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10 Ways to Maximize The Value Of A Product Review

The following guest post has been submitted by Trent Hamm from The Simple Dollar

Most serious bloggers occasionally find opportunities to review some sort of product related to their blog niche, whether it be a book, a piece of equipment related to their blog’s area of expertise, or so on. I often see these used as off-the-cuff posts with at best an affiliate link to Amazon. These posts are usually quite forgettable, and for good reason.

I’ve found, however, that I can often use a well-written review in a large number of ways that can drive traffic to my blog over a long period of time. Here’s the procedure I usually follow when writing a killer review that will excite and entertain my regular readers, bring in new ones, and also earn some money via affiliate sales at Amazon. To illustrate this, I’m going to give an additional shout out to a friend and another ProBlogger guest blogger, Penelope Trunk, and discuss how I wrote and then utilized my review of her book, Brazen Careerist.

1. Focus on a product that you’re passionate about that also relates to your blog

I’m the author of a personal finance and personal development blog and I’m also an avid reader, so the big products that I usually find that I’m passionate about are books on those topics. Before you even start thinking about putting forth the effort to writing and marketing a really killer review on your blog, you need to ask yourself if the item in question really stirs something inside of you. If it doesn’t, it’s going to be hard to convey any sort of feeling or emotion about the product, and it is that sense of emotion that really captures readers and makes for a killer post. If you’re not feeling it, you can still write a review, but don’t invest the time in turning it into a real anchor post.

2. Write the review

When you write a review that you intend to use as anchor content, you should make sure that it covers the product in detail (I usually move through a book chapter by chapter), clearly relates your own views on the title, and also ties into some of the content you’ve already written. Since the piece will probably have some length to it, you should also use bold to highlight the main points. Another useful tip: I often link back to my own anchor articles when writing reviews of products so I can highlight specific points and illustrate how the item I’m reviewing is connected to the overall message of my blog. Want an example? Here’s my review of Brazen Careerist.

3. Include affiliate links in the review

When you’re reviewing an item, including affiliate links that enable the person to buy the item is mutually beneficial: your readers have the opportunity to investigate and buy the item, and if they choose to purchase it, you get a portion of that purchase price. I typically just stick with Amazon’s affiliate program on my blog because of the book selection (my primary review area) and the ubiquity of Amazon – everyone seems to have an account there so it’s easier for people to order the item if they want it. Within the review, I usually just link every instance of the book title to the Amazon page for that book.
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Why Affiliate Links are the best Form of Blog Advertising

This Post was submitted by Matt Jones, the author of Blogging Fingers

With bloggers looking for alternatives to AdSense, which is renowned for it’s low click-though rates on blogs with ‘web-savvy’ readers, one of the golden oldies of Internet advertising has been making a comeback. Namely, using affiliate links.

Out of all forms of advertising affiliate links are the least obtrusive to the reader. Long lists of affiliate links are unnecessary because the key to affiliate marketing with blogs is pre-selling and so other than ‘top 5 affiliate programs’ in a sidebar there is little use for listing large numbers of affiliate links.

Pre-selling is content for your blog! Writing a fair review of an affiliate program or of a product (from a certain affiliate program) is both useful for your readers, while being fantastic for the search engines.

Fresh Organic Traffic

Normally the name of the affiliate program/product will naturally be in the posts’ title and throughout the main text of the post. If people link to the post they will probably use something like E.g. “Matt’s review of – insert name of affiliate program” – in the anchor text, which also helps that individual post rank very highly in the search engines.

In other words, reviewing a post about a specific affiliate program/product automatically adds a keyword phrase (usually the name of the affiliate program/product) to your sites ‘long-tail’ of keywords and provides prolonged low levels of organic traffic.

This screenshot of part of my long-tail traffic helps illustrate this:

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How to Dramatically Increase Amazon Affiliate Sales with Bestseller Lists

A sales technique that many businesses and industries employ is to create ‘Best Seller Lists’ to highlight to consumers what others like them are purchasing.

A few examples spring to mind:

Of course there are many more we could list. Virtually every music, video and bookstore have their own version of these sorts of lists, as do newspapers, magazines and other kinds of stores.

Another recent local example was a department store here in Australia who had the Top 10 Selling Mens Fragrances strategically placed next to the sales counter of their mens clothes section.

Best Seller lists work in many industries for a number of reasons

  • As much as we like to think of ourselves as unique individuals, we’re social creatures and like to know what others are doing
  • We like to feel a part of trends and don’t like to feel left out
  • We are lazy and any short cut to finding something of a good quality appeals to us
  • We know that there’s some truth to the idea of The Wisdom of Crowds

How to Create Your own Best Seller List

A number of months ago I realized the power of best seller lists and decided to start exploring them on my blogs. It struck me that my readership might just like to know what they were buying collectively and that I actually had those figures at hand – in my Amazon Affiliate Program Reports.

