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How To Become A Data-Feed Super Affiliate
I am not going to describe what a product feed (or a data-feed) is. There is a lot of information out there about how to use one to build sites. Instead, I want to talk about how you can actually make more sales with data-feed sites.
The program that I manage offers a product feed, and I get a chance to see a sad picture of many good affiliates wasting their potential.
Here is my advice from the affiliate manager's perspective.
Whenever you join (or think bout joining) a program, you need to look for two things:
- Temporary or permanent opportunities
- Flaws of a merchant
Here is an example of an opportunity that was created by an outside factor.
Recently, we got removed from the Yahoo index because of a penalty. I have no idea when (or if) we will get included back in, but I do know that it makes one decision much easier for our affiliates.
Judging by the numerous posts on various SEO-related message boards, it looks like Google and Yahoo use very different algorithms to rank pages. So for any given site, you have a choice to make. You can optimize for Yahoo, for Google, or for both.
Since Yahoo and Google use different algorithms, it is going to be hard to optimize the same set of pages for both of those engines at the same time, unless you employ heavy cloaking. And the way I see it, for an affiliate, it is better to appear high on one search engine than to appear low on both of them in an attempt to optimize for different algorithms at the same time.
Imagine that you are one of our affiliates. Given the information I just told you, shouldn't you concentrate on Yahoo for that data-feed site that is being used to promote our products?
Why spend (at least) half of your time and resources on optimizing for Google when you know that we are nowhere to be found in Yahoo?
You have to have an extremely well linked and optimized site to get ahead of the merchant for the exact product-name search terms. The merchant is your biggest obstacle when it comes to the search engine traffic. So if there is a route that lets you get around that obstacle - take it!
Most of our well-performing affiliates did just that. Either intentionally or unintentionally, they ended up making much more money by appearing high in Yahoo results, while not being ranked high in Google.
So on a practical side of things, here is what you should do.
For your existing merchants, check if they are removed from the index in any of the major search engines, and if they are, then start reading and implementing SEO tips for that particular engine.
And if you are thinking about joining a program and can't decide between several merchants, then check if any of them is not in the index of either Yahoo or Google. If you find a merchant like that - drop everything else you are doing and jump on that program.
As far as theory goes, this was just a simple, but specific example of what you should look for to make your efforts pay off. There are many different opportunities to get ahead in existing programs with data-feed sites; you just have to look for them.
Now, let's talk about flaws of merchants and how you can exploit them to make more money and help consumers at the same time.
I will give another specific example, but you should be able to apply this concept to many different programs.
Our site has one huge structural flaw: we only list products by product-oriented categories.
In other words, there is no way to navigate our site by a specific occasion or by the purchasing intent of a visitor.
You can follow a path like:
widgets -> wooden widgets -> red wooden widgets
This setup works fine for some type of shoppers, but is a complete turn-off for others.
And the problem is that most affiliates simply mirror the catalog structure of a merchant according to their feed.
But if you structured your site to list widgets as:
- widgets for birthdays
- widgets for girlfriends
- widgets for those who are over 50
- the Independence Day widgets etc.
then you would attract different type of shoppers. You would no longer compete with the merchant, but instead you would complement them.
A visitor who is looking for a gift for his 50-something friend and has no idea that a red wooden widget would be perfect, will not travel down the path laid out by our catalog. So if he gets to our home page, we simply lose a sale. And if your data-feed-based site follows the same structure - you lose as sale as well.
Also, since the visitor does not know that he really wants a red wooden widget, he we not use those keywords while searching for a present on the search engines.
But if you attracted that visitor to your site, presented him with ideas for older friends' birthday gifts and guided him to that specific widget's page - then we would make a sale, you would make a commission, and the visitor (turned customer) would get his present with much less searching around. Everyone wins.
Such approach takes more work than simply cloning the merchant's site with a feed, but affiliates who actually do something to complement merchant instead competing with them make a lot more money. After all, if you create a copy of a merchant's site - you are not only competing with the merchant, you are also competing with all of their affiliates that use the same feed in the same way.
Konstantin Goudkov manages an affiliate program with a merchant that carries 2500+ gifts. If you enjoy working with companies that treat affiliates like valued partners then be sure to check us out.
