Like most things in life, building a great business website starts with sticking to a few simple but powerful principles. Here are the three principles we believe lead to success — and we define success as, making a visitor believe that you are the business they want to engage with and taking that critical step of purchase/contact/expression of interest.

Want to know if your web designer is doing a great job? Read the three rules below. Is he following them all?

 

Rule #1: Pump up the visitor’s emotional state.

Buying something is an emotional process — in fact, most decisions are made based on emotions. What is your visitor supposed to feel when they purchase your product or service? What does that product or service deliver, emotionally? Recreate that feeling through the design, copy and aesthetics of your website and your visitor won’t be able to sign up fast enough.

 

Rule #2: Remove all obstacles to completion of your goal (purchase, contact, etc.).

Closing the sale isn’t just about making the prospect willing to buy — you also need to remove any impediments to completing the purchase. Define your goal for the site and state it clearly on every page. Are you trying to get people to inquire about your services? Are you trying to sell them a widget and make a payment before they leave? Whatever the goal, the simpler it is for them to understand this and do it, the more likely they will. Don’t make them have to hunt to find your contact form. Give them a prompt for reaching out to you, but don’t make them structure their message too rigidly. Don’t have a multi-step purchase process: do it in one form that takes less than five minutes to fill out. Offer as many popular payment methods as you can, and once they choose one, don’t distract them with details about the others. Don’t put unnecessary obstacles in front of people: make it as simple as possible for them to complete the goal you’ve put forth.

 

Rule #3: Make at least one offer on every page.

Amazon makes an average of 45 offers on every page. You don’t need to have that many, because you’re probably not selling as many products as they are. But making at least one offer on every page (and preferably more) will ensure that in the moment the visitor decides they’re ready to complete your goal, they can do so. People aren’t visiting your site to play Where’s Waldo and hunt around to find your online shopping page. Make the offer NOW, make the offer ALWAYS. If they are visiting at all that means they’re interested in what you sell and if they decide they want it, the offer needs to be right there on the page that they’re viewing.

 

Three rules. Simple. But effective.

So… is your web designer following these rules?

Contact us to build a website that will get you bigger and better business results.

 

Massive price cuts at Namecheap

Namecheap is one of only two companies that I endorse on this blog. In my opinion they are the best domain registrar in the business because they offer cheap prices, awesome customer service, advanced features, and make it easy for you to transfer your domain to and from their service at will. (Contrast with Network Solutions — when I used to use them they charged roughly three times more, had slow customer service response times, and wouldn’t let me edit DNS records on my own.)

Namecheap just dropped their prices on tons of domain extensions so if you’re looking to consolidate your portfolio or protect your sites from imitators — now’s the time. I’m especially impressed by .co.uk domains for only $4.99!

New Low Price SAVE Old Price
.us $6.99 21% $8.88
.co $11.99 48% $22.98
.me $8.99 59% $21.98
.ws $14.99 48% $28.88
.asia $12.99 52% $24.88
.co.uk $4.99 44% $8.88
.org.uk $4.99 44% $8.88
.me.uk $4.99 44% $8.88
.eu $9.99 13% $11.44
.de $8.40 47% $17.88
.ca $11.98 25% $15.95
.bz $20 31% $28.88
.cc $18.99 34% $28.88
.cm $98 7% $104.99
.in $15.99 24% $21.00
.nu $27.99 3% $28.88

Check out more awesome deals at Namecheap.

This is such a fantastic interview that I’ve recommended the listen to several of my clients now, even though it’s more than an hour long. Trust me, if you run a web site and you’re bringing in any meaningful amount of traffic, you should listen to the whole thing.

Click here to listen to Google evangelist Avinash Kaushik describe the “Minor Orgasm” Of Using Analytics Well on Mixergy.

If I had to come up with one guiding principle for business owners it would be: Measure and test everything users do on your site that is part of a business goal.

Otherwise, how do you know whether the $2,000 you spent on making your site look pretty actually paid off?

Or maybe you don’t even know what to spend your budget on in the first place. Web analytics can tell you.

For people who are new to analytics I break it down further and suggest that they focus on two things:

  1. Finding out why people visit your site and whether they’re completing the task they had in mind, using a tool like 4Q by iPerception.
  2. Find out whether changes to your site are having a positive impact on your goal by measuring goal completion rate before and after in Google Analytics.

Together these things are extremely powerful tools — 90% of web site owners are not using either, they will put you way ahead of your competition.

In my experience, there are two types of business website owners. It doesn’t matter whether you’re online only or have a physical presence, it doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re in, or if you have a small or medium sized business. You’re probably going to have at least one of two goals:

OBEY

1. Strengthen your brand/get the word out.

2. Increase your sales/find new clients or leads.

90% of the web sites being built for business customers do little to achieve these goals. At best, they’re glorified business cards. At worst, they’re an eyesore.