At the end of every day publishers in the Amazon Associates program are presented with a number of reports for the previous day. These can be viewed by day, month or any time frame. These reports not only tell you how much you earned over the timeframe selected but shed some light on what items people are purchasing.

This information is both interesting and useful – particularly when you present it back to your readers.

Here’s how I last did it over at DPS – as a Popular Digital Cameras and Gear post.

The post identifies 6 major categories of products within the niche that DPS readers buy. I manually listed the top 10 products in each category, listing each with an affiliate link back to Amazon. I explained that they were affiliate links and that the commissions earned from purchases were sown back into improving the blog.

The Results

There a number of tangible results of producing such a list:

  • Sales – every time that I produce one of these lists (and I tend to do it on a quarterly basis) I see an increase in sales at Amazon. Users do take the recommendations of their wider community seriously.
  • Conversation – as you’ll see on the post at DPS, there’s been a reasonable amount of conversation as a result of the post. We’re up to 20 comments on the post – with an array of responses (most positive).
  • Increase in Commissions – one of the side benefits of driving up the number of sales is that you also drive up the percentage in commissions that Amazon pays out if you’re tier payment system. I find that the months that I do these types of posts that the number of sales goes up and I generally see my % payout increase a percentage point or two (it’s just a pity that Amazon don’t include consumer electronics in the tiers – they stay at a flat 4%).

A Word of Warning

Do keep in mind that making these types of posts too regularly could leave some readers feeling a little disillusioned. I tend to do them on a quarterly basis (they work particularly well in the lead up to Christmas) so as not to seem too greedy or take the blog too far off topic.

A Tip for Increasing the Longevity of the List

Using this type of post can be an effective technique – but once it drops off the front page of your blog it converts significantly less. One way to increase the length of time that the post is effective is to link to it prominently. You’ll see I’ve added a link in the DPS top menus to ‘Popular Cameras’ which links to the post in question. Initial testing shows that this is a fairly well clicked on link in the menu and drives good traffic to the post over time.

A Wish

One of the things that I’d love to see Amazon develop is to have some way of automating this process. To be able to have a way to automatically compile such a list of purchases made through a publisher’s account would be a pretty useful thing.

What Works with Affiliate Sales

This post was submitted by Chris Garrett from ChrisG.com

The other day I was telling Darren about an accidental affiliate success I had on my digital SLR blog with a dirt cheap ebay gadget (GadgetInfinity ebay slave triggers). We thought it might make an interesting guest post for Problogger readers as this audience likes to learn tips for how to make money and I learned a lot from this happy accident myself.

How did this early Christmas present fall into my lap?

Last year through Strobist.com blog I became interested in photography lighting. Like most people who followed the tutorials I started acquiring all the gear I needed. One item was out of my budget though. It was an accessory that allowed you to trigger your flash remotely via radio signals. The price was just too high for my amateur photography budget (and my marriage!). All was not lost, I heard about some cheap knock-offs doing the rounds on ebay.

After research it seemed most people were either absolutely in love with the gadgets or dead against, either because of a bad experience or out of snobbery. As the price was so low I snapped up a set, at the very worst it would make excellent content for my blog.

I couldn’t have been more happier with the gizmos when they arrived. Not only were they cheap, they worked and opened up my flash photography in a way I couldn’t have hoped for. Being the geek I am I had a variety of gear to test the gadget with so I could right away reassure people that they in fact did work with Canon brand flashes. This added considerably to the weight of my recommendation.

Once I had written my post I recalled I had signed up for the CJ ebay affiliate program. (I was going to write a blog about ebay). As these products were mainly available via ebay I took the opportunity to go back and edit my links with my affiliate codes.

Immediately something wonderful happened, I was making commissions! One or two came in almost right away. What really sent the sales coming in though was a link from Strobist. A few days later I was getting search traffic also.

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Let Your Readers Do the Selling For You

Sometimes it’s best to let the readers of your blog recommend affiliate products instead of doing it yourself.

As much as I often talk about blogs being a great way to build credibility and trust with your readers and how that credibility and trust can lead to nice returns when you recommend affiliate products – sometimes a stranger’s recommendation can carry a lot of weight.

Let me explain with a short story.

Since starting Digital Photography School I’ve recommended one digital photography book more than any other (The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby – aff). I’ve talked about this book on a number of occasions in different posts and in different ways and as a result have seen a reasonable number affiliate sales for it at Amazon.

However this week I published a reader review of the same book. The review was originally posted in the DPS forums and I simply republished it on the blog where it would get a little more attention.

The review was written by a junior member of the forum (‘ny156uk’ – they’ve posted 28 times) and not from someone with any real profile or credibility (I don’t even know if they’re male or female).

However despite their anonymity their review sold triple the number of copies of the book that I’ve managed to sell over a 12 month period.

