Hottest Branding Trends 2005

The Brand Futurist Nick Wreden has listed the
Hottest Branding Trends for 2005 on his blog.

Top 5:

1. Performance-based compensation
2. Enhanced customer connectivity
3. Social branding
4. Universe is the brand
5. Blogs, wikis and RSS

Fast-forward to the future: Keep an eye on podcasting, mososo and immersive communications. These wonÒ€ℒt have much of an impact in 2005, but could drive branding in 2006 and beyond.

Lots to chew on with this article. Looks like “Performance based compensation” is here for awhile yet! Good news for us superaffs πŸ˜†

Also found it interesting that customer interaction is found to boost sales and loyalty. Is there a way to attract interaction with our visitors on our aff sites? Yes some are doing that with forums and product review sites, but I do think something more innovative and creative can still be accomplished here. Will have to chew on this for a bit.

Thanks to Threadwatch for the heads up on this article.

Website Gone Bad

One of my new aff product sites just rocked with sales/conversions when I first launched it. Then it took a big nosedive. I thought it was just slowing down because of the time of year (beginning of January), but discovered a horrendous mess when I picked through the site.

Somehow the code got all messed up resulting in the pages looking wonky on IE 5 and under. But that’s not the worst of it. I cloaked my image links on this site with a script, somehow half the links in the file were gone. How-did-that-happen? Visitors to the site weren’t able to see half the products as the pictures weren’t loading.

Nice.

Thankfully I made a full backup after I had everything in place, so it was simply reloading the links file. I’ll have to look through my template code though, I did something very strange somewhere!

I paused my ppc campaign and will have to tackle that fine kettle of fish asap. I was taught a big lesson, I can’t assume all is well with a site when sales drop off.

It could be a website gone bad.

That sounds like a *really bad* B movie doesn’t it?

πŸ˜†

Linkshare Consolidating Checks?

I can’t believe it, seems the time has finally come (or at least given a timeline now).

I just read this over at Affiliate Tip and seems I missed some big news.

Does anyone know just how long the wait has been for this to happen? And I wonder if they’ll use better glue on their envelopes too – you know, make sure they’re sealed properly? Maybe a new address labeller too, gotta do a better job addressing those envelopes so those checks are mailed to the right person.

Linkshare + Consolidated Checks = Who Woulda Thunk

πŸ˜†

I don’t think this is going to change my mind about not promoting Linkshare as much. Without double checking, I’ve probably made a whopping $3 from them last year.

{stinky}

CPA – Time To Bail?

Very interesting discussion going on over at affiliateboards here:

CPA vs. CPC

What we do as affs when creating websites that sell products and include our affiliate links is called CPA (Cost Per Action). We’re setting ourselves up to earn a commission from each *sale* made. That’s CPA.

What they’re talking about in this thread is building websites or pages geared to CPC (Cost Per Click). Programs such as Google Adsense and BannerBoxes provide advertisements to be displayed on our websites that we earn from whenever a visitor clicks one of those ads. Depending on the topic of our pages and the ads that are displayed, a pretty penny can be earned per click. The trick is to find topics that pay a decent amount.

When we initially look at CPA, we see bigger dollars. Sales of $100 with a 10% commission rate will bring us a commish of $10, that looks a lot more appealing than earning say 10 cents per click. But when we look at the number of clicks it takes before we achieve a sale, and also look at the parasites or theftware that steal our commissions, suddenly the 10 cents per click doesn’t look all that bad.

It takes 100 clicks at 10 cents per to earn $10. Hmmmm. Do you earn $10 for every 100 clicks when doing CPA for each of your merchants?

It’s not hard to find $1 clicks. What about earning $100 for every 100 clicks? Are you achieving that with your CPA product links?

Why not go into one of your aff accounts and run a report for this year. Take a look at the merchants you are sending visitors to and the amount of clicks you are sending their way. Figure out what you’re currently making on an EPC (Earnings Per Click) basis. If you have 1,000 clicks and sales totalling $200, you are currently earning an average of 20 cents per click ($200 / 1000 clicks = .20 cents). Do some investigating and check what adsense or other CPC programs would pay you for clicks on these same pages.

It doesn’t have to be either or, we can keep the merchants that are performing well for us with CPA and paying us a decent CPC. But supplement that with CPC space rather than using less performing merchants as filler. I really am not fond of directing traffic away from a good CPA to a piddly CPC, so this needs to be done with careful consideration.

If you have a nice CPA performing well on its own, no need to offer your visitors a choice between the CPA and some CPC to compete with that. But if you already have that same CPA surrounded by less than stellar performing merchants or products, why not think of a CPC alternative? This really is an area that I need to tap into more.

A big part of the problem is that both the networks and merchants haven’t done enough to ensure their affiliates best interests have been protected and nurtured. For one thing too many have allowed parasites in with full reign. Every time we lose a sale to a parasite, *our* Earnings Per Click drop. So when an opportunity arises for affiliates to earn more by flipping from CPA to CPC without worrying about losing commissions or earnings to parasites, affiliates move on to the better offer.

