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|How do you promote your affiliate site?|
PPC, SEO, other methods...?
The year 2007 is well underway, so time for a quick survey.
It's been bothering me for a while that certain AM networks talk to their publisher communities as if everyone is doing PPC and there isn't an alternative.
I don't know a thing about PPC - I've never touched it. From the point when I launched my site at the start of 2003, I was only ever interested in SEO. That's still my mainstay, though I indulge in some "social marketing"... and word of mouth down the pub never hurts, I've found (especially if I have a couple of spare business cards on me).
Who else here has yet to take up PPC or only uses it as a minor promotional tool (ie. PPC makes up less than 50% of promotional efforts)? Is there anyone who has been a PPC pure-player until now but who is now starting to think about other methods of promotion?
While we're on the subject, does anyone want my Adwords vouchers? >;->
I took a serious look at PPC back in 2002 and decided not to bother.
From time immemorial (Before Google) I have followed the same formula:
* domain business plan including ad/aff potential for each identified keyword/phrase and detailed site architecture design based on that.
* create and upload first couple hundred pages and go live.
* submit to selected SEs and directories (happily SE submission is no longer necessary).
* 6-8 months copywriting content pages to site design. No monetisation effort until this point.
* easy affiliate sell due to nicely targeted known volume niche traffic.
* add-in pre-built content links/descriptions leading to newly uploaded pre-built presell pages.
* continue copywriting until site architecture filled in. Add/adjust pages as log file search query analysis suggests additional/alternate keywords/phrases.
* monitor, modify, and change affiliate accounts as required.
* continue, repeat.
Boring best practices HTML/CSS and accessibility/accessibility.
Boring basic SEO.
Real effort after page upload spent building non-SE traffic: the traffic origin ideal being one third each bookmarks, targeted links, SEs/directories. Not there yet but some sites are getting close.
What I see fairly consistently is that bookmark traffic converts twice as well as targeted links which convert four times targeted search which is eight times the longtail search terms. I have always found those ratios intreguing.
I have seen others do very well with PPC. Fortunately my business model and niche selection does not require paying for traffic (to do it well is time I'd rather spend sailing) and can weather SE algo dancing as well.
>Who else here has yet to take up PPC or only uses it as a minor promotional tool (ie. PPC makes up less than 50% of promotional efforts)?
The best tool for the last 7 years has been true (FREE) SE results.
It is getting more difficult by the day to maintain good free results! SE's don't like us! They want us to pay!
However, if you can fly under their radar there is still a lot of money to be made from true SE results.
It appears to me that they target certain industries that they believe are "robbing" them. Once that happens life becomes very difficult, and in the interests of making money it is sometimes better to just move on!
I started as a pure "direct to merchant" PPC player about six years ago before I even knew how to make a web page for myself. I have since learned enough things about enough things that nowadays more than 95% of my traffic and revenue comes from organic sources, not PPC.
For at least two years, my main promotional focus has been link development for direct traffic. That has been a productive strategy for me. I used to do all my own link development work, but last year I finally connected with an outsourcing company whose work meets my standards. I'll keep that relationship going for the foreseeable future.
A friend has been nagging me about newsletter subscription lists. I've dabbled in that area, but didn't enjoy the sort of work it took to write and manage a newsletter. My friend is persuading me to take another look, though. Stay tuned ...
"How do you promote your affiliate site?
PPC, SEO, other methods...?"
As many ways as possible. SEO, PPC, buying ads on sites for traffic purposes, press releases, tv mentions every now and then, offline advertising (many, many things with that, can be it's own thread) etc
buckworks... is there anyway you can share your outsourcing resource.. even just through PM... although I understand the importance of link building... at the moment running a company is already a challenge and I don't think I would have enough time to do all that myself, as you so experience yourself.
I'm trying to evaluate a couple of outsourcing potential for link building... any pointers is helpful.
I try to find around 20,000 related terms and autogenerate at least 10 sites to feed the main affiliate page. Cloak the doorway pages. Rather than try to get people to actually click through any links simply redirect the site to the target. If the niche/program turns out to convert well, then I would focus on more of a "money word" approach which, these days inevitably involves buying an older domain with links already pointing to it.
Some thoughts about link outsourcing.
My first venture into outsourced link development was a dud. The company insisted on doing things their way, not mine. All my communication was through one manager and they never let me talk directly with the person(s) writing the letters. The letters that went out were pompous, cumbersome, and guaranteed to make the recipient think, "Oh, good grief." They wasted hundreds of prospects without gaining one link. After the trial period I gave up.
