I just found a great post on Beginner Basics of Affiliate Marketing by SugarRae (SugarRae) while doing research for a post on affiliate marketing experts similar to yesterday’s Top How to Make Money Blogging Resources.
Some of the things I learned during my years of managing AdWords accounts are effective for evaluating merchant affiliate programs too. If you are a merchant you can also use this list to evaluate and improve your ecommerce store.
When it comes to conversion rates check for these specific attributes on the merchant’s site:
- An improved search function: search for several words related to their products and make sure you get relevant results. No results or page after page of results that are not specific will cost them sales and you commissions. Most users will only make one search and leave if they don’t find what they’re seeking. Use a color plus the product, or material plus product, or brand name and product name, etc.
- Make sure shipping costs are easy to find; the earlier they are displayed during the shopping process the better. Free shipping increases conversions more than any other factor because high shipping costs (even when they aren’t) is the number one complaint of online buyers.
- If the site requires potential buyers to register or create an account before they can shop don’t bother promoting that site. Conversions will be dismal. If they require registering or creating an account prior to checkout but after putting items into the cart that is still bad but will not depress sales nearly as much as not even being able to shop first. Buyers will give you personal information AFTER they’ve decided to buy – but rarely before. Most will just leave.
- So many common shopping cart solutions don’t work consistently that I started accepting only stores built at Yahoo! Stores, Volusion or ProStores or using Google checkout. If they use anything else you need to know how to test the shopping cart – it won’t matter how well you pre-sell or advertise if good sales are rejected because the merchant account has fraud controls that are set too aggressively or the cart returns errors the buyer can not figure out how to fix!
- Look for additional store upgrades such as shop by brand, search by price range, add to a wish list function (either in-house or WishPot) and upsell tools that suggest related products
- What payment options do they offer and do they display icons indicating their store has been Security Verified? The more methods of payment available the more likely visitors are to buy.
- Look for and subscribe to their mailing list function to see what and how often they send newsletters with sales offers. Email is very beneficial to increasing sales – and your commissions if the cookie duration is long enough.
When I managed pay per click (ppc) accounts I knew that it did not matter how well my ads brought merchants traffic if their sites would not convert. Having access to Yahoo! Store data plus analytics plus AdWords made it easy to test changes to an etail store and see how they affected sales and conversions. Wise online retailers quickly learn that improving their store increases their profits.
RECOMMENDED AFFILIATE MARKETING PROGRAM:
One of the stores I’ve worked with the longest is Executive Gift Shoppe, a Yahoo! Store offering a huge selection of personalized gifts including business card holders, Official Sports Team Logo Memorabilia, Corporate Gifts and groomsmen gifts. I manage the Executive Gift Shoppe gift affiliate program for them and am seeking affiliates who would like free consulting and personal assistance sending them traffic.
Their affiliate program provides these advantages to affiliates:
- Two affiliate programs: ShareASale paying 12% with 60 day cookies plus an in-house program paying 20%
- Conversion rates between 2-3% and an average sale value of $60-$70 – very large sales are not unusual
- The ExecGifts data feed is available at DataFeedFile, DataFeedr, PopShops and Bridaluxe
- Over 6,000 products in stock; I provide custom spreadsheets of their top selling products by type on request
- Fast, accurate engraving
- Enhanced site search including search by brand, by gift recipient, and by price range plus an upsell upgrade that suggests related products on each product page.
- Expanded product descriptions with reviews
- Regular mailing list specials
- Discount coupons
- Free shipping on all sales over $75
- Their shopping cart is 128 bit SSL secure and verfied by both TrustGuard and ShopperScanned.
