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CPC Ads Vs Affiliate Programs

Robyn writes a thought provoking post with the title of Why Use Affiliate Ads Rather Than AdSense or YPN?

In it she points out the benefits of going with affiliate programs that pay larger amounts when people purchase a product in comparison to CPC (cost per click) ad programs like AdSense which generally pay a smaller amount for a click on the ad.

She writes:

“One advertiser recently sent me an email reminding me of their current affiliate promotion. It was roughly (details changed to protect my hide):

1. 10 Subscriptions – Get $50 Home Depot or Best Buy Gift Card
2. 50 Subscriptions – 2G iPod Nano
3. 150 Subscriptions – XBox 360
4. 275 – Home Theater System ($1000 value)
5. 500 – Tickets to the Affiliate Summit, $500 airfare and 3 days lodging
6. 1000 – Serious renumeration

Now, this was for a service that costs between $10 and $20 dollars, depending on plan, and it’s a really popular service at that. And, remember, this is, in addition to the $15 lead spiff. So, in essence, for option #6 you would make around $5K for the above bonus and $15K for the lead spiff.”

It’s an interesting topic and one that I’ve seen fans of both CPC and Affiliate programs argue over many times.

While the above argument is logical and seems to make sense I would argue that while 1000 subscribers to a service seems like an easy enough thing – I’ve never managed to get that type of hit rate in my three years of blogging (despite using affiliate programs on many of my blogs).

My own opinion on there is no clear winner in the CPC/Affiliate program debate on a big picture level and it’s a question that needs to be asked on a topic by topic basis.

Some blogs are naturally suited to CPC whereas others do much better with affiliate programs. This depends on many factors including the topic (ie my gadget blogs tend to do better with CPC and blogs like ProBlogger do better with affiliate programs), the voice/style of the blogger, the type of readers (ie loyal readers seem to respond better to affiliate programs where as search traffic does better with CPC) and other factors.

Where do you focus most of you online money making attention? CPC ads, Affiliate programs or a combination of both?

aStore: Get Link – Amazon.com Associates Central

Ins-Thu-Gl-IframeAmazon have just emailed those testing their aStore to let them know of three ways to integrate it into their website.

1. Link to your aStore as a stand-alone store (this is what they were offering previously and is as simple as having a link (like this) to your aStore.

2. Embed your aStore using an inline frame - where it will appear as though the aStore is a part of your site and they can shop without leaving your shop (as in the picture above/left).

3. Integrate your aStore using a frameset - placing the aStore in one frame and your site’s navigation into another – also making it seem like it’s part of your site (below).

Instructions for each method are in the ‘get link’ section of the aStore menu.

It’s nice to see Amazon taking their stores in this direction – it answers a lot of the concerns expressed by publishers when they were announced.

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Amazon aStore in iFrames

Two of the main critiques of Amazon’s new aStore (the new beta test from Amazon that allows you to make your own Amazon store) that I’m hearing from publishers are:

  • It’s hosted on Amazon’s domain which doesn’t look that integrated with your site
  • There’s no link back to your site from the store

One of the more creative ways I’ve seen the aStore used in the last two days (and I’ve seen a few of them) is by John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing who has added a store to his site using iframes. This enables him to put the store on his own domain (see his aStore here) and also to put his own header and footer around the store with whatever links he wants back to his own site.

I haven’t seen anything on Amazon’s site saying that this is against their terms of service but it could be worth checking if you’re going to give it a go.

found via a comment in a previous post by 5 Star Affiliate Programs

Amazon aStore First Impressions Review

Astore-Beta-Logo-AnnouncemeAmazon have in the last day released a new beta test for their associates to try out – aStore.

Put most simply – this is a way to add a shop to your blog (similar to Chitika’s shoplinc – the main difference being that Shoplincs are CPC (cost per click – you get paid if someone clicks) and aStores are CPA (cost per action – you get paid if someone buys something) The payment amounts and methods are the same as normal for Amazon associates.

The other difference is that you can host shoplinc’s on your own domain and aStores are on Amazon’s.

Here’s one I quickly set up a few minutes ago as a ProBlogger bookstore. It took me three minutes to make (I’ll need to customize it so don’t be too harsh) so it’s obviously a very quick and easy set up. There are options for different templates and customizations as well as the ability to include virtually any product in Amazon’s database.

