4 Keys To A Successful Website

If you read my twitter posts you know that I was very impressed with the Revolve Dance Company’s performance that I went to recently. I was so impressed I started thinking about what I could do for them.

Tech Guys Not Pretty

For most of my adult life I’ve built websites. I know HTML, CSS etc. When I see a crappy website for an organization I like that is the first thing that pops into my head to do. Build them a website that doesn’t suck.

Now I have learned over the years I’m a tech guys, not a designer. While I technically know how to create webpages, I don’t necessarily know how to make them look good. I’ve learned a few tricks along the way, like using a theme designed by someone else with a platform like WordPress.

But basically when I want it to look really cool, I hire a designer to design it. Photographer and Model is an example. Interestingly designers normally draw the page in Photoshop and then cut it up to make their HTML.

It is More Than Some HTML

Over the last 18 months I’ve been building an online business, PhotographerAndModel.com. In that process I’ve learned a thing or three about what it takes to really use the internet to succeed in spreading whatever it is you want to spread.

In my case it is teaching photography. In the case of something like Revolve, it would be promoting dance.

So now when I think about helping them with their website it is about more than just a web page, or even a blog it is about community building via a complete online presence.

What does that mean?

In the past it was good enough to just have a website with a little information about your organization. Now that would just get lost in the flotsam and jetsom of the internet. You need to be able to rank well in the search engine and create multiple means for people to join your community.

Here’s a quick overview of things I’d suggest for any organization wanting to use the internet to expand their audience/market/community/following.

#1 Build an Email Mailing List

You need a way to push information to your followers and the best way to that is still email. So start building an email list from day one. Some people think twitter could replace your email list, but that is a fantasy. Twitter isn’t there yet, and email is still better because people read all their email, but not all the tweets that go by.

Do it right. Require a double opt-in and use a quality emailing list provider like Aweber.

#2 Have a Blog

Even if you don’t plan on daily updates, blogging software makes organization and creating new content so much easier. This is especially true for organizations without a lot of tech knowledge. Your average person can figure out how to write an article with WordPress and respond to comments.

I also believe your blog should have its own domain. That domain is where you send all your traffic from other sites and if you need to change things in the future you can use that url to do it.

#2 Use Multiple Social Media Sites

People connect on the internet via a bunch of different sites. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Myspace, etc. You need to have a presence there. And you need to update it regularly.

“Wait, I have to not only update my blog, but all the these other sites as well? I don’t have time for this.”

No, you need to make them update each other. This is a bit of technical alchemy, but a tech guy can set it up and then you only have to keep it going.

Mostly you do this by having one site’s info drawn from another. When you post to your blog, a tweet is created and sent to Twitter. Twitter updates your status on Facebook and Myspace. When you create a video on YouTube, you post it to your blog.

#4 Put the Most Important Thing On the Front Page Above The Fold.

What do you want people to do when they come to your website? Buy something? Signup for your mailing list? Learn more about you?

I remember a long time ago reading one of Seth Godin’s books where he put forth this idea. At the time I had a site for my shareware business. I did a redesign and put buy and download buttons on the front page of the site. Before they had been on each product’s page. Afterwards I sent Seth this email:

I just wanted to drop you a line and say thanks for your online book
“Fixing Micah’s Website”. I read it and it inspired me to redesign my
company web site. After doing so I quadrupled my sales, which is pretty
good.

I went out and bought “The Big Red Fez” as a thank you.

Put your email opt-in on your main page above the fold. If you sell something, put that there too. It works.

Do these four things and your internet presence will be a quantum leap better for what ever purpose you are working toward.

Back to Revolve

For instance, Revolve’s website isn’t even on the first page of search results for their name. That should be a no brainer, given their domain is revolvedanceco.com, a few dozen backlinks and they should be ranked #1.

Ticket sales are buried. There should be a buy tickets now button on the front page. A list of upcoming events would be nice as well. A blog post allowing visitors to connect with the members of the company would be good to. Obviously they need a email opt-in and some incentive to get people to opt-in.

