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AdSense Retire their Referrals Program and Launch the Google Affiliate Network

logo.gifToday AdSense announced that they are drawing their ‘Referrals’ program to a close and are relaunching a new Google affiliate network. In actual effect the new affiliate network is not ‘new’ – but a rebranded version of DoubleClick’s Performics Affiliate Network which they acquired in March.

This is news that many of us expected – particularly since Google bought DoubleClick earlier in the year. It’s also not surprising as most publishers that I know have had very little success with the Referrals program within AdSense. In fact I’m one of the only people that I know who made much from it – and that almost dried up when they changed the referrals program for AdSense.

If You Promote AdSense Referrals Products…

If you’re a blogger promoting some kind of AdSense Referrals product it’s time to remove the ad and replace it with something else. You can still run the ads but they’ll stop working in the last week of August.

It is not clear whether the referrals that you’ve made that have not converted will also become void in the last week of August also. This is something I’d like to see AdSense clarify as some of their programs have quite long lead times for those that you refer to ‘convert’ and therefore to earn you money.

Google Affiliate Network

The new Google Affiliate Network does not something that everyone will be able to use. They say that they are targeting sites with largely US based traffic – I’m yet to see any clarification on how they’ll be filtering publishers, whether there is a traffic based minimum to get in etc. Time will tell as publishers start applying. At present I know that Performics has accepted me as a publisher (I was previously using it) so it’s not too hard to get into I hope!

No More Google Affiliate Products

Those of you promoting ‘Google Products’ through the current ‘Referrals’ system should know that there are no plans at this point to have these products available to promote through the new affiliate network. They may come later but my sources at Google say that these programs are coming to an end and there will be no immediate way to make money by sending them new AdSense publishers, AdWords advertisers etc.

Making Money from 2nd and 3rd clicks with the Amazon Affiliate Progam

Yesterday Jeremy Shoemoney Twittered to tell me that the review that he wrote of the ProBlogger book generated 38 sales of the book through his Amazon affiliate link. He went on to say that he made money money from the other things that people then went on to buy after clicking through on the link.

The great thing about the Amazon affiliate program is that you not only make commissions on the item that you link to from your blog but any item that your referred reader might buy after clicking your link.

I wrote about this previously in a post on The Power of Getting People In the Door at Amazon where I showed an example of when I linked to a photography book in a review on DPS. That one link generated over 160 sales – 100 of which were not items that I linked to in the review. Together those items were worth around $500.

This is my experience over and over again. The money in using the Amazon Affiliate program often doesn’t come from that first click – but the 2nd, 3rd (etc) ones once people are in the door at Amazon.

Related Reading on Amazon Affiliate program:

Amazon Associates Introduce MP3 Clips Widget

If you have a blog with a music focus the Amazon Associates program have today announced a widget that you’ll want to check out – it’s an MP3 Clips Widget that lets your readers listen to clips of music live on your site.

You can hand select songs to be included on the widget or pick categories of songs. Any sales generated by the widget earn you 10% of the sale as an associate. Just be aware that only those in the US can buy music from Amazon (or at least they seem to need a US credit card). All of your readers will be able to see the widget – just not actually convert with a sale of an MP3.

Let me know how it goes if you decide to give it a go!

How to Use Social Decision Making To Increase Your Affiliate Sales

Almost a year ago I started experimenting with a new technique (new for me at least) of creating ‘Best Seller Lists’ as a technique to drive more sales at Amazon’s Affiliate Program.

The concept was simple:

  • Analyze the things that customers have bought previously from your affiliate links to Amazon (they give you this information in their reporting area)
  • Pull together a list of the top selling items (those that are relevant to your niche of course) and list them in a post
  • Link to these items again with affiliate links

I wrote up the technique here.

Today I was looking through my Amazon statistics and realized that this technique has been responsible for around 40% of my earnings from Amazon over the last 4 months. A lot of the success comes from one page, the example I gave in my original post – Popular Digital Cameras and Gear but there are three others (Top 10 Point and Shoot Digital Cameras, Top 20 DSLR Models and Best Camera Bags).

Why does it work?

I give a few reasons in the post about the technique that I’ve linked to above but increasingly I’m convinced that it’s got something to do with our social nature as human beings and the way that we often make decisions as groups rather than as individuals.