There’s the ability to add different categories and pages to your blog and a variety of widgets that you can add to make it more your own.

First Impressions

My first impression is that it’s pretty good. Very simple to set up, nice to look at, easy to navigate and not too hard to integrate into the rest of your blog in terms of how it looks.

It’d be great to be able to run it on your own domain name (I haven’t seen any ability to do this mentioned) and to have even more control over the look of your page (as I’m sure once everyone has one that they’ll look a little common.

Also I’d love to be able to have multiple aStores per affiliate account so that those of us with multiple sites could have multiple aStores.

Lastly I’d love to be able to choose products in categories and sub category pages. While you do have some control over this by picking keywords there’s no way of selecting specific products on these pages like you can on your front/featured page. This means you could be seen to be recommending products that you might not want to promote.

I suspect it’s early days for aStore. Hopefully they’ll continue to develop it. It is only in beta so I guess it’s not too bad for a start from Amazon.

Amazon UK Test ‘Self-Optimising Links’ – Beware AdSense publishers

I’ve just noticed that Amazon UK’s Affiliate program is beta testing a new type of ad called ‘New Self-Optimising Links’.

They describe it as:

“Self-Optimising Links feature products chosen automatically based on the content of your site. To create Self-Optimising Links simply modify the template and appearance elements and copy the resulting code on to your site. With Self-Optimising Links, you do not need to chose which product, product line or even keyword that best fits a page. Our algorithm will take care of reviewing your site and selecting relevant product offerings. At present we are offering Self-Optimising Links as a BETA to our Associates.”

While this will be welcomed by heavy affiliate program users it is something to be careful of if you’re an AdSense publisher as using these ‘self-optimising’ links means you’re using a contextual way of serving ads – which from my reading of AdSense breaks their TOS.

Update – speaking of Amazon and contextual ads, David just sent me an email telling me about another service that will serve Amazon affiliate ads to your blog – contextually. It’s called TicTap Contextual Ads. in short – they scan your page and find Amazon products to match. They put their own code in the fourth ad and you get the others.

As with the Amazon UK beta above keep in mind that TicTap is contextual and in it’s default mode it cannot be used with AdSense (or YPN from what I can work out). There is a way of making it non contextual according to TicTap’s FAQ page by switching off the contextual nature of the ads (similar to what Chitika did before changing their default to non contextual) – but you might want to double check with AdSense.

Cold Call Blogging and Effective Selling on Blogs

It always amazes me how badly some businesses interact with potential clients.

Yesterday I had the ‘pleasure’ of receiving three calls in 10 minutes from a tele-sales company where the callers (3 different ones) started their calls (where they were trying to sell me a mobile phone) with these three lines:

1. ‘Hi, who am I speaking to?’
2. ‘Hi, Do you have a mobile phone?’
3. ‘Hi, Can I ask how much you earn?’

Yes – these were their very first words on each of the calls!

I was stunned to say the least – cold callers, ringing with the intention of selling me their product with an approach like that.

Now I do sympathize with the task that the people making the calls had – they are probably working for minimum wages in some other country and have been given the impossible task of selling phones to people on the other side of the world over the phone – but the approach that they had been trained to use didn’t go down to well with me. To say that I became more irate with each call would be an understatement!

As I’ve reflected upon the calls (and calmed down a little) they have left me thinking about the challenge that bloggers, especially those selling things (selling their own products, selling their business, selling affiliate products), have with their readers.

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BloggerKit.com

BloggerkitI had an email yesterday from the developers of BloggerKit.com - a nice looking system that helps you to integrate Amazon affiliate ads into your blog in a semi automatic way.

The system allows you to trigger relevant ads by simply adding a tag to the end of your blog posts that includes a product name. This tag triggers the relevant ads.

