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Category: Affiliate marketing

The wisdom of the crowds

 

This post is based on the excellent session, “Crowdsource Your Success”, that was given in Affiliate Summit East 2010 though I expanded it and added my own perspective.

 
Crowdsourcing is becoming increasingly popular these days. According to Wikipedia, Crowdsourcing “is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call“.

 

Using Crowdsourcing, you can submit a job description and get multiple bids each already satisfying the specifications you desire. Since you get multiple people trying to create what you want, the results are potentially diverse and can be surprisingly creative. Of course, this is usually more expensive than just using regular outsourcing sites such as oDesk or Elance – but the disadvantage of those is that no matter how good your contractor, you are ’stuck’ with a single design.

 
Crowdsourcing works because of the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ principle: the idea that a crowd – a collection of individuals – is much more likely to get the right answer than a single individual.

 
A good example is the game show “Who wants to be a millionaire?”. Asking the audience for the answer is more likely to result in the right answer than asking your friend or Regis Philbin.

 
This principle has been adopted by computer science as well (and probably other fields). In my academic career I used to create multiple artificial neural – instead of a single one – networks that solved a problem. The right solution was determined by taking the solution that the largest number of networks ‘voted’ would work best.

 
Here are some suggestions given at the talk to get the maximum from crowdsourcing:

  1. You reap what you sow: define your project properly or you may get something very different from what you had in mind.
  2. Tight deadlines are very effective as people like discovering quickly whether they’ve won a bid.
  3. Don’t be a jerk: Designers thrive on feedback, give feedback and recognition.
  4. The project has to require your involvement: a crowdsourcing project is not ’set and forget’.
  5. Keep it simple: be realistic in your expectations and ask for what is reasonable.
  6. Don’t be too cheap: most people aren’t going to be paid, so keep this in mind.
  7. Announce there will be multiple winners to boost designer participation (assuming that is the case!)

Until the talk in Affiliate Summit, I (naively) thought crowdsourcing is limited to graphic design/web design and 1-2 other types of applications. I was mainly familiar with 99design.

 
The following is a list of crowdsourcing resources given at the talk. I had no idea there were so many! When I’ve done a Google search I found even more though it’s hard to tell which are good. If you are familiar with anything that is not included and is a good resource, please let me know and I’ll add it.

 
Note that I’m still looking for a place to crowdsource copywriting (sadly, not my strength!) – so if you are familiar with a good site for that purpose, suggestions would be welcome.

 
Banner, landing page and graphic design
99designs: the most well known resource for Crowdsourcing.

 
Landing page optimization:
FiveSecondTest: allows you to get quick feedback on landing page designs.

  • Are your calls to action standing out? Get people clicking on hot spots
  • Can visitors understand what the site is about?
  • Give viewers a memory test: what can they remember about the landing page?

 
PPC management
Trada: Allows you to turn over PPC management to a group of AdWords qualified professionals.

 
Ad copy
BoostCTR: allows you to outsource your ad copy so that your CTR is boosted. Guaranteed improvement!

 
Videos
GeniusRocket: professional videos and animations.

 
Product development
Quirky: submit new ideas for products or influence products currently in production (and earn cash)

 
Feature Requests
UserVoice: a giant suggestion box. You get a lot of comments which are prioritized. Best ideas are voted to the top.

SuggestionBox

 
Software development
TopCoder: an excellent resource for software developers.

 
Find JV partners
Jigsaw: a massive crowsourced database of contact information

 
Content writing
Spudaroo: useful for web content as well as resumes, leases, etc.

 
Beta Testing
UserTesting: usability testing for your website.

CrowdFlower

 
Ideas/Names
Amazon Mturk: Although the Amazon Mechanical Turk is not exactly a crowdsourcing resource, by offering to pay a small amount for ideas, you can effectively crowdsource names. An example was given of a person who paid $27.50 to get name ideas for his iPhone app (the result was iReadFast). Note that there used to be a site (which I vaguely remember) that was used for this purpose but has been apparently closed.

 

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The third and last day of Affiliate Summit East 2010 started with a great keynote speech by Jim Kukral, who also gave his recently published book: Attention! This Book Will Make You Money: How to Use Attention-Getting Online Marketing to Increase Your Revenue to the first 300 attendees.

