There are no rules in online business: except this – Be True to Your Soul.
Everything else should be approached as a friendly suggestion.
You’ll hear me talk about creating a business that speaks to your soul, but what do I mean by this?
What I mean is this:
I don’t want you to create a business based on what everyone else is saying you should do. Build a business that satisfies nobody but you and in so doing, you will also create an authentic business that speaks to the people you’re here to help.
I’ve been on this train of thought for some time now, but since I started speaking out about it; I’ve gained greater clarity and a frenzy of confirmation.
I’m going to share a few examples (for those of you to whom this is all Techno-Geek, bear with me. I’ll highlight the jargon and explain it all as we go along.)
Here are some examples of the “rules” I’ve tried to follow that have done nothing more than hold me back and leave me struggling in business:
- People have short attention spans, so keep your blog posts short;
- Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”) is dead;
- You have to focus on SEO, it’s the only way you’ll ever be found by the search engines;
- Write your headline first;
- Your domain name should contain a keyword, and:
- Don’t talk about yourself. Your readers don’t care about you other than to the extent you solve their problems.
While none of these is inherently wrong and in fact all are valid in their own way, they are also rules that have at times hindered my business more than they’ve helped it.
This is why I say: “throw all this shit out and create a business that’s true to you.”
Stick with me, I’m about to explain.
No Rules #1: People have short attention spans, so keep your blog posts short
A blog post is what you’re reading right now. In off-line business, (i.e. magazines, newspapers, etc.) they’re “articles,” in online business, they’re blog posts.
This “rule” is a Marketing Myth.
While in some cases it may be true that you need to keep your content short and to the point, in other cases, you are better served by taking the time to say what you have to say.
The key is to not overload your readers’ minds by sharing too many concepts in a single post.
Have you ever taken the time to actually read any of those 101 Reasons Why You Should (fill in the blank) posts?
Most likely not. While the headline may be compelling enough to have you click on it to have a read, it’s just too much information. Most of us get bored long before we make it to the final reason unless the writer is hella’ good at creating compelling content.
So while this rule has some validity, you’re better off saying what you have to say as concisely as possible (just the facts, ma’am) while ensuring that you get your point across. Sometimes you just can’t do that in 500 words or less.
Here are my Rules of Evidence (tongue-in-cheek reference to my legal days in Corporate America)
You can see for yourself…
Leonie Dawson wrote a very personal and vulnerable post about being “trolled online,“ that in her own words was her:
Most Viral Post Ever, ~Leonie Dawson, Leonie Dawson.com
This post clocks in at an astounding 2,549 words. By all accounts breaking the first Online Business Rule: “Keep Blog Posts at around 500 words” – about 5 times over.
Leonie Dawson is no slouch in the online business community. She’s created a luscious business with thousands of followers that generates tens of thousands of dollars for her each year; allowing her to not only revel in fulfilling her Soul Calling of helping people, but to work part-time hours while enjoying time with her family.
Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?
No Rules #1 (B): Jon Morrow
Jon Morrow is big stuff. I happen to love him. While he teaches the nuts and bolts of online business, he does it in a very open, authentic way.
Here’s what he has to say on the subject:
“It might seem strange, but on average, longer content gets much more traffic than shorter content.” ~Jon Morrow, BoostBlogTraffic.com
Maybe you’ve heard of BoostBlogTraffic, CopyBlogger and/or Kissmetrics? Jon’s had his finger in all of those pies. (You can check his post out here if you need to see it for yourself.)
No Rules #2: Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”) is dead
SEO is the concept of figuring out what term your reader might use in order to find your business online.
For instance, if you’re looking to start an online business, you might search for terms such as:
- Online Business Startup, or:
- How to Start an Online Business
“Online Business” is a keyword. While SEO involves more than just choosing the right keywords for your writing, that’s a story for a whole other post so we’re going to simply focus on keywords today.
The reason you might be hearing “SEO is dead,” is because there are billions of sites on the internet and you’re competing for attention with all of them. What are your chances of being found in that endless sea?
That’s where No Rules #3 comes in; so for the purposes of this post, I’m going to combine the two.
No Rules #2 + #3: You have to focus on SEO, it’s the only way you’ll ever be found by the search engines
Using keywords allows you to get found online by the various search engines, such as Google or Bing. (The result of which is the list of possible posts you get when you search things such as “online business” in your browser bar or internet search tool.)
These two rules are not really myths; they’re both valid. Here’s why:
Jon Morrow makes the point that SEO is really Much Ado About Nothing, your first year in business because the search engines don’t even start paying attention to your site until you have people linking back to it anyway. So your first year in business, you’re far better off creating killer content that people are likely to share than worrying about using your keyword in your post fourteen times.
I know attempting to focus a post on a single keyword stifles my creative writing skills, and…
Bonus tip: If you highlight terms in all of your content that clue in the search engines to what your site is about in its entirety, you’ll come up for those keywords as well once the search engines start taking notice of you.
it’s not likely you’ll be coming up on the first page of search results until you’ve been “in business” that long, anyway.
The founder of CopyBlogger, Brian Clark, makes an appealing argument in his ebook, SEO Copywriting, that SEO is neither the end all be all, nor is it dead. It’s an amazing tool you can use to compel your readers to visit your website. And I agree.
So who’s right?
They both are.
The thing is: focusing on keywords is distracting. It can keep you from writing in your “Authentic Voice,” which will in turn, likely alienate you from your reader. So use your own judgment.
My advice, at the very least would be to write your content first and then after it’s written, look for a keyword you can tie in to it.
No Rules #4: Write Your Headline First
In his ebook, How to Write Magnetic Headlines, Brian Clark suggests writing your headline first.
Again, he makes a compelling argument:
Make the promise first and you’ve just committed yourself to follow through on it.
