The Merchant That Keeps On Giving

I finally got accepted into a merchant’s program that I’ve applied to off and on over the past two years. Something about ‘not enough traffic’ being an Issue. Darnit. But I never gave up.

Never harrassed, just kept poking in those apps every now and again. Finally success! And at the beginning of the month I put their links up and woohoo–this merchant is on F-i-r-e.

Ching Ching

*I’m not used to that*

Commission rate is on the loooooooow side, but if I can push that traffic more–we can talk about it I’m sure.

I’m going to ass-u-me they like me too ::big grin::.

Experiencing such a dramatic difference in merchant performance has really opened my eyes to how important it is to keep trying, keep testing different merchants and see what happens. My gosh you can triple, quadruple your sales when you hit a great fit!

When Professionals In Your Field Discourage You

Someone sent me a note after reading yesterday’s blog post. She’s discouraged and upset and is starting to pull all the affiliate products on her websites and replacing them with adsense.

I realize that when it’s come to your attention that some may consider you as dead weight in a program if you’re not the top 20%, it can be a blow to your confidence. In this case I don’t see it that way at all. For one thing it came from one person and yes, a few commentors. But they don’t represent everybody.

As affiliate marketers, we have no say in how a program is run. The merchant does. If they *really really* wanted only the top 5% or 20% involved in their program, they could definitely setup their program to be that exclusive.

Whining and moaning about all the flotsam and jetsam and dead weight in an inclusive program with no minimum activity requirements or minimum standards in place just seems–silly. At least to me.

I would not let any of that Mundane Affiliate stuff make you walk away from product sales altogether if you are a ‘low performing’ affiliate. If you’re not making top dollar sales (yet), you are still providing some value to that merchant by sending them some traffic, giving them some exposure (branding) and familiarity with a product. At no cost to the merchant.

BUT I don’t put all my eggs in the affiliate marketing arena either. Who knows when Crazy hits town and wipes out everyone but the elite. But can you imagine the power the top performing affiliates would have then? They could make or break a program at will. Almost makes me want to strive to be one :lol:.

Heck I’ll Say It: I’m A Mundane Affiliate!

A post over at Revenue’s shows a great flip in perspective from a post I made the other day.

Revenue’s post: Mundane Affiliates to Avoid

Beyond the small group of poisonous partners out there, the majority of those who are unwanted are non-performers. The industry talks openly talk about the 80/20 rule, whereby 80% of revenue is driven by 20% of affiliates. More candidly, people talk about the 95/5 rule. I believe most programs operate at this level or higher. If 100 affiliates among 2,000 drive most/all revenue/leads, you’ve got a 95/5 program.

Who are the un-performing masses? A number of them are normal people drawn in by the continuing get-rich-quick-on-the-Internet myth.

The post received a few rounds of applause so there must be good truth in there on the ‘management’ side of things.

Last Saturday I blogged: Online Merchants That Just Can’t Stick A Sale, Any Sale

Sometimes I wonder how an online merchant survives when nearly all of their sales result in refunds (two sales stuck for the past year, that’s it).

How do they pay their hosting fees? How do they cover the costs associated with doing business online? And how can they possibly still be accepted and operate in an affiliate network?

My fault for not pulling the sad sucker sooner though one year of nonsense doesn’t even offer any entertainment value.

Look ma, we’re twins! Well not really, but I think we each had valid points to make. One on the affiliate’s perspective and one on the merchant’s perspective about the non-performance of the other.

Am I a Mundane Affiliate? Yeah. I do sign up for programs with good intentions. If it’s not an auto approve program, I end up waiting on the ‘merchant’s schedule’ rather than mine.

I’m gung ho. Motivated. Raring to go. Now. Not 3 or 4 days later. So that’s something merchants should keep in mind. I understand why many don’t auto approve, and why many can’t possibly approve apps every hour on the hour. But a lot of times I’ve already moved on building up the next page or the next website. Or I may have found a different merchant that approved me quicker.

What part of the 80/20 am I? No question–the 80% not performing as well as the 20% :lol:. But I do occasionally receive notes that I’m one of the top performers for the previous month. When that happens I wonder wth happened to those ‘20%’ people. Maybe the magical, mysterious 5% mentioned gobbled them up.

