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Is this lucrative?
Yes, but it is not easy. General interest type of stuff has almost hit rock bottom, but working a niche can be very rewarding. Your success depends on your willingness to work hard, learn, adapt, and refocus as necessary with this constantly evolving biz. It can take a lot of work.
Where can I find the best affiliate areas to work in?
Well, you probably won't find concrete info on a website. If someone finds a niche that few have explored, and is very lucrative, they probably will not be broadcasting this to the world. This also can require a good bit of research before getting started. More on this later.
I am new to site building and this will be a steep learning curve. Will it be worth it?
That depends. Success certainly will not happen overnight. There are many hats to wear, and you have to at least learn the basics of each. Site design, layout, navigation, graphics creation, SEO, finding workable affiliate programs, etc. etc. You have to take each step one at a time, and move on to the next. This can be a considerable undertaking, but if you enjoy this kind of work, it can be very rewarding. I started this in late '98, beginning with learning html and graphics at night and on weekends. I went to this full time almost exactly a year ago. I started learning the basics of real SEO the last quarter of last year. (Thanks to WebmasterWorld.) Mid-quarter of this year, I started to feel like I have a good foundation of all general aspects of this business. Moral - this takes time and effort. Don't plan to quit your day job anytime soon. I don't want to discourage anyone, but starting from scratch requires a lot. In the end, you can have at least a nice supplemental income, lots of new friends, and a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.
How do I figure out what to make a site about?
There are 2 routes you can take here. A)Build a site for the sole purpose of making coin. B)Build a site about something you are passionate about, you are an expert about, or you want to be an expert about, and that can make revenue.
Method A can work, but is often already competetive, and you can lose interest after a while.
Method B is a great way to go - you work on something you enjoy. Your excitement and/or expertise will shine through in your work and your visitors will see it. It will make a difference - your site will be more sticky, you will be more willing to keep it updated, and you have a good chance of building a community around your topic.
I think method B is the way to go, so I will focus on it here. First thing, make a list of things that interest you. Brainstorm it - write them down as fast as you can without discarding anything. Try to list at least 15-20 things, whatever pops into your head. Do this 3 times, at different times, so you have a nice list of ideas/topics that interest you. Then take your list, and mark off topics you know won't work, or that you wouldn't want to build a site around. Number your ideas in order of your interest.
Now you want to find out which ideas are popular online, which aren't already super-competitive, but are high on your list of interest. Using goto's search suggestion tool and wordtracker, you can find which topics are popular. Using goto's SE (bid amounts), and number of pages in other SEs, you can find which topics are most competitive.
Next you need to find affiliate programs to tie into your topic. Look at would-be competitor sites and see who they are promoting. Setup an accounts with CJ, BeFree, Linkshare, etc. and see what is available. Make sure you have several options - never tie yourself down to one merchant. Try to think outside the box - say you build a site about hot-rods, you would look to on-topic affiliate programs like wrenchhead, but don't forget to look at other options like magazine subscriptions (for hot rods), ezines, car stereos, beer, and other topics your audience is likely to be interested in.
Try to pick 3 ideas, and write a plan down for each - specifically what the site would be about, and how you would make revenue. Take a few days and ponder the ins and outs of each. Email webmasters that are using the affiliate programs you would be using, and ask would they recomment them. (I have done this quite a bit, and usually get at least a 50% response rate.) Ask friends for their opinions and ideas. One idea should eventually shine through, and you have your first site topic.
>my personal opinion and may differ from those of others.
Not here. Amazon is one of the worst models for the affiliate. Purchases must be made during the same session, only 5% commission on non-direct links, poor payout schedule, etc.
I often wonder how much more Amazon affiliates could make if they spent the time to find a similar program for the stuff they are promoting.
IMO the problem is not that Amazon won't pay enough per sale, it's that the conversion rate is so hideously low. 48,000 visits = 50 sales. That speaks for itself, don't you think?
