Common Affiliate Marketing Mistakes

Affiliate marketing is a very appealing way of trying to make money at home. The need to create products yourself has been eliminated, and you really don’t have to create a sales page. The only big thing that you really have to do is find ways to promote a product or service and then watch the sales roll in. This leads to all kinds of stories that we hear about affiliates making huge sums of money. The thing that all of those people understand and what the others don’t is that there are certain affiliate marketing mistakes that they will make. If you can get around these mistakes, your profits will be much higher.

This is an affiliate marketing mistake that new marketers make all of the time. When they start and figure out that they don’t actually have to create any products to sell, they get overly eager and try to promote ten or fifteen different products. Think of the energy that you are going to have to expend into marketing 15 products, and then think of how much better your efforts can be utilized if you put all of that energy into just two or three products.

When you first start out this is the path that you should be taking. Pick two or possibly three affiliate products that looks like it has great potential and then start promoting them! You can use all of your time and efforts to do your best promoting just those few products and you will see some great returns.

Many people fail because of this affiliate marketing mistake. They just aren’t sure how to correctly market affiliate products so as to earn money from home. It’s like any thing else that you are new at you’re not going to know what you are doing at the first but you have to learn. That’s one of the biggest problems, many people will never take the time to learn how successful marketers do it so well. They will just continue to use their own methods and never get out of their comfort zone.

Marketing is all about taking the methods that have worked for others and not trying to reinvent the wheel. Now I’m not saying that you might not have an idea that can improve on one method but for the most part these are tried and true methods. Get as much success as you can out of one method of promotion and then see if you can make it better. If you don’t improve on the methods of others, at least take the time to learn what works for them and then use those methods so you can have some success yourself.

There are some methods of promoting affiliate products that do not work and never will. For instance, some people find that they can get their marketing message out to a lot of people if they stuff their websites full of banners for their affiliate products and then just try to send people to that page. You need to have content within your pages so as to have a balance on your pages. Text sells better than most banners.

Take time to find out how you can send targeted leads to your products. There are a lot of ways including article marketing, e-mail marketing, squeeze pages and many more. Go find out what a few of those methods are and then use them. Just avoid making any of these affiliate marketing mistakes and you should be able to start to make money at home.

Becoming a Successful Affiliate

In order to become better in any industry, you must keep learning and staying up to date. I continue to be excited about internet marketing and I continue to read and sometimes invest in information products in which I can learn more about marketing or new techniques.

I don’t particularly go out of my way to purchase info products but the ones that I have purchased have been really good in my opinion. If you visit the sales page you will notice it isn’t the typical cheesy ones with lots of huge colorful fonts and covered in testimonials. In fact, you can learn some cool stuff just from reading the sales page alone.

The “Lazy” in the title is a little bit misleading as there is work to be done. However, the point is to create mini-sites that are “hands off”, yet continue to earn passive income. Once the initial work is done, it really is a set-it and forget it type of system because there is no need for promotion with PPC ads which can require monitoring, testing, and tweaking. This is also good for those on a tight budget who can’t afford to run PPC campaigns.

The entire eBook has got me to start thinking in a different way which is more like a marketer. I can build out a Web site with no problem but marketing one is a different story. I don’t know how many times I’ve built a site because I personally thought it would make money.

There are ways to go about finding niches that will make money and Chris does a good job of laying out exactly how he does this.

Not every book or eBook I purchase is a winner but I think I’ve been lucky so far with what I have purchased. If you haven’t checked out Chris’ product, at least read through sales page. Reading that will definitely provide some new tactics that you may not have heard of before.

RSS subscribers

There are many great ways that I have come across to build up RSS subscribers as well as traffic to a Web site. Common methods I’ve seen include:

  • Guest articles on other sites
  • Free give aways
  • Contests
  • Social networking (Digg effect, Stumble Upon, etc.)

Contests are a really cool way to grab attention, especially if the prizes are enticing. I recently entered one on Josh Spaulding’s internet marketing blog and to my surprise, I was one of the winners! To enter the contest you had to subscribe via RSS feed or receive updates via RSS feed email subscription. There were 3 questions to be answered which were great questions as they got me to take a step back and think about why I am doing the internet marketing thing in the first place.

Running a contest can always be a hit or miss. I have read other bloggers who have tried running contests with very little success. I don’t think it is a reason not to try it though. Not every traffic tactic will be a success but you will never know unless you try. After having participated in this contest I think I will try to come up with something cool to give away on my fitness blog.

If you have been wanting to try something creative to build up your subscriber base I’d say give it a try. You really have nothing to lose by doing so because even if it doesn’t bring the results you desired, you will definitely learn what to do better the next time.

Use Aweber Today!

In a few posts back I wrote about how I don’t use email marketing yet. Since then I have decided to give it a shot. You would think after being signed up on list after list, you could kind of get the hang of how it works. Plus, I decided that I will never learn anything unless I begin to take action. I’m sure I will make mistakes along the way and when I do and learn from them, I can pass it on to others who want to try list building out as well.

To begin my list building campaign I decided to go with one of the best autoresponders on the market. I decided to try out Aweber. The reason being that almost every list I’ve ever opted-in to is using them and I’ve read positive reviews about them as well. You also get a 30 day free trial so that also gave me incentive to try them out.

Learning your way around their system isn’t very difficult. If you are not tech savvy, they also provide video tutorials that will teach you how to use everything. I think after about an hour or so I figured my way around. When you set up your first campaign, they have a spam check that lets you know if your copy has too many spam trigger words. Form set-up is a breeze too and they offer pop-up forms and hover forms as well.

I signed up to my first list to test it all out and the emails are sent fairly quickly. You can also add links to the system if you want users to see customized confirmation pages. So far I really like their service. The first thing I did was ask my friends to opt-in to my list to see if there were any problems. That tested well too. I think I will be staying with Aweber beyond the 30 day trial.

Affiliate Marketing for Dummies

These are some common questions that newcomers to the field of internet marketing ask. Being an online marketer for over 2 years now, I thought of sharing my thoughts and experiences about affiliate marketing with you. Hope this blog gives you some clarity on what all you can expect from affiliate marketing programs.