After meeting someone at a couple of PubCon's I finally connected with a company that would do things my way. I communicate directly with those working on my campaign; nothing is filtered through management. Even though my approach is different from their office's other clients, they do my work exactly as I ask. The linkers assigned to me are savvy, creative thinkers with good suggestions, and we test their ideas as well as my own. English is their second language but they're cheerful about accepting my corrections. I'm comfortable with the letters being sent, and they're getting results.
We go after one-way links based on relevance and the work has focused mostly on one site. We ignore Page Rank and obsess about relevance! We send simple, customized link suggestions to carefully targeted sites. We send one letter only; no annoying follow-up. Few webmasters reply directly, but I've lost count of how many have linked to the site without saying anything. The site is gaining a strong web presence in its niche, and it's now a very useful element in my own cross-linking.
Sucess is all about targeting, targeting, targeting (and a quality site to promote). The same link request that would be spam to the wrong webmaster is a useful new resource to the right one. Our mission is to target the right ones and leave everyone else alone.
Side comment: focusing on content was a practical decision for me as well as an ethical one. I have the editorial skills to develop quality content; I don't have the technical skills for autogenerated, redirected voodoo of the sort mfishy describes.
100% PPC works for me. Expensive, but reliable and not subject to the vagaries of ever changing algo wizards.
I find my biggest challenge with PPC is dealing with trademark issues when trying to sell a product, but not being allowed to use the name! I can understand they are trying to protect the few coveted spots on the front page of G... but if you look at other marketplaces (Best Buy, etc) they are allowed to use product images, names, company logos, etc... whatever it takes to move the product. In my twisted opinion, PPC folks are just an extended external sales force for the company, earning just a commission. If the companies want to move more product, they should be a little more flexible.
I started with websites about 8 years ago. Only in the last year have I experimented with PPC... somewhat successfully. I've earned a few hundred extra here and there... but overall I find it difficult to manage with the ever-changing requirements these companies keep handing out.
mfishy - is that ethical? honest question, not an accusation.
in my limited experience, i've found that affiliate marketing using banners on a site not directly related to the merchants prodoct, doesn't work at all.
The only merchant that initially appeared to work for me was a ,, direct competitor, but i quickly dispensed with their adverts after a protracted dry spell of clicks without conversions
Anyway, is the general experience that affiliate marketing is most successful with sites that have been built with an eye to marketing those products?
|Anyway, is the general experience that affiliate marketing is most successful with sites that have been built with an eye to marketing those products? |
I used to be a pure SEO guy, when ranking got tougher (atleast for me!), i changed to PPC around 2004/2005 and never looked back!.
I got into affiliate sales and ultimately affiliate sites by first building a successful niche directory site. I saw I could make some extra money with affiliate ads and eventually built a couple of exclusively affiliate sites.
Google doesn't like affiliate sites, but they're not the only search engine capable of generating nice traffic. I have also experimented with advertising affiliate sites in other media, such as print and cable tv, but nothing delivers traffic for me like the free traffic that I get from search engines.
I have worked both with companies that use PPC and those that rely mainly on organic rankings and the one thing that distinguishes the two is merely margins.
Can you afford a 3% conversion rate with $2.00 clicks on a product that averages $150.00 profit per order / booking? Sure. The same on a product that averages $50.00 per order? Not so much.
All about the ROI there. To be fair the company I did PPC with also had a strong organic presence, but the PPC acted as a good "credibility leader" and as long as we could squeeze a positive ROI out of it it was worth it in the long run.
Now I am working with a company who relies purely on organic rankings, and honestly I have told them not to follow the PPC route. It is typically costly in the beginning (for real competitive keywords) and unless you have the capital to keep throwing at to turn it around, it really isn't worth the struggle when you can keep your cost-per-acquisition at $0.00 with a strong presence in the SERPs.
I used Yahoo Overture and AdWords PPC when I first started my sites. I spent way too much money. Now I rely on SEs and organic methods like content, word-of-mouth, community sites, newsletters.
"Can you afford a 3% conversion rate with $2.00 clicks on a product that averages $150.00 profit per order / booking? Sure. The same on a product that averages $50.00 per order? Not so much. "
This is a very valid point. PPC works best where the CPA/payout is pretty high, like finance, casinos, etc. For most e-commerce stuff like travel, retail, etc. the margins are so slim that PPC is a much more difficultand risky game than SEO.
