Fundamental Skills...

Depending on the opportunity you choose to go after, you’ll find that you’ll need to get proficient with skills you probably don’t have right now.

I’m probably not starting with what you’d expect: some management skills.

Skill #1: Learn to document what you’re doing! Very often, you spend a lot of time learning how to do something, do it, then don’t do it again for days, weeks or months. Then when you need to ... you have to start all over again. Use the free Keynote software I recommended in Tools of the Trade to keep written procedures of everything you do that’s new and took some figuring out.

Just an example: how to set up a new site on your chosen web host. Each host can be different, it can be months since you last did it, and only when you try to add a new one do you remember that it took you 23 attempts to get it right the first time, you blew a whole day on it, and in the end you only succeeded because you read something that explained ... oh, damn, where DID you put that article ...

Skill #2: in line with Skill #1, try to “proceduralize” everything, for two reasons. First, once a procedure is developed and documented it’s a tremendous timesaver. And second, you might reach a stage where you’d like to “offload” some tasks to others ... family, employees, or outsource resources. And the procedure lets you do it.

For example, I developed a baby-step procedure for choosing a target market, doing the keyword research, doing the market research, performing specialized keyword analysis to identify the site structure, finding and downloading articles from the ‘Net, building the template on XSitePro, building the site, uploading it via FTP, and so on. Now, my wife and my daughters can literally just follow the steps. Their productivity is probably quadrupled.

Skill#3: Focus. As part of my consulting practice we show people just how devastating the North American habit of “multi-tasking” is. Contrary to most intuition, it can shrink productivity by 70%, and extend the duration of tasks and entire projects by 200% and 300% and even more.  If you’re going to develop a site ... focus on it. Once a day, review e-mails and answer only those you need to. Don’t wander along to forums “for a break.” Don’t be tempted to re-read the sales page for that really neat new tool for the 3rd time. Don’t split your time between 3 different projects because they’re all urgent; they’ll ALL be completed sooner if you focus and don’t multi-task.

Skill#4: Get organized. Have a spreadsheet with columns to list details of every affiliate deal you’re involved with, for example (or use XSitePro’s affiliate wizard to do the same thing).. And use it. Keep log-ins and passwords and user names in Roboform, religiously. Set up a new folder whenever it’s necessary to store a new “favorite” web site address on Linkstash; add a couple of keywords in the comments section, to help your searches in months to come; don’t allow yourself to have a “miscellaneous” section! Have a spreadsheet or use keynote to keep track of the URLs of your domain registrars, the domains registered there. You get the drift, I’m sure.

OK, to some technical skills.

Skill#5: If you’re going to be building more than 1 site take the time to get competent with Wordtracker, for keyword research. Read the tutorial I mentioned in Tools of the Trade, by Andy Williams. For anyone with a website, understanding how keyword research leads to better rankings in the Search Engines, and therefore to more traffic, is crucial; and almost no-one understands this. Effective keyword research prior to building your web site is a huge competitive edge.

Just to make a point ... if you want to get traffic from a good Search Engine position, starting as a newbie, would you rather find yourself competing with 2,500,000 sites on the same topic, or against 1000? What do you think your chances are to get into the top 10 against 2,500,000 others? Don’t you think this might be a good thing to know before you plan your site’s pages? And if you have a choice of a search term where 30 visitors a day visit a site with 1000 competing web sites, or 3000 visitors a day visit a site with 2,500,000 competitors ... think about this for a moment. You CAN get a chunk of those 30. You almost certainly CANNOT get even one of the 3000. So don’t you think it might make sense to aim for 100 pages on your site, each getting a chunk of the 30-visitor, 1000-competitors traffic, rather than any number of pages competing against 2,500,000?

(Incidentally, if you do it right, you’ll use the low-volume low-competition to help get some other of your pages well ranked even against the high competition sites; but in the meantime, you’re making money from the low-volume searches.)

