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|Affiliate Programs Poll|
Affiliate Programs Hurting The Web?
I've got a site that brings in several thousand uniques everyday. We have worked hard for our PageRank, and paid quite a bit. ( About $30,000 in marketing over the last 6 months, mostly on Overture, with small amounts going to the double-crossering Looksmart, and the rest in Outdoor Advertising, direct mail, and opt-in email campaigns. )
We have very high quality, targeted visitors.
When we approach retail sites in this sector ( home improvement ) we usually get this response: "We only do pay per performance, pay on commission, and CJ.com"
Here's my problem: Commission is giving away advertising. When you display a site's banner on your site, it is creating brand awareness, WHETHER THE CONSUMER CLICKS ON IT OR NOT.
I buy online, everything from DVDs and books to airline tickets and computers.
I have never bought an item on the first visit to a sight. I usually go back several times ( from search engines or from typing in the URL in the address bar ) before I actually make the purchase. Referring site will not get credit for the purchase I made.
I feel that CJ and all affiliate programs are hurting the web by giving away free advertising.
Why should ConstructionSupplies.com ( I just made that up ) pay me $25 per thousand impressions when 1,000 cheap sites are giving away impressions on the odd chance that they may make $20 per annum?
CJ.com is not our friend.
CJ.com and all affiliate programs are exploiting webmasters.
If Pepsi said to the Washington Post, "Here, run this full page ad in the Sunday edition and we'll give you 5% of sales to consumers who were pointing to the ad with their right index finger at the time they bought the 2 liter of Pepsi", do you think the Washington Post would run the ad?
No. Advertising creates brand awareness. It should cost.
Who's going to marry Sally when Mary, Jenny, Molly, Barbara, and Gina are giving it away for free?
I feel your pain. Branding does work, but the problem is, it is hard to measure. Everyone wants their online efforts to be measured, and that blows impression based advertising out of the water.
What I have found that works, is using text links and preselling the merchant's product or service. Make your own ad. Find something you can recommend yourself, let your presell be more content and promote the merchant.
The advertising industry is not going to conform to what we want, we have to conform to what it offers.
I have had good success with CJ. But just like anything else, there are good merchants and there are bad merchants. Promoting the right merchants with the right methods pays great dividends.
"I have had good success with CJ."
How many zeros worth of good success?
I'm in the hole tens of thousands, but to my credit I've got a high pagerank, loads of traffic and a good site.
I just need to learn how to squeeze a buck or two out of it...
The branding thing works in both directions. When a merchant has a well-established brand, it's easier to sell their stuff, so what affiliates (might) give up on one hand we gain back on the other.
CJ has its flaws -- it's totally gutless about taking a stand against parasiteware, for instance -- but I make a nice living with CJ, so I consider it a friend, warts and all.
Excuse my ignorance. What is parasiteware?
Buckworks... just wanted to say thanks for that info on parasiteware. Excellent post!
Once you said "Gator" I understood. I was duped into installing it once, years ago, and a couple others like it. That was back when I first got online. It got to be so bad, each time I opened a browser to surf the net ten other consoles opened up. I finally just reformatted the harddrive.
Any company that doesn't wholeheartedly condemn these things has no place on the Internet, IMO.
Who is your audience?
Contractors, architects, and home owners. Mostly home owners interested in home improvement.
Kudos to both Buckworks and mosely700 for a really informative thread. The scumware is definately a disturbing situation, and I hope that it gets resolved sometime soon. As to the problem of the "free branding" that affiliates provide, I don't see that changing anytime soon. What solution would you propose moseley700?
My site is very nicely ranked on search engines. (PR7 and rising quickly) I have top listings for keywords that other sites pay $2+ per click for on Overture.
I do not spam of any sort. It is a good site with great design and legit content.
When a company with $29 million in capital contacted me and offer a pay per performance deal, with $100 per contact, I said no. I get offers all the time to join affiliate programs. I say "no".
Just like drugs, affiliate programs are fool's gold.
I feel sorry for these guys, when I see the work many put into their sites, and then they say "I had one sell", with a profit of $1.03.
These affiliate programs are exploiting webmasters.
Just say no.
If all the big guys say no, the exploiters will be left with a lot of low-traffic sites, and sells will fall. The factory workers unionized, why can't we?
<<Just like drugs, affiliate programs are fool's gold. >>
Gotta disagree with this ... despite some of the problems I outlined above, it's possible to earn good money with affiliate programs if you know what you're doing. That means learning and doing what it takes to make them work, not just slapping up banners and waiting for something to happen. Some merchants are duds (for a variety of reasons), but there are gems out there who really DO close sales and pay commissions when you send them well-targeted traffic.
I'd better stop now or I'll end up writing another treatise.
Just don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.