 
Jim’s talk focused on providing guidance to businesses and individuals who are unsuccessful so that they can become successful. Here’s his five step plan:

  1. Say what you do: be specific.
  2. What you do should solve a problem or entertain: All problems in the world can fall into either category. (Someone tweeted afterwards that this is incorrect and stated that looking for information is a third category. I disagree – looking for information solves a problem: getting information you lack).
  3. Know your customer: Ask them why they use your services so you could further hone your message.
  4. Be the alternative: If you have a tough competition, find an alternative way. The example given was of the 5 hour energy drink – the alternative to coffee, which many drink for the energy boost.
  5. Make it easy: Easy as in simple, instant, quick, hassle-free. One suggestion Jim gave to businesses is to avoid the Paypal button as most ‘normal’ people simply aren’t familiar with it. Real world businesses and individuals pay with credit cards – so give them that option.

An interesting anecdote: one of Jim’s tips was that if you come up with an idea and get a reaction – even a very bad one – it means you’re on the right track. After saying that, he shared the story of a company who came up with a bizarrely disgusting line of juices. Someone in the audience blurted “Ewww” and Jim responded – see, that’s exactly what we’re looking for. This company was very successful.

 

 

The Info Product Co-Creation Formula
Later I went to the breakout sessions. This one session in particular was very good. Despite the fact these sessions were 20 minutes each, it lasted more than 30 minutes and there was so much information given it could’ve easily filled an entire hour (I add this picture simply because I liked the speaker’s official title..).

 
In this session a ‘formula’ for creating info-products was given which is said to be so effective that it can be used to sell products even before they are actually made. This was compared to a tennis match, where you, the product creator, ask questions and get feedback from your prospective buyers multiple times.

 
Although the speaker gave a precise list of steps, there was so much information I wasn’t able to type them exactly as specified. Here’s my amended version (I probably split certain steps).

  1. Start with a survey
  2. Get responses
  3. Identify core needs of the people in your list
  4. Verify this is what they want: they confirm or deny.
  5. Give them a free report based on their responses.
  6. They read the report and respond
  7. Pre-sell the full (nonexistent) product. If you do it right you can sell more before the product exists to justify your costs. Be fully transparent about this, that you haven’t created the product and want to make it if it’ll appeal to enough people.
  8. Create the full product.
  9. You already have enough buyers to return your time investment, and can get many more now.

 

 

Affiliate Platforming: How to Attract & Retain Audiences
I went to Scott Stratten’s (@UnMarketing’s) talk. I spoke to Scott during lunch just before – since both of us are very active Twitter users, we exchanged amusing anecdotes (well, mainly horror stories..).

 
Scott’s talk was excellent, not to mention, absolutely hilarious. He advocated using social media as a platform to engage people and build an audience both for individuals and for businesses. This session would’ve fit perfectly with Social Media 201, the conference I helped organize (and gave a talk) back in April.

 
Here are guidelines towards attracting an audience (this is relevant for blogging, tweeting, any relevant medium).

  1. Traction: “nothing works at first”. This is the hardest phase. You blog and/or tweet and it seems no one is listening.
  2. Momentum: starts taking care of itself. People are coming to you. The ratio change.
  3. Expansion: you built so much traction and momentum you can expand it.

 
A few more general guidelines.

  • Don’t use Twitter as a one way communication stream and expect success. Scott suggested the key to success is 75% replies.
  • To those who just use scheduled tweets – you can’t automate authenticity, people know this and react.
  • Social Media investment is much more than dollars (.. and this relates to my own blog post, Twitter: Beyond Immediate ROI)
  • Be ready for negative comments. The 1% happiest and the 1% unhappiest are the most vocal.

To demonstrate these points, he gave both good examples and bad ones, i.e. a coffee shop that criticized at length a customer for tweeting a complaint.

 
Blogger room
Since I was running back and forth between sessions and the exhibition hall, I barely spent any time in the blogger room. To be honest, I didn’t really need to, after all, we had wireless access. But I went there to spend some time with friends.

 
The blogger room was run by the amazing BlogMistress, Heather Smith. Heather told me about Missy Ward’s competition and I am very sad to say I did not win, though I was runner-up with @loxly. Next year I vow to win.

 

Missy Ward's competition


Heather Smith at the blogger room and the prize I almost won

 

To summarize: I had a fantastic time at the summit. I think the fact I spent much more time in sessions than in parties really gave me a different affiliate summit experience. Despite not going to parties, I did a good share of networking – I talked to a lot of people at the exhibition hall/meet market, during lunch breaks and in between sessions. Personally I feel this is more effective than exchanging business cards while shouting during a loud party (though I can’t argue with a friend of mine who said “people spill their secrets when they’re drunk”. True.)