Let us first understand what affiliate marketing is…

Affiliate marketing is a business deal between an online marketer and a website owner. Here the online merchant and the website owner agree to share their revenue. The website owner places advertisements on his website to promote the sale of the products for the online merchant and to attract potential customers to the merchant’s website.

The merchant in turn gives a share of his profits to the website owner. In simple words, in affiliate marketing you are promoting a product that is NOT your own and in return earning commission out of it.

The compensation that the affiliate earns may be based on pay per lead or pay per sale/revenue share. In pay per lead the money earned by the affiliate is based on every new introduction of a potential client to the merchants product. In case of pay per sale or revenue share, the compensation is a percentage of the product sold.

One area where affiliate marketing scores is you do not have your own product so you are spared of the headaches involved with the inventory, taking orders, shipping and handling of products. All you have to do is promote the product on your website.

However, it is not that simple as it sounds and mastering the art of affiliate marketing takes time. So what are the tips and tricks that can help a newcomer become a star affiliate?

  • Research & Choose your Niche: The very first step would be to do a fair amount of research to decide on a niche that is profitable but at the same time not very competitive. You need to thoroughly study your niche and the keywords that will bring you the maximum traffic. The trick is to find a sub niche of a very popular niche.
  • Promote Quality products: When promoting a product or service on your website, make sure the product is good. Many affiliate marketers recommend products to customers without even knowing about them and this affects the trust factor of your audience. If you lose trust once, it is difficult to rebuild it.
  • Understand Search Engine Optimization: Search Engine Optimization or SEO is important to understand as you would want your website to rank high when someone searches on your keywords. Your website in turn will then showcase the products and services you advertise to customers and help you earn revenue.
  • Effective Copy-writing: The language you use on your website should bind readers. A smart copywriter will ensure that your copy is interesting as well as valuable to the visitor reading it which will ultimately lead him to buy your product.

So if you ask me…there is NO SUCH THING as Affiliate Marketing for Dummies. Websites that promise to make you a master of affiliate marketing in a week are probably bordering an overstatement and are simply fooling you.

There are no magic formulae attached to it and as in any other business, you need to put in your hard work, dedication and thorough research to become a successful affiliate marketer.

Automate your Datafeed with Cron Jobs

Datafeeds are extremely common in affiliate marketing these days and offer affiliates a quick and easy way to import hundreds (if not thousands) of products into 3rd party applications and websites.

For sites that offer a price comparison functionality this import has to be done regularly – and can therefore be a real pain if done manually.

What is needed is a way of automating the process – and (if your host allows it) the use of cron jobs makes this a breeze.

WHAT IS A CRON JOB?

A cron job is simply a script or task that can be scheduled to run at a specified time.

Crons are commonly used to schedule system maintenance or to administer content but, as we are about to discover, they can also be used to perform common, repetitive tasks (such as downloading remote datafeeds from networks and merchants).

SO HOW IS IT DONE?

It all depends on your individual hosting setup but the basics remain the same; we need to create a simple script that will download (and unzip if necessary) the remote datafeed to our host and then we need to tell our host where that script resides and how often we would like it to be run. Simple.

So let’s get started and write a simple script to download a single datafeed.

Open up notepad (or any text editor) and write (or copy and paste) the following (remembering to change the relevant paths to reflect your own server setup):


/usr/bin/wget -O "/path/to/your/feeds/feed.csv.gz" "http://datafeedurl/gzip/";
/usr/bin/gzip -c -d -S "" /path/to/your/feeds/feed/feed.csv.gz > /path/to/your/feeds/feed/feed.csv
rm /path/to/your/feeds/feed/feed.csv.gz

The code above may look daunting but it is quite simple when we break it down.

In order to retrieve remote files our script will have to use wget (wget is a software package for retrieving files using HTTP, HTTPS and FTP – the most widely-used Internet protocols).


/usr/bin/wget -O

That’s where the first part of our line comes in above; it tells our script where it can find wget in order to use it (if you are not sure of the path or whether wget is even installed on your server speak to your administrator or host).

The second part of the line looks like this:


"/path/to/your/feeds/feed.csv.gz" "http://datafeedurl/gzip/";

This tells our script to “fetch” the gzipped remote file using the url (on the right) and save it to the location on the left (note: for this example we are calling the downloaded file feed.csv.gz but you could call it anything).

We now (in theory) have a gzipped datafeed downloaded which now needs ‘unzipping’. That is where the second line of the script comes in:


/usr/bin/gzip -c -d -S ""

As we did earlier with wget we are telling our script where it can find the gzip application that will be used to decompress or unzip our datafeed.

We then tell gzip which file is to be unzipped (/path/to/your/feeds/feed/feed.csv.gz) and what to call it once unzipping has been completed (feed.csv)


/path/to/your/feeds/feed/feed.csv.gz > /path/to/your/feeds/feed/feed.csv

Finally we have the last line of our script:


rm /path/to/your/feeds/feed/feed.csv.gz

“rm” simply stands for remove – and this is exactly what we are doing here. Removing the now redundant zipped file we originally downloaded. (as we have now unzipped and copied it)

Easy!

So – now that we know what the script does and how it does it all we need is a valid datafeed to download.

For this example I am using affiliatewindow but the principle is the same with any network (or website) that offers the ability to download datafeeds remotely (such as linkshare, webgains etc.)

If you are familar with affiliatewindow you know that they have a cool wizard called ‘create a feed’ in order to let you build and customise your own datafeeds.

At the end of this process we are presented with a couple of options; the url to our datafeed or a download button.

Datafeed url from Affiliate Window

Ensure you select gzip as the compression mode and then copy and paste the datafeed url replacing http://datafeedurl/gzip/ from the first line of our script.

ALMOST DONE

Now save the script as import.sh (or whatever you like) and upload it to your hosting package using an FTP Client such as filezilla (or whatever you are comfortable with)

You should now be able to login to your Control Panel and setup a Cron Job (sometimes called Cron Task, or Scheduled Task)

Most cron managament areas have a similar look and feel and often look something like this:

Cron managment tool from Heart Internets control panel

Enter the path to the script you have just uploaded and set the frequency you would like it to run – and you are done!!