- They accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express and PayPal
- An exceptional guarantee – they replace products and deal with the manufacturer’s warranty themselves
- Excellent reviews and an A+ BBB rating
- An active ExecGifts Twitter account with 1,252 followers
- We provide personal free advice and one-on-one assistance to affiliates via email, chat, phone or in the comments
- We teach affiliates how to promote their sites, build links, generate traffic, comment and share on Social Networking sites and will personally send them traffic and link to them from our blogs
We hope you’ll check out their store and seriously consider collaborating with us. The holiday season is already upon us and their inventory is perfect for many niche sites and holiday shopping. Be sure to read The Top 7 Reasons Why Your Blog Still Isn’t Making Money for some great tips on writing better product reviews and best blog design for higher earnings that you can immediately implement.
If you love creating content and do not have the skills to build your own site our Joint Venture partner Derek at Threaded Web (@dereksemmler) can build one for you. If you do not have the funds to pay up front he may be interested in collaborating with you for a percentage of sales IF you are very serious and will work with us to make sure you make money. Read our post How to Create a Successful Blog Based Business for more details.
AFFILIATE MARKETING EXPERTS ON TWITTER:
- TweepML has many Affiliate Marketing Twitter users. Easily select those you wish to follow and click once for each list to follow everyone you leave checked.
- To follow all the Twitter users mentioned on this page use this button:
EXPERT AFFILIATE ADVICE:
- Rosalind Gardner – (RosalindGardner) – If I Had to Start Over as an Affiliate Marketer
- Super Affiliate Jeremy Palmer – (QuitYourDayJob) OR (JeremyPalmer) - Jeremy’s New Affiliate Marketing Strategy
- Allan Gardyne’s – (Allan Gardyne) – Associate Programs interview with the Million Dollar Affiliate Jeremy Palmer
- Ron Medlin – (RonMedlin) – What You Need to Know About Affiliate Marketing and The Affiliate Networks
LOCATING BEST AFFILIATE PROGRAMS:
- Affiliate Scout – Popular site for locating affiliate programs
- Affiliate Ranker – Handpicked, ranked affiliate programs
- Affiliate Program Directory at AffiliatePrograms.com run by Allan Gardyne
- AffiliateMarketer – (45n5) – Top 100 Affiliate Marketing Blogs plus over 200 more blogs related to Affiliate Marketing
- Affiliate Marketing Blogs: Top 10 Must Read List
- Search Engine Journal: Top Affiliate Marketing Blogs
- AdsMarket: Great Affiliate Industry Reads: Tips, Experts and Need to Knows
- AffBook.com: Excellent Affiliate Marketing Blogs
- Affiliate Advocacy – Reporting on proposed online taxes, affiliate sales taxes, advertising taxes
- 5 Star Affiliate Programs Blog
- Revenews – Discussion of Online Advertising, CPA, SEO, Affiliate and Next Generation Marketing
- Rosalind Gardner’s Net Profits Today
- Murray Newlands Affiliate Marketing Blog - (MurrayNewlands) – Murray is the Founder of the Affiliate Heat Global Affiliate Network and popular with interviewers. Read about him at Murray Newlands, Famous Blogger at BenSpark – (BenSpark) and Want to be a Well-Known Affiliate Blogger by Dennis Yu (see next)
- Dennis Yu – (DennisYu) – Co-founder and CEO of Blitz Local, Dennis has a broad background in pay per click, local search and Web design best practices in addition to affiliate marketing and Internet advertising
- Missy Ward – (MissyWard) – Affiliate Marketing and Social Media Expert
- Andrew Wee – (andrewwee) – Frequently covers affiliate marketing. Recommended: His Affiliate Network Review
- Lee McCoy’s Affiliate Marketing Blog – a no nonsense guide to affiliate marketing. According to the Institute of Direct Marketing “[one of the] five most commonly quoted blogs in the UK” [cough]!
- Ron Cripps – (AffiliateXFiles) – Affiliate X Files – teaches how he makes money without buying ppc advertising, spamming or using black hat techniques
- Kirsty McCubbin’s Affiliate Stuff – (AffiliateStuff) – Affiliate expert based in Australia
- Zac Johnson – (zacjohnson) – Inside the Secret Life of a SUPER Affiliate
- Jonathan Folk – (JonathanFolk) – Ready, Set, Super Affiliate – CEO of Surge Marketing which claims to generate millions of dollars of affiliate sales a year.