 
Looking forward to the Affiliate Summit West 2011!

 
p.s. Still have two sessions I intend to summarize as independent posts.

 

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The second day of Affiliate Summit East 2010 started with a great keynote speech by Frank Luntz, a well known political consultant (according to Wikipedia it’s actually Dr. Frank Luntz). Frank’s specialty is “testing language and finding words that help his clients sell their product or turn public opinion on an issue or a candidate”

 
Frank wrote a book called Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear (yes, this is an affiliate link :) ) and his talk was very much about the same topic. Specifically, how people say one thing, but the words they use harm, even completely sabotage their goal. He suggested using certain words that in this day and age evoke responses. Put simply, by merely rephrasing what you say you can make a world of difference! Frank showed many videos that demonstrated how people become more attentive or tune off when certain words are used.

 

 

I thought Frank’s talk was very insightful and some of the tips he gave can be immediately applied (or perhaps I should say “fiercely insightful” – he said that “very” no longer means anything because it’s been so overused, and gave ‘fiercely’ as an example used by one political candidate to replace ‘very’).

 
Using Social Media For SEO
After the keynote speech I went to this talk. I was particularly interested in this considering much of what I do is social media. The focus of this talk was on leveraging social media platforms and users to get backlinks (the building blocks of SEO).

 

Several useful tips:

  1. Build links to your site using Twitter, Facebook, etc (I share a list of the platforms he gave below).
  2. Incentivize people to tweet your link (for example, give them a special discount)
  3. When using forums, people an opportunity to tweet about the post with a link to your website.

The speaker said that there is evidence that in the near future Google will determine how important/authoritative a profile is (for example, using follower/following ratio) and assign a greater weight to links tweeted from that account. Note that as far as I know, to a very limited degree this is already happening.

 
Surprisingly, a few things which I experienced firsthand and expected to be in this talk were not mentioned. Huh. Maybe I should suggest a talk about these for Affiliate Summit West?

 
Social Media link building opportunities

  1. Youtube: one way DoFollow
  2. Google profile: one way DoFollow
  3. Yahoo answers: NoFollow links. (though these could still bring traffic).
  4. Facebook profile: one way DoFollow as long as the profile is public (this was the only thing that surprised me – need to check).
  5. Urbanspoon, Yelp, etc – most are followed

 
Afterwards I went to a talk titled “Android Affiliate Mobile Marketing” which was so good I intend to dedicate a separate post to it. This session focused on using Google Android phones for advertising/promoting CPA offers, etc. More soon.

 
Similarly, the next talk I went to “Crowdsource Your Success” is worthy of a separate post. I didn’t expect to learn anything new (isn’t Crowdsourcing only 99designs?) but was very fiercely surprised.

 

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Unlike previous affiliate summits I attended, this time I had to skip all after hours activities – I was moving to a new apartment two days after ASE ended and had to pack (… and if you’re interested in hearing how that went, check out this post. Spoiler: there’s criminals, police and ransom. For real.)

 
I figured: since I’m doing less networking, I might as well focus more on the sessions. And so, I attended more sessions and have taken more notes than any other affiliate summit – and probably any other conference I’ve been to in the last several years. Perhaps because of this the summit, to me, felt completely different than any of the others (more educational?). Consequently, in this coverage of the event I’ll focus much more on sessions summaries than I did last year. I’ll also probably dedicate individual posts to some particularly interesting sessions.

 
Affiliate summit East 2010 started with the Meet Market. The Meet Market is a great place to meet vendors, networks, other affiliates and old friends. Not to mention getting some free stuff. It’s always a fantastic way to start the conference since the dynamic atmosphere gets everyone in the mood for networking.

 

 

Interestingly, two sessions I attended during the first day had a common theme – trying to look into the future of affiliate marketing and see how we can prepare for it (regardless of the sessions’ titles).

 

 
Innovate! New Exciting Applications of Affiliate Marketing
This was a pretty interesting session. It started with the history of affiliate marketing. Did you know that the first affiliate offer originated in the adult industry back in 1994? Specifically, by a company called CyberErotica? I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Amazon came next in 1996.