Simple as that

COUPLE OF GOTCHAS

There are a couple of things to watch out for when setting up cron jobs like this.

  • Firstly you MUST ensure that the script you have created has the correct permmsions to be executed by the server. You can do this by chmodding the script to 711 or 755. To do this in Filezilla browse to and right click on your script before selecting “File Permissions”. Now type 711 or 755 into the “Numeric Value” text box before hitting “Ok”.
  • It is also worth checking that the folder you intend to upload your datafeeds too also has the correct permissions – again 711 or 755 should suffice. But if in doubt 777 is fine.
  • Another common mistake is getting the paths wrong within the script itself.If you run the script and nothing appears to be happening double and triple check all the paths to ensure they are correct.
  • You can also check the datafeed url itself is working correctly by simply pasting it directly into your browser.If everything is ok it should prompt you to download a zipped folder. If not double check you have copied the url corrrectly from your relevant network.

GREAT – SO WHAT NOW?

Now you are free to import or update your site as usual – if you are running a script like price tapestry this can also be automated.

Simply create another cron job and point it at the import file that comes with PT (within the scripts directory).

Like this:


/usr/bin/php /home/sites/yourdomain.com/public_html/scripts/import.php @MODIFIED

Notice the @MODIFIED tag at the end of the line – this means the script will only run on any records that have changed since the last import.

Good luck – and have fun!

If you have any thoughts, ideas or comments – feel free to leave them below.

Transfer Your Website The Right Way

Recently I was faced with a rather intriguing problem I hadn’t come across before – moving an entire website (indexed by Google etc.) to a completely new domain.

The website was hosted by myself but the domain was owned by another affiliate (pointing at my nameservers on a revenue share basis).

Upon informing myself that he no longer wanted to work on a revenue share basis [in order to focus solely on his own projects] I enquired if he objected to me buying my own domain and continuing with the site alone…..

He gave me the green light and so the move was on!

The first thing that crossed my mind was how to salvage some of the hard work that had already been put into the website (backlinks, page rank, serps etc.) over the past few months.

Simply moving the site to a new domain was not an option – Google would still have the previous site indexed and would view the new site as duplicate content (plus any SEO juice that has been built up would simply be lost).

MOVE BABY MOVE

The first thing to do is set up your ‘new’ website.

Buy the domain, setup your hosting and copy the website you would like to move to the new site.

Note I said copy – do not delete the existing website!

You basically want two identical websites on both the old and new domains (if your existing site has a database then you will need to recreate this on your new site also – remembering to change the new sites configuration to point at the new DB).

Now – upload the following robots.txt file to the root of the new site to stop anything from being able to spider or crawl it (as there are no links to the new site currently the chances of this happening are virtually nil – but better to be safe than sorry!)


User-agent: *
Disallow: /

Cool – so we now have two identical websites sitting on two different domains with one blocked from Google and other spiders. Excellent.

Now what?

WEBMASTER TOOLS

Next we need to ensure BOTH sites have Google Webmaster Tools installed. To do this we simply head to http://www.google.com/webmasters/ and sign in using our normal Google Account (sign up if you don’t have one)

If the old site does not have Webmaster Tools setup then set it up now – click “Add a Site”, enter the url of the old website and then follow the instructions to verify it.

Make sure you do this for both domain.com and www.domain.com versions of the site (Yes – Google treats them as different sites!)

Now do the same for the new website too.

Great – we now have Webmaster Tools installed and Google now knows we own BOTH websites. This is veryimportant.

TEST THE NEW SITE BABY

Now it’s time to test test test!

Test the new site and make sure everything is working correctly (no 404s, all inks work etc).

Because we copied it directly from the old site the structure should be exactly the same. This will make setting up the 301 redirects in the next step simple.

Once you are happy everything is hunky dory – it is time to put the redirects in place and tell Google we have moved.

301 TIME

We now need a way to redirect all traffic from our old website to our new website. And we can do this easily enough with a simple rewrite rule.


RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.newdomain.com/$1 [R=301,L]

The ’301′ at the end of the line tells Google (or whatever crawler / search engine is following it) that this is a permanent redirect.

the code above should be saved in a file called .htaccess (leading full stop and no file extension) and uploaded to the root of the old website – remembering of course to change www.newdomain.com to be the domain of your new website.

This redirects any traffic to the old domain to the corresponding url on the new domain.

For example:

http://www.olddomain.com/product/productname.php

Would redirect to:

http://www.newdomain.com/product/productname.php

Note: The fact the structure of the website is exactly the same (just the domain changing) means the redirect was easy as pie – if we were to change the structure of the new site however then we would obviously need to map everything up correctly – to ensure users (and search engines) were being sent to the correct page.

Once everyting is in place hit a page on the old site – are you being directed to the corresponding page on the new website?

Good.

Let’s move on.

TELL GOOGLE WE HAVE MOVED

So now we move onto the bit that isn’t common knowledge (or at least it wasn’t to me anyway) – telling google that the site has moved and request a domain name change.

Log back into Webmaster Tools, find your old website in the list and double click it.

Select ‘Site Configuration‘ from the left hand menu and then choose ‘Change of Address‘.

On this page you will see a brief of overview of the steps we have already completed followed by a drop down list to choose a new domain for this website.

In the drop down you should find the new website we set up earlier (we verified it earlier with Webmaster Tools remember?)

Select the new domain from the drop down and hit submit.

The page will refresh and you will be presented with a message informing you that www.olddomain.com has been moved to www.newdomain.com.

Google confirms a successful change of address

IMPORTANT: Now head to your new website and remove the robots.txt file we created earlier – this will allow Google to update its index with your new site – replacing your old site in the process.

And that is about that. Simple.

I did this myself just a few weeks back and have seen only a slight impact on my sites traffic and revenue. Within just one week over 22,000 pages from the new site were indexed and ranking well within Google.

Just remember to keep the 301 redirects in place on the old site for aslong as possible (permanently if possible) and to let anyone who links to the old site know that it has moved – so that they can update their links and bookmarks.

If you have any feedback, thoughts or improvments to anything outlined above please feel free to leave your thoughts below.