Revolve is so talented, it is a shame their website isn’t as talented. I don’t like to be critical, even for a good cause, with out offering a solution. So if anyone from Revolve reads this, I’m willing to do all the suggestions for you and talk to you about other things you could do to make your site not just good, but incredible.

This message is getting long so I’m going to stop. Hopefully readers you get something out of this to make your website better.

Professional Photography For Business

I wrote this as a post a year ago on an internet business forum I’m a member of. I got a question about it today and thought it would make a good post for this blog. Interestingly a photography post NOT suitable for my photography blog.

Written Aug 20, 2008

Was trying to cram Book Yourself Solid into my head last night until it exploded. But one thing he talks related to credibility was having a professional photograph.

Given I’ve done a lot of people photography I thought I’d give a few tips and thoughts.

There are different kinds of photographers. Unfortunately most are what I refer to as PPA photographers. They are stuck a couple of decades back on the curve of photography. If you are looking for a headshot and they put you in front of a mottled blue background, you are in the wrong place.

TIP 1: The best people to have do your head shot are photographers who specialize in actors headshots.

Your images should reflect a feel or emotion. Just like copy isn’t just about what you are selling, your image isn’t just about what you look like. It should make the viewer feel something.

Your expression is going to have a lot to do with the feeling. So think about the feeling you want and then what expression causes that feeling.

TIP 2: Just like I tell my models, practice in front of a mirror. Try different expressions and poses.

Feeling will also be influenced by lighting and depth of field. This is why you need to get the right photographer. There is technically right lighting and there is artistically right lighting. You want artistically right lighting. I’m not even going to try and explain that right now, but you’ll know it when you see it.

TIP 3: Pick a photographer based almost solely on their portfolio.

The biggest problem when trying to commission any kind of art is knowing what you are going to get in the end for something that hasn’t been created yet. Fact is you won’t know 100%. The best indicator you can get is the images they have already taken. This tells you something about their “style”. A style is made up of the things an artist is comfortable creating and the elements they use over and over.

TIP 4: Use a modeling site to find a photographer.

The yellow pages or local newspaper rarely will help you find the kind of photographer you are looking for. You need to go where you can look at a photographers work when they are most expressing their style. Since you want them in your area, a modeling site lets you search by zip code.

Here are a couple:

http://www.modelmayhem.com/
http://www.onemodelplace.com/
http://www.deviantart.com/ < - not really modeling, but artistic photography You also may find what I call a professional amateur on these sites. They are photographers who love it as a hobby and have gotten really, really good, but they don't do it for the money. They will if it comes along, but aren't really marketing for it. Offer these guys some money and you'll get a quality product for good price. I'd consider myself one of these guys. TIP 5: Not every photographer is good at everything, but style does come through.

There are two areas of photography where you see the high quality artistic photographers excelling. Wedding and High School Senior photography. These also happen to be the biggest money makers. So if you are looking for a good portrait, look at who the best of these guys are in your area.

Lastly I’d just like to say photography matters. It tells people if you are serious or not. It’s like good webdesign.

The Niche Show Interview With Me

If you are at all interested in listening to me discus internet marketing and the ups and downs of my various ventures, check the interview on the Niche Show.

I know Shawn and Nick from the Internet Business Mastery Academy and am honored they wanted me on their show. We talk about success and failure. Actually a lot about failure really.

Business Interview With Me

An associate of mine from the Internet Business Mastery Academy recently did an interview with me about my businesses (Glamour Apprentice, and Distinctions For Life).

Personally I think he gushes a little about me, but you might find it interesting. Sadly, I wrote my responses in a hurry and included a number of typos, please forgive me.

MasterMind Ron Davis – The Adagio Blog

One thing I might have mentioned is how hard it is to deal with distractions like starting new businesses. I’ve got a new one in my head and can’t think about the one I have now. Arrgh. I’m not sure if working on the new one would clear my head, or just take me further away from the one I have.

