This article was updated in July 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Running your own online business could pay dividends in the long run – Australia’s growing ecommerce industry is set to generate north of USD 32 billion by 2024. Already, a predicted 1 in 10 items are purchased online. And with the restrictions in place as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, ecommerce companies currently have plenty of opportunities to generate sales.
There’s no reason why you can’t take your slice from this lucrative industry, but getting set up is rather challenging.
Don’t worry though, we’re here to help!
Australia, unlike many nations, requires you to register your business before you can secure a .com.au domain name (which, as any reputable SEO company will tell you, is crucial). It’s also vital to choose the correct business structure and type, which requires careful planning and attention to detail.
To help ease your transition into the world of online sales, we’ve produced an in-depth guide on how to start your online business in Australia. First, we’ll go through the steps that every start-up needs to follow to operate legally. Then, we’ll explain how to ensure your website makes an impact.
Setting up a Business in Australia: The Basics
Before you can even start thinking about trading online, you need to tick each of the following steps off your to-do list:
Choose the most appropriate business structure
Australia has four business structures: Sole Trader, Company, Partnership, and Trust. Choosing the correct structure is imperative because it directly affects:
- Your level of control
- Regulatory obligations
- Health and safety requirements
- Personal liability
If you register as a Sole Trader, you’ll take full responsibility for all legal aspects of your business, but you’re permitted to hire employees.
A Company has a separate legal existence to that of its shareholders.
If you intend to start a company with other people, you’ll likely need to register it as a Partnership.
If you own any assets for the benefit of a third party, you may need to set up a Trust.
You might want to consult with a lawyer or an accountant to decide which is the most suitable business structure for your requirements. An expert may also be able to tell you how your business structure affects your health and safety requirements as a result of COVID-19.
Register your business name and obtain your Australian Business Number (ABN)
Until you have an ABN, which is a unique 11-digit number that identifies your company, you can’t legally operate in Australia. When you have an ABN, you can register your business name, claim taxes, apply for grants, secure a domain, send invoices and order goods from other entities.
While you can register your business name and apply for your ABN separately, it’s easier to do both at the same time.
Secure an SEO-friendly domain name
Now, you need to purchase a .com.au domain name that’s related to your business, makes you instantly recognisable and helps you rank highly on the search engines. You can use online tools to check the domain you want is available.
Choosing an appropriate domain name is vital to the success of your online efforts. Select a misleading name, and your customers may struggle to find you, and you may have to change your business name to rectify the problem.
A local SEO company can help you choose a domain that will help your target market find your website. As you’ll find out later in the article, SEO services can do much more than that to help ensure the success of your online efforts.
Consider sources of funding
Unless you already have the required funds to cover your expenses (including those you might not currently be anticipating), you might want to think about alternative avenues of funding. Before you go ahead and take out a small business loan, you should browse the various government funding options for start-ups in NSW or your local area.
Grants are available to help with many areas of your business, including:
- Marketing and sales
- Purchasing equipment
- Exporting and importing
Discussing your requirements with a lawyer or accountant will prove useful with regards to securing funding for your company.
Register for taxes
If you want to trade online in Australia legally, taxes are inescapable. You must register for the correct taxes to avoid penalties, so book a consultation with an accountant before making any big decisions. An accountant can also discuss ways to minimise your tax burden.
Some taxes you may need to register for include:
- Pay as You Go (PAYG) Withholding Tax: This is for if you need to withhold money for tax reasons, such as covering wages.
- Goods and Services Tax (GST): Required for any company with an annual revenue of over $75,000.
- Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT): You’ll need to register for FBT if you provide employee perks, such as company cars.
After you’ve covered all the steps detailed above, you’re ready to start setting up your online store.
How to Set up Your Online Shop
Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, you can start progressing with the more exciting aspects of starting your online business. While we’d argue that the following steps are more fun than those detailed above, it’s imperative to do everything correctly or else your website may never make an impact.
Getting in touch with a dedicated SEO agency is the easiest way to gain a head start in the online world, but here are the basics of setting up online:
- Build a website
First, you need to choose a suitable ecommerce platform if you intend to be able to accept online payments and orders. Some of the most user-friendly ecommerce platforms include:
As intuitive as these applications are, getting to grips with them can be challenging for novice users. If time is of the essence, you might want to invest in the services of a web developer to help you get up and running.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) refers to the process of making sure your website can be easily found by your target market, and it has many technical aspects, such as loading speed, URL structure and Schema Markup. Make sure you work with a web developer or SEO company that’s up to date with SEO in 2019 because the rules and best practices constantly adapt.
- Carry out comprehensive keyword analysis
Keyword research is arguably the most crucial element of SEO. You need to know what terms your customers are searching for in order to make sure you target them with relevant, useful and engaging information.
There are lots of online tools you can use to produce a keyword research report almost instantaneously, but such reports have very little use unless you know how to analyse the data and utilise it correctly. Hiring an experienced company to perform comprehensive SEO analysis on your behalf comes highly recommended. There will always be things that a human can do better than an automated application.