Now if your niche involves mostly first timers (say you cater to new parents) then you can probably do better, but if you've developed a site with good user loyalty then most of the visitors have seen those links, looked at those books, and either bought them or they ain't gonna. New books aren't going to come out often enough for you to be lining your pockets with gold.
I'm just saying you're not going to retire selling books on your website. If you can sell power tools or vacation cruises or motorcycles or get people to click on banner ads for porn or casinos, then maybe you have a chance.
Well, you say, I must be tired of the bread lines and park benches by now (I do this affiliate stuff full time). But the fact is, I do reasonably well at this business. I do well because I learned two years ago that Drastic's method A (Build a site for the sole purpose of making coin) is the real way to go. I kept working my flagship "passion" site but began building smaller, potentially throw-away sites, on the side and I diversified heavily among affiliate merchants. If a small site gets booted from a search engine, my losses aren't so catastropic. If an affiliate merchant goes belly up or decides to quit the affiliate game, my losses are contained. My flagship "passion" site has bit the dust while my small, merchant-diversified, highly themed revenue sites have become the workhorse team.
On the plus side are name recognition, good depth of product offerings and they do pay. IMO, its not worth spending a lot of time with Amazon when there are far better programs available.
BTW, my Amazon conversions are much better that what's been described here.
For someone just starting out, however, its probably good training.
Also, I couldn't find an email address at Amazon to send my complaint to, so it really feels like they are ripping me off. Bottom line, I stopped promoting Amazon, except for personal sales that I would normally make there anyway.
On a side point, does anyone know of a forum that judges the performance of different affiliate programs' individual merchants? For example, we've talked about Amazon here, but I have lots of other findings that I'd like to share with others and get feedback from them. Is that something that's allowed in these forums or is it against the charter?
I've found that highly targeted niche books, ones people can't readily get at Target or even mall bookstores, sell very well.
I have a "method A" site. I found that every time I add an article, I get 5% more daily uniques, on average. I have about 30 more articles to write (off the top of my head), but I've been side-tracked by my current project (below)
I only wish that my "big performer" merchant would let me see what my users are buying. It would be interesting to see what else I could write about.
My current project is a method B site. After all the research, I decided on a subject that I liked, that has a broad appeal for traffic (very broad appeal, at least for North Americans).
Holy socks, it's lots of work too (huge site, it'll be well over 1000 pages when I'm done), but since I have an interest in the subject, the research for those pages has been the most fun I've had on the 'net since I quit playing MUDs. If it brings in a profit, then all the more fun. :)
something to get used to in the affiliate game (at least the version I'm playing ;)). Some niches are high spam areas where just about the only way to get to the top of Goog etc is to ...ahem... "break their rules" (note: you can break the rules without knowing it of course - I would never condone spamming an SE <wink wink> ). Inevitabley you'll get caught by a filter or turned in by a competitor who feels there path to the top is through elimination rather than hard work. For those of you that have met me at PubCon of BarCon you'll know my mantra by now: Domains Are Throw-Away Commodities
I've found that this occurs much more in Method A.
In your post above, you mention throw away sites using various hidden
things to rank high with Google; also that Google doesn't detect them.
Forgive my question if the answer is obvious, as I'm a newbie, but if
Google can't detect such things as hidden links, how do the things
Google can't detect help a site's ranking with Google?
Thanks and take care,
If I find a spammer in page 1 of my keyword, I don't hesitate to report the URL as a spam. Not only that, I'll spend an extra effort to track all the spammer domains and report them as well regardless if it's anything to do with my business.
I've dealt with a company before who runs a couple hundreds domain and I think I've tracked most of them and because of that the highest PR I saw in their domain is 1 :) It makes me feel good.
Just remember, although they are throw-away domains, professional spammers have real business expense too. Such as, employees, servers, internet connection, rent, etc., etc. So, If you can set them back a couple of months that would really hurt their bottom line.
So spammers beware, make sure you're not in my way :)
Now back to the real topic...
I agree that the way to make money in the internet whether through affiliates or selling your own goods and services is by something you loved and have real interest on it. There's nothing wrong with type A method but it's greatest pitfall is that of boredom. The #1 enemy of webmasters.