I see it in my own ‘real’ life also. Among my friendship group four couples have purchased the same car, most of my good friends shoot with the same brand of camera to me, we’re all talking about sending our kids to the same schools…. the list goes on.

Social Proof and Affiliate Marketing – Two More ‘Techniques’

This idea of social decision making is powerful – particularly when it comes to affiliate marketing on blogs.

Reader Reviews – The other time I’ve seen it’s power is when I’ve posted a reader’s review of a product on DPS.

I have posted quite a few photography book reviews over on that blog – most of which I’ve written myself. They tend to convert quite well (depending upon the quality of the book) but the thing that I’ve noticed is that they convert up to 100% better when it’s a regular reader of the blog who posts the review and not me. For example this simple reader review of the Digital Photography Book did better than my own review of the same book!

I don’t think it’s because I’m not a convincing writing – I think the reason is that readers trust the opinions of other readers. Social decision making at play again!

When ‘Join Me’ Converts – Let me share one more example of this social decision making. Earlier in the week I posted here at ProBlogger that I had enrolled myself in a course to learn to make better videos for the web. This was a genuine post – I’ve enrolled in WebVideo University (it’s early days but it’s quite good so far). Of course the post contained an affiliate link (I’d like to pay for a new video camera for my videos somehow).

A number of ProBlogger readers signed up for the course (I think it’s around 10). It wasn’t a massive conversion but in talking to 3-4 of those that signed up I found that they were not only motivated by the course topic – but also by wanting to do something with me, to share the experience.

I didn’t use the ‘join me’ approach to the post to get more people to sign up and increase my earnings – but it did.

Now the course doesn’t give a lot of interaction between participants – but there’s still something about doing something that someone else is doing that I think comes into play here. The course is good and will fulfill a need but perhaps it’ll become more special to those doing it for the knowledge that others like them are also participating.

A quick aside – while I’m talking about ‘joining’ – if you’ve got a spare $8.62 check out a great book called ‘Join Me!‘. It’s about a guy who started a world wide movement of people simply by placing an ad in a local newspaper inviting people to ‘Join Me’. It’s one of the funniest yet also insightful books I’ve read in years.

What Do You Think?

I’m thinking out loud a little with this post – but have you experimented with these ‘social decision making’ ideas in your own affiliate marketing?

PS: Social Decisions Making and Blogging

OK – now I’m thinking out loud a little more (forgive me, it’s late on a Friday night… and I may just have had a couple of beers…) but I the more I think about it the more I realize that this social behavior goes beyond the purchases that we make and comes into play in a variety of areas of our blogging

  • It’s probably behind the way that many big blogs with their RSS counters on their blogs grow so much faster (people want to be a part of a blog that others are obviously a part of).
  • The same thing is probably true for blogs with lots of comments (people are more likely to interact on a blog where others are already doing it)

I’m sure there are other examples – looking forward to you adding to my list. Come on – think out loud with me my friends!

Amazon Associates Program Introduce Carousel Widget

The Amazon Associates program have announced a new widget in the last day or two – it’s called the Carousel Widget. You can see one in action below with six blogging books.

The unit above is a ‘carousel’ format (horizontal) but they also have a ‘ferris wheel’ format (vertical). Each come in different size options.

Do You Tailor Your Affiliate Program Messages?

Affiliate-SpamOver the last couple of weeks I’ve had 109 emails through the contact form on my two main blogs that all start with exactly the same words:

“I represent a company that specializes in a new form of Internet advertising that guarantees that you will get a 100% conversion rate on 100% of your website traffic….”

The email then goes on to tell me that this new type of advertising ensures I will get paid for everyone who visits my site…. it’s better than ‘Google ads’….. that they’d like to fill me in on more details and that I should email the person for more information.

I’m so annoyed by these emails that I’m not even going to mention the product on ProBlogger at this point (and I’ve complained to the person behind the company – although with no response).

The fact is that the 109 people who emailed me are not ‘representatives’ of the company in that they are employed by it – they are affiliates hoping to make a commission by getting me to sign up.

Now I don’t have anything against signing up for quality products with affiliate programs to reward the person who puts me onto them – however the last few weeks have illustrated to me just many people are lazy in their internet marketing.