 
The session focused on trends and the future of affiliate marketing, something which every one of us who intends to be in the business a few years from now should find valuable. Some interesting projections:

 
In 2008 the affiliate “Ubiquity era” started and is expected to last until 2013. During this time we can expect

  • Recognizable affiliate consumer brands (already happened).
  • Major brands have affiliate programs – 20,000 affiliate programs in 2010! (already happened).
  • Crowdsourcing becoming increasingly hot (happening now).
  • New ways to ‘mashup’ datafeeds with apps to create user value.
  • New automatic storefronts (i.e. PopShops).
  • New automatic ways to link affiliate offers to content. SkimLinks links keywords to affiliate offers and is geo-targeted, too. Pixazza associates products right with the image source – this means that if a user views an image, he sees relevant affiliate offers (i.e. if the image is of a person wearing sunglasses, links to the sunglasses, other items shown, even the camera type, would appear).

 
After 2013, the “Affilination Era” will begin and will be characterized by

  • Social media dominance: the activity stream will be affiliated (i.e. Foursquare links to physical products).
  • Microaffiliates: everyone can be an affiliate and get tiny commissions (the example given was that of people referring other people to Domino’s Pizza and getting commissions).
  • Micropayments become increasingly common (as a side note, I attended a talk about a year ago by a company that intends to offer ways to do micropayments which would be integrated with Twitter. A lot of potential there).
  • Microtrends: we could find hot product sales by the hour or day.
  • Pre-purchase click data: we’ll have data about the products that are viewed before they are purchased. Which are the most popular?

 
New Lead Generation Models: Social-Mobile-Viral
This session provided a good followup to the previous one by suggesting that the future of marketing won’t be characterized by selling pain (trying to sell by appealing to emotions such as fear or pain – scaring the target audience) but rather by selling pleasure.

 
Several examples were given such as Facebook games: people stay on the site because they enjoy it, and we would have better success by satisfying this need. Another example given was LibraryThing – a social network of people who like talking about books: people stay on this site because they enjoy it, and it brought significant revenue to the creators by affiliating the site with Amazon.

 
The speaker suggested that that the best way of ‘going viral’ would be to stop doing hype and treat people as people: “People aren’t eyeballs – they’re friends”.

 
An additional observation was – unsurprisingly – that the world is currently shifting from desktops to mobile phones. Since everything in mobile is smaller and people are on the move, we have to take that into consideration when marketing using this channel. Smaller banners, shorter ads, shorter emails. Basically reformat everything so that it may fit with an audience that isn’t necessarily at home next to a personal computer.

 

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Making money using Twitter

 

I continue my discussion on ways to make money using Twitter. Previously I covered what I considered are bad (ineffective) methods, now I’ll cover the rest.

 
The ugly (misleading):

Promoting users/lists: Certain users with a large number of followers (though only slightly more than I have) started doing personal shoutouts and including users in their lists for small sums of money. I assume the people who buy these services do so to get followers. To a limited degree, this will probably work. Moreover, if the people who promote these offers have multiple accounts as many people do, I would imagine all their accounts would suddenly follow the paying users (this could easily be 20-50 accounts – to some this is a lot of followers!).

 
With that being said, this has to be one of the most inefficient ways of getting followers. If these were celebrities who offered these services, fine (it would probably be pretty effective being in Conan O’Brien’s list! Just think of @LovelyButton), but we’re not talking celebrities here. I would never consider charging people to be in one of my lists because I think doing so would imply that this bestows some value, and let’s face it, it does not. Note that I have to say, it’s very easy getting followers, at least when talking about a small number (100-200) and I don’t think paying users expect more than that from a single tweet.

 
An additional issue is that I would expect this practice to stop at some point. Personally – and I know many others feel the same way – I treat the shoutouts as noise/spam. These are (personal) ads after all, and my comment from the previous post applies – most Twitter users do not like any tweet that feels commercial in nature. I predict that eventually enough users would have these ‘offending’ advertisers be blocked & reported for spam and this will lead to their suspension.

 
The Good (effective)

 
I’ve written about this in multiple separate posts. I believe that Twitter’s strength lies in creating relationships, networking, doing PR for yourself/your company, so most of this section deals with these. However, the first method is unrelated.

  1. Advertising: Using companies such as Ad.ly and SponsoredTweets it is possible to tweet something and get paid for it. This actually does work. But: (a) You’re dependent on being offered to tweet these and there aren’t a ton of those and (b) unless you have a lot of followers, the sums involved tend to be pretty low.

