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Viable Online Income Streams
Which are the best income producers online? Which are scams?
greektomi




msg:651028
 12:22 am on Mar 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

In a recent post Rcjordan likened affiliate marketing to a crack cocaine addiction. Which I believe raises some very pertinent questions. Though they might not want to admit it, most webmasters are comitted to turning a profit through their efforts. Some are very good at it (so good at it that they can afford to fly all over the world to attend all sorts of conferences i.e. PubConference, BarConference, and coming soon SakiConference :)). Some are desperately barking up the wrong tree, hoping to one day cash in on the trillion or so dollars floating around in cyber space. IMO it is not just a question of traffic and site design, but of sound business methods. That being said:

What do you consider some of the most viable avenues for generating an income on the internet i.e. affiliate marketing, selling your own products, retail, selling a service etc.?

Which avenues do you consider just wasted time and money?

Different things work for different people, so what aspects of the big picture do you think determine success or failure?

I know that many of you are making a living off of your online efforts and that makes me very happy, but though we talk about SEO and site design (aren't they the same thing :) ?) We very rarely discuss how to turn those hard won visitors into a paycheck.

Rcjordan was right. The idea of making money online is very alluring if not addictive and where there is an addiction there are abusers. Today, if you search the net for any information regarding an online income you are bludgeoned by marketers who want to sell you their system that teaches you how to sell a system that teaches other people how to make money online. It's a vicious cycle and it's easy for people to get lost in it.

This is a highly respected forum and I'm sure the readers would appreciate a candid conversation about what really works.

Amazon Affiliates = Book worms on crack?

Greektomi

 

mayor




msg:651058
 5:29 pm on Mar 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Mike_Mackin >> I want to be with these folks and share ideas.

There are other folks who want share ideas with other serious affiliate marketeers, newbies and pros alike. To help foster this, I've suggested to Brett a forum dedicated just to affiliates.

>>I'm a niche person. One site per product / service guy but I read that others seem to do well with malls. I have tried and had no success

Build the affiliate mall as a test bed to see what works for you. Then build additional individual sites that focus on those things that work really well for you.

>> After 3 years, I have come to the conclusion that the programs that work best for me are the ones where I'm considered more of an agent than an affiliate.

Yes, the affilate world is no different that the old brick and mortar world when it comes to business relationships that work. You are a sales agent, and you need to develop one-on-one relationships with your best merchants.

rcjordan




msg:651059
 5:37 pm on Mar 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Nice thread.

>At first I thought you were ridiculing affiliate programs and it's good to know now that you're actually fond of them.

No, definitely not ridiculing them, though I am a little perturbed by all the "in your face" marketing tactics that so many affiliates are trying. They are hurting the industry.

The underlying question is, I guess, "Can you still make money on the web?" I make the equivalent of a California salary (and spend all my time hanging out here), yet I'm small potatoes when compared to some of our big players here. There's definitely still money to be made, and you don't have to be hawking porn to do it.

>almost taste the beer and smell the cigarette smoke as you all bantered across the bar into the night

It was California... they had to go outside to smoke.

>the whole "faceless" affiliate ID bit has never been a part of the game plan.

You see, we all have different styles. I'm very much into having ZERO contact with the people that are sending me money... it's not because I'm into some shady programs well beyond the bounds of ethics, my merchants are travel-related. I prefer to keep a distance so that I can add or cut at my discretion. As far as I'm concerned everything I need to know about them and everything they need to know about me is on the sign-up form.

rogerd




msg:651060
 5:47 pm on Mar 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>550 000 skyscraper like ads
850 unique (targeted) users clicking through to about 1000 targeted books.
What they gave me:
Total revenue earned = $0.00<<

I'm not a big affiliate marketer, but I did put Amazon links on one specialty site I work with. Despite vastly lower ad exposures than your site, Boggles, that site sells a lot more books. (Of course, anything is a lot more than zero! ;) )

In this case, the keys to success (using the term "success" loosely!) were highly targeted and relevant links to individual titles, often with commentary and reviews. The revenue is still peanuts - it pays for hosting and part of the monthly Overture bill - but it's growing as site traffic grows.