We should also note that keyword research is an ongoing process. Certain events can change buying trends, which means that some keywords may overtake others with regards to how much traffic they generate. For example, most supermarkets have seen a sharp increase in healthcare and at-home entertainment product sales as a result of the pandemic. Right now, you should be looking at which of your services or products might be in high demand, especially if they’re unavailable at high street stores.
- Create an SEO-friendly website structure/sitemap
With regards to SEO, things only become more complex after you’ve carried out your keyword research and made sense of the data. One aspect of making sense of your research is deciding how to create an SEO friendly sitemap for your website.
In basic terms, your sitemap is your website’s structure. For example, you will almost certainly have a Home page, but you’ll also require Service pages, a Contact page and probably an About page at the minimum. You may need an overall service page that introduces your offering and then subpages that detail the specifics of each service you provide.
You shouldn’t try to target too many unrelated keywords on a single page, nor should you create too many separate pages for related keywords that achieve the same purpose. If your website is perceived as spam, you’ll fail to ensure the success of your organic search efforts, which refers to how highly you rank on the non-sponsored search results. Again, working with an SEO company to optimise your sitemap is a good idea.
- Fill your website with targeted content
Now that you have a website structure with each of your pages defined, you need to fill them with targeted content, which is where your keyword analysis will come in especially handy.
We recommend trying to include the exact or part-match keywords that you want to rank for in your content, but the most important thing is to make sure you provide information that’s highly relevant to your target keywords.
Producing high-quality content is crucial – it must be engaging, informative, useful and optimised for your keywords. It should also be mobile-friendly, which means you should avoid big chunks of text and complex sentences where possible. Most SEO companies work with experienced SEO writers that know how to bring out the best in your company while ensuring your content is highly optimised for the web.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, you should consider creating a new webpage that highlights the actions your company is taking to prevent the spread. You can build customer loyalty by explaining your initiatives, new health and safety protocols, and commitment to being a responsible company in your local community. There’s also no harm in offering advice related to your industry – it’ll only make you look more authoritative.
- Audit your website
Now that you’ve finished building your website, it’s time to audit it. This means checking for broken links, keyword insertion, mistakes, technical issues, structure and much more. As you can imagine, it requires a lot of time and effort.
You can use a variety of applications to audit your website, but their usefulness often comes under scrutiny, especially given that the rules surrounding SEO are continuously changing. Instead of relying on programmes to do the hard work, you ought to consider hiring an someone to audit your website. A company which employs experienced professionals whose job it is to stay on top of the latest developments.
When auditing your website, remember to analyse the websites of your competitors too. Are they creating content that’s capturing some of your potential customers? Have they remained in touch with their customers throughout the pandemic to keep their brand name alive? You need to make sure your website remains relevant, which involves responding to crises that affect all your customers. Check out what your competitors are doing and see what you can do better. You might just see your market share increase as a result.
- Submit website to Google
After you’ve completed making your website and hit the publish button, you might expect/want to see your website appear on the search results pages right away. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. Before you have a chance of ranking highly, you need to submit your website to Google.
Google indexes your website by crawling it. That means its ‘Googlebot’ crawls through your pages to make sense of the information it contains so that it can determine your position on the results pages based on over 200 criteria. The Googlebot also searches for broken links, updates, new pages and more.
To submit your website to Google, you need to publish your sitemap on the Google Search Console, which is a useful tool for many reasons. You can use the Google Search Console to discover whether your pages have been indexed and if they appear on the search results pages.
Extracting the maximum benefit from the Google Search Console can be challenging. You need to get to grips with a lot of technicalities. If you’d rather avoid this so that you can start trading successfully as soon as possible, you may want to ask an SEO company for help. Their experts can do more in a day than you might be able to do in a month thanks to their in-depth knowledge and experience.
- Create a digital marketing strategy
Even after you’ve published your website and had it indexed by Google, appearing on the first page for your target keywords is a difficult hurdle to overcome. If you want your website to be found, you need to market it, and one of the best ways to do so is to focus on organic search.
Studies show that results in the organic search results section are more likely to generate click-throughs than those in the sponsored results section. However, results in the sponsored section are more likely to generate leads, meaning you need to develop a long-term strategy that includes both pay-per-click advertising and organic search.
This is another area that’s extremely challenging for those with little digital marketing experience, which is why working with an SEO company that can develop a holistic strategy for your start-up comes highly recommended.
- Prepare your website for a post-covid world
In light of the global pandemic, businesses from almost all industries have been forced to switch up marketing tactics – at least somewhat. For years, the high street has been in decline as online shopping has grown in popularity, but your competition is set to become much fiercer now that just about everybody has no choice but to shop online.
Preparing your website for a post-covid world involves more than just making your health and safety protocols and commitment to community care clear. You need to establish your value proposition and differentiate yourself in what is becoming an increasingly crowded marketplace. Why should customers buy your products instead of the competition’s?
Of course, the pandemic is a global disaster, but it does undeniably provide opportunities to ecommerce companies that weather the crisis and keep their brand name alive. Now might be the ideal time to advertise your products to as many online users as possible. And bear in mind that many people are now spending more time in front of their screens than ever before.