An affiliate asked me to join his program.
I bought his product.
I asked him to tell me who referred me to his site ORIGINALLY. ( I bought the product on my second visit.)
I told him to take a look at the full headers of my email, and assured him that my ip never changes ( AT & T broadband ip never changes ).
His response came the next day:
"Your statement that we cannot track referrers accurately is a fair statement".
He went on to say that he hope he is capturing 90% of all referrers.
If he says 90%, then I'll guess he's tracking 40%.
If an advertiser wants to advertise, let him pay for it.
which one of you is 'Mary, Jenny, Molly, Barbara, and Gina' the ones that give it away for free couz i want some of the free goodness :P
I use both CJ and per impression advertising, also something that works is flat monthly advertising fees :P
Let me add something: I don't oppose pay per performance. But if I'm sending a retail site hundreds of potential clients every day and they aren't selling, then that is their fault. They are getting the potential sales to their doorstep, and not closing the deal.
If you have sent "hundreds of potential clients" to a merchant with no $$ resulting for you, then you're right, it's time to try something else.
Don't be too quick to assume it's the merchant's fault. It might be, but not necessarily. It could be that your traffic is not as good a fit for that merchant (not as well-targeted) as you thought, or some traffic is less "spendy" than others (example: teenagers), or some topics/categories always attract more lookers than buyers. Example: my sons spend hours surfing performance truck sites, but to my knowledge have not yet purchased any truck stuff online.
Shortcomings on a merchant's site can often be shored up by good "pre-selling" at the affiliate's end (not hype - that's something different), so test something different about how you're presenting the product/service. Or test a different merchant altogether.
Free branding will only happen if you let it, and I think it's a self-correcting "problem" anyway. If your site is a good enough fit for the merchant that branding is actually worth something, your traffic will convert to sales at reasonable rates, assuming there are no specific problems like stingy cookies, tracking errors, or maybe something stupid in the merchant's sales process.
Test, test, test ....when you find something that works, keep doing it, and when you find that something doesn't work, try something else. All the rest is details.
I buy online all the time, but never , never , never on the first visit.
Of all the people I've talked to, nobody ( NOT ONE ) bought an item from a merchant on the first visit.
This is precisely the point I'm making:
You introduce the buyer to the seller, then the buyer goes back to the buyer via search engine or by typing the URL in the address bar. Or in some cases checks out the product online, then orders by phone.
In fact, a friend who runs an affiliate network highly recommends using affiliate programs because a large number of orders come from by phone, in which case "we don't have to pay the referring site anything".
Either way, you don't get credit for it.
My traffic is high quality, and that's precisely why I don't like to give it away for free.
But there are plenty of webmasters eager to grab their ankles, so I don't see CJ going under anytime soon.
Also, many webmasters doing the CJ thing are running low PR sites ( PR5 and under ) with low traffic ( less than 1,000 uniques per day ).
It's not these people I'm preaching to. I'm talking to webmasters of sites with serious traffic and PR.
The fact that many people tend to look around and come back to buy later is why I mentioned "stingy cookies" as something to consider when you're evaluating a merchant. Also, some merchants do track and credit orders that come in by phone ... it CAN be done ... so that's another thing to consider when deciding whether to promote a merchant.
Merchants pay us for performance ... we have the right to pick and choose the merchants who perform for us too.
When you're talking about affiliate programs, be careful -- be vewwy vewwy careful -- about how you define "serious traffic".
I detect some numbers snobbery in your closing comment, but in the affiliate game raw visitor counts mean little. The number that matters is a good conversion rate. Your friends might be impressed by a site that gets thousands of visitors a day, but it's more fun to impress your bank teller.
Targeting is king.
I take it from your posts, mosley700, that you do not have extensive experience operating as an affiliate. If that observfation is incorrect, please accept my apology.
My point is that what you've said is contrary to my experience and that of many others. There are numerous webmasters making a good living as affiliates, many contributing to this board. There are an increasing number of merchants who treat affiliates as true partners in business. Some of the attitudes you've mentioned do exist. I stay away from merchants who are merely out to exploit affiliates for the branding.
This is a growing field, and I proffer the opinion that there will be more and more merchants adopting affiliate marketing as an integral feature of their business plans.
You may not be a good candidate for affiliate marketing because it requires a great deal of focus, experimentation and patience. It takes a long time to reach the point where a decent cash flow materializes. We've always said that you shouldn't quit your day job until you have a solid income base. You sort of have to make a career, or second career, of it.
I guess what I'm saying is don't knock it unless you've tried it. Hurting the web? I don't think so.
I have tried it. I saw a site go from zero to over 10 million uniques per year, posting profits of $5 million with affiliate program expenditures of under $100,000.