Of course, this is a lot of work to get right. In the case of this site, the book review content was going to be there anyway. I think the idea of slapping up some banners or skyscrapers and expecting any kind of income stream is a non-starter in most cases.

One other tidbit: I really like the look and flexibility of Amazon's keyword-based ads. These let you put up ads of different sizes with titles (and pics) related to the pages they appears on. Very clever and powerful marketing idea, one might think. In fact, at least on the site I mentioned above, the performance of these ads has been abysmal. I'm not sure why this is, but our link-type analysis shows that these work about one book better than Boggle's ads!

Marcia




msg:651061
 6:01 pm on Mar 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>Build the affiliate mall as a test bed to see what works for you. Then build additional individual sites that focus on those things that work really well for you.

mayor, I'm glad you said it first. I've had exactly that idea and its worked with a very limited test. But it's only in early planning stages for a whole site. I'm a big believer in small mini-sites of 10-15 pages and under, they've proven themselves well..but there are other advantages with a mall situation, and to be honest until now I never thought of setting it up calling it that.

I'm almost afraid to admit it publicly, but I absolutely love Inktomi, particularly for this reason. It takes no time to see what something can do if the keywords are carefully chosen. With legitimate pages, it's a great way to test in a short period of time. With the restriction of not being able to change pages to a different domain, putting products on as part of a larger site is an economically feasible way of knowing what's worth continuing and/or getting a separate domain for.

The only problem I see is that once there's good placement with Google it's hard to give up by moving a site, since the rankings are so dependent on site-wide criteria. If a mini-site is part of a site that's already PR5 and it's got legit linking both internal and inbound, it makes things very simple.

It's all being thought out slowly so that any risk of doing it the wrong way can be avoided. I've seen a number that are well done but also a few that are headed for trouble down the road.

>>I've suggested to Brett a forum dedicated just to affiliates.

mayor, a good place to make such suggestions is right here [webmasterworld.com]. Gets his attention every time. :)

JamesR




msg:651062
 6:07 pm on Mar 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Different things work for different people, so what aspects of the big picture do you think determine success or failure?

I think part of the problem is the slowness of the business industry to pick up on the benefits of affiliate marketing. Here is why most affiliate programs fail miserably:

1) The business does not take care of the referred visitors

2) The product/service stinks in the first place (for only $125 we will give you free dating advice!!!!!)

3) Low commissions are offered and it is hardly worth the effort to promote (a lot of electronics hardware)

4) A few losers abuse the affiliate agreement, give the company a bad rap and they pull the program for PR reasons

5) The company is underhanded and will not pay on time or at all

There are probably more reasons but these are the ones I have heard often. Now, here are the reasons an affiliate program can be killer for any business:

1) You pay NO ADVERTISING COSTS AT ALL! You only need a program manager. All commissions are paid out of a percentage of the profits. A good ROI is guaranteed if you have your numbers straight.

2) You open up a ton of new advertising channels, niches that you never had access to before.

3) With a good program and decent commissions, you attract highly motivated internet marketers that probably know a lot more than you and can make you a heck of a lot of money for free.

4) You extend your customer base very quickly.

5) You can form lasting business relationships and drown your competition.

Therefore, businesses need to ensure that they offer:

1) A healthy commission (affiliate marketers know what they are worth)

2) Understand the value of your web customers and bend over backwards for them. Focus on making them lifetime clients.

3) Pay commissions on time.

4) No underhanded tactics to screw the affiliate guy. Word travels quick and crack heads have little mercy for this kind of thing.

5) Take the affiliate marketer's suggestions on improving the program. Would you listen to your sales rep if he had a solution to double your sales?

If these principles were in place, affiliate marketing would thrive on the net and make a lot of businesses a lot of money.

mayor




msg:651063
 7:13 pm on Mar 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Marcia >> I'm almost afraid to admit it publicly, but I absolutely love Inktomi, particularly for this reason. It takes no time to see what something can do if the keywords are carefully chosen. With legitimate pages, it's a great way to test in a short period of time.