How 2019 Google Updates Effect Your Website

Affiliate marketing has really changed over the last 12 months or so. In fact it is safe to say anyone who has a keen interest in making money online (whether it be affiliates, SEO’s, ecommerce or lead generation) will have felt that change – and if you havent yet, you soon will!

At first glance it didn’t appear to make much sense really. Many even felt it would be short lived; a simple jiggle to natural SERPS that would settle after a few weeks. After all we had seen this before a million times so it was nothing new right?

Wrong.

Panda is a machine learning algorithm that evaluates websites based on a far wider spectrum than ever before. A mixture of user metrics and social signals which let Google measure a sites worth not only on its content and inbound link profile but also on its users behaviour.

For the first time ever things that were once deemed not so important from a pure SEO point of view (the look and feel of a website for instance) suddenly had the capacity to directly impact a websites natural ranking. A poor CTR (from serps), low browse rate and high bounce rate [indicators of a poor user experience] could all negatively impact a sites percieved value.

With the emergence of social tools such as Twitter a greater emphasis was also placed on popularity; if a website is being actively shared, liked and tweeted then this is a substantial indication that that website is useful and relevant to its audience in some way. And let’s not forget useful, relevant content is something Google craves to offer its users in its natural search results.

By analysing these social signals, user metrics and behaviours Google was able to build a detailed model of what a ‘good’ website looks like. And once it had this model Panda gave it the ability to release and scale it. Quickly.

By applying this model to its search index it could recategorise websites instantly. Those that ticked the right boxes were given lift. And those that triggered warning signals were dropped. And dropped hard.

+1 buttons started to appear in search results and we knew this was more than a slight algo tweak. And then came what i belive to be the final piece of the jigsaw.

Google+

Suddenly it all made sense to me. The arrival of Google+ indicated a new direction for Google – and the value of user behaviour and social signals became apparant.

All of Googles products would soon be brought under one roof – giving us a one stop shop to search and share – and Google needed a way of tapping into this and influencing serps accordingly.

No longer were a websites backlinks and content alone enough to justify it being the result users wanted to see – Google needed to show them sites that their peers liked (or +1ed) or approved. After all recommendations and sharing have a huge impact on consumer behaviour online today. We are far more likely to listen to our friends when making a purchase decision than the review of strangers.

As Google+ extends it reach (there are already an estimated 10 million users) so I believe we will see the influence of Panda increase. I think more emphasis will be placed on social factors with the very social ‘circles’ [pardon the pun] we mix in directly influencing the results we see in natural search results (if signed into Google of course)

The power of Facebook to marketers has always been the ability to target a very narrow demographic based on all kinds of criteria (interests, gender, location, age). Now Google will be able to apply a similar paid model to its own traffic – but with much more clout.

When people search Google they are specifically looking for something – be it a product, solution or service. You could say they are in a ‘buying’ mood. The same cannot be said for Facebook.

Facebook marketers often have to adopt a very different strategy in order to entice users to click ads and leave their social environment.

With Google that is not so much an issue.

Therefore the release of Panda coupled with Google+ opens up a whole world of opportunities to online marketers if we adjust our strategies accordingly.

No longer is unique content and inbound links alone enough to grab top spot in organic search results. We need a strong social presence and to connect with our users more than ever before.

A website will now be judged on its perceived value amongst real people. Users who are more than ever happy to share and recommend the things they like. And users who are happy to leave a website at the drop of a hat the moment they see something they don’t.

This ability to tap into and connect with users gives smaller affiliates a much more level playing field with larger websites no longer able to rely solely on their brand to dominate their chosen niche.

This coupled with the fine tuned demographic targetting surely on the horizon for adwords hints that there could be another golden opportunity for savvy affiliate marketers to grasp.

Get it right and you are effectively printing money. Get it wrong and you are dead in the water.

Agree with my thoughts? Am I talking absolute rubbish? Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments below.

6 Must Have Tools for Website Development in 2019

If you’re an affiliate marketer like myself chances are you will have multiple websites across several sectors and niches (and if you don’t yet you probably will at some stage).

Not only does spreading your portfolio give you a much wider potential target audience it also safeguards against one of your sites being penalised by Google (and falling off the face of the earth), falling out of favour with Joe Public (due to changing demand), being hacked or whatever.

The phrase “not putting all your eggs in one basket” certainly rings true here.

Scripts such as WordPress make rolling out multiple sites a quick, relatively painless affair but sometimes the popular publishing platform can be overkill for a small site that may only consist of a few pages.

Sometimes it makes more sense to knock something up from scratch. A simple static, no nonsense site or design that does not require the power and capability that something like WordPress offers out of the box.

Here I discuss my top 6 tools to help me develop such sites rapidly – from quickly devising color palettes to building cool, functional forms in minutes.

There is nothing breathtakingly new here – and some (maybe all) of these sites may be familar to some of you already. Hopefully though some of the newer affiliates amongst you will find them useful,

So without further ado lets get cracking.

1. HTML INSTANT

HTML Instant does exactly what it says on the tin. It renders HTML instantly – as you type – within your browser window.

This makes it an excellent code playground to quickly try out layouts, align divs and position elements perfectly before copy and pasting the code directly into your HTML document.

For small adjustments I would probably experiment with firebug but for bigger modifications and quick, rough layouts this simple little website can save you time and make your life a little easier.

It’s also great for noobs to experiment and hone their HTML and (inline) CSS skills and also comes as a cool Chrome plugin.

Well worth a tinker next time your wrestling with some HTML and get tired of the constant “adjust, save, refresh” method of perfecting layouts.

2. PIXLR EDITOR

Chrome has some really nifty little apps at the moment – and with the emergence of Chromebooks this is only going to grow and grow.

Pixlr is just one of these apps. It is a fully functional, completely free, web based photo editing suite (similar to Photoshop).

I would certainly never consider swapping my Photoshop CS5 install for this – but for those times when you are out and about and find you need to edit or create an image quickly – this simply cannot be beaten.

Just open Chrome, and hit install. Within 30 seconds you will have a powerful editing suite that will more than meet your needs until you can get back to the safety of the office.

