Archive for February, 2005

The Article Circuit

One of the most universal pieces of advice you will hear about driving traffic to your site is to write an article and submit it to one of the big repository sites like Ezine. There are a handful of submission sites that are the biggest publishers, but a lot of smaller ones as well. Depending on the advice, you should submit to one or submit to all. You put a link to your website at the bottom of your article and wait for the traffic to flow in.

The purpose of these sites is to offer reprint articles that other websites can pick up and republish. In theory, this outlet for promotion is a good thing. Ezine, for instance, requires that any active link in your article or bio remains an active link if republished. So, in fact, you could begin at no cost to you to build one way links to your website in order to beef up your pagerank. Also, if someone comes across your article on another site, you are still receiving credit, and possibly targeted traffic.

It does work, if in smaller doses than you might be led to believe, but like anything in the affiliate marketing business, it comes with some considerations.

1) Where does the article go?

The problem, of course, is that Ezine’s terms of service (which mandate the article is republished intact with active links) are virtually unenforceable. So sites can republish your article without active links, change a few words around so that the article is nonsense, or omit your byline altogether. And it happens a lot. Sites whose sole purpose is to drive traffic to its own advertising aren’t as worried about quality control as they are about keyword density and SEO. Over time, your article will end up plastered on some of very strange, unappealing websites. Sites that are seemingly beyond any real purpose. Sometimes, your article is just the lead, and an active link points to the Ezine article page instead of your own website. Sometimes, the live links are removed but the article itself is intact. (Either of these are preferable because they don’t mangle your article at least.) And other times, a bot lifts the article, republishes it with words changed or missing and it reads like a foreign language.

That other publishers seemingly can’t, or are unwilling to follow the rules is frustrating. By posting the article on Ezine, you are giving them permission to republish the article anywhere on the web. All they have to do is leave the article completely intact.

Upon further consideration, it makes even less sense for them than that. Google and other major search engines take into account the quality and originality of a site in its pagerank, and furthermore, give you higher credit for a link from a quality site than one that is unranked or low ranking. Put those two rules together, and that means that almost no one will ever find these rip-off sites that steal and mutilate your article (and thus, no harm to you) and furthermore, the fact that these sites exist and are linking to you shouldn’t make a dent in your traffic one way or another.

2) Is it better to publish the article yourself?

This is a question of leverage. Does you get more benefit from the exposure of posting elsewhere than you do on your own site?

Take our example again, posting to Ezine. You get wide exposure on a popular site, links back to your own site (Ezine, at least, lets you have three live links in your bio.) And Ezine’s high pagerank can have a positive impact on your own pagerank.

But the other component is the amount of original content on your site. Content that is both high quality and only exists on your site. Forget about how much original content you need in order to satisfy Google’s ranking system. Think about it this way: without original content, what exactly is the draw of your website? If the basis of your website is product driven, then the focal point of your site is the products themselves. However, if your site is article driven, like a professional blog, then it is the unique content that drives traffic to your site, and brings them a second and third time.

There is no ideal formula for how many sites to submit to these websites, and how many to keep exclusively on your own site. The best way to find a good balance is to conceptualize the reason you submitting your site. Is it for exposure? Backlinks? Or to blanket the web with a certain article of yours? Once you know why you’re doing it, it will be easier to decide how often.

Rush to Build a Link Empire

Building traffic to your brand new website is complicated by a lot of conflicting advice on how to best go about it. The lack of consensus on the topic is startling and a little disturbing. Other than advertising directly to your new site, the next best option is to build links to your website in order to raise your presence on the internet. But the driver in your decision is whether the exposure you are going to get as a result of building links is going to further your sales goal. For affiliate marketers, presence on the internet in and of itself isn’t enough of an inducement.

There are two important components that you can’t overlook when you are analyzing your own website traffic. One is that the actual traffic to your page isn’t really the most important measure; it is the percentage of traffic that converts into sales (and more practically, profit.) The other key is whether or not your promotional strategies play into the habits of internet users.

A lot of advice about link exchange starts with the conventional notion that the higher your page rank, the higher you appear in search results, the more traffic you will get. You increase page rank by building back links to your website. You might even, by virtue of appearing near the top of keyword search results, attract targeted visitors. That is because users primarily fall into one of two categories. Either they are looking for very specific information (product or service) and keep clicking until they find it - these are the internet users you want - or they are heading for a website that they are already familiar with - these are the users you’ll rarely see anyway. And the small percentage of users who are just clicking through a trail of webpages were never predisposed to buy your product in the first place.