If you want to focus your merchant program on the SuperStar 20% (or should I say 5%)–then some ideas for quality control could be:

  • Have a minimum traffic requirement. Mundane’s aren’t going to send you 10,000 clicks a day, because we don’t get 10,000 visitors *a month*. How do you like them apples? So if you aren’t interested in smaller traffic levels (smaller sales) — cut them off from the start.
  • Offer something better than a craptastic 3% – 10% commission rate. If I had mountains of juicy, hungry, credit card holding, targeted traffic–a la Super Affiliate Style–I wouldn’t send it your way for piddly monkey food.
  • Offer something better than a craptastic 3% – 10% commission rate. Maybe then I’d be willing to fork over my own cash up front to russle-up some paid traffic for sales commissions that I won’t see for another 60-90 days. The good kind aint cheap ya know.
  • Do something about your datafeeds. No seriously. Because they’re all fugly. I found this cool script and bought that great program and I can build some beautiful mother ships. But I refuse to spend 6 hours per datafeed, every week, to clean that skanky mess. It’s just not a practical use of my time. Of course I could throw it online close to as-is, but I’m not interested in adding to the current online mess.
  • What about removing your affiliate signup from public access so the Mundanes can’t find you and approach affiliates of your hand picked choosing?

As a Mundane Affiliate, I could be offended that I’m not high rent enough for some merchants. But I’m not, really. The net’s such a big room that we each can find what we’re looking for. I’m down with that.

  • I don’t have high levels of traffic.
  • I don’t have hourly sales.
  • I don’t usually send a single merchant all the juice.
  • I like working with a few different merchants off the same page.
  • I won’t build a site around just one or two merchants.
  • I prefer spreading the traffic around.

I like being low key and under the radar. Not because I’m trying to hide anything funky, but because that’s what I’m most comfortable with. I actually like most of my affiliate sites.

As A Low Key, Mundane Affiliate – I don’t have to:

  • Deal with expensive, dedicated hosting that can get pretty techie (so not me)
  • Deal with Crazy People–my sites are very hands free that way
  • Don’t have to worry about network employees and/or affiliate managers stalking me and figuring which site rip they should do first for their own gain

I am Mundane.

I’m happier that way. I’m not here to impress a gazillion merchants and want them to lust and pant after my astounding Affiliate Goddess Talents. I don’t have this burning need to find validation that way. I don’t want to cash in my offline job so I can staple my forehead to my home computer 24/7. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

I like working with lots of little.

Lots of Little = The Non-Performing 80% = The Mundane = The Majority Of Those Who Are Unwanted.

According to that Revenue’s article, I should be avoided!!!

I think that means I’m not being stalked by my online business partners.

Online Merchants That Just Can’t Stick A Sale, Any Sale

Sometimes I wonder how an online merchant survives when nearly all of their sales result in refunds (two sales stuck for the past year, that’s it).

How do they pay their hosting fees? How do they cover the costs associated with doing business online? And how can they possibly still be accepted and operate in an affiliate network?

My fault for not pulling the sad sucker sooner though–one year of nonsense doesn’t even offer any entertainment value.

I’m absolutely itching to dump a few more, but just shy of minimum payouts. I almost feel sorry for these guys that need thousands of targeted clicks to scratch together and make one sale stick.

Dead.Space.Filler.

Imagine what would happen if they actually performed half decent and got some prime time instead? I don’t know if it’s crappy affiliate tracking, crappy cookies, crooked merchants, lousy products when the light of day hits them, my affiliate marketing halo is cracked, or what the problem is.

Doesn’t matter. It all means the same to me: $0. Moving the stinkers out and bringing the buckaroos in.

Speaking of which, I just realized one merchant of mine has tracked 11 sales on 400 clicks.

Guess who’s being moved front and center? Love those juicy performers!

Building One Small Chunk At A Time

At the end of February I made a post (I Suck At SEO, Now What?) that drew a couple comments from Empress and Digger.

Basically the post was about not needing big traffic numbers nor top 10 Google rankings to earn a bit of money online. Several minisites with small income can and does add up quite nicely.

Digger made a comment though that sparked something for me.

Procrastination is my hardest thing to overcome. Like you I’ve seen results from sites I’ve built and rather than going “Wow” and busting ass after seeing success I tend to sit around for a month or two only doing “just enough”.

He’s right, that does happen and I absolutely can run all over the place doing ‘stuff’, but not really accomplish bigger levels because I move on to the ‘next thing’ once I achieve ‘just enough’.

So after his comment I made a conscious decision to hold the phone, back up, and start over again. This time not doing ‘just enough’, but making a real effort to push things higher for what I currently have up and running.

I chose two sites, one that I mentioned in that post and the other was this affiliate site (Upgrading Affiliate Sites To WordPress).

Results?

