THE BLOG

6 Reasons Why Your Online Business Might be Struggling

09/17/2013 05:20 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2013
  • Don Dodds Managing Partner and Chief Strategist, M16 Marketing

You started out with a fantastic idea, so why isn't your business performing the way you thought it would? Let's look at six common barriers to online business success.

#1) You targeted the wrong niche -- or you didn't target a niche at all.

Before you even think about putting up a website promoting your product or service, you need to be able to answer these questions: Is there a demand for my idea? How much competition is there for my product or service? Who are my top competitors? Do I stand a realistic chance of outranking them (particularly in the organic search results)? Last, but not least: Where is the industry headed? Is my product or service gaining momentum or is it on a downward trend?

After you've investigated these questions, there's a good chance you might need to reevaluate your business idea, but don't get discouraged. It's not necessarily a bad idea -- you might just need to put a new spin on your product. Maybe you need to target a smaller segment of the market. Remember, the more specific your niche, the better chance you'll have of climbing to the top of the search engines and the less money you'll have to spend on directly competitive forms of marketing such as pay-per-click campaigns.

#2) You don't have a clear business model for your website.

While it seems like common sense to begin your business with a clear business model in mind, many new online business owners start with a vague idea at best when it comes to monetizing their website. This is not surprising if you've heard the hype surrounding online business and the false idea promoted by a handful of Internet marketers that online business is as easy as throwing up a website.

There are various methods of monetizing your website online. One of the most common of these models is selling advertising through Google's AdSense program. However, in many cases, advertising revenue isn't substantial enough to base your entire business model on. Consider other options: If you're running an information site, you could consider offering an informational product such as an e-book. You could also charge a fee for premium subscribers to your content.

#3) You're trying to do too many things at once.

Every online business owner knows that the Internet is full of distractions, making it difficult to focus on the task at hand. Keeping a day planner can be useful, but don't abuse it by filling it in with an unrealistic amount of tasks to complete. Focus on one or two important tasks per day.

Next, combat distractions by eliminating information overload. Often, this comes in the form of excessive e-mail subscriptions. While educating yourself is important, don't fall into the trap of spending many hours of your day consuming blog posts, e-books, and emails about how to improve your online business. Instead, get out there and work on your business, one step at a time. To join the ranks of successful online business owners you need patience, persistence, hard work, and above all, focus.

#4) You're being a control freak.

Many of the most successful online business owners are expert outsourcers. While outsourcing might seem like the department of Fortune 500 companies, there are two very good reasons for small businesses to outsource: 1) To save time, and 2) To maintain an image of professionalism in every aspect of your business.

While it certainly helps to be a jack or jill of all trades in the diverse world of online business, it's crucial to find the right balance. Time is your most valuable asset. With that in mind, it's often a better investment to give up ultimate control in the name of saving more time to invest in furthering your business and going after your ultimate vision.

Being a control freak can also come at the expense of quality. If you're not absolutely certain you can perform a task with proficiency, it's best to hire a qualified professional to handle the job. This especially applies to visible elements of your website such as website design, logo creation, and content development.

#5) You're not sure how to market your product or service.

The opportunities to promote your business on the Internet are unlimited. However, these strategies are easily missed if you don't know where to look for them. As an online business owner, you have two options when it comes to marketing your business: Learn the tricks of the trade yourself, or hire an expert SEO or social media consultant to do the job for you. Just make sure it gets done properly, and remember time is your most valuable asset. Be sure to read "How to Choose an SEO Guru for Your Website."

If you want to learn how to do it yourself, begin with a broad overview of the various advertising and marketing techniques that are specific to the Internet. Some of the big ones include pay-per-click, social media, press releases, blogging, and search engine optimization (SEO). Educate yourself on each of these and find out which strategies work best for your own business by testing. Get help with some vital factors for SEO planning.

Finally, know that simply having the pillars of a smart marketing strategy in place is not enough. You have to measure your progress and continue to make refinements. You can quickly get started on this task by signing up for an account with Google Analytics, the free standard in web metrics software.

#6) You bought into the get-rich-quick dream.

The greatest barrier to online success is unrealistic expectations. Unfortunately, this has become an epidemic due to get-rich-quick schemes promoted by a handful of Internet marketing gurus. It's tempting to get caught up in the hype, but don't. The best defense against this kind of toxic thinking is to avoid any kind of system that promises easy riches and, as they say, mind your own business -- you'll be grateful in the long run.