Over the last few years, I have made countless mistakes that have cost me untold amounts of money.  This manifesto is mostly for me.  These are the 10 commandments of Internet Marketing that I have come to live by.  Follow them if you wish, ignore them if you wish to learn for yourself.

By no means am I saying that every business needs to follow these rules to be effective.  But these are the rules that have made me effective.

Rule #1: Ten minutes serving your tribe is worth ten hours improving your business

Tweaking your WordPress theme, re-designing your logo, testing new plugins, and agonizing over which shopping cart to choose are about YOU–not your tribe.  Swallow your need to geek out and spend more time actually serving your audience.  If you ever end a work day without directly helping your audience with a new piece of content or directly talking with members of your audience, you have failed.

Six months from now when sales are slumping and customers are complaining, you will ask yourself, “How did THAT happen!?!?”  The answer?  You spent six months only sporadically attending to their needs while you improved your business–and they grew tired of waiting.

Rule #2: Never risk what can be sure

There is no excuse for failing to attend to the legalities in your business.  Get your finances in order, track your income and expenses clearly, do not operate as a sole proprietor, never use a trademark in your domain name, get an accountant, do not do business on a handshake.  Spend 5 minutes doing things the right way and save yourself bankruptcy and lawsuits down the line.

Rule #3: Follow one course until success

No new project is so urgent that it cannot wait until you have finished the projects you have started.  If you feel like it is–you’ve been taken in by a new bright and shiny object that will send you down the path of dreaming and never achieving. (Thank you to John Lee Dumas for the wording of this rule.)

Rule #4: Technology works for you.  Do not work for it.

I have a rule of no more than 10 WordPress plugins.  I love technology, but complicated technological solutions almost always ends up creating messes in the long run.  Always choose the simplest conceivable technological answer to your problem and maximize the time you spend on #1.

Rule #5: Never plant a dying bush

A few months ago a woman contacted me about buying her online business.  She ran a couponing website with a million pageviews a month and wanted out of the business!  WoohoOOOOOoooO!  I was giddy with excitement until I looked at the content on the site.  Each article was a dying bush–a post about a sale currently happening at a store that would end within a week at most.  Thousands of blog posts over many years were all dead or quickly dying.  This site was useless for anyone who did not want to jump on the treadmill and chase down tomorrow’s posts.  Never plant a dying bush!

For this reason I almost never write blog posts about current events, news, products that will not last on the market, etc.  Plant evergreen content and reap the rewards for years.

 Rule #6: Death before dishonesty

The Internet is abuzz with cries of transparency and honesty, yet few websites truly live by that motto.  The problem is that it is easy to be transparent when it makes you look good–when it makes you look like the “tell it like it is guy.”  The trouble is that few internet marketers are willing to tell it like it is when the truth is inconvenient.

Need an example?  A personal friend invented a product that was a perfect fit for my audience.  He sent me the product to do a review on my site and help with the kickstarter campaign.  Unfortunately, the product sucked big time.  I was forced to majorly let down my friend and refuse to push the product for him.

Need another example?  What happens when you rely on the affiliate income for a product (such as Market Samurai, for example), and then Google makes some changes that make the product mostly worthless?  Are you willing to remove your affiliate links and stop pushing the product?

Need another example?  Does the sales copy for your information product accurately describe it, or do you hype it up to be something more than it probably is?

You get the idea.  Honest and brutally honest are completely different ideals.  Be brutally honest.

 Rule #7: Results over indicators

Internet marketers pride themselves in indicators.  Indicators are worthless.  Selling $7 million dollars of product from your website is an indicator.  Having 250,000 social media followers is an indicator.  100,000 page views in a month is an indicator.  1,000 paying customers is an indicators.  Yes, even the net income your business generates after expenses is merely an indicator.

Listen to this one rule and listen good.  Indicators are entirely worthless.  All that matters is the result of your work, and that result is your bank balance.

Do I track my social media, gross sales, net income, and paying customers?  Absolutely!  But I realize that you can’t cash a check from your social media following.  I realize that net income after expenses is useless if you don’t manage your spending.  Indicators are vital to make good business decisions, but you’ll make horrible business decisions if you think indicators are indicative of results.

Rule #8: Engage until you bleed

“Engagement” is how most internet marketers describe replying to emails or replying to comments on a blog.  How many emails and blog comments to a reader would it take before they were so connected to you that they would attend your funeral?  How many would it take to even care if your website disappeared tomorrow?  The internet marketer’s standard of engagement is pathetic.

Is there a better way?  Yes!  Hold a meetup, call readers on the phone, put a webcam above your desk so they can see you work, record an audio file as a response to an email, spend more time creating Youtube videos and less time writing blog posts.  Engage until you bleed.

Rule #9: Confidence is your company’s most valuable asset

I cannot tell you how many times I have had the conversation.  Someone is in need of income and I show them how internet marketing can change their life.  Most are too afraid to begin.  Those who want to begin allow fear to tell them they have nothing to share.  Those who do begin quit when they realize they need to invest their best efforts.  The rest are successful.

What fear do you love more than success?

Rule #10: You can’t hug a business

My business is a major part of my life.  It feeds my family.  It occupies my time.  It occupies my mind.  It stresses me out.  It excites me.

But my business cannot get me to heaven, and my business can’t hug me when I’m sad.  Maintain perspective in your life.  Never let your business beat up your family, your lifestyle, or anything else you care about.