I certainly agree with you, Marcia.

>>The only problem I see is that once there's good placement with Google it's hard to give up by moving a site, since the rankings are so dependent on site-wide criteria.

So don't move it. Just build a fresh themed site. Of coarse, don't mirror anything from the mall onto the mini-site.

greektomi




msg:651064
 10:52 pm on Mar 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Once the topic (theme) is fleshed out, then its easier to construct content laden marketing pieces that have a good shot at ranking well.

I have heard that called an advertorial and I think the name fits.

Well written advertorials and personal endorsements will almost always outperform plain text links and banner advertisements IMO.

Greektomi

P.S. I think an affiliate marketing forum would be a great idea and I have posted in the webmasterworld community forum accordingly. I really appreciate the response to this thread and it has helped me to focus more clearly on certain ideas I have had. It has also given me some new food for thought. :)

Go60Guy




msg:651065
 11:49 pm on Mar 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

greektomi - I for one have been heartened and encouraged to see that as an affiliate advocate I may well not actually be viewed here as a bottom feeding scumsucker likened to a crack cocaine addict.

BTW, I was strolling to the BarConference when I first overheard the crack cocaine comment made by rcjordan. He actually said it with tounge in cheek, and we all got some good laughs from it during the conference.

I would certainly like to see an affiliate forum at Webmasterworld with the proviso that anyone trying to promote their affiliate sites would be immediately kicked out.

greektomi




msg:651066
 12:34 am on Mar 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

I would certainly like to see an affiliate forum at Webmasterworld with the proviso that anyone trying to promote their affiliate sites would be immediately kicked out.

How about just severly edited :)

IMO I don't think it will be as much of a problem as some people fear. The moderators are good and seldom let an inappropriate link slip by. The regulars know the ropes and new users pick up on the rules real quick. In fact I had a pretty good idea of the terms of service before I even became a member, because I had been lurking for months.

Greektomi

mayor




msg:651067
 12:35 am on Mar 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>bottom feeding scumsucker likened to a crack cocaine addict

Haha, Go60guy, mind telling us where you came up with that :)

>> the proviso that anyone trying to promote their affiliate sites would be immediately kicked out.

Anyone trying to promote an affiliate site on a webmaster's forum needs immediate help ... that's the work of amateurs ... I know ... when first starting out, I used to drop my URL all over the wrong places. When I dropped it on usenet, my ISP shut me off. When I dropped in on marketing forums, I got spammed to death. When I dropped it in chat rooms, hundreds of surfers trampled my site and bought nothing. If only there had been a good forum I could go to and learn what not to do.

So I'd say give the newbies making a drive-by drop one friendly warning before giving them the boot.

mivox




msg:651068
 12:43 am on Mar 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

So I'd say give the newbies making a drive-by drop one friendly warning before giving them the boot.

The true drive-bys never come back to read their warnings... ;)

But we always warn new members who may run afoul of the rules, and almost never need to give anyone "the boot" after they've had things explained.

pshea




msg:651069
 5:12 am on Mar 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

I'm giving this a lot of thought, but one thing that needs no thought is this:

THIS comment rocked:

>>and coming soon SakiConference<<

greektomi




msg:651070
 5:21 am on Mar 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

THIS comment rocked:

>>and coming soon SakiConference<<

It's only a matter of time :)

Greektomi

Marcia




msg:651071
 5:54 am on Mar 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

>don't mirror anything from the mall onto the mini-site.

mayor, I'm a worrier. How about using the same affiliate code on a second site? Any problem with that?

mayor




msg:651072
 8:41 am on Mar 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Marcia >> mayor, I'm a worrier. How about using the same affiliate code on a second site? Any problem with that?

It hasn't been, but as a person adorned with more boots in my behind than you can count, I recommend you put on your flack jacket when entering affiliate airspace. You never know what's going to come up at you. Since you've been hanging out in the SEO business, I'm sure you've already got a few battle scars. So don't worry ... just do your best to stay out of trouble ... and be willing to accept the unavoidable casualties from time to time, especially when the rules change.

