” Web hosting packages, which, I have never seen any to be serious anyway.

Shop around for a good Web hosting company, one that will offer you a free 30-day satisfaction trial period or your money back. Competition in the Web hosting business is extremely fierce and reliability and dependability should be your two most important parameters while shopping around.

Here is a brief list of “must-haves” when shopping for serious Web hosting plans available on the market today:

* Toll-free 1-800 number & email technical support free of charge
* SSL secure servers (128 bit) encryption on any hosting plans
* Fast T-3 Internet backbone connections, 365 days a year
* Ask that all your files be backed up daily (very important)
* Unique, dedicated IP address on any e-commerce plan (mandatory)
* Guaranteed 99.99% network uptime in writing
* A sufficient number of POP-3 email addresses, aliases and free forwarding
* email auto-responders with your custom, personalized message
* Complete daily site traffic statistics with full hit analysis and graphs
* Full FTP (File Transfer Protocol) included 365 days a year
* Sub domains ( included at no charge
* Java Servlet support (Java is necessary for many e-commerce sites)
* Your own CGI-bin with (approved) CGI support scripts
* Ask for MySQL database support and always the latest version
* Ask for Server Side Includes (SSI) (no additional charge at most hosts)
* Ask for custom 404 error pages with your company name & logo

Although this list is certainly not exhaustive, it is only meant to be an important list of items that are critical to the long-term viability of your e-commerce storefront. Other important parameters such as certain multimedia drivers or Microsoft FrontPage support and extensions, ASP and PHP support are important too and should be discussed with the company you are contemplating doing business with.

If some of you need a good e-commerce Web hosting company that supplies all the items listed above and features a 99.99% uptime written warranty, I will be able to supply you one if you email me at

Whatever plan you choose for your e-commerce needs, I strongly suggest you consider some of these important conditions and parameters that will make a big difference in the overall success of your online business.

Will continue ....