And for those of you that don’t have Photoshop – this is a more than adequate alternative for most image editing jobs.

It’s quick, easy to use and best of all – FREE.

The only downside is that it cannot open Photoshop format (PSD) files. Aaaah well. It’s still superb for on the fly editing.

Give it a whirl.

3. INITIALIZR

As it says on the Initializr website:

“Initializr is an HTML5 templates generator to help you getting started with an HTML5 project. It will generate for you a clean customizable template based on Boilerplate with just what you need to start.”

Clear as mud huh? Bacially it is a wizard that can generate a stable base on which to build your HTML5 website/webpages.

Simply select what you need and hit download – it will create a site stucture (assets, javascript directories, index html page etc) and include javascript goodies (such as JQuery, Modernizr etc.), .htaccess, a favicon, ipod icons, even code snippets for Google Analytics – automatically – all hooked up and ready to go!

The inclusion of modernizr ensures that even browsers that do not natively cater for HTML5 are looked after too.

In one word it is sexy. Go play with it. NOW.

4. COLOR COMBOS

Color schemes can often leave us scratching our heads and choosing the right colors for a website can be the difference between success and failure.

Thankfully there are sites to help us – and one of my favourites is colorcombos.

On this site you will find thousands of cool color combinations that proven to sit well together on a webpage (with hex codes). If you can’t find anything you like but have seen a site whos color scheme you DO like just paste the url in and color combo will grab the palette for you.

Simple.

5. GRID CALCULATOR

As well as a sites color scheme it is also important to get the balance of a webpage just right.

Often I will visit websites and they just don’t feel right. Sometimes I cannot quite put my finger on it – but usually it comes down to something as simple as correctly laying out elements and aligning things correctly.

Professional websites will almost certainly use a grid system to ensure everthing sits perfectly with the most common grid system being the 960 grid system by Nathan Smith (this is because 960px is the optimum width for the majority of browser resolutions).

The grid calculator however lets you design your own bespoke grid system.

Simply set the max width (960px by default), the gutter width, margin width and number of columns then download your grid in illustrator or photoshop format.

Open it up and use it as a reference to position and space elements accordingly when designing – it will almost certainly result in a layout that is far more pleasing to the eye.

6. WUFOO

Wufoo is a simple HTML form builder that allows anyone to quickly create contact forms, surveys and competitions without writing a single line of code.

The free account will cater for most small affiliate needs but if your needs grow their paid solutions are also cheap and offer enhanced functionality.

I also find the free service is excellent for testing the water before spending more time (and possibly money) on something more bespoke or scalable.

So there you have it – my quick round up of the sites I frequent the most when knocking up new affiliate sites and / or landing pages.

This list is by no means exaustive however and there are plenty more tools out there to help streamline all aspects of development and design.

Please feel free to contribute and share your favourites below.

Adding Microdata to Your SEO Schema Markup

Google, Yahoo and Bing recently launched an initiative called schema.org, to create and support common ways to represent web page metadata.

The project offers web publishers the tools to make their content more easily understood by search engines and more effectively represented in search results by introducing unified HTML tags (known as microdata) to help categorise and create associations between data.

The thinking behind these microtags is that although web pages have meaning to the users who read them, to search engines they are simply meaningless blocks of text. By tagging specific content as an address, a person or a product etc. we can give semantic meaning to that content – thus allowing the search engines to display it in a more useful, relevant way.

There may also be SEO benefits too; it is not unreasonable to suggest that search engines such as Google would look favourably upon websites who aid them in categorising and making sense of content. Much the way page speed has been factored into search engine algorithms of late I firmly believe that search engines will also give some weight eventually to sites whose content is correcly and semantically tagged. It may not be much weight, but in the highly competitve world of affiliate marketing anything that can give your site a potential advantage over a rival has got to be worth implementing.

So – we know a little about microdata and the potential benefits they offer – so how do we implement them?

Simple.

GROUP YOUR DATA

The first step is to ‘group’ associated data using the itemscope tag.

An example of this could be a list of products. Each product may consist of a product name, description, price, and brand. Like so:

<ul>
  <li>
    <div>
      <h3>Product Name</h3>
      <span>Brand Name</span>
      <span itemprop="price">Price: £29.99</span>
      <span itemprop="description">Product description</span>
    </div>
  </li>
  <li>
    <div>
      <h3>Product Name</h3>
      <span>Brand Name</span>
      <span itemprop="price">Price: £29.99</span>
      <span itemprop="description">Product description</span>
    </div>
  </li>
</ul>

Using a product microtag we could group the elements that belong to each product. To do this we give the product itemscope.

It sounds complicated but it’s simply a tag. And we just add it to any element that groups our product data together – in this case i could use the div that wraps each product in our list. I simply add the tag itemscope to the div like this:

<ul>
   <li> 
      <div itemscope>
         <h3>Product Name</h3> 
         <span>Brand Name</span> 
         <span>Price: £29.99</span> 
         <p>Product description</p> 
      </div> 
   </li> 
   <li> 
      <div itemscope>
         <h3>Product Name</h3> 
         <span>Brand Name</span> 
         <span>Price: £29.99</span> 
         <p>Product description</p> 
      </div> 
   </li> 
</ul>

ASSIGN AN ITEMTYPE

Ok – so we now have itemscope – we know each ‘thing’ within our product div is an item – but what type of item is it? We can specify that by also adding an itemtype tag.

<ul>
   <li>
      <div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Product">
         <h3>Product Name</h3>
         <span>Brand Name</span> <span>Price: £29.99</span> 
         <p>Product description</p>
      </div>
   </li>
   <li>
      <div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Product">
         <h3>Product Name</h3>
         <span>Brand Name</span> <span>Price: £29.99</span> 
         <p>Product description</p>
      </div>
   </li>
</ul>

Each itemtype is provided via a url such as http://www.schema.org/Product above.

There are serveral itemtypes to choose from such as:

  • Person
  • Product
  • Organsation
  • Review

Once we have grouped our items (using itemscope) and specified the type of item (using itemtype) we can begin to tag each of our items properties.

TAG OUR PROPERTIES

To tag individual properies of an item we can use the itemprop tag.