So unless your branding encourages return visitors (and most affiliate websites do not in any practical sense) your only option is to cater to the user who is seeking something specific. So with that in mind, consider these options to building links to your site:

  • You can organically grow one way and reciprocal links with other sites by developing relationships with those webmasters.
  • You can buy one way links or join a reciprocal link exchange like indexguy or
  • You can join a traffic program.

a) Organic growth
This obviously takes time, a factor that doesn’t appeal to anyone in the sales world. And likely, you are doing this over time anyway.

b) Reciprocal link exchanges
The only benefit to these cooperatives is the creation of back links to your site (starting the chain reaction of gaining a higher page rank, getting closer to the top of keyword search results, and eventually targeting traffic organically.)

But there is no secondary benefit. The actual links themselves get buried in a directory (or 4,000 directories, it makes no difference) so that most internet users are never going to see them. Even one or two chance referrals from the directory link isn’t going to make a dent in your sales pattern.

c) Traffic programs
Traffic programs seem self defeating. In order to initiate visitors to your own site, you have to visit someone else’s webpage for a specified number of seconds, thus exposing yourself to their sales pitch. Then, in return, someone else lands your webpage, waits until the specified number of seconds has passed, thereby theoretically exposing them to your sales pitch. There are at least two very well known products out there that automate this whole process, but think about it; if everyone who has signed up to a traffic program has automated their page views, who is actually looking at your website?

And even if they don’t have a script running to do the work for them, is anyone really looking carefully at your sales pitch as they cruise through page after page? This is not targeted traffic, and really, the whole system is so arbitrary, the benefits to you are dubious.

There are other no cost ways to raise your presence on the internet (Ezine itself being a good one) but unless you can afford to wait six months to a year, presence isn’t enough to keep your business afloat. You have to make decisions about promoting your website bearing in mind that your goal is always going to be sales conversions. Understanding how internet users utilize the web is important, too. Put it altogether, and though the advice may still be confusing, you will be better equipped to make decisions about how to build traffic to your new website.

Jump Right In

The frenetic pace of sales letters and affiliate advice leads you to believe that if you don’t act now, the opportunity will be lost.

I personally hate the hard sell. How many times have you read…?

  • This Coupon will expire 3 days from
  • I reserve the right to end this introductory offer at anytime without warning
  • Once we get the testimonials we need, we’re going to push the price up on this to $97 or maybe even $127

I don’t understand how this approach works, especially when you are selling to other affiliate marketers. Creating a sense of urgency with these kind of buzz lines overwhelms the message of your product. And as a customer, making a decision with the timer running is just bad for business. But given the persistent nature of the extreme hard sell, someone must fall for it, right?

The problem with giving in to the hard sell is that it doesn’t always make good business sense. So before you jump on in because of you’re worried about missing out, take a step back and figure out if the product you’re buying actually makes sense for your business.

Look for full disclosure
You should know exactly what you are getting before you buy it. Whether you are buying a membership, or an eBook, whatever format the product gets delivered to you should be clearly stated.

You should also check out the FAQ. Most direct response pages have one, and it can be very enlightening to see what the seller views as important questions. Depending on the product, you will often see just a repeat of the same pitch you already read, a broken link, or a handful of questions and answers too general to be useful. If you aren’t getting enough information to make a sound decision, that is a tipoff that you need to be wary.

I’ll give you an example. There are numerous products on Clickbank for background checks and criminal searches. They all work essentially the same way. The price you pay is for a limited number of searches, and typically only basic ones. In order to use the service fully, you have pay per search, and often there are “premium” searches that cost more. But it doesn’t tell you that on the website, so you don’t find out until you have purchased the product.

Full disclosure is also related to price but at least with Clickbank products, you get the benefit of price disclosure before you purchase.

Ignore claims of financial success
No software or eBook can deliver you instantaneous financial rewards. People always want to believe it’s that easy, but not one system can guarantee that for every individual. Even when you are determined to follow a program step-by-step, you still have to do the work.

The truth about affiliate marketing is that there is an elite group of individuals who make most of the riches, and everyone else divvies up the other minuscule profits. Breaking into that elite crowd is tough, and most affiliate eBooks are built around the notion that it’s easy, playing to your greed. So don’t be played.

Go to an outside source
Google is amazing, you can find a review of practically any product, any service, and any company. If you have concerns, why not run the product name through Google search and see what comes up. A lot of affiliate products get marketed by more than one seller, and many of them use write-ups to advertise the product with their affiliate commission. As long as you look at these things with a little skepticism, there’s no reason you cannot use the information others’ offer in making an evaluation.

