Before doing anything business or marketing related online, my GOLDEN RULES for doing any kind of business online are:
Alway act honestly, openly and ethically.
Make the world and web a better place with what you do.
Be creative and imaginative – don’t just look for other peoples methods to copy.
Help others generously – you get back what you give multiplied.
OK, just wanted to get that out there.
This is an exhaustive list of the resources, advice, ideas and warnings I wish I’d known about when I started out. Some of these are affiliate links, many are not. Don’t buy anything you don’t need, or can’t afford. Be sensible with your money – save the stupid reckless behaviour for the creative stuff!
I recommend Hostgator
I’ve found them reliable, cheap and the customer service is really good.
I recommend 123-reg.co.uk.
They’ve been quick and easy to use, and I’ve had no issues with them at all.
I’ve tried a bunch of different solutions now and they all confuse the nuts off me except for WordPress.
WordPress is simple but really powerful and is a very quick way to get a site up and running.
If you want to run it on your own hosting (recommended) you need: WordPress.org
If you prefer to try out a free one hosted for you (you can add a custom url later), you need to visit:WordPress.com
Best WordPress Themes
You can search within wordpress for free themes, and many of them are perfectly good. I like Magazine Basic myself – it’s very flexible and looks good out of the box.
For Premium WordPress themes I use WPMU who are in my opinion the go-to people. These guys make pretty advanced stuff, so you may need to call on the support, but frankly their stuff is great, so it’s worth it. Not found anything that comes close to what these guys offer.
I have also used Woo Themes and found them good – and they have a few freebies too.
My Essential WordPress Plugins:
All-In-One Seo – This plugin allows you to easily edit the title, description and keywords for your website, as well as each of your individual blog posts as well as image tags and more.
Pretty Link – allows you to choose exact urls for a link, rather than some crazy long auto-generated thing. For example I can change my affiliate urls from this hideous thing I was given by 123.reg.co.uk:
Bottom of Every Post – allows you to add any html you want to the bottom of every post on your blog. Handy for mailing list sign ups!
Google Sitemap Generator – VITAL. Google loves sites that have these and hates ones that don’t. It’s simple too – just install it, click a button once and you’re done.
Pay With A Like Premium plugin from WPMU that allows you to hide content on your site – only showing it once the reader has shared it on their social network of choice. Great for spreading the word about your site.
Social Maven – This adds social buttons to your pages or posts and allows you to specify where they will display on the page what buttons will display. Easy to set up too.
Review Azon – this is a wordpress plugin for creating Amazon Affiliate Review sites. You can post anything from an Amazon page directly into your blog post, using shortcodes. It takes a bit of getting used to but once you are failiar with it, you can create a review post in 5 minutes complete with images, specifications, customer ratings and reviews, and product descriptions.
There is a knack to making these kinds of site – the best advice I can give you is: don’t just put up reviews and hope for the best – you need a compelling site to support the reviews. Go for expensive products otherwise you’ll be spending hours trying to make pennies. And you’ll need good promotion.
Here’s a good guide to the process – Build An Amazon Review Site That Earns $200 Per Month – although the part about EMD (Exact Match Domains) is out of date now.
My top tips for web design (when you are not a web designer!)
Don’t just go with your personal preference – design with a purpose in mind.
The purpose needs to be to:
1 – Create the desired response in your target audience.
2 – Make it easy for them to use the site.
3 – Not give people migraines or make them turn down the brightness on their screens.
Colour scheme and choice of fonts have a big impact on how people will respond to your pages. Arial is the easiest font to read, and shouldn’t be used at a smaller size than 13px. But nothing but Arial 13pc is HELLUVA BORING. So what are the options?
My gut says to use a black background with white 72pc COMIC SANS text all the way…but these guys say I’m doing it wrong:
Psychology of Fonts
This page is slightly more in depth than perhaps we need for our purposes but is an interesting read and may affect your choice of fonts:
Psychology of Colour in Web Design
A lighter read this time, but this article has some interesting pointers about the use of colour in branding:
and this brief overview make some intriguing points too:
Remember – don’t go just with what you like, pick with an end result in mind…what do you NEED your audience to feel when they visit your site?