     

  2. Getting clients: by being active on Twitter, it is possible to get clients. Although pushing yourself and being interactive helps, by just having a good bio, descriptive background and including a link to your website it’s quite possible to draw attention. Personally I’ve had success with this. I have to emphasize that I believe this strongly depends on the industry: i.e. I doubt dentists can gain clients this way.

     

  3. Building relationships: I’ve written about this before. By networking you are likely to meet like-minded people who, by knowing them, in the long run, will result in monetary gain. I’ve met quite a lot of people who got me involved in conferences (i.e. Social Media 201), started collaborations, and introduced other people and clients to me. This does require effort though.

     

  4. PR: I’m probably the millionth person to say this, but in this day and age, companies need to be able to engage their clients. By having an active Twitter account that listens to complaints/issues and addresses them, a company can greatly improve their reputation. This is a topic that we discussed quite heavily at Social Media 201.

     

  5. Twitter services: basically, by offering the previous methods to other people or companies, you can make money. There’s in fact a new course that trains people to become social media managers.

    This is definitely a way that works. Again, talking from personal experience here. You can get paid far more doing this than from paid tweets or trying to push affiliate links. I believe this is the most effective way to monetize Twitter. Note that in many ways the method I included under ‘ugly’ can be said to fall under this category – true – however, I think it’s the choice of which services to offer that makes the difference. Implying someone will get a lot of followers if someone tweets your bio is misleading.

 
Not sure

 
I’ll include this one last category as well.

  1. Niche accounts: I’ve actually dabbled with this but it’s a variation of the methods I previously mentioned. Basically, it’s an account that declares in advance that it will provide information and deals. This can be done using affiliate links or point to your business site.

    Does it work? Maybe. Personally I’ve not tried it long enough to be able to tell. However, I CAN tell say that many users still consider this to be spam despite the user “announcing” in advance what it is all about.

     

  2. Trending topics: I included this but I will admit I don’t know it well enough to elaborate. The goal is to create accounts that tap into Google’s real time indexing of trending topics. I don’t fully know how this works, just that by doing so, it is possible to get an affiliate link into the top of the search of Google. I would imagine this involves creating quite a lot of users. I heard this worked for some but don’t know how successful it was and, as you can guess, I never tried it myself. I figured I should still mention it.

     

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When two separate discussions that I conduct converge, I know that I’m onto a topic I need to blog about.

 
I’ve written about affiliate fads in a different blog post. It’s interesting, but in the past month I’ve seen one product launch and three webinars (so far!) that deal with, yes – making money using Twitter. I find this amusing since this is an old fad that’s making a comeback and I honestly never expected that it would. Most affiliate marketers scoff at anything related to Twitter.

 
So is it possible to make money on Twitter? I’ve been (very) active on Twitter for a long time, though recently I have reduced my activities for various reasons. I do think it’s fair to consider Twitter a platform for making money, however, it’s not one of the best places to do so. Despite its flaws, twitter is a fantastic platform for other money-related activities though.

 
Here’s a survey of methods I know of that can be used to make money using Twitter. There are probably more, some I forgot, and some I am not aware of. I’ve classified them to the good (effective), the bad (ineffective) and the ugly (misleading). This classification is, of course, based on my own opinions and others may not agree with it.

 
The Bad (ineffective)

  1. Affiliate links: the most obvious way of generating money with Twitter. You tweet a link that promotes an affiliate offer: if someone buys a product/fills in details, you get commission. It’s as simple as it gets. Theoretically, if you have a large number of followers or a very targeted group of followers, it could work.

     
    There are two problems: first, normally it just doesn’t work – the percentage of people who actually buy/fill in details is very low. Yes, you can make money, but very little money. Worse, because Twitter users are so used to spam, they’ve become extra sensitive to anything that even sounds like an attempt of making money. A person who tweets affiliate links, even if they are completely beneficial to all parties involved (i.e. freebies) will often find himself blocked and reported for spam, and some people will even tell him they do intend to do so. Happened to me more than once.

     

  2. Barging into conversations: I believe this is the method that is recently promoted, particularly since I seem to see it a lot more than I used to. For starters, I want to declare I’ve never tried it myself so can’t say with absolutely certainty whether it works or not. However, with that being said, I don’t believe it does.