<ul>
   <li>
      <div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Product">
         <h3 itemprop="name">Product Name</h3>
         <span itemprop="brand">Brand Name</span> 
         <span itemprop="price">Price: £29.99</span> 
         <span itemprop="description">Product description</span> 
      </div>
   </li>
   <li>
      <div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Product">
         <h3 itemprop="name">Product Name</h3>
         <span itemprop="brand">Brand Name</span> 
         <span itemprop="price">Price: £29.99</span> 
         <span itemprop="description">Product description</span> 
      </div>
   </li>
</ul>

In the example above we simply add an itemprop tag for the name, brand, price and description of our product (but the tags would of course depend on the type of ‘item’ you were tagging). Easy huh?

This tool lets you enter the url of a page containing microdata and will then show you how that data could be presented by Google in organic search results. I say could be because there are no guarantees that rich snippets will be shown in natural search results – however there is always the chance they will become more common place as more websites adopt them, so why not get ahead of the game? ; )

If they are used for your site then you can expect search results to look like this:

Notice how we have rich data displayed within the search results? Such as the number of reviews, the price and whether the product is in stock.

Pretty cool huh?

So take a look and see what results you can get.

if you have any thoughts, ideas or suggestions regarding microdata then please feel free to leave your comments below.

 

URL Shortners: Should You Use Them?

Sites like Twitter (and its 140 character limit) have helped fuel an explosion in the use of URL shorteners to generate short URLs.

If you are not familiar with what a URL shortener is it basically lets you take an extremely long and difficult to remember URL and simply shorten it.

For example:

http://www.mywebsite.com/products/widgets/my-awesome-weight-loss-product

Could become

http://short.url/xd5td7

When a user hits the shortened URL the service matches it against the relevant long URL in its database and then forwards the user on to the original link.

Pretty straight forward.

There are TONS of shortening services out there (such as bit.ly or goo.gl) and some applications (like Tweetdeck) even have them built in.

Sweet!

But it could be even sweeter!

Lately a new trend has emerged. Custom short URLs.

Sites like Mashable and Techcrunch have implemented their own URL shorteners; and it’s not solely driven by vanity.

There is a very real reason why website owners (and affiliates especially) should consider implementing and managing their own short URLs.

BETTER LINK MANAGEMENT

Firstly. There is the link itself. Lets say you have a fantastic link to a product or service you would like to promote. You tweet and it is retweeted. You share it on Google+ and Facebook. You publish it in an eBook. You even send it out to your mail list. You are getting some decent traction and everything is going great.

Then for some reason you discover the original link needs to be changed.

Crap.

Some services (such as tiny.cc) will allow you to edit the original link but others will not due to concerns of spamming or misleading users (i.e. getting a link shared before adding an affiliate id at a later date)

By managing your own URL shortener you don’t have to worry about whether the service allows you to manage or edit your links (or whether they change their T&Cs or even go out of existence) . You have complete control and are not reliant on a 3rd party service.

YOUR BRAND

Secondly (and maybe more importantly) there is your brand. Every time you use a bit.ly link (or any 3rd party shortener) you are actively promoting their brand.

People see that link and become familiar with it. But what about your own brand? Would it not make more sense to have every short link enforcing your own online identity?

Having your own short URLs is a great opportunity for you to do just this. It helps you to build trust and gain credibility and it inspires confidence within your users.

When a link is shared and retweeted by others your brand will be shared also.

People will learn to identify your site from the short URL alone and know that you are actively endorsing whatever is at the end of it. A 3rd party short URL can seem detached in comparison.

We all know how important it is to have a consistent identity across multiple platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest). Having your own URL shortener simply enforces this and can help your brand gain wider exposure.

CUSTOM SHORT URLS JUST LOOK BETTER

Ok, call it vanity if you like but custom short URLs just look better (in my opinion).

Take your websites email address for example. I imagine most of you have something like admin@website.com

So why not just website@yahoo.com or website@gmail.com?

Because it looks rubbish and amateurish that’s why!

A branded email reassures your users and a custom short URL can do exactly the same.

SO WHAT ARE THE DOWNSIDES?

There are down sides to implementing your own shortener. Firstly there is the technical overhead. Without the use of a plugin you are going to need some development. And this can be timely and costly.

Third party services also offer analytics with regards to click throughs etc (but then some free shortening scripts also offer this functionality – or you could even use Google analytics to track clicks)

There is also the cost of a short domain on which to host your shortener. Often these are country specific TLDs (for example Googles own short url service goo.gl uses Greenlands TLD – .gl) which can be far more expensive to register than bog standard .com or .co.uk

It really is a case of weighing up the pros and cons and deciding if a custom shortener can enhance your online offering.

For some people it’s not a good fit. For others it is.

OK I’M SOLD. SO HOW DO I IMPLEMENT MY OWN?

Firstly (as mentioned above) you need a nice snappy short domain for your short URLs. Again as mentioned above these tend to be country specific TLDs that kind of match the original site.

For example:

  • goo.gl (Greenland)
  • bit.ly (Libya)
  • tcrn.ch (Switzerland)
  • instagr.am (Armenia)

You can off course just use a .com (like foursquare do with 4sq.com) but finding a short .com that fits with your brand can be difficult (and costly).

Once you have your domain you simply need to set up your shortener.

There are loads of free open source scripts out there to give you your own custom short URLs. One of the most popular is Yourls.

Or, if you are technical, you could even develop one yourself from scratch. It really isn’t that difficult.

So there you have it. Some of the pros and cons of implementing your own short URLs.

I would love to hear some opinions on this. Have you implemented your own short URLs?

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Blog SEO: How to Write an Amazing Blog Post that Ranks in Google

Writing great blog posts that rank highly in search engines can be a time consuming affair. Planning a post is crucial if it is to rank well and bring your website tons of free traffic.

As a blogger it can be tempting to simply knock out 200 or 300 word articles twice daily; but that isn’t going to bring much benefit in the long term (although it may have done 4 years ago).

My personal opinion has always been to focus on quality rather than quantity. So in this post I will take you over the things I think about when putting together blog posts for this website and the many other websites that I run.