Just to encourage anybody who cares to listen. I started one of my site in the middle of 2000. Have tried various programs and techniques. Most don't work not because they are poor programs or techniques but simply because it seems everybody is applying the same method. This in itself deminish the uniqueness of most programs. It took awhile for me to incorporate various ideas to create something unique. Something that, I, can only offer(of course it's a trade secret :) ). As of now, that same site that I started, is now generating a net profit of no less than $1,800.00 a month and that's through a combination of ads and affiliates only. I have 3 more sites that are halfway there and several more starting or in the drawing board. Each project is independent of the others and each is using my personal method. But the important thing here to remember, is that, each project I'm very excited about, knowledgeable, and something that I really care. And, because of that, those will eventually become successful.
You bring up a good point, that in turn when you truely "work" on a project enjoy the subject and play "fair" you will be better off in the end.
Ok, so here is my question:
Where does one draw the line with "spam" .... can someone give me a definition of what spam is? Sure I have seen the work of someone that links many domains together usually resulting in a bunch of pagerank 5 sites within the same field or theme.
Right now I have two sites:
My first "real" site is my passion site and I have worked tiredlessly for about 13 months and now I am starting to see some income (figure a nice car payment). Like many webmasters I have thought time and time again of starting new web projects but figured I needed to grow my passion site to a level where it would begin to build itself. Well that is now happening and about two months ago I started with my new "Type A Site" I choose to create a poster store simly because I really love art, and can learn a great deal by creating such a website. Also the pay structure is good.
Now I like to play fair, I feel that the through away method is not for me. My first passion site should not get in any real trouble, it is only one site no major linking between other domains, ect ... Just a lot of hard work.
However, it is tempting to try to leverage some of the pagerank from my fist site to the new art poster site. Last night I submitted to yahoo Uk (good bye $200) as well as ODP. Then I quickly began a link program to generate links from other sites to my new art site. All these things are fine and dandy and "safe". My plan is to link each page from my passion site to the art poster site once the poster site has about 100 + incoming links from other sites. I have discussed this idea within some of the members on webmasterworld including one forum mod and most feel is is plenty safe. With only two domains and plenty of outside links to both sites.
Net Wizard, would I be "spaming" if you ran into my new poster site in 3 months to find a pagerank 5 or 6 and lots of links from one other site?
Thanks for the insight, as mentioned I like to play safe ;-)
The Net needs a vigilante police force ... it saves the search engines and e-commerce marketeers from having to spend as much of their money trying to keep the panhandlers off the streets of cyberspace.
If you really want to become a winner, don't take another look for spam. It's all over the place. Let the vigilantes do that. Spend that same effort developing techniques that build revenues independent of the spammers that out-rank you. If you get the boot along the way, that's your promotion ... that's what makes you smarter and staves off the boredom.
By the way, if hurting the income of some "spammer" really makes you feel good when that "spammer" could be a single work-at-home mom with four kids to feed, or some disabled and homebound web marketeer in a wheel chair, I think you should ask yourself if this business is for you.
if hurting the income of some "spammer" really makes you feel good when that "spammer" could be a single work-at-home mom with four kids to feed, or some disabled and homebound web marketeer in a wheel chair
Mayor, I agree with the general points in your post. It is a little bit of a waste to spend time reporting people to that extent.
The above statement is a little too much though, if we all worried weather someone on the net was in a wheel chair or not before acting it would be a touch silly.
Besides, people in wheelchairs can be a**holes too, take it from an ex-nurse ;)
The way I look at things is that there's two types of spammers;1. newbies and, 2. professionals.
1.Newbies - are just individuals who are new to the web and realize/hopeful that they can make a few bucks off the internet. Usually they are unsophisticated and most often a single domain with a few pages on it, nothing complicated.
This type of spam, I do let it pass through even if by chance they are in front of me. Just because, I've been there, we've been there. To me, I like to see this individual grow and gather web experience and develop the right kind of skill. It's more of a learning experience for this person and often times the person have real interest in the products or services s/he is pushing.