Skill#6: If you’re going to have anything to do with Adwords, learn what you’re doing! Those who don’t, inevitably pay a hefty “stupid tax.” Read Chris Carpenter’s GoogleCash for superb introduction and a strategy that can make you money in minutes, without a web site; and Perry Marshall’s Definitive Guide to Adwords that takes it to a whole new level. You’ll know more than 99% of other advertisers.

It’s real easy to blow a budget very, very quickly with Adwords if you don’t know what you’re doing. While if you DO know, your risk is as little as $5. And you can do so much more with Adwords than you’d first think. You can use it to check a title for a new website or a new business or a new product and get clear-cut data on which name works best. You can drive traffic to a 1-page survey ... in 24 hours you can learn what people REALLY want to know about a topic. So you can design a product to hit hot-buttons, and write a sales page that hits every hot-button.

Skill#7: Learn a little bit of html coding. You’ll use it if you do anything with web sites, or with landing pages. Probably also if you use EZines. You don’t have to become good at this; keep a handy reference book on your shelves or keep a good html tutorial page bookmarked, for when you need it. But do learn the basic concepts. Everything you need is available in your public library or for free, on the ‘Net. Here, for example.

Skill#8: A lot might disagree with me, but in my opinion it’s worth taking a walk to the library (physical or virtual) and picking up a book or reading articles on MySQL. I find I’m not in a minority when it comes to knowing almost nothing whatsoever about it, and my ignorance DOES delay me in a lot of mini-projects. This is a decent starting point

And some tactical skills.
From my perspective, beyond Keyword Research, the three most valuable tactical skills are:

  • Basic Search Engine Optimization,
  • Copy Writing,
  • List Building.

Skill #9: Basic Search Engine Optimization.
For some SEO experts this is almost a religion (because beliefs enter into it), almost a science (but not quite because cause-effect isn’t always clear), almost a black art (and I’m not just talking the black-hat stuff ... all the experts have their own, secret tricks). 

There are experts who test (literally) hundreds of thousands of combinations of variables on web sites to determine with some statistical assurance what really works. And, what really works today, versus last month. And the reason that this incredible effort is of any value whatsoever is that the Optimization formulae of the different Search Engines are kept secret; they change regularly, but getting to number one for a popular, money-connected search term, and staying there can make you a fortune. Literally.

So no, I’m not suggesting you get into it to that level! If you really, really want to know what’s going on, subscribe to Jerry West’s newsletter  - it’s pricey and not necessarily for the newbie, but it's red hot good. If you’ve got a solid business emerging and the difference between where you are now and a top 10 position will generate you more than US$67 a month, give it some serious thought. (If you've a money-generating site that benefits from Search Engine Traffic, then what you learn from Jerry West could generate enough added income in a day to pay the monthly subscription.) The man is seriously good.

Another rock-solid product if you want to really, really focus on SEO is Stomping The Search Engines. It’s US$299 for a slew of CD’s, transcripts, and bonuses, going from keyword research through to taming Google, and it’s all pure know-how from a guy who’s been #1 in the Engines for a highly competitive search term for a while (and he’s translated this into, literally, millions of dollars).

I can sure recommend these products, but I’m not automatically suggesting them. Not until you’re already into business and making money and aware of just how small an investment these tools really call for. Spending US$300 when you’re not seeing a nickel from your site and aren’t sure you ever will is a big deal, but when you’ve already seen first hand how a small shift in positioning makes hundreds of dollars a week difference, it’s a no-brainer.

But all I’m suggesting is, learn the basics, and make it a habit to apply them, because they do pay off.

Brad Callen, developer of the excellent SEO Elite software, offers a 90-page free e-Book in pdf format called “Search Engine Optimization Made Easy.” You can download it from Andy Williams site. (Register for his excellent newsletter while you’re there; you also get a couple of free, but extremely valuable, reports on keyword research and niche marketing.)