Amazon Screwed Me, Should I Keep Working For Them?

Let me tell you a story and get your opinion.

In December I got excited about the Kindle. During the same time I was learning about PPC advertising. In February, Amazon announced the Kindle 2 and I wrote a post on why you should buy a Kindle. Since I’d learned about PPC I thought I’d try using it to drive some traffic.

Worked pretty well. Given natural organic traffic that my blog gets and the PPC traffic, I was able to help Amazon sell 20 Kindles and numerous accessories.

$7,362.99 in revenue for Amazon when I got this email.

Greetings from the Associates Program.

We recently noticed your Associate links are appearing as sponsored links on search engines under the term “kindle” and variations of this term. Please note, per the Operating Agreement:

4. Referral Fees
In addition, you may not: … (j) seek to purchase or register any keywords, search terms or other identifiers that include the words “amazon”, “endless”, “kindle”, or any other trademark of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates, or variations or misspellings thereof (for example “ammazon”, “amaozn”, “kindel”, “endlss”, “enldess”, etc.) (“Proprietary Terms”) for use in any search engine, portal, sponsored advertising service or other search or referral service. From time to time we may request that you cause any applicable Web search provider to exclude Proprietary Terms from keywords used to display your advertising content in association with search results, assuming the provider of such Web search engine offers such exclusion capabilities. If we determine, in our sole discretion, that you have engaged in any of the foregoing activities or, as the case may be, refused promptly to comply with a request from us to exclude Proprietary Terms from any keyword as mentioned above, we may (without limiting any other rights or remedies available to us) withhold any referral fees otherwise payable to you under this Agreement and/or terminate this Agreement.

In an effort to protect our trademark, we request that Associates refrain from this activity and will be enforcing this policy. Please note that some sponsored advertising services allow advertisers to indicate that their ads should surface when the user’s search is somewhat related to specified keywords; for example, an ad placed against the keyword “books” would surface in a search for “Amazon books.” To prevent your links from appearing as a sponsored link, we also ask that you take preventative measures, such as adding Amazon’s Proprietary Terms to your negative keywords. In addition, you will not receive payment for referral fees earned through the use of these keywords.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter and your cooperation. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions or concerns.

Best regards,

Thomas – Associates Account Specialist
http://www.amazon.com
=============================

Guess I should have read the terms of service closer.

When I received this email I immediately stopped my PPC campaigns.

Personally I don’t see how there trademark could possibly be damaged by my buying a “kindle” keyword from Google. In reality I expect they just don’t want competition from associates.

I didn’t send traffic directly to Amazon from Google, as “We recently noticed your Associate links are appearing as sponsored links on search engines” implies. The sponsored links in my ads were to my blog post. I could see how they wouldn’t want that to happen…well I can understand how they would think that was too easy.

I felt they were missing some obvious benefits of the product and so I wrote an impassioned and informative blog post about how great their product was. I have to think it was persuasive to people who chose to buy after reading it.

They debited my associates account $502.05. I’m not sure how they came up with that number. I asked them how they determined the difference between organic and PPC traffic. I also asked why they do this.

They haven’t answered either query.

Amazon is a big heartless corporation. I understand that, even if I don’t like it. They aren’t going fix this and give me my commissions back. They found a way to keep them, and they will. It’s legal, and I might have avoided it if I had read the terms closer.

But to me it is bad business. I helped them sell their product. I evangelized their technology. I wrote a persuasive blog post. I wrote ads that caught people’s attention and got them to read about why they should get a Kindle.

I doubt anyone came to my site before going to Amazon’s. Think about it. You search for Kindle. The #1 result is Amazon’s page. The top of the page sponsored link is Amazon. If someone was just looking for information, wouldn’t they go straight to Amazon’s Kindle page?

They are looking for a reason to buy. They are looking for someone who isn’t associated with Amazon to tell them why a Kindle is good for real. I provided that. And as a result Amazon made $359. Of which they gave me $35.90 for helping them out.