From there, it depends on this person which road s/he is going to take. Is it the road to fair play or is it the road to professional spamming?
2.Professinal Spammers - Believe it or not, spamming is a business in a very strict sense. Professionals, do their research as to which market/industry is profitable. Once they figure out which market to enter, they will invest time, effort and resources to flood that target. They have no morals and ethics in regards to ecommerce. To them it's just a numbers game.
This is the type of spammer that I'm after about. I know I can hurt them and I will. They are an insult to my categories and they have total disregard to the rule of fair play. They are confident and smug that they can get away with cheating. Their mantra is 'So what if they(SE's) caught one or two of our domains, we still have hundreds of properties...'. It's true that SE's can't catch them all but I'll hunt them down and it would be my pleasure :) .
So, Chef Brian to answer your question...
If your type A site is a full site, meaning, just a commercial site with no hidden tricks, no redirect then in my book, it's fair play. I have no problem with one domain supporting another domain. It's only when it gets out of hand with multiple domains having almost similar contents, redirect, etc., etc.
So, I come down on the side of developing one or more unassailable Method B sites (ODP vetted) from which all of your ecommerce life will emerge into abundance.
It can be done in other ways. Its simply that the process I'm advocating will work absolutely, I promise you. Its sort of spiritual.
Yep, that is exactly I am doing. More than 13 months of building up my "method b site" and now I am just launching my "method A site". I have learned a ton, while I have played around on the web for some time this last 13 months when I got "serious" really made a big difference.
Even better with some money now coming in I can forget about months of hard work to get into yahoo and just spend the $200 through yahoo uk. I submitted yesterday and was emailed that my site will be includeed in the next yahoo uk update (what a great way to spend $200), sure is sweet to submit one day and the next you get a "your in" email. I also popped for a listing on galaxy (that is even a better deal).
Anyway, I think Go60 has a great idea with leveraging a "mothersite" and linking to a new affiliate driven "method A site".
One thing I will mention, I thought about starting a new site several times during this last 13 month period but always stayed forcused on what was at hand. Boy, I am sure glad I did that! Make sure that you have a very strong site built up before starting a new one. Three or four sites that generate less than 1000 visitors daily is not as powerful as one site that generates all that on it's own. In my humble opion anyway.
P.S. Christmas time is closing in (do you know where your affiliate links are).
If I may, I'd like to put the case for the Method A (money making) web sites and how I personally make a living from them. Before you all go off searching my profile, the site there is my hobby site...everyone has to have a passion !.
Let's start with a few pros and cons :
- Each web site is small (2-4 pages) and consists of simple HTML, perfect for the graphically challenged - ME
- Use of pay per click search engines means that the money starts to roll in quickly
- If Google decides to drop a few sites my world will not crumble
- Careful interlinking of these simple sites can sometimes produce amazingly good results on certain major search engines ;)
- You need to be numerically aware and "quick on your toes" to get the best from these sites. Results need to be checked regularly.
- 99% of webmasters believe that affiliate marketers are the scum of the earth, 99% of affiliate marketers believe that Method A web sites are the lowest of the low, which means that you will be regarded as a sub-human life form...but hey you're making money, they probably aren't :).
Now some random jottings that might help someone to make money from Method A web sites
Find the right affilate schemes / products to promote. This is a tricky process that involves a number of factors such as what percentage of commission is paid, how competitive are those products in the PPC engines, is it a product that people go on to the internet to buy such as air tickets, hotel bookings or house insurance rather than a product that people just dream of buying such as a Ferrari. If you can find a mundane product costing around $100 that most of the population has to buy, and where the top bid on Overture is 6 cents then don't tell another living soul, just PM me your suggestion ;)
Keep each site tightly themed, domains and hosting are cheap, so rather than building www.widgets.com build www.red-widgets.com, www.green-widgets.com, www.blue-widgets.com etc. You will have lots more chance of getting a good ranking for blue widgets or green widgets than for the highly competitive widgets keyword.