     
    This method consists of searching on Twitter for people who discuss a certain topic, say, for keywords such as “losing weight” or “diet”, etc, and sending them a very relevant affiliate link. In theory it’s not a bad idea (“You’re helping people”). In practice? Rude.

     
    I’ve had conversations with people where suddenly someone would “jump in” and offer me something that was relevant to a point I made. Almost always it was something I only casually mentioned, so I wasn’t even looking for anything related. It is my belief – and let me emphasize that being an affiliate marketer I am obviously affiliate friendly – that most people consider it the worst kind of spam, since this is spam that actively barges into your Twitter activities. I know that when this happens to me, I always ‘block and report as spam’. If a friend were to offer this to me, or someone I knew, I would be much more open to this idea. But this method doesn’t suggest building long term relationships but rather jumping in with an affiliate offer – and never has any friend sent me affiliate links on Twitter.

     
    Like I said, I never tried it myself so who knows, maybe it does work. But the people I know – and I know quite a few – would treat this as the worst kind of behavior on Twitter.

     
    Continue to part two of ‘Making Money On Twitter.

 

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Pulling hair

 

If there’s a simple solution to the problem I describe below then (a) I will be very happy and (b) I will think that this post might make me look like a fool – BUT I’ll take that risk :)

 
I probably mentioned this in the blog somewhere but I like creating sites. At the moment I have around 70 and keep creating more all the time – some for specific niches, some personal, some for hobbies, some for lead generation, some for.. other… purposes.

 
Putting the necessary effort in keyword research using tools like Micro Niche Finder and Market Samurai (both are superb tools!) in order to create sites that have a good chance in appearing in high positions in search engines is fun and creates a nice income (if done consistently!). Even though this does require effort, and more importantly, patience, it’s generally a very good method.

 
Some of these sites I can truly set and forget. Of course, I track the search rankings of all my sites and know that some eventually drop unless I continuously add new content. It really depends on the niche and its competitiveness. Usually if it’s a successful site or a site I put a lot of effort into, I continue building it, but at times I prefer to spend my time creating new sites rather than tweaking and retweaking old ones.

 
A large portion of these sites, naturally, have affiliate links. When I first started I spent months finding the “perfect” links, hunting down exotic offers from specific vendors, it all had to be just right. Didn’t take very long for me to realize that this is a very inefficient usage of my time.

 
Last week I happened to visit one of my older sites which seems to be getting a lot of traffic again. I clicked on one of the affiliate links: broken! I clicked on another: Internal Server error! I clicked on a third – took me to an unrelated offer. Then I started going through my old sites and many, many links were broken or switched to another, irrelevant offer. God knows how many conversions I lost.

 
Almost always these were CPA offers – the product offers/eBooks (Clickbank) mostly still worked. And of course, AdSense (in those sites that include it) continued to work. That is why I never explored this in depth – as the sites that performed continued to perform.

 
I continued checking and even a site I recently updated – only two months ago – had all broken links!

 
This is extremely frustrating! The only affiliate network I am aware of that updates you about broken links is Commission Junction, and unsurprisingly, my CJ links work properly as I always fixed them (actually, Lidango too, but I don’t really use them anymore – and they just send you emails “you have a broken link” which isn’t helpful). Then again, all my Shareasale, Linkshare, Linkconnector and Amazon links seemed to be working properly, maybe they update you as well.

 
I’m thinking of creating a massive list of links and periodically running through all of them either using a script or even manually. It will take some effort but it’s worth it. Though even this is a partial solution: it’ll show me the broken links but not when the links have been switched to different offers. I could factor the landing page into that though, I guess.

 
I’m also thinking of limiting the networks I take links from. This is actually something I have been doing for quite a while… whereas in the past I used to pick the ‘best’ links from many different networks, now I feel it’s easier to stick with a handful of networks. Easier to keep track of, and often that extra bump in commission isn’t worth the hassle.

 
Any suggestions as to how to monitor this? Are there any tools available? I’ve discussed this with several friends and it seems I’m not the only one facing this problem. I’m just angry at myself for allowing it to go on for far too long.

 

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What's next?

 

I’ve been doing internet marketing for quite a while, and I can say, I’ve never seen an industry that changes so quickly. Every month there is something new, every month brings a big – sometimes a game changer – event.

