Monday, July 27, 2009

The Four Axioms of Website Success

The Four Axioms of Site Success

You can scroll though this blog and find lots of good information on improving site performance, how to monetize a site six ways from Sunday and other topics that focus on the micro things webmasters can do to realize online success.

But what about the larger picture. The macros of site success? The web is a marketplace and, as such, it operates on the basic principles of market economics. Now, not to get all academic on you, the macro-dynamics employed by real-world and online businesses differ. The local boutique, catering to local clientele, uses local print and broadcast marketing channels.

A web-based business employs different promotional tactics based on the unique characteristics of this global, digital bazaar – the web. In the real world, business owners work to build their reputations and to keep their names before prospects on a daily basis. One New England furniture dealer (who shall remain nameless) has his own production staff – shooter, cutter, actress, etc – and releases a new, more-annoying-than-the-last advert daily. And it works! The guy’s got like a dozen stores now.

Retail success online is based on a different set of conventions simply due to the nature of the media and market. Online businesses may focus their efforts locally, regionally or worldwide. Can’t say that about “Woody’s Hardware Store” on main street.

So let’s pull back and take the broad view – see the forest from the trees. Just what are the keys to site success. There are four of them.

Site Connectivity

Not true in the real world, but online connecting up within your retail sphere is a must for long-term success. But not just any connectivity. The connectivity should be denser in the immediate marketplace.

Example: You own a site that sells racing bikes. That puts you in the realm of bicycles. Make your first connections with sites that help visitors learn more about racing bikes. Hook up with sites that sell after-purchase products – helmets, compression pants and those colorful, albeit clownish, outfits serious riders are compelled to wear.

Think of your site as the focus. The closer the topicality, the more links. The closer a site is in your marketing space, the more links. These links come first.

Then, over time (60-90 days) extend your universe and your reach by adding links that are somewhat related to your site but not spot on. Using our racing bike site, connect up with a physical fitness site, a nutrition site, a bike safety site and other satellites further out from the focus of your site.

The Closer the Connection to Your Site The More Relevant the Link

The closer the connection to your site’s products or services, the greater the interconnectivity – the more value to you in driving traffic from other sites and from sites that are somewhat removed but still related to the products you sell.

Axiom I: Connect first with sites closest to your products or services.

Make yourself a part of the web community within your sector. Then, expand your connections to include less related sites.

Here’s How

Research, research, research.

1. Google sites that don’t directly compete in your space but that would compliment the search of a site visitor. You can often use the “Contact Us” to reach the site owner directly. Hey, maybe he’s working out of his spare room, too!

2. Create a symbiotic network like the one pictured above. Keep relevant sites close. How?

  • exchange links
  • post to each other’s blog
  • write articles for each other’s sites
  • develop shared promotions (buy a bike, get your helmet free)
  • work as a partnership and expand the network when possible

3. With sites further removed from the subject of your site, go with good affiliate programs to develop additional revenues. Word of caution: read the fine print of each affiliate agreement you enter. Go with the ones that pay you simply for the referral – the click through.

Axiom II: Expansion

The wider you cast your digital net the more visitors will be drawn to your site. So, you need to expand your profile on the web.

Here’s How

1. Blog related sites. This provides a link back to your site, and if you write provocatively, readers from distant sites will link to your site to learn more about your interesting views on the disappearing honey bee, or whatever your expertise.

2. Syndicate content. Use these three sites:,, and go articles at Write a piece related to your site, your experience, opinions, advice whatever. Check for spelling and grammar. (Yes, they still count!). Then upload your article to these sites where they’ll be picked up by other sites who will link back to your site. Man, your site’s link popularity is just growing and growing.

3. Broadcast via RSS. Get your thoughts out there via remote site syndication. If you have something worth saying, your piece will get picked up and delivered to dozens (hundreds, even) of sites. Just let RSS aggregators know you’re there.

4. Once again, create affiliate programs. The best place to start your affiliate education is at Commission Junction located at

Axiom III: A Unique Positioning Statement (UPS)

And for our friends in the UK, Australia and other countries, a UPS is the same as what you call a USP – a unique selling proposition. Same diff.

Two college roomies come up with the idea for a website where people can upload video clips (an America’s Funniest Videos online and on demand). They call it YouTube and it’s changed everything from the outcome of political races (remember that Mukaka misstep) to the way rock bands find an audience. Got an idea like that? That’s definitely a UPS, which explains why Google bought YouTube for $1.8 billion.

Here’s How

1. Scope out the competition to see what they’re doing, what they’re charging. Looking for a stealth tool? Check out for a behind-the curtain look at your competitions’ keywords, product prices, menu of services, give-aways and come-ons. Learn from competitors – especially the ones that have seen site success.

2. Create the hook. If you can’t beat them on prices, you’d better consider value added benefits – unlimited replacements, 24/7 tech support, money-back guarantee – put all of these together – then keep going because all of this is standard issue on the web. So, to stand out you have to offer better.

Better service, better information, a better return policy – what makes your site stand out from the thousands of other similar sites. If you can define a truly UPS, you may be the next YouTube, or at least be able to quit your day job.

Axiom IV Constancy

What the heck is constancy?

The web is a fluid, almost a liquid entity, spreading, expanding, thinning in spots. The W3 is in a constant state of flux with new technologies, integration with other media (cell phones, PDAs, GPS, etc.) and a population in the billions! 6,000 new sites launch every day and some of them will eat your lunch ‘cause they do it better.

There are site owners still looking for the passive click-through income of their links farms, but if you’re serious about growing a real, online business, constancy is critical.

Here’s How

1. Constantly update your site with new content. Daily if possible. Blogs and forums are great for free, user-generated content. Keep your site looking fresh.

2. Constantly add new and better interactive features: CSS, live feeds, RSS feeds, a blog, the sale du jour, and so on. This keeps visitors coming back to a truly dynamic site.

3. Keep navigation constant for easier movement through the site. If the navigation is always in the left column starting on the home page, it’s in the left column on every page to prevent visitor confusion.

4. Constantly visit webmaster blogs and websites to keep up with the latest from the professional POV – and these are the folks who are designing websites today with lots of animation, vid-clips, real-time news and all of the other things that visitors are coming to expect. Stay ahead of the curve by constantly staying updated.

5. Constancy in client care. Fast and reliable. ‘Nuff said.

6. Constancy in marketing. This is critical to branding. Use the same logo throughout, the same tag line “…where smart shoppers shop smart”, the same type face – it gives the site a unified presentation rather than a cut-and-paste job.

In the macro-market of the world wide web, indeed, it is the little things that matter. Your site must be optimized for search engines and humans. There’s a whole playbook of SEO dos and don’ts, most of which you’ve memorized and have in place on your well optimized site.

But step back for a moment to take in the bigger picture – the macro-trends in web commerce, the technology that moves forward daily, the new science of SEM – search engine marketing.

This is all new stuff. And without a fundamental understanding of web biz success, you ain't going to make it.

New to the web world of search engine optimization and e-commerce? No sweat. Visit and get in touch. I specialize in start-ups and stretching those limited budgets in lots of different ways.

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