Here’s a rather old, but very interesting article on the subject of…Website design psychology
MAILING LIST SERVICES
I use MailChimp for my mailing lists. I started with them because it’s free if you have less than 2000 subscribers, and send less than 12000 emails a month. That’s pretty damn good.
I haven’t used it, but AWeber is the industry standard. They are very well known, highly respected and are meant to have great customer service. They are a premium service, but offer the first month at $1 to get you started. Everyone I know who took the one month for one dollar signed up. If I hadn’t already gone with Mailchimp I would have too.
Simple Online Business Structure:
This is by no means the only way to organise an online business – but for a one-person solo venture on a budget, this is how I like to organise things. This is nothing earth-shattering, just what I’ve settled on after lots of research and tons of trial and error:
**The digital delivery service I’d recommend is E-Junkie.
Ecommerce and Online Store Solutions
Shopify – not used this yet but heard very good things about it. There is a monthly fee for using it.
Big Cartel – I had a shop on this a few years back and found it a delight to use. It is free if you have less than 5 products, and the site is dead simple to set up, works great and looks good.
1Shoppingcart – another industry standard that I haven’t used because I’m cheap! Againhead good things about it.
Wanna build a Niche Site?
My simple advice for anyone wanting to do a niche site:
Don’t create one by-the-numbers – you want to stand out not blend in.
Use a good research tool:
Google Keyword Tool is a great free option, combined with the traffic estimator that goes with it.
Google trends is another freebie that is massively useful for checking when your market has ups and downs – whether it is growing or shrinking, and where your potential audience live!
Market Samurai is a premium tool, but has extended features and an intuitive interface.
Make a list of the top ten competitors in your niche:
Write down 5 things each site does right, and 5 things they do badly.
Do the right things even better, and fix the things they do wrong:
You now have a list of 100 ways to be better than your competitors. Create your site with these in mind.
Don’t look the same as them
Don’t have the same tone as them.
Be patient and don’t be greedy.
Product Creation Tips
Find a market before you make a product.
Find a market you’d like to serve and ask them what they need that they can’t get yet.
If you cannot make the product or service yourself, you will need to find people to do it for you.
If you cannot pay up front, you will need to convince people that it’s worth them investing their effort in, for some kind of payment later on – whether that is a share in your business, or some kind of commission.
LinkedIn is amazing for finding professionals looking for all kinds of work. Search the groups for your area of interest and you can post an explanation of your offer (including the no-payment up front part) and see who is interested.
Super Quick Sales Tips
Add value to your item by including extras and bonuses. You know the “buy this and get this-this-and this-free!” thing they do on informercials? They do it because it works.
Make it clear what you are offering – a solution to their problem. Tell them why they need your product.
Explain that your guarantee means there is no risk in buying.
Scarcity is a bit old and lame but if you can put a new spin on it then why not. Just make sure you don’t do the old “today only discounted offer!” that is there every day. I’d never buy from a site that does that!
Give anyone who buys a coupon or discount code for their next purchase. Set this up to happen automatically.
Offer referral fees…make sure you set up a referral program so this happens automatically.
Be contactable and real.
And above all honest and not hypey or pushy.
Search Engine Optimisation – BLEURGH
I spent a decent portion of my life optimising a bunch of sites according to various rules that I read about. Then the rules all changed, so I changed all my stuff. Then the rules changed again. I’m bored of keeping up with SEO and have changed to the tactic of making good stuff that people want to read/consume/buy – which is hopefully interesting enough that they want to tell their friends about it.
So I don’t pay any attention to keyword density anymore.
I use the fantastic free All-In-One Seo for wordpress and that’s it.
Forget Exact Match Domains – what does the url of this site mean to you? Nothing I’d wager, as it was created for a project I was working on that was cancelled and I thought I’d use it for something else seeing as I’d paid for it. It has nothing to do with internet marketing.
I haven’t optimised this site for search engines in the slightest.
I’ve done no keyword research for this site either.
What’s that? Well you’re reading this site and I’m not looking at yours so you decide which method is working best, eh?
Write guest posts for blogs in related space to you – or better, try to poach people to write for yours. It’s a bit old hat now, but if you use your imagination and breathe some life into the idea you can make it work.