- Amit Mehta – (superaff) – Super Affiliate Mindset – Generates over $90,000 per month in profits.
- Two sets of twins – Super Affiliate Twins – (affiliatetwins) Recommended reading: Pick…pick me….I want Internet Millions!
- Tyler Cruz – (tylercruz) – Earned over $100,000 in 2007 and makes several thousand dollars per month.
- Azam Affiliate Marketing – (AzamMarketing) – Top affiliate selling several million dollars per month of affiliate products
AFFILIATE MARKETING FORUMS:
Which forums do you use most or like best? Tell us in the comments? Read what forums the readers of Direct Sales Web Marketing prefer. Wanda and Paula at AffiliateBlogOnline highly recommend WealthyAffiliateUniversity and the forum there.
- A Best Web Affiliate Community – (ABestWeb)
- Associate Programs Affiliate Marketing Forum
- WickedFire Affiliate Marketing Forum
- 5Star Affiliate Marketing Forums
- AffSpot Affiliate Forums
- Affiliates4U Forums
- MoreNiche Affiliate Forum
- Digital Point Affiliate Programs Forum
- NEW: We’ve seen many recommendations including one from Wanda and Paula at AffiliateBlogOnline highly recommending WealthyAffiliate. See their Wealthy Affiliate University Review for details.
- Free video for Newbies from Affiliate Expert Shawn Collins – (AffiliateTip) - co-founder of AffiliateSummit on How to Make Money Online with Affiliate Programs
- Allan Gardyne’s – (Allan Gardyne) – Free affiliate tutorial (updated 2008) and his free affiliate marketing courses
- AffCoach – Which Affiliate Coaching site is for me?
- UberAffiliate Marketing Guide – Free comprehensive information on how to succeed at affiliate marketing
- Super Affiliate Marketing by Rosalind Gardner – (RosalindGardner) – said to be “the Best Selling Affiliate Marketing Training Manual ever”
- Blueprint for Profitability Affiliate Video Training Course by Jeremy Palmer – (QuitYourDayJob) OR (Jeremy Palmer) – high quality videos, step-by-step instructions, and fill-in-the-blank worksheets
- Affilorama‘s AffiloBlueprint video training.
- Internet Marketing Cookbook – Daniel Wee’s and Ms Danielle’s Subscription site – lock in now at the current $10 month
- Affiliatenaire – Jimmy D Brown’s (TheJimmyDBrown) membership site – weekly actions to generate income ($27 month). See his 123Marketing site for other options and for his affiliate program.
AFFILIATE MARKETING FOR MERCHANTS:
- Top selling book by Shawn Collins: Successful Affiliate Marketing for Merchants
- Videos for Affiliate Managers: Introduction to Successful Affiliate Marketing for Merchants
- Excellent Affiliate Information for Merchants from RKG The Rimm-Kaufman Group
- Ecommerce Blog: How to Become an Affiliate Hunter
- Affiliate Marketing for Merchants (From MurrayNewlands, the #1 Affiliate Marketing blogger who manages merchant affiliate programs.) See also his Affiliate Marketing Tips for Merchants.
- Jimmy D Brown’s 5 Practices of Wildly Successful Affiliate Programs – recommended by Allan Gardyne’s Associate Programs Directory as “…the best source of information on how to find, recruit and
motivate affiliates – and super affiliates.”
AFFILIATE MARKETING DATA FEED SOLUTIONS:
- DataFeedr – Quickly and easily feeds products into WordPress blogs
- DataFeedFile – Free affiliate feeds with price comparisons
- PopShops – Winner Best Affiliate Marketing Tool 2007-2008
- Bridaluxe – Higher commissions and WordPress plugin for Wedding related bloggers
- Publisher Challenge – runs competitions for various affiliate networks by giving away great prizes to the top new and/or highest earning publishers – they have generated over $1 million in sales and given away $30.000+ to affiliates.
