WordCamp Richmond: Exploiting Your Niche – Making Money with Affiliate Marketing

presenter: Robert Sterling

Affiliate marketing is a practice of rewarding an affiliate for directing customers to the brand/seller that then results in a sale.

“If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” If you have a blog that’s interesting and people are coming to you, you’re doing something wrong if you’re not making money off of it.

Shawn Casey came up with a list of hot niches for affiliate marketing, but that’s not how you find what will work for you. Successful niches tend to be what you already have a passion for and where it intersects with affiliate markets. Enthusiasm provokes a positive response. Enthusiasm sells. People who are phoning it in don’t come across the same and won’t develop a loyal following.

Direct traffic, don’t distract from it. Minimize the number of IAB format ads – people don’t see them anymore. Maximize your message in the hot spots – remember the Google heat map. Use forceful anchor text like “click here” to direct users to the affiliate merchant’s site. Clicks on images should move the user towards a sale.

Every third or fourth blog post should be revenue-generating. If you do it with every post, people will assume it’s a splog. Instapundit is a good example of how to do a link post that directs users to relevant content from affiliate merchants. Affiliate datafeeds can be pulled in using several WP plugins. If your IAB format ads aren’t performing from day one, they never will.

Plugins (premium): PopShops works with a number of vendors. phpBay/phpZon works with eBay and Amazon, respectively. They’re not big revenue sources, but okay for side money.

Use magazine themes that let you prioritize revenue-generating content. Always have a left-sidebar and search box, because people are more comfortable with that navigation.

Plugins (free): W3 Total Cache (complicated, buggy, but results in fast sites, which Google loves), Regenerate Thumbnails, Ad-minister, WordPress Mobile, and others mentioned in previous sessions. Note: if you change themes, make sure you go back and check old posts. You want them to look good for the people who find them via search engines.

Forum marketing can be effective. Be a genuine participant, make yourself useful, and link back to your site only occasionally. Make sure you optimize your profile and use the FeedBurner headline animator.

Mashups are where you can find underserved niches (i.e. garden tools used as interior decorations). Use Google’s keyword tools to see if there is a demand and who may be your competition. Check for potential affiliates on several networks (ClickBank, ShareASale, Pepperjam, Commission Junction, and other niche-appropriate networks). Look for low conversion rates, and if the commission rate is less than 20%, don’t bother.

Pay for performance (PPP) advertising is likely to replace traditional retail sales. Don’t get comfortable – it’s easy for people to copy what works well for you, and likewise you can steal from your competition.

Questions:

What’s a good percentage to shoot for? 50% is great, but not many do that. Above 25% is a good payout. Unless the payout is higher, avoid the high conversion rate affiliate programs. Look for steady affiliate marketing campaigns from companies that look like they’re going to be sticking around.

What about Google or Technorati ads? The payouts have gone down. People don’t see them, and they (Google) aren’t transparent enough.

How do you do this not anonymously and maintain integrity in the eyes of your readers? One way to do it is a comparison post. Look at two comparable products, list their features against each other.

CiL 2008: What’s Hot in RSS & Social Software

Speaker: Steven M. “I’m just sayin'” Cohen

[More links to cool stuff that I did not included can be found at the presentation wiki linked above.]

Google Reader is now more popular than Bloglines, which Cohen thinks has to do with the amount of money that Google can sink into it. Both have tools that tell you how many people are subscribed/reading it, which can be helpful in convincing administrators to support the use of RSS feeds from various sources. Offline feed readers don’t make much sense, since so often the things you are reading will direct you to other sources online.

If you’re not using Google Reader, do it now.

No, really. Steven says to do it.

Google + Feedburner = advertisements on your feeds, which means that they are now revenue generating, like the ads on your website. RSS is no longer sucking away your revenue source, so get over it and add feeds for your content! Plus, anyone using Page2RSS can scrape your content and turn it into a feed, so really, you should give them something that benefits you, too.

LibWorm is a site that indexes library-related blogs and news sources, and it provides RSS feeds, so use it for keeping current if you’re not already doing so.

Follow what is been twittered on your topic of choice using TweetScan. Follow all of your friends’ online activities at FriendFeed (notification once a day, which seems possibly even reasonably infrequent enough that I might actually use it).

Go check out his top ten eleven twelve favorite tools. They’re all really cool and worth playing with.

subscribe via email

I’ve reinstated the option to subscribe to updates via email. It wasn’t used much in the past, so I quit bothering with it and took it off of menu. Now I’m making use of a service called RMail that takes the automatically generated RSS feed and turns it into an email message sent to subscribers. You can sign up using the text box in the left column on the main page of this blog (scroll down a bit). It doesn’t like FeedBurner, so I had to create a new feed just for this.

update:
Well, that was odd. Yesterday I got a weird database error when I tried the form using my FeedBurner feed, but today after reading the comment below, I tried it again and it worked fine. Just so you know, you won’t get a confirmation page from RMail, it just sends you back to the page you signed up on. However, you will need to confirm the subscription via email.