As often as not, though, you can find someone who has used the product and isn’t trying to sell it to you. Usually, the reason they are blogging about it is because they were dissatisfied, but isn’t that information you would want, too? Nothing you find on the internet is going to be totally impartial, but that doesn’t automatically make it unhelpful.

Know what you need
It’s not just enough to spot the hard sell, you also have to have a really concrete concept of what benefit you are going to get from the product. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and purchase the product to know whether it will truly end up being beneficial to your goals. But don’t be afraid to return it if it doesn’t deliver what it promises.

Whatever you do, don’t take action just because a seller tells you time is running out. That’s just folly. Sure, maybe the seller will raise the price, but you have to make decisions that are sound for your business, something that the seller has no way of knowing. Don’t jump right in just because the pitch says so. The extra time you take to make a decision can save you a lot of anguish later on.

Rethink Your Strategy for Website Monetization

It sounds like a great idea. You build a website of original content, mostly for your own satisfaction, and someone suggests that you create ad space so that you can make some money at the same time. Your expectations are low as all you want to do is basically pay for overhead on your website.

It quickly becomes evident that there are a lot of choices these days to monetize your website. And there isn’t a reliable way to choose between them besides advertising products and services that will most directly appeal to your visitors. Eventually you implement a handful and wait for the revenue to stream in.

This, of course, is when the fallacy of the whole concept is exposed. For those of us who start out with low ambitions, just to break even really, generating ad revenue is an excruciating process. AdSense barely pulls in $10 a month. Amazon links never result in sales. AuctionAds seem to pay off (who doesn’t have an eBay account?) but in such small commissions that your monthly income is insubstantial. And so on. And even if over time, those amounts creep up incrementally, it would take years or millions of unique hits to really get any momentum behind your income stream.

When I hit that wall myself, rather than be discouraged, my reaction was to try to punch through the wall. But nothing I did, from optimizing my site design to buying traffic to adding 10 new articles a day, produced any significant development in my income. It was time to reassess my strategy.

What is the purpose of my site?

Ad hosting serves two distinct purposes, whether or not your site is a personal endeavor or a professional one. First, it gives you a stream of income with which to support your overhead costs (for personal websites primarily hosting and domain registration.) Second, it can give your site a professional look.

Neither of these purposes is subordinate to the other. Ad hosting of any kind gives your regular visitors an opportunity to express their support for your site by either purchasing products they would have bought anyway, or by clicking on ads of interest to them. It is not lost on most internet users that this is the purpose of advertising, and because the ads are usually relevant to their interests, they can derive a benefit in the act of supporting your work.

Ad space on websites generally give the impression of a professional design, whether or not the site itself is intended as a business per se. If, for instance, you are designing a portfolio of your art, you can incorporate ads to give the site both an aesthetic appeal and an air of competence.

Establishing the purpose of your site first is important because it affects how the ads are placed. In no way should the ads distract from the primary purpose of your site unless it is the primary purpose. For practical purposes, that means if you are monetizing a blog, the body of your post should be uncluttered and clearly distinguished. (By the way, this does not mean you should not design the look of your ads to match your website - something you will read in every book about AdSense and it’s good advice. But it does mean that if your website is showcasing your writing, then your writing needs to be clearly identifiable and accessible to your visitors. If your website is just showcasing the advertisements, and everything else is subsidiary, then that is a completely different consideration.)

Is my traffic supporting my expectations of income?

This is an important point. 500 unique visitors a week is not going to sustain elevated levels of profit, no matter how your website is monetized. It’s just not going to happen. Aside from brand name websites, only very few personal homepages and other niche sites are going to drive enough organic traffic to sustain a full time income. If your site is indexed, if you update regularly with new content, and if your traffic is relatively constant, then you have can reasonably assume that your monthly income is going to be constant as well.

Am I utilizing the right advertising?

This is something that you may have to reevaluate cyclically because every program has its benefits and downsides. Adsense, for instance, is paid per click; you could ostensibly be paid without your customers ever purchasing anything at the other end. Affiliate links require your visitor to take action, purchase a product or sign up for something before you receive a commission (and commissions, depending on the program, can range drastically.) That’s a lot of steps before you get paid.

The other thing to consider is whether or not you can establish a relationship directly with advertisers and run the ad campaigns yourself. Or stick to selling your own products. Because in either case, you are keeping 100% of the profits yourself and that can lead to higher income (though the trade off is a lot more work.)

Whatever you decide to do, once you decide to monetize your site, the process is ongoing. The variety of ad programs is constantly growing, technology for running your own ads is becoming more accessible, and optimization techniques are always being refined. The one thing you should not do is just set up your ad space once and leave it alone. That approach, at least, will guarantee your income level lingers well below your expectations.

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