Do your keyword research before you choose a market or a theme or a domain name, all of which come before you give any thought to the site itself. Use keyword thinking as you design the overall structure of the site, choose the page titles, decide on the linking techniques, and create the site. Do the correct on-page optimization, keywords in the title, in the description, in the keywords metatag; use a <H1> tag and include keywords. And so on. Read Brad Callen’s SEO stuff. Read Andy Williams niche site materials.

Then do at least some of the off-page optimization if you want good rankings and improved traffic ... make the effort to get incoming links, and make sure the anchor text is appropriate. Write a few articles, and submit them to directories.

One of the absolute best ways to get 1-way incoming links is through a service called "1 way linking" ... you write a short article, submit it, and it gets posted on multiple bogs, each of which carries a link back to your web site. You can control how many links, and you can control the rate at which links are added, so it all looks perfectly natural to Google.

Search Engine traffic is NOT reliable traffic because the algorithms change all the time, and you can be #1 one week and off the first page the next. But if you get the basics right, you’re going to get more traffic overall, and traffic should convert into money ... if you get the next skill right.

Skill#10:  Copywriting. “Salesmanship in print,” as someone said (and millions have quoted. I seem to have now joined those ranks).

You do NOT have to be a good writer to make money on the ‘Net. You don’t have to have perfect grammar, or perfect English. A couple of the gurus-in-training have strong accents and English is clearly their second language but their copy is still good enough to do what it’s supposed to do.

But one things is certain. The better you are at writing copy that converts to an action - where the action might be a click on a link to visit a site or download a free report or buy a $1000 product, or the action might be to Opt-in to a list or subscribe to a newsletter, or to join a membership site - whatever the desired action is, the better your copy is at causing that action to happen, the more money you’ll make.

Let’s say you get 100 visitors a day to a site selling (pre-selling) something. 1% take a buy action. You make $25 per sale. Your income is $750 a month. You might find that a change to a single word in a headline, to a single opening line of an opening paragraph, to the precise wording of your offer, can increase that conversion to 1.5% or 2% or 5% (rare but sometimes do-able). Increasing your income by 50% or 100% or 500% ... without attracting a single extra visitor to your web site! Think about this! If you’d kept the conversion rate as it was you’d have had to double your traffic to double the income. So here’s a skill where even a little bit of an improvement (combined with a commitment to testing) can provide massive income leverage.

The guys who are good at this are REALLY good at this, but I don’t think you’ll find a Professional who isn’t. Even the ones that hire others to write for them are usually pretty good in their own right.

I’m going into this Skill at length here because most of the material you can buy to help you become very effective at copy writing is expensive, so I’m trying to point you to some good free stuff.

The modern guru of direct marketing, before and after the ‘Net, and with an emphasis on writing good copy, is Dan Kennedy. I’d guess that every other professional, without exception, will tell you that they learned a lot from Kennedy. Anything and everything of his that you can get your hands on, is worth reading or listening to. He’s expensive, but you can find a lot of free interviews and tele-seminars if you search, and a lot of his material sells (used) on eBay. It’s timeless. Although it covers a lot more ground than just copy writing, I recommend you sign up for some of his free marketing tips.  

John Carlton has a rather unique style; this free tele-seminar where he was interviewed by Perry Marshall gives you a taste (and some valuable material). His newsletter “Rants” are also excellent: take a look at his past copies, for free. Of course he also sells material, worth every penny but the investment sure isn’t trivial!

When it comes to writing a 1-page sales letter (and remember, a 1-page sales letter for a mini-site selling an information product or software tool may be 20, 30 even 40 or more printed pages long!) ... you’ll find there’s a basic formula to follow. You can always “cheat” here, and get your hands on a copy of Bob Serling’s Power Copywriting for the Internet. It’s not a new book but I still use it today; it’s as effective now as ever, and it takes you step by step through the formula. If you want the outcome (the letter) without learning the “craft,” I strongly recommend this guide.