Many affilate partners install their links on multiple websites ... it's completely legal as far as the merchants are concerned, but the SE rules about affiliates are evolving and I can't say what they're going to do in the future.

Marcia, I'm going to hop over to the WMW Website Advertising forum and see if I can drum up some conversation for affiliate site advertising.

greektomi




msg:651073
 9:43 am on Mar 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

How about using the same affiliate code on a second site? Any problem with that?

I don't see why the SE's would ever have a problem with two completely independent websites linking to the same page (your affiliate link page). In fact I thought that's what pagerank was all about.

Greektomi

mayor




msg:651074
 9:56 am on Mar 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Geektomi, I think Marcia means having two websites, both with your affiliate links pointing at the same merchant, not at your links page. But in either case, I don't think the search engines have a problem with that. I think their problem is that those pages fall into their definition of doorway pages if lacking in whatever their definition of content is.

greektomi




msg:651075
 10:21 am on Mar 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Geektomi, I think Marcia means having two websites, both with your affiliate links pointing at the same merchant, not at your links page.

I think that's what I meant also :) I believe in the end it's no different then two unique websites linking to the same page. But thanks for clearing that up, after rereading the post I definetly didn't make that clear at all... Maybe it's time to go to bed......

Nah :)

Greektomi

Jayvonne




msg:651076
 6:17 am on Mar 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hello webmasters! I have to admit that I have been reading and reading. Learning is now a passionate obesession and I need all the help I can get. Right now I am trying to develop an affiliate program and need to be pointed in the right direction on a company/software to do business with. I just published our website January 12th and have quickly grasped how to market it. Affiliate programs by the big boys like Amazon mentioned above only take visitors away from our site. I have developed a very strong affiliate offer with big opportunity (for a small site), I just have not found the right company to put it into action. If anybody has any suggestions, please post them. I am a newbie to this webmaster stuff and constructive criticism with advice on the side has kept me alive on the net for 6 weeks. Thanks. :)
JW

brotherhood of LAN




msg:651077
 6:51 am on Mar 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

Well, I would hate to steal the limelight on this interesting thread but im open to suggestions for money making methods for my site (in profile), because Im sick of hosting cheesy monkey ads to cover my costs. The site gets good traffic which should convert to $ for my work :) if that is possible? stickymail me any suggestions oh wise people :)

Marcia




msg:651078
 7:56 am on Mar 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

Welcome to the board, Jayvonne. To get affiliates you've got to have something they'll make income from. There should be some information in the Website Advertising [webmasterworld.com] forum you'd find helpful. Dig back for information on how to choose affiliate programs, there are some good points on what people are looking for.

>no different then two unique websites linking to the same page

It can be greektomi, if those unique websites are also possibly linking to each other and might also have some other links in common in addition to having the same affiliate ID. Kind of takes some of the uniqueness away.

>what pagerank was all about

It's actually about avoiding qualifying for membership in the Zero Page Rank Club.

greektomi




msg:651079
 8:23 am on Mar 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

It can be greektomi, if those unique websites are also possibly linking to each other and might also have some other links in common in addition to having the same affiliate ID. Kind of takes some of the uniqueness away.

I wouldn't crosslink the two sites then. If the purpose was to test a product in a mall and if successful move the product to a minisite there might not be much need to.

As for having other similar links there probably wouldn't be much need for them either but who knows....

One things for sure Google might have allot of people happy but it also has allot of people very scared.

Greektomi

Marcia




msg:651080
 9:45 am on Mar 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

I'm more thinking sites not the same product line but related in the interest group linking and having the same code. Or links from the same place to both. It might depend on the degree, but it's worth thinking about.

>commissioned sales person
Go60Guy, I've done commission sales and I see it the exact same way, no different from being a sales rep.

Go60Guy




msg:651081
 7:15 pm on Mar 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

Marcia - Another analogy would be VARs, especially in computer hardware. They abound on the web, and seem to enjoy some respectability.