 
Unsurprisingly, there is always a wave of internet marketers, product creators, that attempt to benefit from it. Although many marketers create products that genuinely provide value, there are the others who just create something, often without any meaningful understanding of the topic, in order to benefit from the wake of the fad.

 
What both frustrates and excites me is that these changes tend to affect the behavior of online marketers, and in turn, this usually affects the market itself… which affects marketers once again. This is probably why these new fads emerge in the first place. (Ok, I don’t want to lose you now, but this actually relates to my Ph.D. thesis which dealt with interactions that take place between various levels of complex systems… in this case, the market is a hierarchical complex system. But never mind..)

 
Forgive me if I got the time-frames slightly wrong.

 
In October 2009 it was all about PPV (CPV – cost per view) advertising. I don’t know how many courses and products were released in a short span. The result? Not only a large number of people started doing PPV advertising, but also, the biggest PPV network, TrafficVance, became extremely selective about accepting new advertisers, despite the fact its policies already required that new advertisers bring 2 referrals (!) and a minimum of a $1,000 deposit. It’s funny when one thinks about it: they’re literally saying no to advertisers who are willing to pay at least a $1,000. It’s been a while since then: as far I know they are not as strict anymore.

 
Then in December 2009 it was all about site flipping. In the span of three weeks I must’ve seen or heard of at least five products, each suggesting people build quick sites and flip them for a quick buck. I’m sure this could work, but not after releasing all these products… there’s a limit as to how many people can sell sites simultaneously, after all, the number of buyers did not change. Supply and demand and all that.

 
In January 2010 it was Facebook advertising. I don’t remember the exact phrases used but “Facebook loves affiliates” and “a goldmine” got stuck in my head. This resulted in many people trying Facebook advertising, and not long afterwards (April 2010), Facebook coming down with very, very strict guidelines that effectively eliminate most affiliate products from its network.

 
In February-March 2010 it was all about mobile. Mobile advertising. Mobile sites. Pay per call courses. A few courses created by very big marketers in a short span of time. Now, I don’t think mobile is a fad. I think mobile will just get bigger. But it was interesting that these were released at such a close proximity.

 
April-May 2010 were the months of local advertising. I saw several classes touting that “these are the biggest markets left unexplored” or so. Some of these classes seemed like the real deal, but others seemed almost like a scam (at least in one case, I’m pretty sure it IS a scam). What’s going to happen as a reaction to that? I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out very soon.

 
Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of trying some of these as well. I’m not trying to say “look at these idiots, trying one fad after the other” since often I was once of “these idiots” ;-) . I’m also not trying to say that none of these forms of advertising worked. In fact, I believe all of them worked prior to the release of the courses/products… by then the market had reacted and it became considerably harder, and at times, impossible, to benefit from the lessons taught.

 
While I love these dynamics, it’s virtually impossible to predict what will be next. What will be “the next big thing” in June? August? October? I don’t know. From an intellectual perspective I am really curious, though I know that whatever is promoted then, now is probably a good time to do it because by the time we hear of it, it will most likely be too late.

 
Edit: by the way, any guesses? Obviously Plenty of Fish (POF) is becoming increasingly popular as well as other traffic methods. I’m curious what you think.

 

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pirate

Ok, this is not a full post – more like an open question.

 
A while ago I wrote about internet marketing, ethics and dishonesty. I had quite a lot of say, and pretty much finished writing the post. However, afterwards I decided I’m not going to publish it for now because some people may feel it is a bit controversial.. and I was not in the mood for that at the time (just before SM201). I will use it at some point, but not just yet.

 
Anyway, that post relates to the following…

 
What do you do when you buy a product through a big internet marketer’s affiliate link because of a bonus he promised, only to receive nothing, and be repeatedly ignored by the said marketer and his team? This happened to me once before with regards to a bonus I didn’t care about, and again, recently – with a bonus I very much wanted and deliberately purchased the item through the link because of it.

 
Would you wage war? Write furious blog posts, let everyone know on forums, point fingers, etc? In this situation, it’s more likely I would be more damaged than the other party – we are talking after all about a big marketer and I – well – I am not one just yet.

 
Would you track him down (phone, personal email address) and demand the bonus? This is much easier than most people believe, and if I wanted to, I could probably track down almost every person I wanted to. However, this is a dirty trick which – personally – I’d never do. I also highly doubt it would result in the desired effect.

 
Or do you just accept the fact you won’t get the bonus and remember never to buy anything from said big marketer?