The system has some pros and cons associated with it:

Pros

  • you get paid directly from Amazon for any earnings
  • The ads are able to be configured to match your blog’s design (in terms of colours and sizes)
  • The ads have product images in them (this will draw the eye and increase CTR)
  • The set up of the ads is reasonably quick
  • They are allowable with systems like AdSense as they are not automatically contextual (ie you trigger the ads)

Cons

  • As payment for the service you allow Blogger Kits to run their affiliate ads in 15% of the products your blog shows (not a massive amount (less than some similar services I’ve seen), but it’s worth remembering there is a cost involved).
  • It seems that the tags you insert into your posts actually appear to your readers. Check out the example blog they have here and you’ll see at the bottom of each post that there is a tag ‘bk_keywords:…’ They write on their site that you can make them invisible by making them the same color as your background. This rings a few warning bells for me as I know search engines look for invisible text and penalize it if they think it’s trying to scam the system (which this is not – but I’d worry a little about it).
  • Remember you get paid a commission with Amazon IF a sale is made and you are not getting paid for a click through. Publishers should consider this when deciding whether to run these type of affiliate programs or whether to run other CPC ads (AdSense, Chitika etc). Depending upon the products you’re writing about they can convert better or worse than other ads. I find that text ads to Amazon work quite well but haven’t had much luck with image ones (but it’s worth a try).

For those bloggers who heavily use Amazon on their blogs this will probably be a useful service. I’m not going to use it on my blogs at this point but would be interested to hear from others who do to see how it goes.

When Good Blogs Go Bad

I was just reading through my RSS feed and I came across a blog that I used to read on a daily basis for it’s interesting and helpful content. The blogger had a good grasp of the topic and provided a wonderful blend of the latest news in their field as well as helpful ‘how to’ type articles blended in with some opinion pieces and the occasional rant.

Today as I saw their latest post and clicked through to read it on their blog I realized that two things had changed about the blog.

  1. the posting frequency had dropped significantly from 2-3 posts per day to 1-2 posts per week.
  2. the nature of the posts had changed from a blend of mainly ‘news’, ‘opinion’ and ‘tips’ posts to almost 100% posts about affiliate products.

As I reflected upon these changes I realized that as a reader of this blog I was now feeling two emotions quite deeply (one emotion for each of the above changes). In fact the feelings I had surprised me as to their depth.

The first emotion, regarding the change in posting frequency, was disappointment. I used to genuinely enjoy reading the blog and looked forward to hearing the latest thoughts of the blogger. Losing that daily contact with someone else interested in what I was into was sad. I hadn’t realized just how much I’d come to appreciate what they had to say until it was gone.

The second emotion, connected to the change in the nature of posts, was anger. I’d not really noticed the change to posts that were almost 100% linking to affiliate programs but as I looked back over the last couple of months of sporadic posts I realized that the change had definitely taken place. Previously they had written the occasional post with affiliate links in it but they were sporadic and always relevant to the topic. I’d even bought products that they’d recommended in the past because I respected their opinion.

I was surprised by my anger towards this blog. I felt that I’d almost been manipulated or that something underhanded had happened without me actually realizing it. Here was a blogger who had once been known as a thought leader and as someone who had built a reputation by providing useful content who had seemingly sold out and cashed in on his influence.

Perhaps my emotions were overreactions but it reinforced a couple of points to me:

  • Blog Readers (like me) buy into the blogs that they read to a point where they almost feel some ownership of the blog. As a result when you make changes (announced or unannounced) people can react very strongly.
  • Blogs need to offer something of value to their readers. A blog that simply produces posts that are an obvious grab for cash will end up disillusioning their readers – no matter how much trust or respect the blogger has previously established.

I realize that the blogger concerned probably has legitimate reasons for changing their blogging frequency. Perhaps they got sick, perhaps they changed jobs or perhaps they just got bored with the topic – but as I looked back over the last couple of months I saw no explanation of the change. Perhaps if they’d communicated some reasons I’d have reacted differently – but in the end my assumption was that the blogger just didn’t care about the topic and/or got greedy.

My reaction was to unsubscribe.

New AdSense referrals for Google Pack and Picasa

AdSense have continued to release new items on their ‘referral’s program today with two new things for their publishers to earn commissions on. You can now refer to:

  • Google Pack – when users install it from your referral you get $2
  • Picasa – when users download it from your referral you get $1

Picasa is available in multiple languages but Google Pack is only in US English at this point (I don’t see an option for it here in Australia).

I know I’ll be trying out the Picasa one on my photo blogs:

Source: Inside AdSense

PS: Looks like Google ARE getting into the affiliate marketing game after-all – this makes their referral options 5.