Sometimes More Isn’t Better in Marketing. Affiliate, Social, etc…

I’m so tired of hearing about how everyone wants more and more.  The more Affiliates the better or why you need to have more and more followers on Twitter.  You need more and more repetitions on a page to spam your way to the top of a SERP.  You need more Networks to reach more Affiliates.  You need more coupons to be successful, etc…  The reality is that not all online marketing is about more.  Sometimes, well many times  it is about quality instead of quantity.  Each of these topics is more than worthy of their own post; but I want to start by just doing a brief paragraph of each.  I’m going to start with Affiliate Marketing mores, then Social Media mores and then SEO mores.

Affiliate Marketing Mores. (This section rambles a lot,,,just a quick warning.)

1.  We want more Affiliates.  I agree with this one to a point.  Having more Affiliates can be a good thing.  The reality though is that you may not be getting the most out of your current partner base.  Before focusing 100% on finding new sites, make sure you are getting additional exposure from all of your content, email, article, ppc, coupon & loyalty sites. (On a side note, if you choose to work with coupon and loyalty sites, and if they are only showing up for your domain + coupons, then you are probably not getting extra exposure or added value.  You may want to reach out to them and ask for additional exposure.  If they refuse then you have the right to kick them out of your program.  The reality is that if they are only showing up for your trademark + coupon code then they aren’t adding much if any value and can actually be potentially poaching your customers and sending them back to you.  Make sure you are getting monthly newsletter drops, homepage exposure and regular category exposure.  The legit ones understand it is a two way street and will give it to you.  Please see #3 for more information.) You will probably also want to see if there is room with your value adding Content sites and other value adding Affiliates in their newsletters or in niche category articles.

Check and see if your content sites are adding you in regularly.  See if there are spaces on their sites that they are not monetizing and give them an idea of how to monetize it by adding you.  Make sure you give a solid reason and an example of why it makes sense to add you there.  Because they will earn more is not a reason and not a valid statement.  You cannot prove it unless you look up a high converting term in your PPC and see if they show up organically on that page for it.  Make sure your Article Affiliates are writing about you as well.  You already have these partners and they have or had an interest in your program so why not get the most out of them before or while you are looking for more sites to become new Affiliate partners.  If you have an outsourced program manager or management company (OPM) or in house Affiliate Manager then ask them randomly to send you the latest 30 sites they have tried to recruit.  If they aren’t sending at least 50 custom recruiting emails or making phone calls every week then you should fire them asap.  There is no excuse for not recruiting and working on activation every single week.  You should also be asking for examples of emails that they sent that week to make sure they are also maximizing the exposure from your current Affiliates and asking them to promote you better.  If they also cannot provide this, then you should probably be getting rid of them for this reason as well as because they are not actively trying to grow your program with increased value adding exposure.  A hands off approach is not a real approach and one that can land you in a ton of trouble.  This isn’t really an “Affiliate more”, but something that was bugging me and something I wanted to mention.

2.  We need more Affiliate Networks to get all of the Affiliates.

This is one of the biggest pieces of crap in the industry.  The reality is that it is the job of your Affiliate Manager or Outsourced Affiliate Management company to bring them to you.  Affiliate Marketing is not a numbers game.  It is a quality channel.  A network may have over 5,000,000 Affiliates but the biggest ones, for the most part are already on every single network.  You will not be reaching more Affiliates for the most part by launching on multiple networks and you’ll actually be losing the value adding ones like me because I will pull you from my site for looking unstable and showing that you do not understand this industry.  I can guarantee this for about 95% of all programs that launching on multiple networks does not mean you will gain access to a million new value adding Affiliates or even ones that are in your niche or would promote you.  Instead you run into tracking issues.  Commissions getting lost and sometimes having to pay out multiple times.  You get coupons crossed and multiple cookies being set.  You get more adware then you know what to do with and you may lose control over who is in which state and where they may have given you nexus.  Multiple networks is almost never a solution.  If the goal is to reach more Affiliates then you are definitely going down the wrong path since it is the job of the Affiliate Manager or outsourced Affiliate Management Company to bring them to you.

