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What’s My #1 Single Best Piece of Advice?

Best advice to succeed online.

As an online consultant for over 26 years, I've been asked what I recommend on various topics. Whether it be an interview, by a new business start-up, or an aspiring web developer — one question always comes up.

What's Your Single Best Piece of Advice?

Keep up. If I had to pick one thing, that would be it.

And, I know from experience that is easier said than done. But, online success requires each of us to plan on being on a continual learning curve. No way to avoid that.

By going with the “single best,” some are looking for that one magic bullet. If there is a magic bullet, and let's be clear there isn't, keeping up could be it.

When I share the importance of “keeping up,” several follow-up questions are inevitably asked.

QUESTION: Has it become impossible to keep up?

No. But it does take concentrated effort, work, and commitment. Don't keep up, and you will be left behind on so many levels.

QUESTION: How am I supposed to compete on a small budget?

Instead, it would help if you were asking what budget do you need to compete.

QUESTION: How do I avoid investing in things that are here today; gone tomorrow?

None of us know how long a trend, product, website, or software will last. So all you can do is make the best decision now on what you need to reach your goals until the data shows otherwise.

It's tough to get down to just one thing in an arena with so many variables. So I'll walk you through my thought process where I hope to help you enhance your opportunity for success by having the right mindset.

Back to Keeping Up…

Here's an example of the train of thought I run into quite often.

Hello, Judith: I have had a website with the same design for about 6 years now. I know I need to update but I just don't have the budget for a new site. My last web designer ripped me off and is nowhere to be found. Do you have any suggestions on how I may be able to improve my search engine rankings so I can make more income to afford a new site? Thank you for your time!
TheIStudio.com Site Visitor
  • My first thought is we are putting the cart before the horse. You cannot hope to get website visitors then convince them to do business with you when you have an outdated-looking website. Six years is an eternity when it comes to online visuals and functionality.
  • Makes one wonder if you still have the same design; what else have you not been keeping up on? Socials, networking, SSL, CDNs? Product and service improvements?
  • Every business model and market has different demands and requirements. Depending on the saturation, competition, and potential available market, you have to rise to that occasion.
  • The efforts required to succeed and the budget needed are unique to every website, site owner's skills, and work ethic. And, actually having a “unique” website helps — a lot.

You Need to Compete

What is clear is that online is the playground of rabid competitors, hard workers, and smarty pants. Regardless of what T.V. commercials will have you believe, just putting up an inexpensive, nice-looking basic website is only the first step. A baby step.

Having a stale design certainly is not competitive (or keeping up), nor will having a new design by itself improve your rankings. Design aside, if your content is shallow and stagnant, even the best design will not produce.

It's pretty common to want to do the least amount possible while at the same time expecting the best results. But, unfortunately, that doesn't happen online (or in any off-line business, for that matter).

I understand there are budgets involved, and many website owners do not have deep pockets. Regardless that does not negate what you need to do if you want to succeed online.

Investing in Change

A common thread is hesitancy even to try to keep up with technology. Many mention that by investing in WordPress today, they will have to reinvest in the latest, greatest new thing down the road.

I get that. The only thing consistent about online is change. And it can be very frustrating. However, here again, name one business where it is not required to keep up — and take risks. Business is a risky business.

While the latest online “tricks” (no such thing) or tools are constantly changing, I can assure you that WordPress has been around since 2003 and is still going strong. WordPress currently powers over 40% of all websites.

WordPress isn't going anywhere — but up. Your WordPress website is an investment worth making now because the longer you wait, as with all things online, the more catch-up you will have to play. If not in the design aspect but the branding, positioning, and exposure arenas.

“Any other Advice?”

It's pretty simple.

I've learned in running my businesses and websites that I can't do everything on my own. There are products and services I require where I need to trust their quality and support.

If I had a dollar for every horror story relayed to me about hosting companies, 3rd party services, plugins that are not supported, and developers that fall off the map, I would be retired. Do your homework and chose wisely.

You Need Partners; Not Vendors

If you have a great idea, a unique concept, and the work ethic to make it happen, you will have to rely on others to assist you. Unfortunately, there is just no way to DIY your whole project completely.

Even after 26 years, I have a tight-knit group of folks I know I can rely on when I hit a wall. I also stick with those products and services that have proven the test of time. When I don't have to worry about the products and services I need, I have the time to run my business.

Don't buy the hype and decide on cost alone, from ancillary services to networking, advertising, social media, and hosting. Don't buy into the quick, fast, cheap, and easy claims of success, for goodness sake.

They don't exist.

Please do not take advice from websites or unknown individuals simply because you perceive they know more than you. Or if they just so happen to be saying what you want to hear.

Take the time to vet the services and tools you are looking to use. Make sure they have a positive history. This is the only way to determine if you can trust and rely on them for the long haul.

Look at all your service providers as partners in your business' success. Partnerships will benefit your bottom line more than the product or service that gives you a low-ball price today and no support or reliability in the future when you need it.

Legit or Not?

I get asked about statements made on websites that contradict some of what I write here. All I can say is I'm not writing this to sell you anything. I work in the world of reality.

If the source has no longevity or lacks credibility, don't pay attention. Experience and trust can only be gained after years of walking that walk. Success isn't instantaneous (even if your website is on WordPress).

Do you remember that old State Farm commercial “They can't put it on the Internet if it isn't true.” with the creepy date that's a “French Model?” That commercial was effective because it made a valid point.

Many folks believe what they see online purely because it's online. Don't be that person.

When it comes to your online business project, taking the time to learn just enough to know who has your best interests at heart is time well spent. Being able to discover when you are just getting a sales pitch is crucial. Your gut will tell you the difference — follow it.

Here are a few things I do when investigating a new business partner:

  • First, I review their site and FAQ. Suppose the site is brochureware (a handful of pages with generic blah-blah-blah) that draws concern for me. There is no reason not to have every bit of information a potential customer may want front and center on a website.
  • Next, if I am satisfied with the valuable information on the website, I'll email to see if I get a prompt and courteous response. Email responses provide a window into what I can expect if I trust them with my business.
  • If possible, before I make the final decision, I talk to them on the phone to get an idea about their genuineness, personality, and support levels.
  • I also look up their domain name at a WHOIS lookup to see how long they have owned their domain. Ownership length is a good indication of how long they have been in business.
  • I search for the company name (“[company name] reviews”) to see what is out there, including on social media. The good, bad, and indifferent.
  • If I need to make a significant investment, I will also check with the local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been lodged. I'm not a fan of the BBB, but this is another way to see if any patterns are forming.

Taking the time to cover the above can help you find the right partner to work with and trust. If you cannot get a warm fuzzy regardless of how tempting the sales pitch is, walk away.

Walk. Away.

Every day, I see the big name companies and “solution providers” take advantage of what their customers don't know to get into their pocketbooks. So who is at fault here? Both sides.

  • The big-name companies rely on what their customers don't know as part of their business model and the solution providers by being only interested in getting into your pocketbook, and then they're done with you.
  • And the customers, who are unwilling to learn enough to know they are not getting what they need to succeed or thought they paid for.

Once you find partners you can trust, from hosting to applications to development and post-launch support, you are then free to do what you do best because you know your six is covered. Running and growing your business — and keeping up.

At your service,

Judith: WordPress Consultant and Coach