Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: Getting Started With Affiliate Marketing

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Getting Started With Affiliate Marketing


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Affiliate marketing session from BlogWorld
The panel included: Shareasale, Kim from Key Internet Marketing , Jones soda affiliate manager and was moderated by Jim Kukral.

Affiliate Marketing is an Internet-based marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates (aka “publishers”) for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate's marketing efforts. It is an application of crowd sourcing. Advertisers are brands (large and small) who are looking to place their ads on websites. Some advertisers have greater requirements and will not accept just any “publisher”. Publishers are people with websites or blogs who are looking for advertisers – they publish the ads.

Many of the big brand advertisers have strict requirements of publishers: number of visitors per month, your content, etc. They feel the need to protect their brand image perception. Other advertisers’ guidelines are not as strict. As an affiliate or publisher, having a big brand that is relevant to your site will give the impression that your site is more “legit”.

This post will cover basics, for example, knowing who your audience is so you can post the right type of ads. Various tactics and tools, such as setting up a store all from affiliate link, taking a look at a successful affiliate site, touch upon using PPC to drive sales and some helpful links for you to explore in greater detail on your own. (Here is an older post where I touched on affiliate marketing)

Before I get into the post, I will start by answering the question that was asked repeatedly by the audience – “How long will it take for me to make money with affiliate marketing?” Maybe never. Most of the people on the panel had been dealing with their sites for six or more years. Keep in mind, 80% of the money earned by affiliates is made by less than 10% of the people in the field. (This was a personal tip given to me by the CMO of a company who uses affiliates)

Each person had a formula for how much traffic is needed to drive significant sales. Depending on the niche that the site speaks to, sites can range from .40 to $200.00 per 1000 page views. In my opinion, you need a minimum of 10,000 page views a month to make any money at all and 10K page views a month is not that easy to achieve. This blog does not even make .01 per 1000 page views, but then again, this blog is not set up to make money. This blog was set up as a vehicle for me to teach myself (and now others) about various internet marketing tools. And, I likely have the wrong ads up but I care about aesthetics of this page and do not like clutter.

Knowing Your Audience
The best way to determine what types of ads you should put into your blog or site is to determine who is navigating to your site and why. How do you know who your audience is? For one, you know your topic, so you know what is drawing people to your site – whatever you are writing about. Look at your analytics, which one of your posts are the most popular? What keywords are driving people to your site? Look at your returning visitors vs. your new visitors. Look at where your visitors are coming from and use some deductive reasoning to determine what these particular readers may be coming back for and what the purchasing habits of these individuals may be.

Conduct surveys. Using tools like polldaddy.com or surveymonekey.com, you can poll your readers asking poignant questions regarding their behaviors in an effort to determine the types of advertisers you should have on your site. It does not necessarily mean you should ask “what advertisers do you want to see,” perhaps coming up with 10 questions that will help you determine the psycho-graphics of your readership.

Testing
Each of the panelists agreed that they all test their ads – constantly. In addition to which ad is placed on their site(s), they also test placement, size of the ad, etc. The one key take away I got was, although banner ads are almost NEVER clicked on, a banner ad coupled with a text link (from the same advertiser) works exceptionally well. This makes sense, the reader sees the banner ad, doesn’t click on it but later the text link is noticed, perhaps from recognition, seeing the banner ad minutes earlier, triggers the reader to click on the text link. One other thing I learned from this panel was that text links can really hurt you. Apparently search engines frown upon text links and having text links can hurt your rankings.

The question on many peoples’ minds was the recent FTC ruling that requires bloggers and affiliates to reveal when they are being paid for a post (or even receiving something for free as an incentive to post). Most of the panel agreed that stating something clearly in the bio of your blog or the “about us” section of the site would be ample disclosure and that the FTC was likely more interested in punishing those who are deceitful versus smaller bloggers and affiliate marketers. Making your intentions clear, remaining transparent and including a disclosure that you are an affiliate should be sufficient. They did state that they were not lawyers and that checking with an attorney would be wise.

Kim from Key Internet Marketing
Kim Rowley has been in the online marketing space since the late 90s. She started with a coupon site that was started as a hobby. Her business has grown and she now owns 100s of domains and manages dozens of sites with affiliate and ad links. She also consults other businesses on their affiliate marketing programs and speaks on panels.

Shoeaholic is Kim’s shoe blog (which I’ve visited her site prior to seeing her in this panel). Kim said she writes the titles of her blog entries for search engines. She does use text links in her blogs. The one key thing I liked about Kim’s shoe blog was that she set up her area where the “blogroll” normally exists as a shoe directory. Each one of the blogroll items are set up as affiliate links.

Building a store with affiliate links
I only recently learned that it is possible to build a store with affiliate links. I think this is genius! And I am launching a site on Valentine’s Day using this tool. I cannot wait! Amazon.com has an affiliate program where you can install a storefront that looks like an amazon storefront. Kim from the panel is a huge fan of shareasale.com and said that they have great store front tools. I have yet to be approved by shareasale.com *shakes fist in air*.

PPC
Depending on your site, PPC can be a very lucrative way to make money for affiliates. Most of the panel disagreed with one another regarding PPC, some felt that spending money to make money was silly. This is my blog, so my opinions are included, most of the people on the panel had been working on their blogs for 6+ years, they have had plenty of time to get their sites a tremendous amount of traffic and most agreed it took years. If you have a small amount of seed money to jump start your traffic, I would use PPC. I know several people who operate targeted sites and they use PPC to make a ton of money via affiliate marketing and adsense.

The one tip that the panel offered for buying keywords was to buy “long tail keywords” and have them land on specific pages that you know will convert. For example, if you were to purchase the keywords “tall boots” it may be expensive to purchase (especially because zappos probably pays a butt-load for it). Instead, if you were to purchase “tall brown Kenneth cole winter boots” – and you have a picture of this boot with an affiliate link to this boot on your page, you will pay less for that long tail keyword and get someone who is looking for something specific to your page.


Links – as promised :)
Golden can – affiliate data feed solutions
Skimlinks – a plug in tool that you simply install and (it looks like) they do the linking for you *wow!*
Affiliate Ninja – a WordPress plug in
LinkShare
Commission Junction

Abestweb.com - affiliate forum
Revenews.com – free affiliate and online marketing newsletter

Affilistore - a free script for affiliates (their site was down when I checked them out not good, maybe I have the link wrong?)

Related Posts:
BlogWorld an Overview
Using Analytics To Get The Most From Your Blog Posts
Free Web Analytics with Standard and Professional Yahoo! Merchant Solutions Plans

What I am Listening to:

Ladytron by Roxy Music (1999 Digital Remaster)

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