While I topped and tailed the review with my own very brief recommendation – it was the relatively anonymous review of a reader (as well as some positive supportive comments from other readers in the comments section) that seems to have struck a chord and generated some nice result.

The Secret to Increasing Amazon Associate Earnings – Time

Amazon-Logo-1-1One of the income streams that I’ve been using lately that’s really starting to prove to be a worthwhile one is the Amazon Associates Program.

I’ve noticed an upswing in the earnings from the program over the last few months and have been a little confused as to why there’s been a continued increase in earnings.

At first I thought maybe it was as a result of some unknown page on one of my blogs getting and then sending extra traffic to Amazon – but after analyzing the types of products that people are buying and by doing a little tracking of outbound traffic I was still unable to identify any single reason that explains the increase in performance.

But then it struck me – the reason is actually quite simple.

The reason for the increase in Amazon earnings is simply that I’ve been using the program for four or so years now and that over time I continue to add new doorways into the Amazon site.

Everyday I continue to add new pages to my blogs and while I don’t link to Amazon in every single post I do link to products there each week and every time that I do it I create another pathway for readers into the Amazon store.

Over the last four or five years I guess I’ve added 1000 or more Amazon links to my blogs (in fact it could be 2000 or even more) and while in the early days I was lucky to earn see a sale on any given day it’s now not unusual to see 50 sales in a day.

Overall income isn’t quite as spectacular as some of the other income streams that I’ve got running but it’s coming close to make me have to update the rankings on my How I Make Money from Blogs post.

Dealing with Affiliates

Reader QuestionsRhys asks – ‘I’ve been running a site with a few affiliates on it, I have enjoyed a healthy relationship with said affiliates, and likewise they’ve commented to me on a number of occasions that I have generated business for them from my site. Recently my site has experienced a huge upturn in visitors, and the amount of money I’m getting from the affiliates – which previously covered my hosting bills – is no longer covering it.

I am wondering if it is reasonable to ask at the end of the current agreement to ask for more money. If so, how would you go about asking them?’

Interesting conundrum Rhys.

I’m a little curious about why the increase in traffic hasn’t brought about an increase in affiliate sales? I suspect it’s the source of that traffic – for example I find Digg traffic doesn’t’ generally convert well for ad or affiliate program performance and loyal readers tend to become blind to them also.

Whatever the reason – you’ve got an interesting problem on your hands but I think you could have already stumbled on the answer.

Talk to your affiliates and see what they can do for you.

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AdSense add Checkout to Referral Products

More AdSense news today – Google are now letting publishers promote their Google Checkout system as a referral product.

Their support page that explains how much publishers can earn from their different products lists ‘Checkout’ as a referral product saying that publishers will earn $1 if the person they refer becomes a buyer and purchases at least $10 (before tax and shipping) within 90 days of sign-up.

Not one of their most lucrative referral products – but I guess on some sites that are shopping based it could convert quite nicely.

Thanks to Dave for the tip off.

AdSense Referrals Beta Test Launched – CPA Ads

Technospot has a post with details of a new beta test that AdSense are doing in their referrals program (official site).

I’m writing this on the run as I’m in the middle of a session – however it looks like an interesting development based on publishers being in control of what ads will be shown on their blogs through choosing keywords and making them look like other AdSense ads on your site. You can choose the same ad unit sizes and designs.

The payment is CPA (ie you don’t get paid until your readers do something – specified by the advertiser). Below is a pic of how they’re promoting it (click to enlarge).

Picture 1-2

Here’s how AdSense are talking about this:

“In just a few minutes you can hand-pick and display ads that will appeal directly to your users’ tastes and interests. After choosing relevant ads or keywords, you will be able to customize referrals units that complement the look and feel of your site. Then you can start directing visitors to the products or services you’ve selected.

With referrals, you’ll be paid when your visitors click through to an advertiser’s site and complete an action defined by your advertisers, such as a sale or sign up. Because these actions are often more involved than a simple click or impression, advertisers pay more for these referrals, which can translate into higher earnings for your site. Further, you’ll see the expected earnings and advertiser performance ahead of time, so you can make the best decisions about what to refer. You can also choose to target the keywords that will ensure you get the highest-paying referrals for your ad space.”

I’ve applied to be on the beta program and it’ll be something to watch. It’s an interesting move and one that is definately moving towards the Commission Junction model.

How do you set up ads (if accepted into the program)?

Step 1: Select the keywords, products or services you want to refer
Choose from our extensive list of advertisers in a variety of different categories.

Step 2: Customize your ad unit
Select the size and color scheme that best matches the look and feel of your site.

Step 3: Copy and paste the code to your pages
Paste the code into your webpages using your HTML editor and publish them to the web.

So you can use this via choosing specific products or on a keyword basis.

Thanks to JohnTP for the alert on this.