So which of the types of affiliates we discussed in Part 1 are most successful?
If you’re just getting started with affiliate marketing and wondering the best path, it’s a good question. Unfortunately the answers are not so simple. Each path could be right for you depending on where you are now. All types can be successful and all can be failures if not done correctly.
If you are a newbie with very little HTML or graphic design skills then we would recommend a content site to start. Pick a subject you know something about or have a strong passion. That will make it easier to maintain your interest and keep working through the early hump stages of the process. It’s a smaller undertaking than a full-fledged shopping site so you can get it up and running relatively quickly.
If you’d like an easy-to-use, step-by-step approach that requires no web design skills and gives you lots of support along the way you might consider SiteBuildIt. Their easy all-in-one package is great for newbies and after a while you will understand enough about online marketing that you will be able to build almost any kind of site you want. Click here to learn more.
If you have strong web design and programming skills then a shopping site could be a good way to go. It will take more time to develop and will keep you busy updating and keeping up with the latest products and promotions across hundreds of merchants, so be prepared for some work. The end result could well be worth the efforts however. Shopping sites are some of the highest grossing of all affiliate sites.
Beyond shopping sites and into Coupon and Incentive sites be prepared to know your stuff. These will require specialized programming and ongoing updates but they can certainly be lucrative when done right.
So now that you know the different options let talk a little about the affiliate sales cycle and what are some of the details and nuances along the way.
But first here’s a video we created that shows you the Sales Cycle and a Blueprint in more detail.
Which type of link should you choose? That depends on what type of site and what type of visitor you have.
The typical link you see is the banner. The sizes of banners have evolved over the years and have become standardized. The Interactive Advertising Bureau is an association that helps define standards for all types of online advertising. Click here to go to their site and see the standard sizes most everyone is using today. They not only provide guidelines for banners but also for DRMs, Flash, video, pop-ups, and other emerging formats.
In general, banners are a necessary evil. They don’t always fit in with a site’s design and often clash with each other but they have become a standard linking type. Some say many visitors have developed “banner blindness” and no longer notice or actually ignore banners. There is no question that their conversion rate has been going down over the years and other types are proving to be more effective. Avoid using too many banners and use flashing banners very sparsely. Remember, the browser’s back button is easy to click and it doesn’t take much to lose your visitor.
In context text links are still the highest converting of all link types. By “in-context” we mean within the flow of the content of a web site. Text links can take whatever form you want and are easily edited so they can be the merchants name, a product name, a call-to-action phrase or whatever works. It’s a good idea to make text links easy to notice by having them be a different color or using an underline to make them stand out. HTML site property tags can manage this automatically of course. You might have noticed that links on this site are a bright blue color.
Product links usually take a visitor directly to a product detail landing page. They can be images of products or text links using the name of a product. Product links are also very high-converting because when a visitor clicks on this type of link it usually means they are farther down the sales cycle and perhaps ready to buy.
Datafeeds are database files with product pictures, descriptions, and tracking links ready to go. Datafeeds can include just a few or hundreds of thousands of products. Converting a datafeed into usable web pages require some programming and database manipulation abilities so they may not be for a newbie. One strong point of a datafeed is it provides lots of content for Search Engine spiders to crawl and can give you additional listings in the SEs. But this only happens if the content is unique and not the same as that used on other websites.
Dynamic Rich Media links or DRMs are relatively new types of links. DRMs can be small banners, text content, or full-blown pages of whatever type of content can be built using HTML. They can be used to provide coupon links or product showcases that always show the latest products.
Once again, they are controlled by the merchant so merchants can change the creative and it will automatically change on the affiliate’s page. They never need to be updated.
This is a great tool because the merchant can display current branding, hot products or promotions and the affiliate does not need to go get the new banner or text link to have the latest files. Their easy for affiliates to use and and gives the merchant maximum control.
Any of the above links can actually be a coupon link but they are so important that we wanted to mention them separately.
The only defining characteristic of a coupon link is that it has “coupon” content. That content can be anything from “10% Off The XYZ Blender” to “Free Shipping” to “$25 Off All Orders Over $150.”
The point is a coupon has a call to action that tends to make a visitor respond at a higher rate than other links if used correctly.They create urgency and tend to move folks who are “waiting” to finally commit. Without a sense of urgency coupon links turn into just any other link. They should include expiration dates and be changed frequently for that reason.
One of the latest links is affiliate video links that you can actually play on your site. When the video ends you can then click through to the merchant site and get your tracking cookie placed.
Videos are great for customer testimonials and introductions to products or services. Banners are great for creating awareness and interest but they cannot create credibility. Videos have the power to actually create credibility and move your prospects down the Sales Cycle to the Shopping Cart.