Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: Monetizing Niche Content - Notes from Affiliate Summit West Coast

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Monetizing Niche Content - Notes from Affiliate Summit West Coast


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Monetizing Niche Content


The Panel Consisted of:
  • Tricia Meyer, Sunshine Rewards, @SunshineTricia
  • Kim Rowley, Kim Marketing @KimMarketing own about 150 domains, trying to do less and narrow down to 10 sites
  • James Keating, VP of Marketing and International at ShopWiki, @JamesKeating
  • Lisa Picarille, Consultant LisaPicarille.com The moderator @lisaP

Montizing Niche Content was a panel at Affiliate Summit West Coast that took place in Las Vegas the second week of January. It was the biggest Affiliate Summit to date and I was able to capture some highlights from this panel for your reading pleasure (along with some of my own commentary).

This was my second Affiliate Summit and I’ve heard both Tricia and Kim speak in the past, Tricia at Affiliate Summit East Coast in '10 and Kim at BlogWorld ’09. I find both of them to be really inspirational – I believe they are both single moms (Not sure about Tricia), they have both been in the affiliate space for about a decade (maybe more) and they both have digital marketing expertise that is quite enviable.

I was able to chat with Kim at the shareasale.com party on Sunday night and I told her how I remembered her at BlogWorld ’09, when I was very wet behind the ears, I was building HotBachelorette.com at the time. I built it in Joomla and Kim told me – “Stop, build it in WordPress” and I didn’t listen. I am in the process of moving HotBachelorette.com to a WordPress theme – I should have listened to Kim!

At this session, there was more Q&A and less structured conversation from the panelists (which was a good thing), therefore my notes, an in turn this blog post, will be a bit scattered - but with lots of useful information.

Tricia started out with the topic of monetizing niche content. She mentioned that she likes to watch for trends and purchases domains when news is released. For example, if she knows there is going to be a new The Twilight Saga book, she will purchase a domain (without infringing on copyrights) that correlates with the The Twilight Saga movie. She knows the movie will likely come out a year after the book so a domain that relates with that particular The Twilight Saga book will likely be available.

For SEO purposes, be sure to add your trend in my domain name. For example, if your trend were music, you would want to include the name of that band in the domain name. Or, like the example above, if the trend is a movie or a TV show, include the name of the product in the domain name. Kim Rowley added that if the product or show is referred to by a nickname, purchase the domain name (and focus on keywords) by the nickname versus the brand name. This will also help alleviate any trademarking issues.

An example of the above mentioned, I had pretty good success with my site HalloweenCostumesChicago.com. I still get OK traffic on that site, but the three weeks leading up to Halloween, I received about 4000 unique visitors. Yes, I own a bunch of sites like that, many of them I still have to build. Patience Daniel-san, patience.

The question came up if anyone had ever had take any content down and Kim said she once received a cease and desist order, and she simply took the site down. This was actually a commonly asked question throughout the Affiliate Summit . When you’re in the business of trying to get your site to rank higher than the actual advertisers site, tactics regarding SEO and SEM and whether the practices you are using are ethical or not, can get a little blurred. Of the affiliates I’ve met, I believe people’s intent is good, it is just that sometimes things are not clearly defined in the digital space. As I mentioned in another post, the Affiliate Space is like the Wild West.

On the subject of populating sites:

  • Original content is best, whether you have to pay for it or not
  • Using interns to get your content, college students, pay them $5 - $20 an article
  • Sometimes merchants give you content to put on the site but it isn’t always a a good idea because you will always rank below the original site where the info is located
  • What I do with merchant content – I use it and I manipulate it, I add keywords and I change the descriptions so that I am not publishing duplicate content
  • Outsource to India was brought up and James Keating from ShopWiki said not to do it – and I agree with him
  • Tricia tends to write a lot of her own content and product reviews
  • I currently write almost all my own content, I also have friends who help write content Although I don’t pay them, I often buy them a drink here and there when I can afford to

Facebook Ads to help promote your niche content

  • Start a fan group (such as the Facebook Fan page for HotBachelorette.com)
  • Set your ads so they are ONLY shown to fans of people who are already fans, cheaper and higher sign up rate – according to Kim Rowley
  • Set your RSS so your newsfeed goes out to your fans

Datafeeds

This is a bit more complex and it took me over a year of working with affiliate marketing to “get” what a datafeed was – it was not until I started going to Affliate MeetUps, and working with Jason Rubacky from shareasale.com, that I learned how to do this. Check the ShareASale Blog for more info on datafeeds.

