Building up a successful online business is hard enough, but it’s even harder when an entrepreneur’s inexperience, arrogance, or greed ends up shooting their business in the foot and destroying months of progress that they’ve made.
Here are six rookie mistakes that can spare you a lot of heartache.
I) Abusing your email subscription list to the point where you start looking like a spammer. Email subscriptions are hard fought and hard won. You should celebrate every one that you’re able to net, because it means that you do actually have something interesting to say. Additionally, the readers who’ve signed up for your email list are also your top candidates for converting sales and increasing your readership through word-of-mouth advertising.
But do not let arrogance or greed go to your head. Be respectful towards your readership’s time and patience and don’t constantly bombard them with advertisements to the point that you’re viewed as a spammer. Emailing them once a month is a good starting point, and from there getting a good feel for clients that might be interested in additional sales and promotions
II) Linked to the first point, do not abuse the relationships of family or friends on social media sites. When it comes to advertising, you should undeniably utilize every resource at your disposal, and when it comes to some industries such as launching a successful Kickstarter campaign, harnessing and tapping into your personal networks is absolutely crucial for success (and can also raise a lot of capital for a startup).
But when it comes to effectively utilizing them, the old saying put yourself in your customer’s shoes should be permanently replaced with put yourself in your own shoes when it comes to how you behave when surfing the web.
You have a “friend” that’s constantly pestering you, constantly trying to sell you something, constantly asking for your email address, and constantly trying to include you in Facebook groups that you really don’t what to be a part of, what can often happen?
Well I don’t know about you, but I’ll increasingly start perceiving that guy’s posts and messages as spam, and take a long, hard guess at what I do to spammers?
III) Choosing short-term profit over long-term reputation. Pick your poison on this one. You get tired of writing posts, so your resort to plagiarism. You get tired of being ranked so low in search rankings, so you use blackhat backlinks that get you banned from Google. Because of their high commissions, you start selling products and services that you know are dubious and deceptive towards your readership. All of these types of behaviors can tarnish your reputation and come back to royally bite you in the ass.
IV) Keyword stuffing. This is old news that Google figured out a long time ago. Yes, it’s good to have some keywords in your posts in order to boost your website’s ranking, but oversaturating a post can actually hurt you, as Google figured out a long time ago that this was one of the bread-and-butter tricks that SEO companies were using.
If you don’t believe me, then listen to Matt Cutts. As Google’s chief point man that leads their spam team, Cutt’s is probably a guy you should know, and he very clearly lays out Google’s policy.
Please note that Cutts presented this back in 2011. But this is the internet; a place where old wives’ tales die have to die horrible, gruesome deaths before finally being abandoned, and where self-proclaimed “marketing gurus” advocate outdated strategies that can actually destroy your website. When it comes to keyword optimization, be careful.
V) Promoting too many sales discounts at the outset of your business. The problem with this strategy is actually two-fold. First, while it’s smart to give discounts and sometimes even free services at the beginning of your business in order to increase your customer base and brand recognition, be careful that it doesn’t become something that your customers automatically assume and expect from you (i.e. you can kiss your profit margin goodbye).
Second (and yet again, put yourself in your own shoes in order to understand this point), yes, who doesn’t like getting a good deal? How doesn’t like to save money? But if you’ve structured your site with the stereotypical, “But wait…There’s more!!!” infomercial sales pitch, what often happens?
Well what happens is that you start looking like a used car salesman, which can lead to either:
A) People start putting their guard up because they naturally assume there’s a hidden catch somewhere that you’re not telling them about (and as a side note, they’re often correct when dealing with less scrupulous websites), or
B) Far from coming across as generous or magnanimous, the product your selling starts looking like a cheaply made piece of garbage that you honestly couldn’t give away, and the only way you can sell it is through massive discounts.
Never underestimate the value of a good sale and how it can help build a business, but you should also recognize that there are some pitfalls to it as well.
VI) You fail to recognize that the true key to success is through sincerity and originality. I find that this one is especially true for internet entrepreneurs who think they aren’t good writers. But writing is just like any other internet skill; it takes time to develop, mature, and find your voice.
But what do these entrepreneurs often do to compensate for their initial lack of writing skills?
They emulate the competition. What’s the problem with this strategy? Yet again, put yourself in your own shoes in order to find the answer.
How many sites give off the feeling of a used car dealership? Annoying pop-ups, tacky advertisement for cheaply made products, as well as an overbearing tone that’s screaming, “Buy! Buy! Buy! Buy this now!!”
Do those sites instinctively make you put your guard up as a consumer? Once that guard is up, how many times have you actually bought products from that site? Even better, how long did you actually stay on that site because of its disingenuous layout?
Sincerity is the key to success, and one of the ways you establish sincerity with your readers is to make them understand that your website is actually a two-way street. You want to talk to them. You want to answer their questions. Whenever someone posts a comment, you take pride in how quickly you get back to them.
Within your posts, ask open-ended questions that encourage viewer feedback, and always finish a post with, “What do you think? Sound off on in the comment section below.” Post a survey every few weeks that asks for customer feedback.
Conclusion – So, what are some of the cardinal rules when starting out in the online world? Utilizing both your email list as well as your social networks are important for success, but don’t abuse them to the point where you start being viewed as a spammer.
Embracing blackhat practices can come back to haunt you, and punishment can include being completely de-listed and banned from Google’s search engine altogether. They simply aren’t worth the risk, especially the damage they can do to your long-term brand and reputation
Discounts and freebies are great tactics for increasing business when just starting out, but be careful not to give away the farm, because not only can they put you into a financial hole, they can negatively impact how a customer perceives both your website and your products.
Finally, understand something that even a lot of seasoned internet entrepreneurs still don’t get. Be sincere, honest, and try to cultivate a relationship with your viewers grounded upon trust, loyalty, and respect.