Posting updates to social bookmarking sites is still a good way to spread the word about your stuff. As always, valuable, original content will work – spammy, flimsy rubbish content will crash and burn. Choose your weapon!
My Top 13 Social Bookmarking Sites
(and how to use them properly!):
1 – Twitter
Microblogging site famous for its 140 character limit on posts. Created in 2006, it passed half a billion registered users in 2012. Yowch. It’s not strictly speaking a bookmarking site, but many people use it to post their updates…
My top tip for posting to Twitter: Never try to sell anything directly. If you want to sell stuff, feel free to use Twitter for developing relationships with potential customers by posting stuff that gives them reason to like and trust you.
I use a Twitter management program called Tweetadder to manage my own Twitter campaigns, but I’ll write more about that later on.
3 – Reddit
Social news and entertainment site started in October 2006.Users post either text or a link and other users vote the stories up or down.
My top tip for posting to Reddit: it’s a community based around sharing funny, useful and interesting things. Don’t be purely selfish, or boring. If you are posting a link to something of yours, make sure it’s funny, useful and/or interesting. Squeeze pages aren’t any of those things!
4 – Stumbleupon
A discovery engine. It finds and recommends web content to its users based on their stated tastes, and on the ratings of other users. It was started in 2001.
My top tip for posting to Stumbleupon: pay attention to which category you post to.
Check the screenshot: .
There are loads of them, but post to the wrong one and you’ll be wasting your time. Don’t try to game the system – just post good stuff to the right audience, and you’ll get results. Stumbleupon used wisely can bring you a ton of traffic.
5 – Buzzfeed
Combines a technology platform for detecting viral content with an editorial selection process to provide a snapshot of “the viral web in realtime” (according to wikipedia).
My top tip for posting to Buzzfeed:Pay attention to the categories along the top:
These give you a very good idea of what people come to the site for. Also. To get clicked you’ll need a killer headline and photo. Try a headline that asks a question that reader needs to read the story to get the answer to.
6 – Delicious
Started in 2003 and bought by Yahoo in 2005. It is a social bookmarking service that allows tagging, so that bookmarks can be searched and browsed by these tags.
My top tip for posting to Delicious: This is another community, and the site is design to be used as a way of sharing things of interest with friends. So rather than spamming the crap out of it trying to flog your wares, it’s probably better to build relationships by showing interest in others and posting useful links. Just a thought!
7 – Digg
Social news website that, like Reddit, allows users to vote stories up or down. It was started in 2004.
My top tip for posting to Digg: This is another one where it’s all about the headline and photo. Again it’s worth remembering to be useful, funny and/or interesting. You can of course ignore this advice and spam it with your crap but no one will vote you up and your precious link will disappear into Hades, never to be seen again.
8 – Pinterest
Image bookmarking site launched in 2009/2010.In May 2012 it was valued at $1.5 billion.Phew.
My top tip for posting to Pinterest: Everyone posts pretty stuff: fashion, food, nature and animals. Be different and you’ll stand out. Worth bearing in mind they have a zero-tolerance policy on anything icky. You can also post images with affiliate links. Think about that for a bit.
9 – Dzone allows users to post content and links, comment on others posts and to vote on links.Originally aimed at architects and developers, seems more open now.
My top tip for posting to Dzone: Probably don’t bother.
10 – Google Bookmarks – simple bookmarking page from the Big G.
My top tip for posting to Google Bookmarks: C&P your link into it and forget about it. Only the best advice for you guys.
11 – Diigo – social bookmarking site with the unique option of allowing users to highlight sections of webpages. Nice.
My top tip for posting to Diigo: Unless you interact with other people, no one will see your links. Also, if your account is just you saving your own links (like you are going to lose your own websites url ffs!), everyone will instantly be able to see what your cunning plan is a you’ll look like a lonely loser. AGAIN!
12 – Clipboard – slightly different style of bookmarking site -a way sharing and saving things of interest online.
My top tip for posting to Clipboard: Just like the other sites really, nothing unique to add to this.
13 – Friendfeed is actually an aggregator of updates from social media, bookmarking sites, blogs and micro-blogs. Founded by former Google employees – interesting!