It's also perhaps why it's almost impossible to rank well in the free listings for these big money terms without spending lots of money on buying links - the payouts are high, the competition's high, so even SEO becomes a money game.
This is one of the reasons that YSM recently reduced their minimum PPC bid, because much of the market is based on these lower bid levels.
|mfishy - is that ethical? honest question, not an accusation. |
I would give you a thoughtful answer but that would surely sidetrack this thread. There must be 1000 threads where members go back and forth about ethics. IMHO it would be more beneficial for folks to talk about the actual topic of the thread.
I think it is useful to understand that there are different types of affiliates.
Type A: Finds products or services to promote and builds sites/traffic specifically aimed at these merhcants/programs.
Type B: Builds a content rich or useful site and uses affiliate ads much like one would use any type of ad.
I try to match buyers with sellers. If I were to promote a program that featured hotels in Kalamazoo, I would not write about the place, publish photos, articles and throw up ads about hotels. Rather I would do everything I could to avoid people looking for information and find the people looking to book rooms and get them to the "order" page ASAP.
From the hundreds of people I have met that do this stuff for a living, I have found that to really make a lot of money and be a "type B" affiliate, you need a very busy and popular site/s that deals with a topic that is pretty lucrative (not videos, games, etc...but rather travel, dating, shopping).
Oh and gopi, no seo?! I need to learn your secrets to ppc millions...i cannot generate a click in adwords below like $50 :)
If you don't mind sharing your outsourcing contact I'd love to know.
About 6 months ago I decided to outsource my link dev.
I used elance and thought I'd written some very tight rules to ensure good links. I hired a company in NYC who was the only one who appeared to even get link dev. I paid about $1.4K and received about 150 links. Unfortunately, they're actually out of India, which is fine, execpt that all the links are from crap link farms. Although the people I negotiated with at the begining agreed to my terms, they seemed to just have a mechanical link farm system that took over from there.
My tactic, I guess, will be to find someone who doesn't have a predefined idea of link dev and train them in how I want it done. Maybe just a good writer, or someone with experience in my space rather than an SEM type.
I look for sites for sale and if I see a niche product/sector that is making money, I pick up a domain name, build some content and within a few days start getting traffic. Of course you can only get immediate traffic if this is a minimal competitive field. Unbelievable some of the things that get good traffic yet are just small niches with little competition.
Just recently I saw a site that wanted low 5 figures selling a product that had less than 200K SERPS. I'll keep the 5 fiugres and within a day have a site built out that will start to get some organic traffic within a few days. BTW many of these niche sites can also get you the .10 PPC clicks if you want to work both angles.
I bring in only organic traffic. Yes, the engines are in near constant flux, but that is part of the business. When they change, I change. That aspect of my business model has never changed, even when I was brick and mortar. You have to change with the industry or get left behind.
But, I have been less impacted by change, because of our diversity. While Google, Yahoo or MSN for that matter, may decide to make an algo change, it will never affect all my sites at one time. This gives me time to see what happened, adjust for it, and get back on top.
I have heard alot of discussion on this board about having alot of sites not being advised. Well, when you have alot of sites, and the engines decide one industry, or type of site design needs less importance in the serps, it will almost always increase traffic to the other sites in the portfolio when you have the right type of diversity. You only have to browse WW to see after each engine update there are whiners and those who rejoice. With diversity, you don't whine and you don't rejoice, the bottom line stays fairly even.
This is where being a 'jack of all trades', which throughout history has been frowned upon as not being 'focused', has been very beneficial to me on the web. My knowledge and interests are widely diverse, though I am 'master of none', my websites reflect that diverse knowledge. Yes, it is a challenge to keep them all updated. But, with a sound prioritized schedule for maintaining and upgrades, it is very workable. I have 30 sites now, and am in the process of launching a new 200 page site by mid 2007, with another six on the board for research.
My newest success story has had four major updates in the first year since launch. I launched with 23 pages, I now have over 700 pages of rich content on it. After each upgrade, the site traffic sky rocketed. Now, at the end of year one, it is making $355mo minimum, all in-house and cpm, with a sustained minimum of 300,000 to 500,000 monthly unique page views from 100% organic (engine and inbound links)sources. We have been seeing inbound organic traffic for our 'brand', for over six months now. The brand is driving increased traffic every month now, as we slowly become a household/water cooler word. I've spent zero hours and not a dime promoting, preferring to spend my time on site expansion exclusively.