Also by focusing on CPC, we’re opening ourselves up to an unlimited base of product choices. We’re no longer limited to working with the networks or small indies and driving traffic and sales to the merchants and products within them. We now have clicks going EVERYWHERE, to the small mom and pop shops as well as the bigger name brand stores. All kinds of merchants and product providers use PPC to advertise their wares. We’ll actually be creating a much more varied product base for our visitors to choose from, not just the merchants within CJ, Linkshare, etc.

If affiliates drop CPA and gear their sites to CPC, how will that affect network earnings and parasite earnings? They’ll both feel a bite. But that’s not our concern, as affiliates we need to focus on our bottom line and watch out for our own interests. We’re not here to feed the networks, the merchants or the parasites. It’s time they all realized that, dontcha think?

I wonder if this year will bring great changes as to how affiliates work and drive traffic.

Check out Banner Boxes Here. This is an adsense alternative that pays out at $2 by PayPal. Yup, that’s my aff id I snuck in there. Do with it as you will. πŸ™‚

Cheap Hosting – Is It Worth It?

The hosting problems that happened with the blog yesterday were the least of my worries. I had opened four new hosting accounts for various projects this past week and only two activated my account right away (actually the host that’s hosting this blog and one other).

One host hasn’t responded to my account setup request (from the 14th). I’ve emailed them as well as submitted a support request on site. Zippo for response, so I’ve had to issue a refund request in PayPal. Still no response from them. We’ll see if I can get a refund.

Also the fourth host had no communication with me other than my PayPal receipt. I did email them and they responded lickity split that my account should have been instantly activated and my account information emailed to me. Didn’t happen and I’ve been monitoring my Spam folder as well (always a good place to check). I’ve replied with my info and hopefully I can get that account going. At least they responded right away to my email for help.

What have I learned through all of this? I think I’m going to pass on the cheapie web host packages that charge a small annual fee and go for the packages that charge monthly. It’s easy to pull out and lose less *just in case*. But I think overall my experience has been lucky when dealing with these types of packages.

I have had good luck with a few cheapie hosts with small packages here:

CubicHosting.net – Have recommended them to several people, I’ve been happy here.

HostingRevolution.com Is slowish inside cpanel, but my sites never seem to have a load problem (most important right!).

New cheapie hosts I’m trying:

Deals4Hosting.com – Hosts this blog. Site was down yesterday but I think a lot of hosts were updating for a new security threat or something happening and I had A LOT of my sites down for the day that were hosted across several webhosts.

ZiggyHost.com – New cheapie hosting package for me, but setup was a snap and everything activated smoothly. So far so good here.

Plex6.com – New host being used that responded asap to my query about my new account activation.

Other hosts that have been *MOST EXCELLENT* that I’ve used:

Total Choice Hosting – Rates are cheap, service is supreme and sites load problem free 99.9999% of the time.

Emax Hosting – My stable account, my foundation. I host several domains here and have for quite awhile. Yes that’s an affiliate link I put here, if you’d rather not use it, that’s cool! You know how to take care of that :lol:. This host also has a good two tier affiliate program that I discussed here:

Two Tier Affiliate Program For Hosting

Where to shop around for good hosting deals? Check out my bookmarks page I have here: SuperAff Bookmarks. In the Webhosting Forum section I’ve listed some forums that deal with webhosting. If you look through the Hosting Offers sections, you’ll find some good deals. But it’s important to do a bit of investigating first before buying. Is the company new or older? Are there a lot of complaints about the host on the forums? Are the packages too big for the pricing?

You can really luck into some good deals by shopping around in the right places.

Merchant Datafeeds: Is The Writing On The Wall?

Dr. Andy Williams from ezSEO makes a prediction for this year that sites using scripts and software to crank out hundreds or thousands of pages to spam the search engines with (ie. merchant datafeeds) are going to take a serious hit. He’s suggesting that Google, Yahoo, MSN and other search engines won’t even ‘spider’ these types of sites.

EZ-SEO Article

{Scary Thought}

He encourages creating sites with real content and real value to protect ourselves from the sure to come changes that the search engines will put in place to stop the spamming. I’ve discussed this before here:

Does Google Hate Affiliates?

I see many affiliates and pros commenting on the importance of adding ‘Real Value’ or ‘Real Content’ to affiliate shopping sites to help build a safety net for your monster datafeed site, but no real solutions or suggestions. I know – we can’t let the competition figure out what we’re up to! πŸ˜† But to tell you the truth, I haven’t come across an affiliate site yet that offers anything special or valuable that the next several dozen don’t (speaking here about large datafeed driven sites selling physical products).

Sure we have the coupon sites or the product ratings sites, but that’s been done to death and more popping up every day. What else is there? How else can affiliates boost the value of their shopping sites (for both visitors and search engines)? Or do we all march out and add coupon/deal forums and ratings features for our visitors to take advantage of? Next we’ll all have the same monster datafeed driven shopping sites with the same forums and the same product ratings/discussions spamming the engines.

This has been a big topic of discussion between myself and another Super Aff friend. I really don’t know what the answer is. Yet. πŸ˜†

Maybe it’s time for me to start looking seriously at CPC rather than CPA and make a move away from product sales somewhat.

PS: Sign up for Andy’s newsletter. It’s not one long, continuous sales pitch. It’s a very info rich resource, and free! – Thanks Andy! (And he’ll give ya a big chuckle when he talks about his new baby daughter).