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Online Rules of Successful Companies, The: The Fool-Proof Guide to Building Profits

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Online Rules of Successful Companies, The: The Fool-Proof Guide to Building Profits

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  • Copyright 2003
  • Edition: 1st
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  • ISBN-10: 0-13-066842-7
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-066842-4

In The Online Rules of Successful Companies: The Fool-Proof Guide to Building Profits, leading Internet entrepreneur Robin "Roblimo" Miller (developer for Slashdot and Freshmeat Web sites) presents systematic rules for building the profitability of your business online, whatever you sell - products, services, information, or advertising. Miller offers streetwise advice on accomplishing more with less; anticipating trends without wasting resources; avoiding disastrous mistakes; making the most of email and chat; and using the Internet to support all of your business activities, both online and off.

Sample Content

Online Sample Chapter

What Makes the Internet So Powerful?

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Click here for a sample chapter for this book: 0130668427.pdf

Table of Contents



1. What Makes the Internet So Powerful?

Examples of Successful, Tightly Focused Web Sites. Selling Mexican Food Online: MexGrocer.com. Delivering Information Online: Wired News. Pure Ecommerce: NoteTab. Online Community: Slashdot. Brochureware: Robin's Limousine. A Web Site Is Not a Business. The Difference between an Online Hobby and an Online Hobby.

2. Building a Web Site that Works.

Avoiding the Worst Mistakes. Information Layering. Basic Web Design Usability Rules. When in Doubt, Steal. Selecting Web Designers. Dealing with Hired Web Designers. Maintaining Site Focus.

3. Profitable Ecommerce.

Sell without Shame. Get to the Point Right Away. Clear Product Descriptions Are Essential. Site Navigation for Ecommerce. Information Layering Accomodates Almost All Shoppers. Database-Driven vs Static HTML Sites. The Myth of the Abandoned Shopping Cart. Tell Your Customers Who and Where You Are. Answer Your Email and Your Phone. Do You Really Need Ecommerce?

4. Promotional Web Sites for Offline Businesses.

Location, Location, Location. Are You Going to Answer Email? Start Small, Then Grow. Make Sure You Own Your Name. Adding Prices and Other Content. Avoid Web Obsession. Put Yourself in Your Customer's Shoes. Giving Your Web Site Visitors What They Want. The Last Word: Stick to Business.

5. News and Discussion Web Sites.

The Economic Realities of Online Advertising. Tech News as a “Natural” for the Web. You Are Not CINet. Beyond Tech News: General Media Online. Moving Offline News Online. The Standalone News Site. Ultra-Niche, High-Value News. Subscription News Sites.

6. Email and Chat as Profit Builders.

Responding to Customers' Email. Resisting the Lure of Spam. Using Opt-In Promotional Email. News as Email. Maintaining Credibility in Email Newsletters. Email Discussion Lists. Thoughts on Email List Management. Email is Never Private. Chat and Instant Messaging as Business Tools. Viruses and Other Email Hazards. Email and Chat Are Changing, not Static. The Most Important Email and Chat Rule.

7. Site Promotion and Advertising.

Directories Are Not Search Engines. Simple Tricks That Help Get Favorable Search Engine Rankings. More Advanced Search Engine Tricks. Advertising Your Web Site Online. Advertising Your Web Site Offline. Choosing the Right Domain Name. Protecting Your Domain Name. Try Not to Argue Over Domain Names. All Your Promotions Must Work Together.

8. Cost Control and Futureproofing.

A Distributed Work Force Saves Money. Cost-Effective Web Hosting. Save Money with Open Source Software. Linux. Apache. Stick to Industry Standards. The Curse of the Obsolete Browser. Interpreting Site Statistics. An Endless Learning Processes.





The basic thesis of this book is very simple and old-fashioned: that the best—indeed, the only—way to make money on the Internet is to take in more than you spend.

For some reason, between the time the Internet first opened up to commercial activity in 1994 and the end of the 20th Century, thousands of so-called visionaries decided this hoary business rule didn't apply online. An awful lot of supposedly hard-headed investors and entrepreneurs bought into this delusion and paid dearly for their insanity. Billions of dollars were poured into dubious schemes. Sound management practices were ignored. Money was thrown around as if there was an endless stream of it cascading down, like rain in a thunderstorm, on Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, Silicon Prairie, Silicon Harbor, Silicon Swamp, Silicon Coast, Silicon Whatever. All over the world, city fathers and mothers decided that getting "Silicon" into a place name guaranteed endless investments and high-paying jobs; that everyone touched by the Internet was going to be so rich that they wouldn't notice a few dollars one way or the other if bonds were floated and taxes were raised to pay for the infrastructure needed to turn this place or that place into an Internet Mecca full of high-rent lofts and offices all tied together by millions of strands of fiberoptic cable.

Even at the height of this madness a few of us wondered how long the investor-driven money shower would last, and prepared for the day when, inevitably, it would end. We were laughed at for our conservative business plans and cost-cutting—even stingy—management methods, but we are the ones who still have Internet jobs and businesses and will probably have them for the rest of our working lives, while the high-rollers who thought we were silly a few years ago are now sending us their resumes.

Every Game Has Rules

The practices and tactics I advocate in The Online Rules of Successful Companies certainly can't guarantee success, but if you apply them correctly you will have a much better chance of making money on the Internet than you'll have if you don't follow them. Most of the basic "rules" in this book apply to any size company, anywhere in the world, whether the Internet itself is its

central profit focus or it is a business that operated successfully for decades or even centuries before the word "online" became part of our vocabularies.

It doesn't matter whether you are an individual entrepreneur working from home or an executive for a multinational corporation; it is as easy for a large company to put up a bad site as it is for a small company to put up a good one. Any size business can overspend on its Internet presence or have unrealistic expectations for it, and any size business can use the Internet as a tool to reach more customers, at lower cost, than it can reach through any other communications medium ever developed—if it uses the Internet correctly.

I have worked hard to avoid programming jargon in this book. It is about the business of the Internet, not its technical aspects. I mention terms like "bandwidth" and "information layering" when they are appropriate, but their meanings should be obvious from context for almost anyone who has ever browsed a Web site or sent and received email.

On the other side of the coin, programmers and Web developers who don't have a lot of business knowledge shouldn't be intimidated by this book, either. Most of the business advice in The Online Rules of Successful Companies is nothing but old-fashioned common sense applied to a new medium, and shouldn't be hard to understand—even though a lot of people seem to have trouble realizing that business on the Internet is still business, that advertising on the Internet is still advertising, and that the basic rules of customer service apply online the same way they apply in a "brick-and-mortar" store where clerks wait on customers in person.

Learn From the Past

When the Internet was a brand-new business tool, we were all experimenting, trying to figure out how to use it. Everyone made plenty of mistakes. I made my share, and I freely admit it.

Things are different now. We have had time to watch some Internet businesses succeed and others fail. We have a pretty good idea of what makes one site easy to use and another one hard to navigate. We are all still experimenting and learning—and making mistakes—but we are no longer blindly trying to make money online without any real idea of how to do it. We no longer need to grope in the dark.

That is the point of this book: that we finally have enough Internet business history, positive and negative, behind us that if we study that history and let it guide us, instead of praying that the Internet Fairy will touch us with her Magic Money Wand, we can sit down and consciously, rationally build profits online by emulating the best habits and behaviors of effective Internet companies, while avoiding the mistakes made by the many ineffective ones that started back in the 20th century and didn't make it into the 21st.


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