Advanced Concepts

affiliate marketing transactionAffiliate Marketing has grown significantly. Driven by changes in the online marketplace, it has also had to adapt to new technologies and customer attitudes.

As web shoppers have become more sophisticated the marketing approaches of affiliates and merchants had to change to meet their needs. Gone are the days when an affiliate could put up a few banners and make significant sales. Today shoppers have grown tired of banner farms and hard sell approaches and are now looking for real value and competent help when they get to a website.

Competition for shopper’s attention has increased exponentially. With broadband connections shoppers can search through many potential merchants in a matter of minutes. Today, you better be able to communicate your value proposition within seconds or they will be gone to their next choice. This makes good site design and great content above the fold that much more critical.

It also means SEO and PPC are playing an even more critical role in driving traffic to a site. Keyword analysis and understanding visitor metrics can mean the difference between success and failure.

The Importance of Keywords

This is far from an advanced concept. Search terms and keywords have always been critical to online marketing but as the Search Engines have evolved understanding them has become even more important. Competition for search marketing real estate has become fierce and there is clearly a “land grab” in full swing.

Today Google, Yahoo, and Bing control the traffic that is the lifeblood of both merchant and affiliate sites. Changes in their search algorithms, like Google’s recent updates Penguin and Panda, can literally mean 1st page position today and 5th page position tomorrow. If Google decides that affiliate sites don’t deserve 1st page position for certain terms, then significant traffic and sales will be gone.

Why Are Keywords So Important?

Keywords let your prospect raise their hands and tell you what they want. In marketing this is like a dream come true. There is no other form of marketing that lets you know precisely what a prospect needs and wants. And even better, track their click path all the way to the sale.

In most forms of advertising there is really no way to track actual response to an ad. Knowing the effect of billboards, display ads in magazines and newspapers, brochures and signage are really just guesswork. Knowing WHY someone buys in most cases is definitely a science (of course unless you get the opportunity to ask).

With online marketing you can track which link, landing page, PPC ad, and the click path a customer followed all the way to the shopping cart (and beyond). The exact conversion rate of every piece of marketing creative can be determined to the decimal point and exactly when and where a “click” happened, down to the computer used, is part of every transaction. This is why online marketing is here to stay.

Big And Small Marketers Side By Side…

One of the attractions of online marketing is how level the playing field is. Large companies and individual marketers can compete for the same customers with pretty much equal chance of success. Anyone can win if they know their market and customers better than the next guy (or gal). All it takes is knowing how to attract traffic and then converting that traffic into sales. If you love and understand marketing it’s a wonderful time to be online.

Success really results from knowing your visitors better than anyone else. If you understand their needs and problems and watch how they interact with your site you can be the one who provides the solution they are looking for. The key is tracking and testing.

Because you can get detailed information on precise visitor behavior you can optimize your content, links, and strategy. Trying various wording, images, and presentation and testing until you know what works best is the key to success online.

PPC Testing

PPC offers probably the best way to learn what works. You can run some pay-per-click to your page and know within days whether a product or strategy will work or not. And it can usually be done for free if you can maintain a positive Return On Investment (ROI).

The Long Tail

Some new thinking on the subject of keywords has come from Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine. His concept of “The Long Tail” bodes well for smaller merchants and affiliates as well. His premise is that the online marketplace is so huge, large companies do not have an advantage in smaller, more specialized niches. Anyone can compete.

He says that as the new online marketing world evolves, the smaller niches that promote more specialized products (and therefore have keywords with less competition) will be able to gather their own share of the pie. Click here to go to a site that explains the subject and also tells you about his book.

Where To Learn…

So staying on top of developments in the online marketplace in general and affiliate marketing in particular is vital to success. You better be monitoring your sales, traffic and PPC campaigns closely and also watching your competition or you could be in for surprises.

So how DO you keep up? Where can you find the latest information and keeo your finger on the pulse of affiliate marketing? Here’s some resources that can help you…

ABestWeb

One of the best places we’ve found for keeping up with developments is ABestWeb Affiliate Marketing Forum. This is where many of the best affiliates, merchants, and networks go to share information and also to check the pulse of the affiliate community. Whether your a newbie trying to learn about affiliate marketing or a super affiliate trying to figure out what Commission Junction is up to today, this is a great place to go.

Here’s some posts that we have found useful and perhaps you will find useful too. Some are quite old, but still very relevant.

Great thread about PPC. Donuts shows why “he the man” when it comes to PPC…

SEO power tools…

What to do when you start losing traffic…

Is Free Shipping an important “urgency” creation tool?

The best links for an affiliate to use…

Marketing Experiments

As you learn about online marketing and buidling successful sites many questions will come up. The beauty of web design and the online world is that it’s easy and relatively inexpensive to change your marketing to test what works and what does not.

The holy grail of all online marketing is conversion…what percentage of your visitors buy something. With reporting tools like Google Analytics and others these “metrics” are easy to monitor.

There is already a company that does this kind of testing full time. It even provides most of their results free of charge. Marketing Experiments.com is a company that uses modern, scientific testing to “Discover what actually works.” The depth they go to testing the details online marketing are truly amazing. Here’s a sample of some of the things they have tested:

And this is just a small sampling. And all of the results of these tests are free of charge. If you love learning about online marketing and finding out what really works this is the place for you.

Come Back For the Latest Ideas and Strategies

BitCom will be searching the web for the latest tools and techniques. So come on back to see what we’ve learned as we grow together into great online marketers. We’ll be adding many of them to our Blog section.