It keeps you focused on the point of what you’re saying.
For me, I can get all caught up in the hype of the headline and lose my authentic voice. This doesn’t always serve me well, (read about my “trial and error using this technique.”)
Does that mean I’ll never try this tactic again? Nope. I used it on this one and it’s working out pretty well for me.
And if it serves you well, hallelujah and fantastic – go with it!
That’s the point whole point I’m making here, isn’t it?
Create a business that speaks to your soul.
Don’t get all caught up in the rules.
But before I get too caught up in all of that, there are still a couple of important rules to address:
No Rules #5: Your domain name should contain a keyword.
This ties in with the Rules Number 2, 3 and 4. It has to do with using a keyword in your domain name.
Your domain name is simply the name of your website – it’s the online address of your business. For instance, my domain name is: MerryWiseCoach.com.
While I think it’s definitely a benefit to use a keyword in your domain name, it’s not a hard and fast rule. (i.e. Copyblogger employs 2 keywords in its domain name: Copy and Blogger),
There’s also a rule that you should use a benefit of the main thing you do in your domain name. (i.e. if you’re a weight-loss guru, the word, “weight-loss.”)
But then, what about Kissmetrics? What do you think of when you see that domain name?
One would assume it has something to do with measuring something, I guess (“metrics.”) But I can say if I were wanting to measure results, say on my website, metrics is not likely a word I would search for.
Kissmetrics is, indeed a site on website analytics. That search term doesn’t appear anywhere in their domain name, yet they’re one of the most popular and lucrative websites out there.
So what about the site name that conjures emotion? (Doesn’t “kiss” make you think of being in love?)
In my early folly of doing everything by the book, I gave up a website I used to have called, OwnYourConfidence.com. It was an award-winning blog, but according to one of my early online business trainers, it didn’t offer a tangible benefit to my readers and didn’t contain a keyword that focused on a benefit that I offer through my coaching and training, so I let it go.
He might have been right, but I often wonder why in hell I chose to let go of an award-winning site. (May I say once again, “only follow the rules that speak to your soul. Everything else is a suggestion.”)
Back to the words of Jon Morrow – your first year in business is when you’re needing to be found online and it’s also the time period you’re least likely to be found online by anyone doing a search for what you have to offer.
So maybe it doesn’t matter what the hell we call our website.
The more I learn and test the rules, the more I think it’s more useful to create a site name that is memorable. At least then people will remember it after they’ve been to it and will hopefully come back to visit. Kris Oster’s Mythic Rhythm is one example, as is Ash Ambirge’s The Middle Finger Project.
It wouldn’t matter whether I could find those two sites online because I have never forgotten the name of them once I did find them.
Rules of Online Business 6: Don’t talk about yourself. Your readers don’t care about you other than to the extent you solve their problems.
Someone please tell this to Leonie Dawson! (Don’t. I’m just kidding.)
Again, this one is both true and false.
People don’t come to your website to read about what you had for lunch that day.
However, if you can share with them a compelling story that serves to drive your point home, then…
Tell the damn story!
Being authentic online is the only way to create real connection.
Creating connection is the only way to give your audience and potential customers a reason to trust you.
The only way anyone will ever buy anything from you (especially if yours is a service-oriented business, such as coaching, holistic healing, etc. and not a Grateful Dead T) is if they trust you.
Telling a compelling story that makes a point is one hella good way to let people know who your are, rather than telling them who your are. It’s a fantastic way to build rapport with your audience and quickly establish trust.
Why I Take the No Rules Approach as Opposed to What Everyone is Telling Me
Simple. Because following the rules didn’t work for me.
I have years of work and an entire website to attest to this (my former site, HappySexyLife.com.)
Being the innovative rebel that I am, I decided to do things the way that my heart is urging me to do, and have found innumerable examples that I’m on the right track.
While No Rules may not be right for everyone. In fact, in most cases, some of the rules will be perfectly true to you while others won’t. The key is to only follow the ones that work for you.
That’s why in working with clients, I teach them about “The Rules,” and if they experience resistance to them, I teach them how to distinguish between potential self-sabotage and a rule that just doesn’t speak to them.
Just because it doesn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. I’m not into creating Merry Cloans – simply teaching you how to have a more succulent business.
One hard and fast “rule” I can give you though, is this:
Focus more on being true to you – on building a business that speaks to your soul – and less on what everyone is saying, “you should do, Dahling,” followed by a Cruella Deville laugh. (Know the film? Bonus points if you let me know in the comments.)
While they may know what works for them, and they may have proof that it does; YOU are the only one who knows what will work for you.
If you follow these rules, just because they’re what you’ve been told to do, while missing the boat in being authentic, your business will stink to high-heaven of used car salesmanship. And you’ll be left struggling, wondering wtf?
P.S. If you’re tired of struggling to create a business that speaks to your soul, and ready to know yourself Soul Deep so you can create the connection + meaning you’re craving, join me for my Corporate Reform School Challenge. It’s a three part course + Facebook Group where we’ll dig deep to discover where our business mind meets our luxurious creativity so we can create a business that speaks to our soul. We’ll move fast and get a ton accomplished, but only for a week. After that, we’ll kick back and sip a virtual mojito in celebration of our Daring Feat. Best of all –it’s free.
Interested? Just click the image to the right – just like Dorothy clicking her red slippers, you’ll be taken home. Note: The group opened for early registrants on July 29th – when you register, expect your first lesson on August 5th (and if you’re a little late to the party, no worries. You’ll receive an email inviting you to our Facebook group, where I’ll get you all caught up.) After August 13th, 2015 go ahead and click the image – you’ll be taken to info regarding my latest free training. It’s like opening a box of cereal when you were a kid and seeing what your prize is, right? 😀