Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Merchant affiliate commissions vary between networks

I posted earlier about why joining several different affiliate networks is recommended. One commenter mentioned that if you do that you'll sometimes see the same merchant using different networks, and that the size of the commissions they pay for leads or sales varies between each. Obviously, you should go for the one with the highest payout.

I've done that recently with one program. It's just a pay per lead one. The commission is around three bucks per lead at one network, but over double that amount at another. I'm glad I've done this, and wish I had switched over earlier. This is a popular program and if it keeps on going for a long while I'll be making hundreds of dollars more per year from it.

That said, I can't be sure when this higher commission commenced with that particular network. I think it might have only started recently. In any case, it is a compelling reason to not only join different networks, but also to keep browsing through what they offer occasionally. Do that and you're sure to find programs that will bring you more money for the traffic that you're already getting. 

As to why merchants vary their commissions between networks, I'm pretty much in the dark. Maybe it reflects the relative quality of the signups that the affiliates from each program deliver. Or perhaps the setting of commission size is partly out of the merchant's hands, and is recommended by the network? Or it could merely be due to a lack of organization on the merchant's part ...

I really don't know the answer. But for anyone who promotes affiliate programs it's certainly a factor worthy of close consideration.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Why you should follow good people on Twitter

Many people who start using Twitter just want to get heaps of followers as quickly as possible. Maybe that's because they want to feel like celebrities, or intend to spam people. These are bad motivations for obvious reasons.

However I think most people who do use the social networking site sincerely still feel a pressing need to try and get lots of followers, and soon. It's only natural. And of course you want as many people as possible to read what you have to say in your tweets.

One of the main ways that Twitter newbies try to get those numbers up quickly is by following tweeps primarily in the hope that a certain percentage will follow them back. But in the end I think the best policy is to try and curb that need for quantity and keep looking for quality.

If you don't do this you'll end up with heaps of irrelevant or just plain spammy tweets in your timeline. So you'll have to spend more time wading through them to find the nuggets that you can learn from, retweet and reply to.

If on the other hand you make a point of following really good people in your niche, then that river of tweets will be consistently golden. You'll find interacting with the people you follow a lot easier and more rewarding.

Not only will this get their attention -- making them more likely to mention and retweet you, thereby lifting your profile -- you'll also accumulate far more tweets up there on the site, meaning you're more likely to get found by people looking for others to follow.

Sure, a certain proportion of these followers will be low quality themselves, but there will be some goodies. And they will have chosen to follow you because they liked what you had to tweet -- not just because you followed them. That's a better way to kick things off, surely.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Some factors that seem to increase conversions

I have been promoting affiliate programs for quite a while now, although this is not my main focus. Basically I love to write so I just keep doing that and make a few sales from stuff I'm advertising on my blogs and sites along the way. While I don't monitor my statistics really closely like some people do, I do try to keep an eye on them and I have noticed some trends when it comes to conversion rates. 

Firstly, there's a much greater chance of conversions if visitors come via a specific search. They really trust Google, and if they're looking for something to buy that will definitely shape their search query. So, if you're ranking for these kinds of keyword phrases people can often arrive at your site pretty much already primed to purchase something you're advertising.

Then there's the geographic factor. People do seem to be more likely to buy products and services that are produced in their own country. Sometimes the reason is obvious, such as when they're looking for a dating site. Obviously they are more likely to join if they know that it's based in their country since there will probably be more local members signed up to it. 

But sometimes this geographic influence is a little more subtle. Say you're promoting an ebook about a subject that in itself is not geo-specific. I think that prospective buyers tend to feel that if it's written by someone who lives in their country it will be more relevant to them somehow, and they will therefore be more likely to make the final decision to purchase it.

Also, I think that factors such as a sense of patriotism, and the desire to keep the money within the country increase the likelihood of conversions a little.

Then there's the power of your own recommendation. There's no doubt that if you write something positive about the product you're promoting, people will be more likely to buy it. This applies generally, and is an even more powerful factor if you have built up a reputation as an expert in your field.

That's why writing lots of thoughtful blog posts and articles is still financially worth it in the long run. You will eventually end up with an opinion that people will value when making purchasing decisions. That's definitely something you should utilize -- although of course you wouldn't want to abuse it by going crazy and recommending anything and everything (which would surely negate the effect in time anyway!).

Of course there are many other factors that can increase conversions. However, from my experience these seem to be among the most significant.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Leaderboard banners get more clicks

I have been trying out different banner sizes and positions on my various website sand blogs. And leaderboards -- those 720 x 90 banners placed at the top of pages -- do get more clicks than others.

This is hardly surprising, of course. They stand out more, and are the first thing the visitor sees. Also, only a small percentage of people actually read web pages all the way through, so those ads placed down at the bottom will obviously get fewer clicks, no matter how big they are.

So, if you are promoting different affiliate programs then it's a good idea to to advertise your highest paying program with a leaderboard. Do this and you could see quite an increase in your earnings.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wordpress powered classifieds sites and SEO

It's well known that Wordpress is one of the best platforms for SEO. Blogs built with it tend to rank quite highly even when they haven't been around all that long and don't have much content up there. I'm no geek so I have no specific insights into why this might be. Whatever the reason, there's clearly something about the way Wordpress is designed that makes Google tend to like it!

Given this fact, I thought I'd try out some free classifieds that are powered by Wordpress to advertise a new site I have which is about garage sales in Perth. There are more and more of these popping up now, and a few of them are tailored towards Aussies.