Out of the 5,000,000 there may only be 1,000 active Affiliates.  Out of the 1,000 active only 500 may have actual traffic and out of that traffic only 10 or 20 may be relevant to you.  Coupon sites do not count for this example as they could and need to promote everyone for the most part to provide the most value to their users and are on every network (We’ll get into the exceptions right after.)  I am on each network and although I choose to either only promote Share a Sale and many in house programs, I do have a few CJ links up and will promote them with some exceptions because the OPM or In House person convinced me it was a good decision.  My sites are all 100% content sites and value adding.  I do not use adware, do not poach your cart like many sites do by optimizing for your name or your domain + coupon code or by using adware.  I am also probably not a fit for nearly 95% of the Merchants on most networks and won’t even consider you which is why the “we have 1,000,000+ Affiliates” statement for selling you on launching on their network is wrong.  They may have 2 content sites out of that 1,000,000+ and neither one has any traffic that would convert for you.  It is your job as a Merchant or your hired person/company to find me or other sites and bring me into your program.  If you are not getting the content sites that you need to add value and grow, then fire your Outsourced Affiliate Management company or in house person and find one who will go out and get them for you.  If you launch on multiple networks you’ll find out fast that value adding content Affiliates like me will quickly stop giving you additional space on our sites and may pull you out of any future promotions.  Content sites don’t need you like coupon sites and loyalty sites do.  That is a reality.  Stick to one network and find an Outsourced Affiliate Management company that will actually do their job and recruit in people like me.  Needing multiple Networks to get exposure to all Affiliates is not a solution or even slightly smart.  It is your job or the company/person you are paying to manage the program to do this for you.

The two exceptions to being on multiple networks as a bad thing(pro.

90% (probably higher and you really need to watch out for the ones networks recommend) of the Outsourced Affiliate Management companies are frauds and thieves.  They will rip you off like no tomorrow and they will have glowing reputations because Affiliates love that they get to steal from you and you are blind to it.  It is insane how well they convince their clients they are doing a good job.  I saw an article in a top seo site and fell over laughing when I saw some of the names on their list of top Outsourced Affiliate Management companies.   I would never work with half of them and I instantly pull links off my sites if I find out some of these “trusted and loved companies” took over a Merchant I was promoting.  If you are on forums and have access to the private ones you’ll see the truth and that the real, legit Affiliates don’t work with them either.  It is a real shame their Clients are so easily convinced they are doing a good job.  One of the biggest warning signs that they need to be fired is if they recommend multiple networks to get you exposure to more Affiliates (remember it is their job to recruit them, that is why they are being paid).   The two exceptions are if you have a program on the Google Affiliate Network because you have to have an Adsense Account to get paid.  Not everyone has one and not everyone can get one.  Because of this you will lose out on some Affiliates that could have been good.  The next exception is if you are on Share a Sale or Buy.at and an Affiliate says they don’t have an account there or they only work with real networks.  What that normally means is that they are not allowed in the Network because they use adware or methods to steal from Merchants and other Affiliates.  Both networks do have adware problems just like any other Network.  You cannot catch them all.  These two in particular do a good job at finding and removing most of it.  They still allow it in certain cases when the adware application is not active within their Network or for their Merchants who specifically request them.  I am still opposed to the policy of allowing it if it is not active because it supports and helps these adware thieves to grow or look legitimate, but it is better than nothing at all.   The other good thing about Share a Sale and Buy.at is that they at least take action on most of the worst ones when they find it.  If the reason someone won’t promote you is because they do not have an account or only work with real networks, chances are they use Adware or methods that you probably wouldn’t want in your program to begin with.  If they cannot get an account with one of them then you probably don’t want to work with them anyways.

3.  You need more coupons.  (Before you read this I want to put in a disclaimer.  There are value adding coupon sites and not all coupon sites are bad.  Please click through the following link to my post about why coupon sites are not your enemy and understand I am only talking about the bad ones, which are a majority of them in my opinion and from my experience.)  The ones I am talking about are the ones who show up for your trademark or domain + coupon or use couponware, loyaltyware, reminderware, etc… to steal from you and they do not give you regular extra value adding exposure.)