Had I waited to launch until I had the site at several hundred pages, I would not have had the traffic stats, to tell me what people wanted, giving me ideas for expansions. I see this site doing $20k at the end of the second year, and $100k by the end of the third year, with continued upgrades and expansions. It has been, without a doubt, the best idea I've had for short term success in many years.
This site will never have Adsense on it. Adsense can not correctly target the ads to it, it is impossible at this date. I don't see Adsense ever being sophistocated enough to figure out what kind of ads I need, then serve them. Not only that, I knowing what I know about Adsense, I wouldn't make as much with cpc as I do with cpm in this particular nitch. I need to hand select the ads that are placed on the site, in order to appeal to the type of visitors I get.
Learning what makes an engine 'tick', was the kicker for me. It gave me the one piece of knowledge I needed to become successful on the web with all my other education and talent. While I have to keep on that on a monthly basis, R & D for new sites is also a constant learning process.
There are ways to beat the engines at the game, legally, morally, and ethically... it is called continued education.
[edited by: MsHuggys at 11:38 am (utc) on Feb. 1, 2007]
mfishy, PPC is for SERP challenged guys like me :)
I stick with organic traffic through SEO, directory listings, and link exchanges. I started out with a niche directory/community site before I even knew what affiliate marketing was (and before AdSense existed). Out of curiousity, I eventually put up a couple links to a dating site that was very well-targeted to this niche and was very pleased with the results. Since then I've been bitten by the "afiliate bug", so to speak.
For what it's worth, none of the sites I've built for the purpose of promoting affiliate products or AdSense have done nearly as well as that first site, however. Producing a site for your visitors FIRST seems to be the way to go (in my somewhat limited experience anyway).
Dabbled very briefly in PPC without having a clue about it and found it to be a collosal waste of money. My goal for this year is to get better educated about PPC and then give it another try.
[edited by: eljefe3 at 4:16 am (utc) on Feb. 2, 2007]
Hi there , your tale is of one off the type that keeps me coming back to webmaster, bravo
So, your favourite 1 year old site has no adsense an, you only use cpm,
might I ask , do you use banner adds or mostly text type adds
I am assuming that cpm is as in CJ type affiliate advert/lead/sales generation, i'm not entirely au faire with the terminology
I'm willing to bet that most PPC affs make far more money than SEO affs. And do far less work.
So the return on time invested is much higher for PPC, IMHO.
mfishy has pointed out the great divide in affiliate business models:
1. decide on product/service to promote based on available program parameters: build a disposable tailored site to drive traffic while program ROI remains above set threshold. A shill grabbing interested passersby, qualifying, then passing them to the merchant of the moment. The program determines the site content. This is where PPC can shine: new sites requiring lots of qualified traffic fast.
2. decide on a niche to build a longterm business around. Lots of unique quality content aimed to build returns. Wide monetisation options with multiple revenue sources on each page. Affiliate marketing importance to this mix can vary greatly by niche. The site content determines the program(s). PPC becomes less valuable as other revenue options build.
Both models can work well. Neither are they exclusive. There is no one answer fits all. Not even PPC. :-)
My websites are promoted purely through PPC. I used to dabble in SEO, but got a constant headache trying to keep up to changes...plus the workload! I think the Kings of Affiliate Marketing use both PPC And SEO ;)
I agree with Davewray. The best affiliates use both.
I disagree with Michael Anthony.
|I'm willing to bet that most PPC affs make far more money than SEO affs. |
PPC's have to do keyword research they have to monitor their campaigns, workout which keywords to add and remove on top this they a paying for traffic so that is profit lost, they are also receiving far less traffic than the top websites for the serps.
SEO maybe hard work the first 2-3 months but if you can get to the top 3 in google of the most popular keywords then you will get 90% of the clicks if not more, where as PPC you only get 5% to 20% of clicks if that, and depends on what your paying. Once you are are at the top of the serps the profits just roll in and you are not loosing any profit to traffic.
Both have it's advantages and disadvantages but I'm guessing they probably even each other out.
"I'm willing to bet that most PPC affs make far more money than SEO affs. And do far less work.
So the return on time invested is much higher for PPC, IMHO."
What restless said. I would have figured you would have experience in both if your aim is to teach?
Both take work, both can have big rewards. Do both and more. Of course we all have different business models. With some models, some forms of promotion aren't going to work.
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