(This  article is contributed by Michael Page)

The following are the steps I followed two years ago to create my first site, a weight loss blog through which I made my first money online.

Before I started my weight loss site, I spent a small fortune on get-rich-quick schemes contributing to the success of those who created the schemes, whether it was the up-line of an MLM or the owner of a product that promised fast money; you know, the too-good-to-be-true type of money.

It was not until I understood the concept of Internet business success that I started building a successful affiliate marketing site; one that could be scaled up and out.

In this article, I would like to look at 10 steps, one by one, and share with you how I followed and implemented them to grow a small, yet profitable Internet venture.

1. Have A Clear Vision

This was fundamental for me. I read a number of books that helped me understand this principle, like Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” and Stuart Lichtman’s “How to Make Lots of Money for Anything Fast”,  to name a few.

A clear vision need not be complicated.  It’s core elements are these two:

  • Define exactly what you want (i.e how much money). Find the emotional reason that stands behind your goal. My initial goal was to make $100 a day. The emotional reason was my desire to move from the US to beautiful Greece and live a life that is independent of the ups and downs of the economy.
  • Set a time frame for the goal to be achieved. I determined I would reach my goal within 12 months.

My vision was to “find my way out of misery”.  I was unhappy in my job and I saw an online business as a way out of misery. Of course that made me fall prey to a few scammers, initially. Thankfully, my strong desire to succeed and the clear idea of what I wanted, brought me back to the right track.

2. Identify The Need

Given my professional background, I decided my site would be about weight loss. As a biologist, I know a lot about human physiology, fitness, and diets. In addition, I have been known as “the calorie man” since I was a teenager, because of my interest in nutrition and food science.

In the online business realm, however, academic knowledge will not help much if it is not coupled with a in-depth understanding of what your audience needs. You can have excellent educational credentials, and yet, if you are ignorant of the human need you cannot succeed online.

So, I took the proper action to learn everything about the problem my weight loss market has. I researched relevant blogs. I read thousands of comments in forums written by dieters and overweight people who were struggling to lose weight. I interviewed Jeff, Bob, my overweight friends, and …even my mother and sister to identify their problem and see how it is linked to an underlying emotional need.

3. Identify Existing Solutions

After I indentified the pressing need, I searched for solutions. I asked myself: Where is the money being spent online right now? In my case, the exact question was: What are overweight people buying to lose weight? How are existing products helping people achieve the slim body they desire? How can I get a piece of the pie as an affiliate?

Of course the weight loss industry is full of scams and fad diets. I had to research very carefully to identify proven products; products that have a history of success, are backed by clinical studies or at least real testimonials, and have been used successfully already by millions of people. It did not take me long to find diet programs that fulfill these criteria, such as the Weight Watchers diet plan, the Nutrisystem meal replacement diet, and the Medifast weight management program.

4. Check on Supply and Demand

I used Google’s Keyword Tool (GKT) to check what people are searching that relates to the weight loss products I chose to become affiliated with.

Unfortunately, while keyword tools provide information on specific search terms, they tell you nothing about what products are being purchased nor whether or not these keyword terms are profitable.

For example, GKT will tell you that 3,600 people are looking for “best weight loss programs” monthly, but the tool leaves no clue on what weight loss programs are being purchased and what diets people are making money from.

This is why it is important that you target a group of similar keywords, “primary” and “secondary” keywords. You never know which will perform better, in the end.

I searched the global monthly search for several keywords, such as:

  • Medifast review
  • Does Weight Watchers work?
  • Medifast coupon
  • Nutrisystem review
  • Nutrisystem discount
  • etc,

and identified keywords  that people type when they seek a solution rather than sheer information. I went after focused keywords, like “best weight loss  programs”, rather than general ones, like “weight loss programs”.

As a friend of mine says: “We want solutions-focused visitors hitting our site, not people in the early stages of research.” Of course, the weight loss niche is very competitive and you have to be mentally prepared to work hard. As an example, the keyword “Weight Watchers coupon” has 6,600 searches monthly and 283,000 competing sites. Not for the faint of heart.

5. Focus on Target Traffic - Reality Chec

Early on I understood that I should focus on targeted traffic. A friend of mine puts it very well when he says: “it is difficult to sell a solution to a person looking for general directions or instructions.” In this sense, it is easier to sell a weight loss program to somebody who is looking for “best weight loss programs for women” than one who is looking for “weight loss programs”.

Of course, I realized that as I was getting too narrow with my keywords, the traffic volume would be lower and so would the potential earning capacity. To compensate for that I had to target many similar keywords, such as “top weight loss programs”, “top weight management diets”, “best diets for losing weight”, etc, which cumulatively would bring the desired traffic.

6. Do Some Serious Research

My research focused not only on the general topic of my site (weight loss) but mainly on the products I was promoting. I researched everything I could about Medifast, Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, Bistro MD, etc. Here are a few questions I researched, which by the way, correspond to real keywords that people are searching on Google (I got them from my Google Analytics account):

  • How does Medifast work?
  • Medifast studies
  • Compare Medifast to Weight Watchers
  • Does Nutrisystem have lots of carbohydrates?
  • How fast do people lose weight on Nutrisystem?
  • How is Nutrisystem delivered
  • Are there any coupons for Nutrisystem for added savings?

Based on the above questions, I wrote articles, like this one.

7. Prepare the Product

The weight loss industry is worth half a trillion dollars globally! As I said, I decided to take the affiliate marketing route since it is simpler than making my own product.  I promote products that I am absolutely sure they work.

While I did not try the products myself, I interviewed people who did. I took any action I could to convince my site’s visitors and myself that the products are effective, safe and trustworthy. 

As an example, I did extensive laboratory tests to see if a weight loss pill named Hoodia—a product I was interested in marketing at some point—was authentic and contained the active phytochemical substance p53, a natural appetite suppressant. (Hoodia is made from the cactus Hoodia gordonii. It is imported from Africa and has been associated with scams and adulteration because its supply is very limited and the demand huge.)

8. Prepare the Website

It is very important to design your site in a way that allows you to capture your visitors email address. The reason is that visitors to your site are generally not prepared to buy something. So, confronting them with a sales page about Medifast or Nutrisystem would make them feel I hit them over the head. It is much better to build trust with your visitor and you can achieve that through a squeeze page.

However, I have noticed that the more targeted my visitors are the easier it is to make a sale. For example, when  people land on my blog after typing on Google a keyword that is very close to their buying decision (i.e where can I buy Medifast), I do not need a  squeeze page. I just let them click through my affiliate link. However, if they land on my site after looking for  “best weight loss programs”, a squeeze certainly helps.

9. Collect Email Addresses and Send Follow-up Emails

This is a step I am still working on. I am preparing a series of follow-up emails that will be sent to my subscribers using Aweber. An effective email does not try to sell, instead it engages the reader and invites them to learn more about the product.

10. Getting Free Traffic

I used all a number of methods to get free traffic to my site. I got referral traffic from relevant blogs and forums. I got free traffic from articles that I published in directories, hubpages and lenses on Squidoo.

However, most of the free traffic my weight loss site (update: I have now made it a magazine and I publish articles on various topics) is enjoying to date is a result of several natural links it receives, and good guest posts, like the one you are now reading. The backlinks my site gets from guest posts like this one improve the authority and trust of my site in the eyes of the search engines.

As a marketing expert said, “no one has it all worked out”. I have still a long way to go. I am thankful to people who take the time to clearly explain the steps one needs to take to succeed online.

Over to you. How do you relate to the 10 Steps to Internet Business Success?

What action have you taken so far?