For some reason, the term "affiliate" became tainted right from the start. I think early on there was an ivory tower aura to the web not to be sullied by the idea of earning without a huge investment in time and treasure. Affiliate marketing may not require a large monetary investment, but making it work well certainly necessitates a great deal of time and effort.

mayor




msg:651082
 9:11 pm on Mar 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

greektomi >> One things for sure Google might have allot of people happy but it also has allot of people very scared.

Don't build a business dependent on one search engine becuase you'll be out of business in no time. Diversify, diversify, diversify.

There's plenty of high quality commercial traffic out there from a multitude of search engines.

If you've got traffic coming from Google, look at is as icing on the cake, but not as your infrastructure. You can lose it in a heartbeat and have no idea why.

europeforvisitors




msg:651083
 2:54 pm on Mar 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

I have an editorially driven "content site"--more specifically, a European travel site--and I've been using affiliate programs for only about three months. Here are my observations on affiliate programs for content sites:

1) For a niche site with the right topic, affiliate programs can be much more profitable than banners or skyscrapers from the ad networks. My RPM (revenue per thousand page views) was $7.39 last month, during a traditionally slow time of the year for Europe-related travel sales. It would have been impossible to get nominal CPMs (let alone effective CPMs) in that range from the ad networks.

2) Some topics just don't work with off-the-shelf affiliate programs. If you have a site about seismology, forget Commission Junction or LinkShare--the seismologists who visit your site won't be interested in clicking on banners for home-equity loans, Visa cards, flowers, or gift baskets. Instead, try to sell ads or sponsorships to companies in your industry.

3) Test different types of ads to see what works. On my site, banners and skyscrapers don't pull well enough to justify their space and download time. Most of my clickthroughs and sales come from text links (with short blurbs) in my right-hand page margin under a "Book & Buy" heading. (I get my highest clickthrough rates from text links in related articles--e.g., a link to a Paris vendor in an article on Paris--but on a site with more than 2,500 pages of editorial content, the brute-force approach of text links on every page generates the most impressions and total sales.)

4) Maintain credibility. If people trust you to give them reliable information and advice, they'll be more likely to buy from you. (Example: In my city guides, I link to hotel pages from my booking partner. But I also include links to the hotels' own sites when possible, so that users can learn more about the hotels and compare rates. I might lose an occasional sale from users who book direct, but I also gain credibility by letting readers make their own comparisons--and I probably gain overall because users can learn more about a hotel from its own collection of information and photos than from one page on a booking site.)

5) Give vendors a chance to prove themselves. I'm starting to see action from vendors that I'd almost given up for dead (luggage, travel accessories) just because we're now approaching the season when people are getting ready to travel and are thinking about new suitcases, money belts, etc. And my gallery of travel posters looked very unpromising until Google picked up the pages. Now I'm selling travel posters nearly every day.

5) Beware of affiliate programs that are out to screw you. Amazon.com is a good example: It doesn't plant persistent cookies (which means you get credit only for sales during the current session), and it doesn't pay commissions on used books (which are heavily promoted on every page). Maps.com is another: As I learned from another person on this board, Maps.com recently started selling a variety of goods and services through its own affiliate links, thereby placing itself in competition with its affiliates.

6) Commission Junction is probably the best aggragator of affiliate programs, if only because it pools commissions and provides good statistics. But independent affiliate programs can be excellent, too, *if* they're likely to generate enough sales to produce checks every month or at least every quarter.

Smiley




msg:651084
 11:27 pm on Mar 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

Mike_Mackin>> "So now it's time for me and a merry band of like-minded websters to begin approaching the brick and mortar retailers with a proposition. We will sell your STUFF for 10 to 15 percent commission. You do the fulfillment and customer service."

This is exactly the arrangement I have with one supplier. They look after customer service and I do the web marketing. It looks good on paper but in my experience the return on the investment of development time is definitely long term. This site has been live for 8 months and is achieving a healthy level of sales (enough to put resource into PPC and network based affiliate schemes). Within 4 more months the site should be generating enough steady revenue to make it worthwhile.

Its a slightly different model than the affiliate or retailer it does work my in my experience is not the easy option.

My next attempt would definitely be content based whatever the model.

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