The irony of course is that there’s so much more a website can do for you. Let’s take a look at how a website can help achieve the goals above.

I WANT BRANDING

I WANT SALES/LEADS

A cool-looking design: This is the one a lot of companies do pretty well, and there’s no doubt it can help create a positive impression of your business. But how many designers really *test* what they create to see if it’s the best alternative? Identify the unknown unknowns: First of all, do the people coming to your site even want to buy your product? Are you pitching the wrong thing to the wrong person? Have you asked them? Find out what your visitors want.
Interesting and valuable content: If you want people to remember your name in 3 to 6 months, write something they’ll find interesting and useful. Don’t just describe your company, describe the benefits it provides, and offer up a generous helping of advice and information that’s useful to the people you want to attract. On the Web, this is the differentiator between your firm and the ten other competitors who do the same thing you do. Relentlessly improve your pitch. Make data-driven decisions. Don’t try one sales pitch: try two (or five) and see which one generates the most leads or sales. Try different copy, images, layouts, video, everything. You may be able to double or even triple the number of people who buy or contact you with a few simple changes. You’ll never know until you test.
Make it shareable: The whole point of branding is to get people to spread the word for you. Once you’ve got amazing content and a site that’s both appealing and functional, create ways for people to share it using whatever medium they’re most comfortable with (email, Facebook, instant messages, etc.). Add testimonials: Even businesses that have only been around for a few months have someone who’s willing to say something good about them. So get them to do it and put that online, because there’s nothing customers want to see more than a description of your benefits made by an existing, paying customer.
Keep them coming back: Every dime invested in your website will have 10-100 times the return if you find a way to keep reaching people after they’ve logged off. Ask for their email address, or subscribe them to an RSS feed (I like email because everyone uses it). Then don’t just let your web site sit there — *do* something with it, add more content and more resources over time, then invite people to come back and remember why your business is so great. Maximize the lifetime value of your customer (LTV): Customers and clients like long-term relationships as much as you do. It’s human nature to stick with what you know works. Get permission to email them after the initial sale, and follow up. If you’re a service business, look for other ways you can help your client. Even if a visitor hasn’t given you money yet, find a way to stay in touch with them and. This can all be done effortlessly and automatically through the web.
Get more traffic to your website: A website is useless if nobody sees it. A business plan for the web which doesn’t include at least one strategy for driving new customers to your site is questionably useful, at best. Are you charging as much as you could be? On that note, you can even test your actual prices. There’s no easier place to do this than on the Web, where you can present different price points and offers to different customers and see what makes the most money.

Do you already have a website? If so, can you put a checkmark next to each of the items above? If not, how much more money could your business be making? How much better-known could your brand be?

Most web designers aren’t doing this stuff for you. I started Command Media to provide these services and help even the smallest businesses get a website that’s more than just a calling card. If you’re missing one or more of the things above, get in touch with us.

Here’s something I posted recently to the spectacular AffiliIt Affiliate Marketing community. It got a lot of positive feedback and I just wanted to pass it along because it took me so long to get my own thinking to this point… hopefully it can save a few new affiliate marketers some pain.

First, here is the process a lot of new affiliates go through when they’re picking something to promote:

  1. Look at your network’s offer list and pick something that seems like it’d work well on a traffic source somewhere.

Now, here is how a pro does it:

  1. Pick a vertical that you have the most experience/interest with.
  2. Contact your most trustworthy AM on your favorite network and find out two things: A) what are the hot/breakout/high EPC/high conversion rate offers on his network within that vertical; B) which traffic sources the volume for these offers is coming from.
  3. If the AM will not give you that info, find a new one, and/or contact some of the most promising advertisers directly for it. Advertisers LOVE to give you this sort of info along with lots of campaign tips.
  4. Go check out the ads running on the traffic source, to verify that people are really running this vertical on it. Make a scrapbook of the best ads you see for offers in your vertical. Microsoft OneNote works great for this, Microsoft Word works just fine too…
  5. Now it’s time to build your campaign on either the recommended traffic source, or a similar one. Start by creating ads similar to the best ads you’ve seen for similar products. The best ads are usually the ones getting the most premium inventory (e.g. on PoF, the first ones that show up when you log in).

Do I take my own advice every single time? No :) But it’s saved me hours of time and thousands of dollars in testing when I have.

I just got back from Affiliate Summit West ’10, my first time attending a conference dominated by the performance marketing industry. I’m already getting asked left and right, was it worth going?

Let me first say this: there are a lot of people out there who chirp sunshine and rainbows at you every time you talk to them. Everything’s GREAT, they’re always SUPER excited, their business is doing AMAZING and you should TOTALLY buy that product because it’s soooo helpful!