I have a friend with a nicely placed ranked site referring for hosting services. He shows thousands of click-throughs and no sales.
My position is, if your traffic is good quality traffic, why give it away?
Nice site. Ever notice that most site's on the Internet have no content of their own?
After five minutes of deep thought I came to this conclusion: Your site probably does fine as an affiliate.
But my category of web site simply is not compatible. I advertised for Lowe's a while, and neither I nor Lowe's expected folks to buy bags of cement of bbq grills online. The sole purpose of such advertising is branding.
The type of site you run probably does a brisk business in affiate sales. I could have been a bit narrow minded in my opinions.
It's when the "many" give up that the "few" will prosper :)
|Who's going to marry Sally when Mary, Jenny, Molly, Barbara, and Gina are giving it away for free? |
Probably not me.
|Some merchants are duds (for a variety of reasons), but there are gems out there who really DO close sales and pay commissions when you send them well-targeted traffic. |
My thoughts exactly.
Quality traffic WILL convert to sales when sent to appropriate merchant(s). If it doesn't, something is wrong.
An affiliate who is serious should be doing systematic trouble-shooting long before the stats get to "thousands of click-throughs and no sales".
Careful testing is one of the things that separates the pro's from the wannabees.
As Ms. Buckworks mentioned, I employ the strategy of creating quality traffic by targeting. My assumption is that if a visitor clicks on one of my pages they are doing so with some degree of motivation to buy the particular product/service I've targeted. It may be a barely perceptible level of motivation, or it may be the result of a decision to purchase the item. If there is a purchase (conversion) I get paid without having to carry inventory, meet a payroll, process credit cards and handle shipping and customer relations. I like that.
Your realization of $5 million in profit yearly as an affiliate truly places you in the most rarified strata of affiliate marketing. If this is in the past tense, did you find an even more lucrative activity, and would you care to share what that is? Is there an IPO in the offing when the market turns?
I agree further with Ms. Buckworks that volume of traffic is not determinative of affiliate income. Focused activity is what produces.
Thanks for your kind words about my site. And, yes, creation of original content is not a strong suit of the vast majority of site owners.
"Your realization of $5 million in profit yearly as an affiliate truly places you in the most rarified strata of affiliate marketing. If this is in the past tense, did you find an even more lucrative activity, and would you care to share what that is? Is there an IPO in the offing when the market turns?"
It's not my site making $5 million. It is an exploitive corp which makes big promises and then takes phone orders and mail orders.
I'm personally against over-commercialization of the Internet. I'm pretty happy just to get more traffic than competing sites. Its more fun than business, I guess.
There are a plethora of corpses in the Dot Com Morgue which, while they lived, espoused the notion that traffic was the primary currency of the internet. A lot of people had fun, and indulged fantasy lives during that brief, misguided expansion of the bubble.
Reality is the way things are whether we like it or not. Reality dictates that traditional economic activity, enhanced by the special attributes of the internet, is what will enable it to thrive and become an economic behemoth in this century. Its an ideal vehicle for commerce.
Personally, I'm both having fun with the creative side of it, and making money in the process. Gotta love it!
One thing to consider. I think every time a put a banner or link to a retailer on my site it lowers the value of the site.
I have another, purely commercial, site in an un-related field. I am not proud of it. It does get traffic, which I check into every other week or so. I dont even visit it every day. Because it is purely commercial. It is set up just to make money.
I am proud of my not-so-commercial sites. I work on them every day, from dawn to dusk. I love it when I get emails saying how wonderful my sites are. I got this one yesterday:
"Keep up the great work. Your website is fantastic!"
It makes me happier than any amount of money from my other site. When I talk to people they definately make a distiction between "commercial" and "non-commercial" sites. I usually have some sort of advertising on my non-commercial sites, but it is in no way obnoxious, and takes up little space on the site.
I don't think the site would be so popular if advertising was a primary feature of the site.
mosley700, I respect what you are saying, but totally disagree with you.
People do purchase online (certain types of products, but not all products are effective for online marketing).
Affiliate programs do work, and can make a great revenue for your site.
I have only been doing this for 5 months now, and am making a great income from relatively low traffic sites only with affiliate programs. I would never sell cost per impression advertising on my sites because it doesn't pay me enough money. What do you get for cost per impression? $2 per thousand impressions? Some of my sites make $200 per thousand impressions ($1-2 per click) and upwards by sending the traffic to highly targeted and effective affiliate programs.
The trick is only picking affiliate programs that convert well.
The other part of this discussion is the problem with scumware reducing commissions. Yes this is true. Probably half of commissions are taking by scumware ... that is a conservative estimate given the number of people that have Gator, morpheous ... etc etc installed. However affiliate programs are still more profitable for publishers even despite these problems.
That's my 2 cents worth.
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