Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Icing & The Cake Of Affiliate Marketing

I recently stumbled upon a poll of affiliate marketers which unearthed a shocking truth that many of us must suffer from, but so few of us talk about. I had to pick my jaw up from the floor. The question itself was simple enough "Have you made any money from affiliate marketing?"

A huge 56% of affiliates haven't made a dollar! WHY??
It wasn't all together a unique question. In fact, I hear it quite often in it's various forms: Is affiliate marketing still profitable? Has the golden age of affiliates marketing passed us buy? Why does Google hate affiliates now? (They don't...they just hate the lazy affiliates)


The respondents had been quizzed about their level of experience. A fraction were yet to embark on their journey. Others had been in at it for mere weeks. Yet a large portion had been in the game for over a year.

Are you ready? A whopping 56% of people said NO! They hadn't made a single dollar from affiliate marketing.

What was most disturbing, was that these weren't all newbies. Many of these wannabe's had invested over a year of their life learning the ropes, building sites and blogs, publishing at article directories, building backlinks and page rank and a reputation...and they hadn't had a single sale.

Now I don't care whether or not you believe me when I say this (you're talking to a major skeptic here)....

But this actually had me lying awake in bed. If you learn anything about me, then know that I LOVE to dissect the causes of why things happen the way they do, why people are the way they are. Dissection. There's no better word to describe it.

I couldn't help myself - I wanted to know what was going on. WHY? What were these marketers doing (or not doing) that had led to such a spectacular failure? It was in bed that it slowly dawned on me. They had learned & studied the many pieces of the affiliate marketing puzzle...but they didn't understand that some pieces of that puzzle are bigger than others.

They were focusing on the icing...when they hadn't learn the recipe for a successful cake.

So that's what I give you today. I give you the recipe for a successful cake - a successful affiliate site. AND. And I teach you how to recognize the difference between the icing and the cake.

THE CAKE
A high converting product and low competition keywords. Seriously, this is make or break stuff. Get this wrong and everything that follows will be for nothing. I too have been guilty of telling newbies that any action is better than no action...but in hind sight, that's probably not the best advice. If you feel the need to spend a month researching different affiliate programs trying to find a well paying product with a high rate of conversion in a profitable niche, and another few weeks looking for that low hanging fruit (low competition keywords) then you take all the time in the world.

THE ICING
The "shiny things" I like to call them. Yes, first appearances do matter - but not as much as having the right product in a good niche. As long as your font is large enough to read, as long as you banners are somewhere people can see them...then let it go!

When I talk about the "shiny things" I'm talking about all the aesthetic things that really don't count for much - the plugins, banner placement, themes, the colour of the font in the H1/H2 headers. NOT IMPORTANT! Want to know how much time I spent making my first website pretty? Months. And it failed miserably. Want to know how long I spend "customizing" blogs/sites these days? 10-15min. Tops. Occasionally I will make some changes, but the prettiest site in the word won't make you a dollar unless it has substance. I would rather have an ugly duckling that converts.

THE CAKE
The Content of your website. Affiliates - Content Is King. The articles & info that you publish on your site must be your finest quality. Having said that, it does not need to be written by world class authors. It does have to be the finest quality that you can summon.

The content needs to be full of valuable info, substance, rich in keywords. It's there for a duel purpose of telling Google what your site is about and also to educate people - to give them valuable, sought after information that they can benefit from immediately.

THE ICING
The content you publish everywhere else. That is to say, what you publish at ezines, forums, Twitter, guest posts...anywhere other than your site. The first place you need to publish new material is on your site. After Google has indexed it then you can spin and publish elsewhere. One of the first posts I ever published here was about "writing for a reason" in which I outlined the different purposes that our content serves.

For sites other than your own, the content you make is there to provide a backlink. Nothing more, nothing less. Invest little more than minimum effort into it's quality - as long as it is mildly relevant and contains complete sentences...you're doing okay!

I was trying to think of an example to give you when the hubby flicked the tv on. There we watched as Rowan Atkinson made a guest appearance on Australia's Funniest Home Moves. Perfect! Here he was, on a show that was only mildly related to his latest Johnny English movie. Although he was very professional & presentable...by no means was he required to put his best comedic foot forward. The outcome of his appearance on that show has absolutely no impact on the success of his movie. Same principles apply to affiliates.

THE CAKE
Building a variety of backlinks from a variety of sources. I often use the example of Google being one big high school popularity contest. When the cool kid points the new kid and says "Hey! I like what you're saying" then the new kid finds himself instantly more popular. And so it is with Google. The backlinks we leave all over the web are there telling Google how cool we are. Let's face it, we are pretty cool, aren't we?  ;-)

This is where I see a lot of affiliates fall short. They have the keywords, they have a gift for writing, a high converting product...then they get distracted by banner placement and headers.

Learning the in's and out's of different backlinks and making them should be on your checklist of DAILY TASKS.

THE ICING
On page SEO. Shh - you hear that? That's the sound of hardcore SEO's hitting the back button. Let me clear this up. SEO IS important.. BUT..there is only so much it can do for you. If you are wondering if you should fiddle around with your headers or banner placement or your META tags rather than making some more backlinks....make the links!! Dedicate some time each week to on page SEO...but do NOT let it take your link building time away from you.

DISTINGUISHING THE ICING FROM THE CAKE...
Are you starting to see the bigger picture now? The biggest priority of an affiliate marketer is to find high converting product, low competition keywords, throw it all together with some quality onsite content and build a truck load of backlinks.

Everything else can be called the "shiny things"...the things that are taking your time and costing you money. If you are one of the 56% of affiliates that has yet to make a dollar online, this is your mission from now on.

If your product isn't converting, switch it out.

Go back to your keyword tools and find that low hanging fruit - the keywords with a high volume of searches and minimal competition each month.

Then get out there and make link after link - for an hour a day. See how many links you can make in a hour, try and beat it tomorrow. Don't spam - you do NOT want your URL associated with spam.

There you have it guys, I sincerely hope that has been able to clear some things up for you. Let me know what you think not just about all of the above, but about why or where you are going wrong in your affiliate business.

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