Here is what the panelists had to say about Datafeeds:
  • Some sites, I pull in one merchant and populate an entire site with one merchant
  • On sites, where I pull from 4 or 5 thousand merchants, I use Popshops – Tricia
  • You can use your own datafeed, create it in PHP, and customize it
  • Affilistore – has a downloadable script that you can use to populate your site
  • Write content with a mutual point of view and then direct to merchant site

Ways to monetize your niche content:

  • Adsense
  • Shopsense is an affiliate for fashion (CPA)
  • Chitika – I believe this is similar to Adsense, only shown to search engine traffic
  • There was one more mentioned that I cannot find, so instead, I am going to include a list of CPMs. Click HERE for a list of CPM's (alternatives to Adsense) from Problogger (however, this was published in '08, I am certain there is a better list out there if you look)

Other Things To Consider When Marketing Your Niche Content

Think about whether or not your audience is going to recognize the sellers. Because you’re in the space and you know the advertisers, the reader might not. Pay attention to the types of ads you put on your site. If it is a rich media or a banner ad, be sure that the creative is something that your readers will know and understand. Otherwise, stick to text links that make more sense for your target – like keywords or product over advertisers they may not know.

Some other tools, tips and tricks used by the panel
Skimlinks – put their javascript code on your site. They will auto-redirect your links to their network; a sub-affiliate network.
  • If you don’t have a lot of time and generate a lot of content, i.e., they add the link for you if you simply type the URL of the merchant
  • Works especially well if you’re not approved by certain merchant

GoldenCan.com – heard about them years ago but I've never used the product
  • On niche sites when you don’t want to build out whole coupon sections
  • You can have a coupon section for your site – and you can generate code PHP to include just for coupon page without having to add coupons yourself all the time

PopShops
  • PHP – included for SEO benefit
  • You have to know who you’re affiliated with (which merchants have approved you) when working with Pop Shops, it doesn’t tell you

  • You can build stores on Wordpress in about 15 minutes with PopShops – check out the Christmas Store I put up in literally an hour or two (this includes installing WordPress, signing up for PopShops, figuring it out, figuring out which merchants were mine, etc.)

Newsletter
  • Put text ads in your newsletter
  • For those who sign up for newsletter, you can set it up so it pulls from your blog – an email RSS feed from your blog posts

Q&A From The Audience

Do you use links that are non-affiliate links for SEO purposes?
  • Yes, James Keating. His good content (most of the stuff on his first page) is free of affiliate links and then he has internal links to pages that have affiliate links.
  • I went onto ShopWiki.com and tested this, the particular category I chose, I had to navigate to four pages, or four clicks) before I was redirected to the affiliate site. In my opinion, this was too many. But what do I know, they’re a multi-million dollar company and I am just one girl.
How would you know if there are merchants out there for your blogging?
  • It takes time and you have to spend time with your Networks looking at their merchants and understanding what is available
What percentage of your traffic is free?
  • Most of the panel said their traffic was mostly free, SEO organic traffic
  • Some of the panel uses Google ads, or has in the past, but they mostly recommend working hard to get the traffic on your own
How do you rank higher than the original merchants?
  • Tricia said she stays “ahead of the curve,” and “starts to write about stuff very quickly”
  • Follows news and trends and write your posts as quickly as you possibly can so that your post hits first
More Points:
  • Google toolbar doesn’t actively tell you how your page ranks anymore. You don’t need a lot of links to make something pop, you need one or two good links and compelling content.
For email:
  • Aweber and Pro Sender were mentioned
  • As everyone knows, I use MadMimi
Google Adwords
    There are certain words you cannot buy, you should look those up and write your posts with those words in them. You will rank higher because you know others cannot buy those keywords.
Where do you get your images?
  • Using images from people.com or some other source, give attribution for the photos
  • Wireimage – free account for celeb photos
  • I use Flickr and use photos from the Creative Commons and give attribution
  • I also take A TON of my own photos and save the in my flickr account for future use (I have over 5000 photos of my own)
I asked about bounce rate:
  • You want a high bounce rate with affiliate sites, the key is to drive them OUT AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE in hopes that they make a sale - this was James Keating from ShopWiki who answered this question.

I hope this was helpful because it took me all day SATURDAY TO WRITE!
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