I can just imagine how it happened – the company with the affiliate program probably has a page with some suggested emails that people could send out prospects – those signing up for the affiliate program simply copy and paste the email into my contact form expecting to get rich.

  • The problem is that the emails lack any compelling reason for me to respond to them.
  • They completely lack anything personal.
  • They give no real or useful information.
  • They don’t tell me a story.
  • They are spin.

Couple that with the fact that I’ve had 109 of them and I’ve become deaf to their message, annoyed by the company (and by the people sending them) and I’m further away from being involved in the service than the day it launched. For all I know the service could be good – but I’m completely put off by the marketing of it.

Interestingly a post over at Lost Ball in High Weeds illustrates that it’s not just the small time internet marketer who engages in this type of practice. They received duplicate emails from two well known internet marketers today promoting an affiliate product.

So what can we learn from this. I want to suggest a few things:

1. If you have a product or service that you’re involving affiliates in the promotion of encourage them to do so in their own voice, with their own personality and giving their own testimonial. I know that internet marketers do a lot of testing around what copy works and doesn’t work – but I think people are increasingly becoming suspicious of spin and if your product gets associated with it you can end up doing your brand more harm than good.

You need to understand that while you might product suggested copy that works in your testing – that when put in the hands of people who are just out for a quick buck that it’ll be spammed, reposted and used in ways that don’t do anything to help your brand.

2. If you are promoting an affiliate program, whether it be via an email to your list or on your blog – inject some individuality, creativity and uniqueness into it. Nothing makes me delete and email or skip over a blog post more than reading something that I’ve seen before or reading copy that is obviously spin. Sure – sell me something, but tell me why YOU think it’s relevant to me. Tell me a story of how YOU used the product. Explain to me how I might benefit from it (and not as though you’re speaking to a room of android robots).

Don’t ignore the suggested copy that they give you with the sales pitch (it will have some useful information) – but make it your own, make it personal, make it stand out from the crowd.

You need to understand that you can actually hurt your brand by engaging in ‘copy and paste marketing’. When you post or email something that every other internet marketer and their dog are spamming the web with then your personal brand becomes aligned with the product that you’re promoting. This makes you a less credible, trustworthy and authoritative voice in future.

Why my Wife would make a Great Internet Marketer

Recently at a family dinner I heard ‘V’ (my wife) raving about how much she loves her pillow (I don’t know how that came up). Since she bought us new pillows (Denton pillows) she says she’s not had a bad night’s sleep.

I chuckled to myself as I heard her as it’s a conversation I’ve been hearing a lot lately – V’s become an evangelist for Denton pillows.

I joked on the way home from dinner to V that my whole family would be sleeping on Denton pillows by the end of the month.

The next afternoon my phone rang and it was my brother in-law. He and my sister were out shopping and wanted to know the name of the pillow.

Converted!

As I thought about my wife’s persuasive powers it struck me that she’d be great at affiliate marketing.

V

Here’s some of the characteristics that she possesses that I think bloggers wanting to generate income from affiliate products need to have:

  • she’s a connector – Malcolm Gladwell talks about ‘connectors’ in Tipping Point as people who have wide social circles. The amount of people that V connects with on a daily basis makes me (a real introvert) want to curl up in the fetal position and rock backwards and forwards. Sure I have a lot of people read my blogs – but she’s at her best when she’s surrounded by people in real life and has an incredible ability to connect with each person as though they’re the only one in her life. This ability to connect with many people and to still give them individual attention is a great skill to have an a strong one if you’re a marketer.
  • she tries lots of stuff – V isn’t one to hold back on trying new things. She’s always experimenting with new recipes, products, movies, places, restaurants etc. I think there’s something about trying something new that she finds quite energizing. This is why she’s an endless supply of knowledge on things to try – because she’s done them all. This sets her up as an expert in many things (another great attribute of internet marketers).
  • she’s the type of person people seek out for advice – as a result of being well connected and trying lots of things out – she has a constant stream of people coming to her advice (on all facets of life). I think this is a key to internet marketing. If you can become the type of person that people seek out for advice instead of someone that has to push advice upon others – you’re already one step ahead of the field.
  • she’s enthusiastic/positive – V has a wonderful way of putting a positive spin on life. While she’s not afraid to tell it like it is if something isn’t right (see below) she’s incredibly enthusiastic when things are right – and not in a false or cringe inducing way. I think a lot of internet marketers could learn a thing or two from this. Instead of bombarding their potential clients with tonnes of hyped up emails raving about a product – one single, genuinely positive review could have a big impact.
  • she’s an evangelist – V can’t help herself – when she finds something that she loves (and she does only ever love or hate things – perhaps another characteristic worth mentioning) she tells everyone about it. This was the key last week with my family – she loves those pillows – so her natural first reaction was to share it. I emphasize ‘natural’ because I think this is something that some internet marketers miss out on. This last week I’ve been hit by one such marketer with at least 15 emails promoting his new product. The emails are all very excited – but every time I get one I get the sense that the excitement is more about the money he’s making and less about the product he’s selling.
  • she’s brutally honest about the things she doesn’t like – many people will tell you about what they love – but they keep their mouths shut about what they don’t like for fear of offending. V’s not like this. If she tries something and doesn’t like it she’s as likely to tell people about that as she is likely to talk about what she loves. I think this makes her all the more credible as an evangelist. Again – this is something that I see missing in some internet marketers. The only thing you ever hear them talk about is the things they’re promoting (and making money off). While this appeals to some – my suspicion is that many tire of it.