Affiliate Site #1: I’ve bumped up traffic a bit, added a few more merchants to work with, cleaned things up, built some inbounds and wrote and submitted a couple new *original* articles. Sales and commissions for last month (March) were the highest that they’ve been (keep in mind I’m not talking thousands though). But over $350 in commissions for that one site. From free traffic. Unique visitor amount was 3,500.

The next affiliate site was the one that I transferred to WordPress. Cleaned up the design. Brightened the place up. Added a couple new merchants. A few new product pages. Wrote one original article, and submitted to a few places. Built a few inbounds. Traffic is about the same, but sales jumped nicely. This site definitely needs more work on traffic since it only averages a few hundred uniques a month.

Overall the efforts I poured into these two sites for the month of March really-paid-off. And affiliate websites are a funny thing. The work you do today pays off down the road. So the inbounds and new product pages I worked on in March should start showing and affecting my SERPs this month. Hopefully. Any time now :).

This setting everything else aside and focusing on two website overhauls at a time, is really hard for me. It requires some discipline. I have a new blog concept ready to roll–that’s on hold. I have directories that I was taking time every day to work on submissions–that’s only done weekly now. I have some work to do for independent product creation and sales–that’s on hold.

There’s just so many hours in a day. And I decided that what has to come first right now is building up what I already have to higher levels so that there’s a higher amount of money coming in every month. Because that’s why I’m here. That’s what my mission has been since day 1. Make some good cash online.

Doing a half-assed job, doing ‘just enough’ can bring in money. But I’m taking it to the next level.

So this month I’m going to still work on building more traffic for these two sites. Then get started on repeating the process for another two affiliate websites of mine. One is fairly established and performs monthly, but could definitely use a big jump in traffic. The other I’ll be transferring to WordPress, new design, clean up the products and the merchants. Pretty much another left behind site with only 1 or 2 sales a month and a couple hundred uniques a month. And of course–build inbounds and traffic.

If I stay consistent, keep my head down and continue building up what I currently have, work on two sites at a time, building more traffic (which translates to more sales), I’ll be making a full time income online from my affiliate sites by summer. Around August-ish. Just with the affiliate sites I have now, no other streams or new income streams added. No ppc. No adsense.

And I don’t think that’s optimistic. I think that’s realistic.

How exciting is that?

If You’re Selling Something – Skip The Ugly

So much discussion lately about websites that perform better if they’re ugly. I won’t post a big long spiel for once (hooray!), but just jot down a few of my own notes:

If you are an adsense focused website, making your site so unattractive and filled as much above the fold as possible with adsense works. Makes sense. Visitors are in such a mad scramble to get away, leave, run, scared, anywhere–as long as it’s off the bleeding eyeball site.

Do webmasters care? No. That’s why I despise adsense and the contextual ad game. It’s all about ugly, stuffing as much advertisement as possible above the fold and confused clicking to gain as many mad scramble click offs as possible. Nice addition to the net–not >(. There’s a reason why I find the phrase Adsense = Webmaster Welfare so appropriate.

Every time I’ve updated and upgraded the look of an affiliate site–my sales and bookmark rates rise.

The site I mentioned last week (Upgrading Affiliate Sites To WordPress) has made 6 sales from 214 unique visitors since the updated look: March 24th. Not too shabby. This forgotten about and left behind affiliate site had a record of 1 or 2 sales a month before the change.

Pretty is one thing, but distraction = no money

You don’t need nor want a jaw dropping beautiful site. If it’s too much, it can be distracting. Just a nice, clean, visually appealing site that’s easy for visitors to move around in and click off to merchants is all you need. None of my sites look sleek and professional, but some show a bit of personality and maybe even a bit fun.

Keep links, banners, distractions to a minimum.

If you’re selling hard cover books, just have links and product descriptions to hard cover books on that page. Maybe a coupon banner thrown in too. If you fill a page with too much ‘other’ stuff, you’re just distracting your visitor from the task at hand: buying a hard cover book.

For me what works best is just having product pictures, links and descriptions. Aside from the site navigation links–that’s all that needs to be on the page to get the job done.

And one final note:

Every click a visitor has to make to get to where they want is an opportunity for your site to get dumped by that visitor. Don’t make it hard for your shoppers to click off to merchants and get your cookies set. The less clicks for navigating – the better. Think of every link presented, every banner, every signup form, etc., as a choice or a decision your visitor has to make. Don’t poop them out :).

PS: I’m not a Super Affiliate. I don’t have 100,000 visitors per month per affiliate site nor hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of commissions a day. All I can do is base my opinion on my own experience and my own numbers. They tell me a clean, visually appealing site performs much better if you’re trying to sell products. Of course – your mileage may vary ;).