My top tip for posting to Friendfeed: Just make your updates interesting. Who’d gonna click on a digital yawn?
A quick note to those of you who don’t want to follow the crowd:
Rather than wasting your time posting your own url to a bakers dozen bookmarking sites, you might want to instead consider making your website so damn valuable and entertaining to your audience that they will post it to these sites for you in their thousands or even tens of thousands, while you sit back and enjoy a well deserved coffee break.
FREE EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL
Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn – always open, enlightening and listenable, Pat seems to be getting into his stride, leading the way by earning a great living helping people and providing high quality information for free.
Internet Business Mastery – Jeremy and Jason (formerly AKA Jay and Sterling) present a vast number of very useful podcasts on various aspects of internet business. One of the most entertaining ones out there.
Late Night Internet Marketing with Mark Mason – Solid, genuine advice presented in a down-to-earth way. Can’t beat that.
The Warrior Forum – a huge, buzzing site, but the quality of advice is very variable. I’ve seen absolute GOLD posted there, available to anyone for free…but I’ve also seen a lot of advice that is just plain wrong. Take everything there with a pinch of salt, and use your common sense when taking advice from it.
PREMIUM EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL
Awaken the Giant Within – the classic Tony Robbins “sort-your-life-the-hell-out” manual. Nobody will admit to reading it, but it’s for good reasons that it became a best seller and a self-help classic.
The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich – Tim Ferriss knocked it out of the park with this astonishing newsflash that you are doing everything wrong. Absolutely vital book for anyone interested in business, happiness and, well, living life.
Think and Grow Rich: The Original Classic – Napoleon Hill’s classic is still fresh and relevant today, and although some references are dated, at times his voice seems as modern as anything around today. Not all the steps are for everybody, but the main premise of the book (the “secret” apparently stated in every chapter) is still a vital switch that needs to be flipped on in every entrepreneur.
THE PAID TOOLS THAT ARE WORTH THE MONEY
E-Junkie – really great way to sell your own digital products on your website. Simple to use, flexible and reliable. It’s the industry standard really.
Tweetadder – is a huge program that can do many, many things. The downside of it is that it can easily be misused – it’s really important to read all the documentation, and then think about what you want to achieve with it before you fire it up, or else you can end up going out all guns blazing – and get your twitter account suspended for promoting too aggressively!
There’s no need to do this, it’s just impatience!
This software can do a hell of a lot – basically run a very profitable Twitter campaign on autopilot – but that’s not to say that autopilot is the best way to go.
If you were on a plane and took a walk up to the cockpit, only to find it empty except for a blinking light saying “autopilot on” – would you feel comfortable? Would you prefer it if you went up there to find the same light on, but the pilot and co-pilot in there keeping an eye on everything? I know which scenario I’d prefer!
I personally use it about about 40% capacity and do the rest by hand so that I still come across as human.
Market Samurai – a multi-faced internet marketing tool which enables detailed keyword and SEO research, competition analysis, domain availability checking, backlink finding, appropriate advertising and more…one of the most useful IM tools out there, plus there’s a free trial version which will, if you are anything like me, completely convince you of it’s value. I bought it before the trial period ended, and I’ve never done that with anything else!
MISCELLANEOUS USEFUL THINGS:
Create a 3D Box image for your digital product – FREE!
3D Box Image Maker – These guys have kindly made a free online box-image maker thing. You need to have some images prepared in advance though – a cover, the sides and top in JPG,GIFor PNG formats. The free version is perfectly usable for most cases, however if need extra high quality there is a pro version.
Places to Ping your site
Pingler – ping your site when you wish for free, or sign up for a paid account and they will store up to 25 urls and ping them for you every three days. The basic paid option is currently $2.99 a month.
Pingfarm – if you have many urls to ping, you can upload a text file here and it will do the heavy lifting for you.
I have not managed to heap enough work on myself to require virtual assistant. That said, I would like to as soon as possible. These are the names I have found on my travels.
The usual suspects:
Odesk – this gets many votes as”the best place to find people”.
Elance – same sort of thing.
Freelancer – and more.
Guru – yeah ok I get it.