Then Thomas comes along and notices that my ads are showing up on their keywords. So he does what corporate policy #456 says to do, and takes my commission away and sends me an email telling me I broke the rules. Then he moves on to the next ad.

Now I’m left split. On one hand Amazon just cost me money. Not just lost commissions, but the fact I paid for ads that have to be paid for and they took the money those ads earned. Now I’m in the hole.

More than costing me money, I feel they did me wrong. I’m hurt. I know I should be emotional about it, but it hard when you are excited about something like the Kindle – it is a serious drain on my time now that I have one, I can’t stop reading.

I’m excited. So excited I did my unboxing video and showed more benefits of the Kindle. I’ve got an idea for another video on how to get free books for the Kindle and how to get them onto the device.

But should I do it? On one hand it seems a matter of principle if they screw me I should stop helping them. But I can keep making money – unless they find another way to take what I earned – by selling the Kindle. Money I now need to make up my losses for the month of work I’ve already done for them.

BTW when I did the unboxing video I didn’t realize they had already taken my commissions. I thought it was still open to discussion.

What do you think? Should I keep promoting the Kindle or stop?

My One Thing

I got the Four Hour Work Week audio book and have been going back through it. As a result I’m really focused in a number of ways. One means I’m not reading much in the way of blogs, but that had been going on for awhile now. So if I haven’t read your blog I’m sorry.

I don’t remember which came first, this post on Tim Ferris’ blog about The Power of Less, or the audio book. But I know I wasn’t very far into the audio book when I decided I could actually accomplish a mini-retirement.

A mini-retirement is where you go and live somewhere on an extended basis, like a month to a year, and it is taught in 4HWW. Since I’ve read the book I’ve always known what I wanted my first mini-retirement to be. I want to go to Nevada for a month and go to FrontSight every weekend to train.

I just realized I could actually make that happen. All it takes is getting permission from my wife and my boss. My wife has said yes, already. She is the bestest wife ever, in case I haven’t said that lots of times.

Haven’t talked to the boss yet, but I do think it is doable. Probably can’t get him to pay me for it, but maybe for some of it. I also have to figure out exactly how I’m going to approach it my persuasively.

But what about the one thing Ron?

After reading that post by Ferris, I knew I had to think of the one thing I needed to work on for the next month or so. But I honestly could find one. I knew I need to lose weight. My waist has expanded enough it is too uncomfortable to wear my gun in my IWB holster. So being fat is lowering my ability to defend myself.

But I don’t have the drive to diet and exercise.

Then my decision to do the mini-retirement required me to look at my finances and I realized what my one thing should be. I’m going to stay on a budget. Actually it is less about a budget that it is cutting back my spending. I decided that and can now tell I’ve got a reluctance to spend I’ve never had before.

It has also helped me get my butt in gear about a couple of business projects. I’ve set up 2 test sites as an affiliate marketer. I did them based on the Infomillionaire system, but it is funny to see how much that is like Ferris’ system in 4HWW. They are about the market, and not about my interests. One is about World of Warcraft Gold, and the other is about stopping a break up or getting your love back. If they don’t test out in the next week, I’ll look for something else.

I’m also putting the finishing touches on my own product teaching Pinup Photography. That should be in something like a final form by next week and I’m going to invite some beta testers this weekend. Hopefully it will be on the market by the end of the month.

And I’m going to be releasing a new version of Suck It Down, my MacOS program. I have done nothing on it for over 3 years and it doesn’t even work on the Intel chip. All I’m doing is making it work and updating my registration code. The crazy thing is it still sells about one copy a month. So I figure I do an update and that should cause a spike in sales and then double the monthly sales for a few months.

I am in serious motion and it will lead to big things. Now I’m off to edit.

New Photography Site

I’m not sure who reads my blog or why. I think it is an eclectic crowd. I think some of them are here for the photography, so I’ll let them know about something new I’m doing.

It is called Glamour Apprentice and I need to know what people want to know. So if you are interested in learning about photographing models, please fill out my one question survey.