You can find more information about our program at: http://www.genericgifts.com/affiliate_program.jsp
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We already know about wal mart because of their ads in local papers, on billboards, on the radio and TV. So finding a local Wal Mart is easy, and so should it also be easy to find your web site. Although you may not need to use radio and TV advertisements, you should still use offline promotion such as business cards or direct mail. Naturally, you want other web sites to put your billboard ad onto theirs. So that's our first lesson on how Wal Mart can teach us effective affiliate marketing. Now let's visit a Wal Mart store. Once we arrive at Wal Mart, we enter a huge parking lot. Your web site must also enable a lot of visitors. If your site is on a slow server, you may be losing customers. That's lesson #2. As soon as we enter Wal Mart, we are welcomed by a Wal Mart greeter. This greeter not only welcomes us to the store, but also offers help in pointing out where to find what you're looking for. That's lesson 3a and 3b. Your site should welcome visitors and provide navigation to all the products and services you offer. You can do this by simply including a graphic on your page that says "Welcome, Click Here to find what you're looking for" and have that link go to your site map. Beyond the greeter is a wide path that branches out to different areas of the store with banners overhead that tell you what you can find in those areas. Your site map should consist of main links, as well as sub-links to corresponding pages. Now we get to lesson 4, that each page of your site needs to have a topic, a main header, that defines what each page is about, as well as provide links, pathways to corresponding pages, because you'll notice that Wal-Mart arranges their store to group products that are similar. The hardware section is near the automotive center, housewares are near food items, lawn and garden items are near the hardware and pet supply areas, etc. But you can still get from one area to another. As you browse the shelves, you see more than one type of item. If you're in the grocery section; for example, you'll see many different types of beans. Canned beans, dry beans, even beans from different companies. That's lesson #5. You should offer your site visitors more than one choice. If your site offers auto loans, for example, offer your visitors new auto loans, used auto loans, even auto refinancing loans. And, you may want to offer them more than one choice for each type of auto loan. Afterall, visitors came to your site because they are shopping around... so let them shop and choose from multiple options. Just remember not to stick cheese products in your automotive section! Another thing you'll notice as you browse the shelves, which leads us to lesson #6... although the shelves are stocked full, it's still easy to pick out your favorite can of beans. This is because the shelves are stocked neatly and orderly. The ads you put onto your site should also be neat and orderly. Mixing in tall banners with short banners and having banners for totally different products and services can make shopping your site more difficult. For example, if you have a page about auto loans, you wouldn't want to put a tall auto loan banner right next to a short casino banner. Instead, put a tall auto insurance banner next to the tall auto loan banner. As you roam the store, you frequently encounter employess who can help you find items. This goes back to lessons 3a and 3b. Each page of your site should have a help link to your site map, or you should have a site search. Since Wal Mart makes it easy to find an employee to ask for assistance, that leads us to another lesson: Does you site offer customer service? Can visitors click on a button to ask you questions before they make a decision? Or do they simply exit your site? Lesson #7: How many times have you heard announcements in Wal Mart? They frequently announce specials over their public address system. We are not suggesting that you force visitors to endure slow loading sound files. But you can make sound an option. To see how you can use this marketing option, go to www.geocities.com/pulsarmarketing We have an example there on how you can offer your visitors the option to hear your audible promotion without forcing them to listen and making your pages load slow. All you have to do is create a wav sound file, and launch it by using a graphic or text link such as: "Click Here to listen to our promotion". The personal touch of a person's voice on your site can help increase your conversions. But don't force the loading of sound files. Instead, use the method we recommend at the URL below: www.geocities.com/pulsarmarketing Another thing you can do to tell your site visitors about specials or new products and services your site offers, is to offer them a free subscription to your newsletter. Now that we've toured Wal Mart and we're ready to make our purchase, we know our way to the checkout counter because Wal Mart makes it easy for us. That's lesson #8. Your site needs to make it easy for visitors to purchase. If you do not provide any of your own products or services and strictly use affiliate programs, you need to make sure your relevant banners and text links are at the top of the page, clearly and readily visible, to the people visiting that page. When we arrive at the checkout counter, besides asking us if we want paper or plastic and if we will be purchasing with cash or credit, the cashier asks if we found everything we needed. That's lesson #9. Make sure you offer your site visitors more options when they checkout. And, once again, if you do not directly sell your own products or services and you strictly use affiliate programs, you can offer your site visitors two links to click on: One link that opens the offer into a new window so the person may continue browsing your site after they are done applying or buying from your sponsor, and another link that simply goes directly to the sponsor in the same window. Think we're done learning from Wal Mart? No. After we make our purchase, and even after we go home, there's lesson #10... the return policy. If you sell your own products or services, you need to assure your visitors that you stand behind what you sell, and make your return policy very clear. If you do not sell your own products and services, does your site have a way for customers to resolve problems, or to ask pre-sale questions? If not, you may lose customers to sites that do provide online customer service.
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