FINDING GREAT BLOG POST IDEAS

Firstly – before we do anything we need an idea. Something to write about. Often this can be the most difficult part of any bloggers task. Simply coming up with an initial idea can be a nightmare – especially if you find yourself in the kind of rut a lot of writers often do or you are trying to write frequently on a particular niche.

If you sit back though you can often find inspiration all around you. The web is a thriving hub of conversation and ideas and tapping into this is now easier than ever before.

Twitter is a great platform for this. My feed is consistently full of people discussing topics in my niche; sharing content, asking questions, giving opinions, even just having a good old moan.

Maybe you have the answers to some of these common questions? Or maybe you have personal experience you could share of a particular method or idea?

If you spot something interesting make a quick note of it. I often bookmark or even just quickly email myself links and snippets of things I would like to revisit later on.

Here are some ideas to bear in mind when trying to find inspiration for great blog posts:

  • Ensure you are following innovative thought leaders on Twitter etc.
  • Subscribe to and follow leading blogs in your niche
  • Think of problems you personally encounter on a day to day basis
  • Think about your strengths and what experience you have that you can share with others
  • Read the comments, emails and feedback you get on your blog / website daily
  • Think about hot topics, emerging trends and breaking news

The inspiration for this post came from the many people who ask me about how to write great blog posts that do well. I literally get asked this question all the time.

So as I had previously covered some generic tips on how to increase organic traffic to your blog I figured now would be a great time to share some thoughts on how I put together my own articles.

THE HOOK

When thinking of a suitable post topic I always try and focus on a hook. By that I mean the thing about the article that will entice users to click and read (It is no good ranking well if nobody clicks)

In this instance we are giving our readers a pretty comprehensive guide on how to achieve a certain goal. Almost anyone can write a decent blog post. But not everyone can write great blog posts that consistently rank well. That is our hook.

There are many angles to take when looking for hooks for your posts. “How to” posts obviously tick that box. But “top lists” (such as 10 top tips for better email templates) can also be enticing and keep people coming back over and over again.

The hook in a top list is the fact you are offering the reader some ready made information. You have done all the hard work and composed a top list that they can quickly scan in order to make an informed decision on a particular subject.There are tons of ways to introduce hooks into your posts though – and not always just via content. You can read an excellent post by Darren Rowse on blog hooks here

KEYWORD RESEARCH

Now that we have an idea (and hook) around a topic we need to do some basic keyword research. This involves using a tool such as Google Keyword Tool to identify key phrases and long tail searches around that topic.

Ideally we are looking for something that has decent search volume but quite low competition.

So for this post idea I thought about the following keywords:

Instantly we can see above we have some great keyword combinations with low competition. There are also some decent search volumes against these (especially for the first three suggestions).

Now – it’s worth noting that these search volumes are based on a broad match type.

If we were using the keyword tool to research ideas for a new domain for example then we would probably want to use the exact match type search filter. For a blog post however I find that searching for a broad range of keywords gives great results.

That’s because it gives you estimations of search volumes based on a variation of your chosen keywords. So for example if we take the key phrase above “great blog post” it tells us there are around 9,900 monthly searches.

These will includes variations of that phrase – such as “blog post great”, “blog – great post”, “how to write great blog posts” and more importantly – the title of this post “how to write a great blog post that ranks”

This is perfect as we want to be writing our article using natural language and avoid using the same combination of keywords over and over.“Always focus on writing content for a human audience – never solely for search engines. If an article is genuinely relevant, useful, authoritative and on-topic it will almost always find its way to the top end of rankings.”

LOOK AT THE COMPETITION

Once you have a good few keyword combinations with decent search volume and low competition it’s time to actually Google them. That way you can see the types of posts that are already ranking for those various terms and more importantly get an idea of the titles and descriptions that those posts are using. This will give you an edge when composing your own title and description to outrank the existing competition later.

It also gives you some credible sources of reference that can give your post authority. By linking internally we are creating a great internal link profile, which is important if we want Google and the likes to index our content deeply.

By linking externally however we are also adding authority to our writing. We are proposing an idea and offering other sources that may validate what it is we are trying to say.

Many bloggers make the mistake of solely trying to gain inbound links (both naturally and by approaching other bloggers directly). Do not underestimate the importance of a natural link profile.

We will discuss the importance of internal and external links in more detail later.

ARTICLE STRUCTURE

So we now have our topic, a chosen keyword or key phrase (which we intend to target) and an idea of the competition who already rank for those words.

Now we need to start getting some basic article structure down.

SUBHEADINGS

I do this by thinking about the main points I will be trying to get across. I try to visualise the post in my head as a set of bullet points or subheadings. This may seem strange as we haven’t actually written anything yet but just try to think of the broad points that you may try and make.

For example for this post I thought about the actual steps I take when putting together a blog post. And I simply got them down as a list like this:

  1. Finding Ideas (Hook)
  2. Keyword Research
  3. Competition Analysis
  4. Article Structure (subheadings, bullets, quotes)
  5. Internal / External Links
  6. Images (alt tags, titles, relevance)
  7. Length of Post
  8. Revise
  9. Optimise
  10. Publish

By getting these points or subheadings down in this way you are already making your task much simpler. In order to put together the post you simply need to “fill in the blanks”. Now don’t worry if you need to change subheadings or move them about. At this point it’s not important. The idea here is to simply break up the article you are attempting to create into much smaller chunks. This will not only make the task at hand much less daunting but it will also serve to give you the subheadings that will form the H2 tags of your article.

In other words it gives your article a structure and flow that not only makes it easier for others to read but will also please search engines who specifically look for elements such as heading tags (as well as other factors) in order to determine the context and relevance of an article.

So start getting your thoughts down. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling at this point. Just go from one subheading to the next and write about each. Feel free to bounce between subheadings and get the main points down that you are trying to portray.

Using this technique can transform how you write your blog posts. It allows you to write longer, more in-depth posts more quickly. And it helps to keep your posts on-topic and relevant.

Once you have the basics down revisit each subheading and flush out the content. Adding to or revising what you have written. Rinse and repeat until you have most of the details down.