Fiverr – the cheap and cheerful budget alternative for small jobs.
Replacemyself.com – John Jonas’ managed outsourcing program.
I have not used it myself but have heard it highly recommended by a few different people. The main bonus appears to be that you don’t need to find and hire the people from scratch yourself – and that you are assured the workers are in the building, and accountable – whereas if you are hiring yourself, these are all potential risks you need to deal with yourself.
You also get support and advice regarding training your virtual assistants, which supposedly saves a lot of time and brain power!
OnlineJobs.ph Not used them so I don’t know if they are any good.
Easyoutsource.com – See above.
BestJobs.ph – See above the above.
If you are selling a service or product, you may benefit from an affiliate program. I’ve tried out a bunch of them and most are a disaster area. I’ve also tried managing my own without software help – DO NOT TRY THIS UNLESS YOU LOVE CRUNCHING NUMBERS ALL DAY EVERY DAY AND BEING POOR/LONELY.
I now use WPMU DEV Affiliate plugin for WordPress which is a powerful beast, but not for beginners.
This is one I haven’t used, but wouldn’t mind trying – if anyone has any experience of this please let me know because I like the look of it:
How to Get Explosive and Sticky Traffic
I personally try to keep thinking of traffic as “people”. Things can start to feel a bit robotic otherwise – endless numbers flickering on screens and it all starts to feel meaningless.
The Holy Grail of web pages are the ones that people share like mad. The old term is “viral” but I don’t like that. Too fancy.I like the words:
Useful, interesting and funny.
These are the things I tend to like to find online. Why? Well…
USEFUL – stuff people can use in their own lives to do something cool.
INTERESTING – stuff people can learn from and feel enriched/empowered.
FUNNY – ain’t no shame in bringin’ the LOLz
and most importantly because if you come across something like the above, you are likely to want to show it to your friends. As a creator of something that requires an audience – sharing is the Holy Grail. It’s also freee yay.
Concentrate on making your page Useful/Interesting/Funny and make sure it’s EASY TO SHARE IT.
Here’s my very condensed thoughts:
If you have a product for sale that costs more than a few pounds/dollars/euros or whatever – you are in a position to try out Adwords.
With Google Adwords, there are a million things to learn – but the most basic and important parts are:
TESTING and REFINING.
Test many different headlines and ad texts. Run them at low cost for a week or so (more if you can afford it) and check out the CTR. Nuke any that don’t get clicked. Keep ones that convert at more than 1%.
Keep testing, keep refining.
Is doing this time-consuming and boring? YES. But those who succeed do it. Those who fail don’t.
In your Adwords account, go to the “Tools and analysis” menu and click “Contextual Targeting Tool” and you can expand (and organise) your campaigns keyword range.
Top tips: You don’t need to have your ad in the number one position – the second and third positions get good click rates too. Try them out.
If your product is specific to your country – make sure it only runs in your country.
You can use Google Trends to check in which countries your keywords are searched for most often.
If there are websites related to your product that have Google ads on them – you can specify for Google to place your ads directly on that site.
Go to your Adwords account , go to the “Tool and Analysis” menu and click on “Placement Tool” and there are some tutorials on the left.
Conversion rate is KEY. Once you have a steady conversion rate tested over a decent period of time, you can set your profit margin as you want it.
If your products profit margin is £30, and your ads conversion rate is 1% that means you can spend a maximum of £0.30 per ad – although if you do this you’ll make no money. However if you spend £0.15 per ad, and your conversion rate is stable, you will make 100% return on your investment – on autopilot.
I’ll let you figure out how you can have fun with this concept – although be warned, it can be a lot of work getting to that point.
For the basics on Adwords I recommend:
Joel Comm’s Adsense Code – it covers the basics of the whole thing – creating campaigns and optimising your ads and how to position them on your site. Lots of good info and still relevant.
KEEPING A HEALTHY SKEPTICISM
It’s easy to get absorbed into the world of internet marketing – rather like who the Blob swallows it’s victims.
Dr Dave prescribes a regular dose of Salty Droid to keep you from believing too much. Don’t be a victim – do things on your terms and keep your mind open – but not so open that you’ll accept anything without question.