You can also get some free information from another master of web copy, Yanik Silver. He has a full-fledged course called the Ultimate Copywriting Workshop to teach you copy writing from soup to nuts, and it’s not cheap - but it's worth every penny, many times over. If you value a product by mass, this is definitely a winner: according to Willie Crawford, another professional with interesting things to say, you get a more than 30lbs package with 3 huge 3-ring binders, 12 DVDs, and a pile of CDs and least 1400 written pages of material.) You can get some useful free information from Yanik's site, too. But the real issue is, even a tiny improvement in your copywriting skills will repay your investment - and you almost can't help but gain a massive degree of improvement from this course.

Brian Keith Voiles is another of the very best; he has taught many of the people, including some who now in their turn sell “how to” copy writing products. He’s very expensive these days, but you can sign up for his free newsletter.

Michel Fortin has sort of emerged from the background, as it has become apparent he has provided the copy for some of the most successful product launches of some of the best-known gurus, people you'd assume would write their own copy. He offers a lot of free material on his site, SuccessDoctor.

Skill#11: List Building
Now, List building isn’t strictly speaking a single skill. It’s a combination ... you have to have traffic. You have to have a web page. You have to have good conversion rates, so you also have to have good copy writing. You need to be able to write not just good copy, but good e-mail copy. And you have to become expert with autoresponders.

But the whole “package,” as a tactical skill, is probably the ultimate key to a business that brings in money come hell or high water.

And even some of the Pros never master it.

This is one of those areas where if you’re looking for some quick and dirty Adsense income, you can just ignore List building. If you just want to put an e-Book up with Clickbank and collect income from sales, you can just ignore it, too.

But if you’re looking to build a business based on almost any of the different opportunities, then along with Copywriting, it’s a cornerstone. If you're looking to make the most money from every visitor you get to your site - and why not, you worked hard to get them there, one way or another - then List building and management is essential.

And unlike Copywriting, you can’t just outsource “List building” because it comes in and out of so many different elements of the business. It pulls in some many different skills. It starts at a strategic level, and has tactical implications that reflect in day-to-day activities. If you’re going to get into List building, be prepared to become a student of the Skill.

That means, get your hands on anything that’s free, from the experts. And, be prepared to pay for real expertise. Provided you act on what you learn, the time it’ll take you to recover your investment from good material should be negligible.

Let’s start with free stuff.

Craig Perrine charges almost US$1000 for his List Profit Secrets course, and I’ve heard rave reviews (this is another course I haven’t yet bought, though, so this is third-hand reporting). While Joel Christopher's course (next) offers the Insights of lots of experts, this course is pure how-to, starting from scratch. The freebie stuff comes in because if you go there, then exit, you’ll be offered a free mini-course on a pop-in. It’s worth doing.

Alice Seba also posted some interviews with Craig, available for free on her web site, Internet Based Moms.

Joel Christopher is another of the top List Building guys, and again he’s not cheap; at US$1,000, his flagship course Build and Profit From Your List also has a solid reputation.  But here again, visit his site, and you’ll be offered a free mini-course.  Joel has another, much more affordable course, his Master List Builder e-Book, for US$47; and again, you can visit this site and be offered a different mini-course.

Paul Myers’ eBook The Amazing List Machine is another bargain even though it’s a little pricier at $67. 

But there’s one other deal I have to tell you about; it’s a subscription to a series called List and Traffic by Jimmy D. Brown. I had somehow gone a long time without bumping into his material - odd, because he commands the respect of all the Pros - and I encountered a report of his on the topic of Niche Market Joint Ventures (it was a bonus when I subscribed to a certain membership site). It came at the topic from an entirely new angle, and impressed the heck out of me. In fact, it was one of those “Holy Cow, I’m glad I read that before I did what I was just about to do” moments. Then, months later, I somehow heard of a subscription opportunity to something he calls List and Traffic. It’s $10 a month, which is laughable for material of this quality, worth much, much more than that. Terrific value. If you can’t find an added $10 a month from the wealth of know-how he packs into his monthly material, you have a serious problem.

It's interesting for me to look back and see how I've developed in all the areas I describe, and more; and to think that even the masters STILL buy each other's materials, still attend seminars ... they never stop developing skills, and neither should you.