BULLETS AND QUOTES

Now as the body of our article starts to take shape we can begin to craft and refine it. It is quite important to break up the body of your text by using bullet points and quote blocks (where applicable)

This makes your writing much easier to scan and less overwhelming to the reader.

You may be wondering why this is important from a ranking perspective. Well having great content is not always enough in my opinion – you also need to make your content sticky. You need people to not only visit but to also return (this comes back to the hook principle discussed earlier).

If your content is easy to read and pleasing on the eye your readers are far more likely to bookmark or even share it – and that will vastly improve your ranking in the long term.

The difference between good blog posts and great posts are that great posts tick every single box.

So always try to make your post as good as it can be.

INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL LINKS

We touched on how important a good natural link profile is for your blog and your posts in general earlier. This is where we now revisit our post and link to any relevant articles (both internally within our own blog and externally to other blogs) that validate what it is we are trying to say.

You will notice there are links throughout this article that do just that. Some point to other relevant post I have made whilst others point to other respected blogs that help to prove or vindicate the point I am trying to make.

Again this is really important. Google is not a search engine as such – it is more a relevance engine. When a search is made it tries to match that user with the most relevant content. By linking to other relevant quality content you are enforcing this idea. Do not be fooled into thinking that only inbound links count. I genuinely believe that given Googles panoramic overview of the web it is easy for the search engine to also evaluate outbound relevance.

IMAGES

Images are really important in the context of an article. Again they not only help to break up the page and give the users something pretty to focus on they also serve another purpose. They allow us to enforce the keywords we are trying to rank for.

Every image you use should have a title tag and an alt tag.

<img src="/path/to/image.jpg" 
title="some relevant keyword" 
alt="An image representing relevant keyword" />

Why? Because a search engine has no way (yet) of crawling an image and knowing what that image is about.

So instead they look at the image filename, surrounding text, title and alt tags in order to give the image some context. That’s how we know that search engines place emphasis on these tags.

If Google is using the title and alt tags of an image to give it context, then it is safe to say it is also giving some context to the page on which that image sits. So we should use these tags to further enforce the core keywords and phrases we are looking to rank for.

Again though do not simply stuff keywords. Think from a users perspective. If the image was not loaded would the alt text give the user a text description of what the image was? Make your images relevant and your title and alt tags will naturally be relevant too.

LENGTH

Another thing to bear in mind when writing your post is its length. Now bigger isn’t always better but in the case of blog posts it usually is. A longer blog post usually means a more in-depth blog post with more keyword variations.

I normally aim for around the 2,000 word mark when putting posts together. That doesn’t necessarily mean all my posts will be at least 2,000 words but I feel that is a decent yard stick by which to measure your posts.

Thankfully if you employ the strategy outlined above and split your post into smaller subheading posts then creating long blog posts becomes a LOT easier. Instead of writing one 2,000 word post you are essentially writing several much smaller posts instead (think of each subheading as a small post in its own right).

REVISION

At this point we are almost there.We have the body of our article and some nice headings, bullets and images to break things up.

We now need to read our post a few times and correct any spelling and grammatical errors. It’s important the article has a nice flow and makes sense to the reader. So use a spell checker and tweak anything that doesn’t look right.

Again don’t be afraid to re-jig the sections or even rewrite large portions. So far we have mostly just been getting thoughts and things down and have just let the ideas flow. Now is the time to really refine and sharpen things up.

OPTIMISING THE POST

Once we have our “finished” article in place the last thing to do is fine tune it. And (if you are using WordPress like me) we can do that using any of the many SEO plugins that are available.

My personal favourite is WordPress SEO by Yoast

This plugin allows us to enter a keyword and analyse our post. It will highlight any issues we may have (missing description, title tag not containing keywords, missing header tags etc.) allowing us to refine and tweak the post until everything looks great.

As you can see above for the keyword “great blog post” we get a green light for all our main areas. The article heading, page title, page URL, Content and Description. So that’s a great start.

But by using the Page Analysis tab we can delve into much more detail.

There is still plenty of green lights. But there are also a few amber and one red. These need to be addressed.

I often go back over the article and start to make final tweaks to improve things. This can involve anything from tweaking the headings to improving the keyword density of the article. Another words increasing the amount of times our keyword and its variations appear in a natural way.

Now this is where a lot of bloggers make mistakes. They go over the top, forget about their readers and start hacking at their article in order to stuff keywords in the hope of “pleasing” the search engines.

Don’t do it.

By stuffing or forcing keywords into your article it will become apparent and the article will lose its natural flow. As i said before you should always write using natural language. So if you can use one of your keyword variations in a natural way that will make sense to the user then by all means do it.

If you article is relevant and genuinely discussing its core topic in detail however you should have plenty of instances of your keywords and key phrases anyway. You should never have to crowbar keywords into your article.

FINALLY

The last thing to do is to assign your post to a relevant category. In this case this post will belong to Driving Traffic and SEO (as that’s what it is about). You will obviously have your own categories so make sure it is relevant.

Also don’t forget to tag your post. Again use keywords that you feel enforce the content of the post and would make sense to the user and you are pretty much done.

TIME TO PUBLISH

After one last scan ensuring the article has been optimised, reads well and has the necessary header tags, images, bullets and quotes you are finally ready to publish.

However this too can have a profound effect on how much visibility your post receives. One of the main things bloggers do once finishing an article is to immediately publish and then share it via Twitter and Facebook etc.

Normally I will finish my posts late at night and it can be tempted to just hit that publish button straight away. Well don’t.

It is best to wait and publish when the majority of your readers will be active.

Personally I prefer peak times. I am happy for my post to be lost in the noise as there is still sufficient activity in order to get some great initial spikes and give the post some visibility.

IN SUMMARY

So there you have it. The fundamental steps I take when composing highly optimised blog posts. Many of you will follow very similar steps I should image, but for others I hope I have given you some food for thought with regards to your own blogging strategy.

A lot of success comes down to planning. And by spending a little longer on the preparation of your blog post and conducting a little research you can see huge differences to both your ranking and your organic traffic.

If you have any thoughts or anything you would like to add please feel free in the comments below. And if you found this article interesting please use the share buttons below to spread the love.