Buy domains that include your keywords. Whilst Google seems to be giving slight preference to sites that contain the keyword in the URL there's absolutely no reason not to do it.
The more adventurous of us will host our widgets sites on different machines, then link them together whilst looking over our shoulder to make sure that net_wizard isn't lurking round the nearest corner ;)
This is the big one If you can find 4 suppliers of blue widgets that are running an affiliate scheme, sign up for them all and put all 4 on your www.blue-widgets.com site. I think that subconsciously our surfer likes to compare prices and products before making a decision. If he can do it without leaving your site there is every chance that you'll make the sale. This is especially important when paying for clicks from the search engines. It is entirely feasible that each of those 4 blue widgets products will convert at 3% but if one PPC click is bringing you 2, 3 or 4 chances of making the sale your conversion ratio is suddenly 6% 9% or 12%. Believe me when I tell you that this methodology works wonderfully, try it and see for yourself.
An example of being "quick on your toes" - an affiliate network had www.our-blue-widgets.com paying 10% commission. I followed the links on to the our-blue-widgets site to find that they were offering an in-house affiliate scheme that was paying 15% commission...I signed up direct. In fact all but 2 of the affiliate schemes that I'm involved in are direct, in-house schemes. They are all household names which gives me a degree of confidence that they will pay me every month and so far that's been true.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify, don't ever stop looking for the next opportunity. Keep abreast of all search engine developments (by reading this forum of course).
Finally, if you've hung around here for long enough to have picked up a degree of skill in SEO but can't face the prospect of trying to sell your services to the general public then take the selfish route and use your skills to promote your own affiliate sites. You've a head start on anybody starting from scratch and I'd be very surprised if you weren't successful at your new venture.
Okey, IMO there's really no distinction between type A and type B sites. Most of us really started from sort of type A site, there's very few who have started purely as a hobby or the type B site.
But to follow the definition of both types in this topic. I say the natural/logical progression of an affiliate site are as follows;
1. Banner(or text) sites - most newbies started with this type of sites for two reasons; a)to make money, b)they really believe in the product or service. This type, usually pushes just a single product or service. Most often, 2-3 pages deep and sometimes hosted in a free server. The success ratio of this site is so low, most will go away in time. Those who were lucky enough to get a nibble and are technically inclined will start to inquire how to improved their project, which lead to the next logical/natural progression.
2a. Superficial content sites - The Banner sites realize that to improve their conversion they have to 'convince' visitors to their sites into buying. One way to do it is by providing a minimal article(superficial content) which is more of a sales pitch rather than being of value to the visitor. Another way, is by enticing visitors with some cheap freebies such as ebooks or some free sweepstakes.
2b. The 'Ross' Way :) - For some stroke of mathematical ingenuity and the law of probability. Previous owners of banners site decided instead on the strength of numbers. The reasoning is logical, put out more similar sites and the chances of getting hit is greater than that of a single site. Conversion here is not of a concern but rather focus on quantity, the more people who comes in to the sites the more chances that it will make a sale.
Note: 2a & 2b is the beginning of the divergence between quality and quantity
2a1. The True Site - Few will reach this level, the combination of the owner's personality, expertise, business acumen, internet experience, and social experience will determine the success or failure of such project.
2b1. 'Ross' the Professional :) - Because of the way this site started, it will be sucked in deeper and deeper into the numbers game and owners of this types of sites will continue to demand for more exposures. But because of the methodology used to develop this sites, it becomes obvious that it clutters the various indices thus creating unfavorable reception from the SE's and Directories. Creating a dilemma for the owner whether to create more similar sites to increase exposure and to offset those that were caught.
Of the above progressions, there are methods or techniques used. The techniques may be similar but it matters as to...
1. How its being use
2. Where and when its being use
The techniques can be group according to their function, such as...
1.Design and Functionality
4.Expertise about the subject
5.Value to the Users
Again, it is my personal opinion and experience that to become successful you must excel in all 5 groups.