This is also a load of crap.  Not only do you not need more coupons but you do not need any coupons to be successful with Affiliate Marketing.  I had a Share a Sale top 25 program and a CJ 5 bar, multi million dollar, top of category and we did not have any strictly coupon sites promoting them.  In fact very few of the sales were actually from coupon sites because we let almost none in.  They were both content based programs and we were very successful.  If you do use coupons though you should use value adding coupons.  Having one or two value adding coupons a month is more than enough for your coupon Affiliates.  Create product specific deals if you need to move product and use those instead.  Make it work for you and not against your bottom line.  Coupon sites are not bad…many of them are but not all.  The important thing is to use them to move clearance items and help increase AOV with discounts on a second product or by just giving them the discount if they can up the AOV to a certain product that increases profit for you.   You can give more coupons if they are using them specifically for a newsletter drop or featured merchant of the day, but make sure it only appears in that particular campaign so you can measure actual value.   Check their site and your page on their site to make sure you are not getting sales from people typing in yourdomain + coupon or dedicated pages and make sure they are coming from newsletters, categories and homepage placements.

Social Media.

4.  You need more Twitter Followers.

This sounds true but the reality is that you really actually don’t.  I can easily go and follow 5,000 people and many of them will follow me back.  That does not mean they will shop from me or sign up for my newsletters.  That does not mean they will click my links or have any interest in my posts and it does not mean they are of any value to me or anyone else.  If you only have 50 followers but those followers regularly click through your links or convert you are doing well.  If those 50 have an additional 50 or even 50,000 followers of their own and their followers are actively engaged in what they have to say, then retweets etc… will happen that way and you will be successful.  (It’s sort of like looking through a sites backlinks to see if they have them, how many they have and who they are linking to to evaluate how much authority they can have in the short and long run.)  Although Twitter does look like a numbers game, smaller numbers with higher quality followers who have large numbers of high quality followers can be much more valuable that having a ton of your own.   I’m not saying that you shouldn’t focus on getting a million followers, what I am saying is that you should think about the quality of them.  You can easily measure the quality on Twitter so start to and see if you are using Twitter correctly.

SEO.

5.  You need more repetition to get higher up in the SERPs.

SEO isn’t about spamming keywords.  Yes, you generally should have a proper keyword repetition but overusing them and over linking them on the page or section of your site can be damaging.  You want to use them to where it is repeated enough but is also friendly for the end user and not spamming the search engines.  You then need to build backlinks and anchor links with that keyword and variations of the phrase for those pages.  That is what will rank you, not just spamming the term a million times on a page.  It will also drive some potential customers away.  SEO in its highest level form is a combination of quality content, backlinks and user experience.  Spamming keywords and creating the same exact backlink off the same exact anchor text is not usually a good solution.

6.  You need more and more backlinks off that particular keyword.

This is more correct than others to an extent, but also a big mistake.  You do need backlinks and you do need them off of particular keywords.  What you don’t want is an unnatural build of them.  You also want to use variations and focus on multiple pages with multiple terms (usually up to 2 or 3 per page at most).  You don’t want Google to catch that you have been building them by using the same keyword to the same page over and over.  Focus on 10 or 12 keywords, find the long tail and use all of those variations and point them to the appropriate pages.  You also need to use a natural link building strategy as well to make it look like they are being built and are appearing naturally.  Building more and more and more of the same keyword pointing to the same page is a great way to get caught and only have short term success.  More is not always better in this case, unless you are doing it correctly and in a natural way.

The reality is that if your agency or in house person is always a more, more, more person, you are probably not going to be successful in the long run.  It also means they have absolutely no clue what they are doing.  More isn’t always better.  More Affiliates being on a network doesn’t mean they are relevant or even good for you.  More followers doesn’t mean they are quality followers and will convert for you.   More coupons doesn’t mean more sales, even if the Affiliate is one of the few value adding coupon sites (The exception again is if they are trading another newsletter drop for the extra coupon which adds value).  Online Marketing is technically a numbers game, but certain channels are definitely not a more is better approach.  Some of them are about the quality instead of quantity.  Quality over Quantity is how you will be successful and grow over the long run as opposed to the people who have had financial problems during “the recession”.  None of my clients felt a pinch and all of them grew.  The reality is that they got it and didn’t fall for the more is better approach.

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