I am not one of those people. I’d rather be credible than be Pollyanna.

So rest assured, if I recommend something on my site, I have a good reason for it other than trying to line my pockets with cash. (Not that I won’t sell you shit. I’ll sell you shit left and right. I AM a marketer, after all.)

With all that said, was Affiliate Summit worth going to?

Categorically, unequivocally, yes it was worth it. I think if you’re in the beginner/intermediate stages of affiliate marketing, you must go to Affiliate Summit at least once. If you’re an advanced affiliate marketer — well, you’ve probably already been.

Here’s why: if all you’re doing is sitting alone in front of your PC, IM’ing with a couple of your affiliate managers, posting to PPC Coach or AffiliIt, you’ll never understand the breadth and diversity of this industry.

PPC? CPV? SEO? Web site? No web site? CPA? CPS? Lead gen? Rev share? Everyone is here. In every category, there’s someone banking HARD.

I met a guy who sells pool cleaning equipment, for Christ’s sake. His company just rolled out an affiliate program, so there he was, at Affiliate Summit. How many businesses out there have affiliate programs you’ll never hear of unless you get to a conference like this and mingle with people? How many thousands of affiliate business models are represented at this conference, which you’ll never know exist unless you go? What if you’ve got an idea rolling around in your head, but you’re not sure it’ll work, while meanwhile someone out there has already made a million bucks off of it? What if the AM at your network is a dickhead, but you’re afraid to piss him off because you haven’t realized there are five hundred other networks out there begging for your business?

Seeing everything on offer at this conference removes the fear. It bolsters your resolve. It drives home the point that there a million and one ways to build a business online, and if these guys can do it, so can you.

Anyone who hasn’t been to Affiliate Summit should go at least once for that reason. There are great opportunities for networking and education, too, but this is the dealmaker.

The only person who maybe shouldn’t go to this conference is the guy who won’t take any action. If you’re not already launching campaigns, I’m not sure attending a conference will change his behavior. It’ll just feel weird because everyone around him is banking hard and he isn’t. I don’t know, maybe that would be a good kick in the pants. But it’s not really designed for people who are still at the stage of asking “Durr, can you really make money online?” Practically every one of the thousands of attendees is already doing it.

Ten Years in the Making

It’s been nearly a decade since I registered this domain and launched the first incarnation of Aaron Command on my dorm room PC.  The original plan was to share files with my buddies and host some school-related projects. We had no idea what a ride we were in for.

By 2001, blogs were all over the news so I decided to start one. It was old school, straight HTML, hand-crafted in Notepad. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was even less interested in writing about what I had for lunch than the world was in reading about it.

Amazingly Facebook now drives $800M in business annually by getting people to babble on about that kind of crap. Actually, the truth is all that money actually came from shady CPA offers on Farmville, but we’ll save that for later posts. ;-)

Fast-forward to 2003. I decided to throw the doors of the “blog” open to a couple of cantankerous friends and for the next couple of years it was a glorious upward spiral of testosterone, poo-flinging, ranting about politics, culture, the decline of Western civilization etc. – basically young, angry American males at their best.

After a few years of this we all decided that we’d rather get laid once in a blue moon instead of pissing and moaning on the Internet full-time. So we stopped blogging. Rohit moved to Florida and got rich. I somehow ended up in the middle of rural China getting my ass kicked by Shaolin monks and coughing up blood. I think Kyle spent a lot of time getting drunk and passing out in ditches. I think he still does.

The site was neglected for a while and ended up being used mostly by Chinese spammers to sell Cialis and other male enhancement products (boy, did they have our demographic figured out). By 2006, no one was posting anymore, but I wanted to keep earning my precious 37 cents a month from Adsense, so I wrote some code that would scrape headlines on big news sites and post that instead. Gotta fund my addiction to those $3 Big Bite hot dogs somehow, man. Once every ten months I got to treat myself.

Earning 1.2 cents a day on Aaron Command is how I began to make money online. (Guyz – if I link to myself will I be #1 on Google tomorrow?!?!) Fast forward to 2009 and I’ve gotten a little wiser about how to play the game. Command Media was born shortly thereafter and let’s just say I’m doing a little better than 1.2 cents a day. :)

With 2010 and the Command Ten Year Anniversary looming on the horizon, I’m doing a hard reboot of the site and giving it a new purpose, but the truth is that it’s really the same thing I’ve been pursuing for years. The Information Revolution has freed us from the constraints around where we live and how we work that the Industrial Revolution imposed. I’m going to use this site to show you how to live and work anywhere, make money doing practically anything you’re passionate about, and live by your own rules.

And just like on the old site, I still plan on calling things the way I see them, even if it gets someone’s panties in a bunch. These days I’m old enough to know better, but young enough not to give a fuck.

-Aaron