Now I just need to get V to start blogging!

Are Affiliate Programs with Small Payouts Worth It?

Today this question about affiliate programs landed in my inbox:

“Darren, could you answer a question for me? I notice that a couple of weeks ago you promoted Leo’s Zen to Done ebook with an affiliate link. I was surprised that you did this because the commission from it is just a few dollars – loose change really. Wouldn’t you be better off promoting high value products? Do you really need the few dollars that a sale brings? Doesn’t it all get too bitsy?”

Blogging-For-Loose-Change
Photo by Aytena

This is a good question and one that I’ve seen a number of bloggers arguing over the years when given the opportunity to go with income streams with small dollar values associated with them.

I could probably write a long answer to the question – however I think the best answer is to say that there’s a lot of businesses going around that make a lot of money out of lots of small payments (micro payments).

Micro payments add up over time.

Let me illustrate with some real analysis of part of my online income from the day after I promoted Zen to Done. Here’s some of the income that I earned that day from a few of the affiliate programs that I run:

So the total income from these affiliate programs for that day was $287.78 from 65 sales. That’s just $4.43 per sale.

$4.43 per sale doesn’t sound a lot to be earning – but when you have 65 of them in a day it makes a nice supplementary income for a blogger. I say supplementary because I also run advertising and other larger affiliate programs on my blogs (see below).

Of course to get the 65 sales you need a good volume of traffic and you need to find quality affiliate products that relate to your blog’s topic (read more on how to make money from affiliate programs on a blog) – it’s not just a matter of sticking an affiliate program on your blog with 17 readers and expecting the sales to roll in.

PS: I should point out that I only included in this list some of the smaller affiliate programs that I promote. Not all affiliate programs have small payouts. I work with a few affiliate partners with products that pay out more than the ones in the list above also (for example promoting AdSense through their referrals program can bring in $250 for a full conversion). Why wouldn’t I just promote these? It’s simple, these tend to be fewer in numbers in terms of conversions – but together with a higher number of small affiliate conversions they can add up to a nice income.

More on Amazon ‘Buy Now’ Buttons

Roman from Phone Area emailed me after seeing my recent post on adding Amazon ‘buy now’ buttons to posts with a similar suggestion that extends the principle:

“I’ve used this method for a couple months and took it a step further to get more impressions and revenue:

I don’t link directly to a product page but I link to Amazon search results.

Buy-It

For example, see this post. You can see in the post footer the button (pictured above) and when you click on the button it connects you to an Amazon search page and it shows related products to the post.

So what is the secret? It’s keywords.

I use a keywords plugin which adds keywords to the amazon search link

This is much better because customers get more offers – even ones which they haven’t looked for. I noticed in doing this that even when they don’t buy the device in the post that they buy accessories, cases, etc.

My Amazon Impressions were not increased by 50-100% but 500-1000%.”

I quite like this strategy too because it again gets people in the door at Amazon and looking at a variety of relevant results instead of just the one. I can see why it’d increase the impressions and it’d be worth experimenting with. I guess the key will be to track whether it also leads to increases in actual conversions.