 
Even though I tend to be militant by nature, and have occasionally been trigger happy even when I should not have been, I will probably pick the third option. Accept my loss and move on.

 
I’m curious what others think.

 
Any thoughts?

 

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Resources for Affiliate Marketing

This Wednesday I’m giving a two hour introductory talk about affiliate marketing. This is following my plan to start doing more speaking engagements which I enjoy (as mentioned in my post about my talk at Social Media 201).

 
Preparing my Powerpoint deck was fun although it was somewhat time consuming. I also prepared a resource page for the audience.

 
I don’t know exactly the demographics of this blog’s visitors (clearly Alexa is untrustworthy, as I’ve joked about): I would estimate that at least a quarter are seasoned affiliate marketers, another quarter is friends, and the rest are people I meet through Twitter or people who Google for certain topics I’ve written about – Twitter Jail being the most popular (of course, it’s possible to be both a friend, an affiliate marketer, and know me from Twitter :) ).

 
Since I took the time to make this resource list, I figured, why not share it? If you’re an affiliate marketer, you can stop now because at least 95% are things you know, and know well (however, I AM sure most marketers aren’t familiar with the Mobile CPA Network I joined, for example). But if you’re not… proceed.

 
I think I will make more of these introductory posts, explaining resources for building links and other things new affiliate marketers require. But that’s for another time.

 

“Standard” Affiliate networks

These are networks dedicated to physical products or eBooks.
Clickbank Sign up page – eBooks, eCourses
ShareASale sign up page – physical products
Linkshare sign up page – physical products
Linkconnector sign up page – physical products
Commission Junction sign up page – physical products

 

CPA networks

Here are some of my favorite CPA networks: harder to get into than other networks, and normally require a brief phone interview before being approved.
Neverblue sign up page
Marketleverage sign up page
Azoogleads sign page
Clickbooth sign up page
Copeac sign up page

 

Mobile CPA networks

This is a CPA affiliate network dedicated to mobile offers. I am aware of two more such networks, but since I have not used them myself (yet), I’m not listing them.
Sponsormob sign up page

 

Offer directory

An excellent resource for finding offers and comparing commissions across networks.
Offervault

 

PPC: Keyword spying tools

If you’re doing any PPC at all, you really need a keyword spying tool. I used PPCBully 2.0 and thought it’s great.
PPCBully 2.0
Affportal – has a lot of useful tools for PPC campaigns

 

SEO/Blogging: Keyword research tools

If you’re creating search engine optimized niche sites you must do your keyword research.
Micro Niche Finder: superb tool, and even has a ‘brainstorming’ function which just finds good niches for you on its own.
Market Samurai: superb tool which just gets better.
Google Keyword Tool: a good place to start

 

SEO: Link building

eZArticleLink: If you need links, this is a good resource – there’s even a free version!

 

Pay Per View Networks

I included only some of the PPV networks I use.. since this is an introductory talk, I’m not sure I would recommend on PPV being the starting point. However, I didn’t want to leave this out.
DirectCPV
AdOn Network
MediaTraffic

 

Pay Per View Resources

If one does do PPV then Affportal is a must. An absolutely fantastic – and mandatory – resource for PPV which just gets better.
Affportal

 

Email marketing Resources

Here too I only mentioned the one tool I use. Yes, there are others, but this one is the best.
Aweber – best email marketing tool

 

Twitter resources

This is probably better phrased as ‘Twitter monetization resources’.
Ad.ly
SponsoredTweets

 

Media Buying resources

This is useful for anyone doing demographics research for the purpose of media buying. Most definitely not for new or even intermediate affiliates!
Alexa
Quantcast
Compete

 

Domain registration

I registered more than 60 domains with Namecheap and don’t have a single complaint. They’re also the cheapest. In fact, I’m going to register one, possibly two, domains right after I finish this blog post…
Namecheap

 

Domain hosting

Unlike domain registration, I’ve had my share of hosting accounts and was very unhappy with most. However, Hostgator is excellent: very good service, high reliability, quick and friend customer support. Definitely better than the other accounts I used. Even their pricing is competitive!
Hostgator

 

Facebook advertising resources

Since it’s hard to do split-testing with Facebook because there is no way for the average user to get a bulk upload tool, the Facebook Ad Manager is a must in order to do any serious Facebook advertising.
FB Ad Manager

 

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