So I submitted a couple of ads with headings like "Perth garage sale promotion" and "Local Perth garage sale advertising" to these sites. I only did this a few days ago but the ads I posted on the Wordpress sites are already ranking highly for related keyword searches. Similar ads posted earlier at other -- seemingly more well established -- classifieds sites took longer to get indexed, and have often been beaten in the rankings by these newer ads.

Of course free classifieds sites shouldn't just be judged on SEO. Some of them get huge traffic for a whole bunch of other reasons, and so are well worth using -- particularly if you are advertising a locally oriented product or service. Still, this aspect is something to keep in mind. And it will be interesting to see how well these sites do in the future.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Expert opinions on website making, Wordpress and SEO

Anyone who has been browsing the blogosphere in the last few years will have noticed the huge increase in the number of slick, sleek Wordpress blogs -- particularly in the online marketing niche. There also seem to be many more business websites that have been made with this platform. It seems to be the CMS of choice if you want to have a fast loading, search engine optimized website with blog included.

Being a long time Blogger user, who has never had a Wordpress blog, I am not the person to ask about it. Dean Wormald definitely is, however. That's why I have asked him some questions about Wordpress, as well as others on the subject of website making, social media and SEO. 

1) When getting ready to build your own business website, what are the most important factors to consider and why?

The old phrase, "if you plan to fail, you fail to plan" is a good one to keep in mind when getting ready to build a business website. There is a set process I follow when I create any website, and all businesses should do the same.

First there is the requirements gathering phase. This involves evaluating the business and communication requirements. A good start is to reflect on your business plan and consider what the website must achieve for the business. It could be generating enquiries through telephone calls, get more customers through your door, or simply build up your profile as an expert in your field.

Second, following the requirements gathering phase is the content requirements phase. Knowing what the business and communication goals for the website are, I collect, create and organise the content that will be on the website. This also involves describing any functionality requirements, for example, contact forms. Doing this before buying website hosting or a domain name is key to ensure a good work flow through the process of making a great website.

After the requirements have been clearly defined and all the content collected, it's time to buy website hosting and a domain name. I always buy these together. Australian businesses, I always buy the .com.au and .com variations of the chosen domain name. For larger companies we'll buy all domain name variations possible. Then we direct the un-used domain names to a primary domain name.

For Australian businesses, it is critical to buy website hosting with a reputable Australian website hosting company who has servers based in Australia. This influences search engine rankings.

2) You are obviously a fan of Wordpress for building business websites, as well as for blogging. Why do you think it is so good?

I've been using WordPress both professionally and personally since 2005 (before it even had a WYSIWYG editor!). I'm more interested in spending time on making great interfaces and content, than coding a website. Over time I have used other CMS platforms like Drupal and DotNetDuke, as well as other blogging services like WordPress.com (free hosted WordPress blogs) and Blogger. I believe the WordPress software (installed on your own hosting) is just as simple to setup as a free hosted blog, however it allows for much more customisation.

The WordPress community is huge and thriving. There are hundreds of thousands of active users contributing and helping out with customising or troubleshooting WordPress. A portion of this community also creates plugins and themes, which enhance websites in a huge variety of ways. Over the last few years I've been quite immersed in the community and have even written an eBook. It's a guide on how to make Australian websites.

Perhaps the number one reason I use WordPress is the focus on web standards and usability. The software is constantly kept up to date with evolving technology and on the front-end (what the site visitor sees) you get a great interface.

3) Website building technology has been developing extremely quickly over the last few years. What do you think will be the next big trends in this field?

HTML 5. The previous version, HTML 4, was released in 1997, a grandfather in Internet ages! HTML 5 will help to standardise a lot of different web technologies. For a long time developers have been trying to make mobile content with this (and other) web technologies that just aren't suited for these devices. HTML 5 also displays multimedia content, without the need for plugins like Flash Player or Shockwave.

Over the next few years, the groups working on the HTML 5 specification will finish it off completely, and it will become the new standard. When it dones, I wouldn't be surprised if a few Flash developers found themselves with less work.

4) With the rise of social media, some pundits are predicting that search engines will gradually lose their influence, and that SEO will become a minor consideration for website builders. What are your thoughts on this prediction?

Just like HTML 4, the current methods used by search engines are based on old technology. When I worked with Microsoft on the Bing Search team in Sydney, one of the heads of search in the USA said "however brilliant the current search algorithms are, and they are brilliant, in many cases it fails to give the best results. As one of the most influential factors to ranking highly is to have many inbound links to your site, search engines today serving up the most popular, not the most relevant results."

While you can't argue that social networks are growing at a phenomenal pace, when seeking specific information, people still need to search for it. SEO will still be important, with the foreseeable/possible changes currently on the table. The biggest change will likely come from a radically different search algorithm. This would have an impact on the scope of SEO activities, but website owners will still need to engage in SEO.

I've heard of one interesting idea that uses the information from your social network profiles to gain a better understanding of the context of your search. So perhaps one day social networks and search engines will work together, using a new search algorithm to return more relevant results.

About Dean Wormald

Dean Wormald has been working in the digital industry since 1998. After studying Multimedia and Marketing at university, he has worked with the biggest and most award winning agencies and companies in Australia, including: Amnesia Razorfish (with clients like Xbox 360, Microsoft, Land Rover, Holden, Lynx and IKEA); Bing Search Team (Microsoft Australia); Clemenger BBDO and Proximity (with clients like Yellow Pages, White Pages, M&M'S, Dulux). Recently he released a guide on how to start a website, make it look professional and market it successfully.