[edited by: Net_Wizard at 7:26 am (utc) on Aug. 9, 2002]
What I've obviously failed to get across is that I can and do make a living working the PPC engines, any traffic that I get from free search engines is a pleasant bonus. I'm not advocating that anyone devote their lives to getting 4 page web sites into number one position in Google, and I simply can't imagine spending half my time tracking down and reporting spammers who appear above me in the SERPS....each to his own I guess.
What I am saying is that by building such highly targeted sites a surfer searching for royal blue widgets in Google will likely find our site. But, believe it or not, if he is looking to buy a royal blue widget, rather than simply read about their history or mystical properties, his search experience might be improved by finding our site. He will have found four of the leading royal blue widget suppliers in the world, all offering online purchasing, and all on the same web page.
The techniques can be group according to their function, such as...
1.Design and Functionality
4.Expertise about the subject
5.Value to the Users
Again, it is my personal opinion and experience that to become successful you must excel in all 5 groups.
- There you go again, elevating affiliate marketing to an art form...crap!. In its simplest form I spend $100 on clicks, I receive $200 in commission. If I can maintain that profit margin and spend $5000 a week then in no time I'm going to be very rich. Whatever esoteric ideas we might have about improving the surfer's quality of search, a huge number of people type blue widget into a search engine because they want to BUY one. If our web site helps them to do that with a minimum of time and effort haven't we done something worthwhile?.
Nick - What about an in between, a method A but not 2-4 pages, more like 100+ with no naughtiness? - No way...build 33 mini-sites, maybe related, maybe linked that's your decision. Sail as close to the wind as you feel comfortable, all I'm saying is that if you have 33 sites all promoting different products it gives you a much bigger choice of keywords to buy, you're not reliant on one site to bring in the cash, some will flop, others will work brilliantly. Drop the flops, expand on the successes and in no time you'll be on the road to success.
Overture UK - Capable of supplying lots of traffic but bids have reached ridiculous levels lately. One of the keywords that I follow has gone up 700% since the launch of Overture UK. There is still value to be found, but you must be careful that you don't end up in a bidding war. Many big names are happy to waste vast sums on clicks, it's simply a branding exercise for them. In those cases just bid what you know is right and pick up the crumbs that fall from the table of those big boys. Even a number 10 position brings a few clicks....and they're at the right price.
Espotting - Brings in a fair number of clicks from Yahoo UK and Ask UK. Click costs probably average 50% of Overture UK costs, I wish that they could send more traffic
Google - I'm still convinced that there is a serious flaw in Google's Adwords Select program. I'm sure that the minimum click charges are calculated from searches done in the U.S. which is very unfair to UK webmasters. It's the only way that I can explain why a term NEVER used in the UK e.g. "auto sales" (we have CARS in the UK...not AUTOS) should cost so much in the UK marketplace. Before the advent of Adwords Select when the system was cpm based and you were allowed to show your ads only to UK searchers I used to run ads that were attaining click through rates between 5% and 10%. At that time Google was the best value advertising engine in the world. Some of those ads still pull 4% or over on traditional adwords, even though they are now buried under the CPC entries. I would say that Google has now gone from being the best advertising medium for us to being the most difficult, requiring extreme caution when pricing bids.
Overture US - Just a quick word to say that it's getting harder each day to get affiliate sites accepted into Overture US (unlike the UK version who accept anything within minutes of submission ;) ). However if you can convince them that you are following their guidelines then by adding UK to the end of all your Overture UK search terms, and by adding UK also to the title of the listing, you can get some useful traffic at about 50% of the cost of the equivalent UK listing.
If anyone's interested here's last months breakdown of costs:
Overture UK - 55% of total advertising costs - avge cpc 15p
Overture US - 9% of costs - Avge cpc 8p
Original Adwords - 9% of cost - Avge cpc 22p
Adwords Select - 25% of cost - Avge cpc 30p
Espotting - 17% of cost - Avge cpc 12p