TOP INTERNET MARKETING BLOGS:
- AdAge Power 150 – Daily Ranking of over 1000 Marketing Blogs
- TopRank BigList of Internet Marketing Blogs
** Special thanks to Murray Newlands for providing recommendations on great affiliate related resources to include. **
PREMIER AFFILIATE SITES:
ShopWiki is our best current affiliate and a great example of a really useful shopping comparison site. I’m including my ShopWiki review at StumbleUpon because I consider them very useful and a great role model for other affiliates:
- The best thing about ShopWiki is you can use it to quickly find exactly what you want and I just found additional ShopWiki sites for the U.K., France and Germany. If there are others I will find out and add them. (Links to each of these at the bottom of this review.)
ShopWiki crawls over 200,000 online retailers and manufacturers so the selection is huge. No wonder they are such a popular shopping portal.
They have a really useful and powerful search tool that allows you to search for a very specific range of products. You can specify a price range, only see items with specific features or only those products in your favorite store.
They also feature a number of tools to help you find exactly what you’re looking for, including search by color and brand.
They also have some very useful ShopWiki buying and gift guides to help shoppers through the research stage of shopping.
From the site: “For example, if you’re interested in a digital camera, but you don’t know a megapixel from a memory stick, the digital cameras guide outlines what you need to know to make a smart purchase.
Or maybe you’ve been invited to your old college roommate’s brand new house and are stumped on what to buy. The housewarming gift guide helps you decide between the traditional options and something more Feng Shui.”
Additional ShopWiki sites specifically for other countries:
AFFILIATE PROGRAM RECOMMENDATIONS:
- Derek Semmler (Twitter) How the Bridaluxe Wedding Affiliate Program Hits the Affiliate Network Nail on the Head
- Weddex (Twitter) Bridaluxe: Wedding Affiliate Program for Wedding Pros
- GrowMap (Twitter) How to Evaluate a Gift Affiliate Program
- ExecGiftsBlog (ExecGifts) Executive Gift Shoppe Gift Affiliate Program
AFFILIATE MARKETING for AFFILIATES:
- Derek Semmler (Twitter) Case Study: Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing
- AffiliateXFiles (Ron Cripps) How to Become an Affiliate Marketer
- AffiliateXFiles (Ron Cripps) How to Create a Product Review Site That Sells
- Derek Semmler (Twitter) Building Affiliate Stores
- Adam Riemer (Rollerblader) How to Pick Merchants to Promote
- Derek Semmler (Twitter)How to Add Affiliate Products to Your Site
- AffiliateXFiles (Ron Cripps) Affiliate Marketing Tips For Long Term Results
- AffiliateXFiles (Ron Cripps) Affiliate Marketing FAQs – Ask your questions here and get answers from successful affiliate with 9+ years experience
AFFILIATE MARKETING FOR MERCHANTS:
- Murray Newlands (Twitter) Affiliate Marketing for Merchants
- Adam Riemer (Rollerblader) What You Should Expect from your Affiliate Management Company aka OPM
- Adam Riemer (Rollerblader) Common Mistakes When Hiring an Affiliate Manager
- Adam Riemer (Rollerblader) How to Select an Affiliate Management Company
- Adam Riemer (Rollerblader) How Small Businesses Can Compete for Affiliates
- Adam Riemer (Rollerblader) Why Merchants Should Offer Affiliate Commissions on Gift Certificates
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- Wedding Boom Predicted for Next 22 Years (growmap.com)
- How to Evaluate a Merchant Gift Affiliate Program (growmap.com)
- How to Attract Affiliates to Your Program (marketersdaily.com)
- The Way I See It: State of Affiliate Marketing Part 1 (revenews.com)
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