Get the most out of your affiliates by becoming one.

I have worked with thousands of affiliates over the years on multiple programs and brands. Over that time, I have made every effort to attend as many affiliate marketing conferences, shows and seminars as possible. The wealth of knowledge among the affiliate community is overwhelming. Regardless of the product or brand, I have been able to take away great tricks and strategies from these channels to help make the most of whatever program I am working on.

There are several philosophies on proper management and recruiting techniques and tons of information on how to make the most of your program in affiliate forums like Abestweb and Affiliate Classroom, but before you begin pouring through the forums to get advice, the best tool on optimizing your affiliate program is to become an affiliate yourself. This is the absolute best way to grasp how your program looks to the outside world. In addition to the visibility to program announcements and messaging, you will be able to keep your finger on the pulse of what is going on with your program in term of feeds, product links, conversion rates and more.

I would not just stop there. Locate your competitors affiliate programs, sign up and begin promoting their brand temporarily as well, analyze how they are recruiting publishers, generating traffic and driving revenue. What promotions are they putting together? What links and products have killer conversion rates? What are they doing wrong? How could you do it better?

Having to opportunity to understand how to best promote the product effectively through various marketing channels will make you and your program stronger. In some networks it is the only way to view your program and assess your competitive landscape.

With cost-per-acquisition partnerships becoming such an effective and safe marketing tactic, the growth of your affiliate program is where you should allocate some serious time and analysis. One of the first steps is to do as much reconnaissance as you can and start signing up to programs as an affiliate because the most effective affiliate program managers are effective affiliates themselves.

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Don’t Burn Your Investment Dollars By Following These Simple Website Planning Steps

I remember creating my first website as a freshman in high school circa 1997. The internet was new and vibrant and my goal was to get my name out there and watch the magic happen. I quickly started learning HTML while throwing anything I could think of up on the webpage. I ended up with a glowing, rotating logo with mismatched fonts, colors and processes. It appeared as if some magic web wizard vomited half the web on my screen.

Since then, I’ve been part of more new designs / redesigns / optimization projects on the web. Surprisingly enough, I find many of the project happen in the same manner that brought me to high school fame with a rotating text banner; throw it up there and think about it later. The problem with this method is multi-faceted. I’ve seen projects restart several times over because the designer wasn’t aware of the functional requirements. I’ve  seen websites redesigned without considering how the users behave or what possible scenarios may be possible. I’ve witnessed major functionality changes launched without any sort of testing. All of these issues result in a loss of time and money with any company, no matter the size or scope. It was only the projects that followed a thorough plan that were successful.

1. Plan – Meet with your team and decide what are the goals the site or page must accomplish. Go ahead and discuss other issues such as scope and time.

2. Analyze – If existing, what process or design on the current page / site is failing? What must be fixed? What do you know about the users, the personas of the users, or what scenarios the user may be involved in?

3. Design – What are the design requirements such as content, color, logo, the UI, etc.? Develop a prototype (I like to follow the rule of thumb in creating 3 prototypes).

4. Develop / Test / Refine – Use the prototype in user testing with real customers. Adjust the prototype and pass on to development. This finished product MUST be tested. Learn from that test and launch follow-up tests until the initial goal from the plan is reached.

No matter what type of web project you are involved with, the steps above can help you be successful, and keep your company from unwittingly investing time and dollars in a failed project. This isn’t 1997. Now go optimize those conversion rates.

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Protecting Your Brand – Socially

Over the last year, social media has become a staple in online marketing strategies, emerging as a viable source for customer acquisition. Companies in the know have created strategies to leverage social media avenues like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. to drive traffic and brand awareness. However, the introduction of social media is not only a new stream of marketing, it has given a voice to customers everywhere. In some cases social media has become a public forum for customers to vocalize issues, concerns and frustrations. This has become a great opportunity to centralize your business strategies around the consumer, making Customer Experience your company’s top priority.

It is important to respond to these social issues and rectify them as if they were a customer service call. However, most mid-level companies do not staff a Quality Assurance or Social Brand Manager in-house to address such issues on a regular basis. Here are some tips on how to locate, manage and rectify any of these reviews, comments or complaints.

  1. GAME PLAN
    Establish benchmarks on what to respond to and how to respond. It is okay to delete a bad wall post or review if it is unwarranted, but most of the time the best course of action is to engage with a helpful response.
  2. ARCHIVE
    Establish a method for archiving and recording all communication to assist you in future correspondence.
  3. GOOGLE ALERTS
    Set up Google Alerts for your brand keywords. Google alerts will alert you each and every time a link is indexed by Google containing your brand name.
  4. MONITORING TOOLS
    There are several tools out there to help you monitor keywords and social media avenues very cheap. Take a look on the web and see what works within your budget.
  5. MAINTENANCE
    Log on to your social networks daily to review comments and answer them accordingly.

Hopefully, this will assist you in protecting your brand through the rush of attention you should be getting. Social Media is not going anywhere and is a great tool for businesses, but it needs to be tweaked and massaged regularly to avoid being counter-productive. Good luck out there.

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5 Tips on Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

What is Conversion Rate Optimization?
Aside from being my job and passion, conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of optimizing your site to persuade your visitors to complete an action.  Sometimes that action is completing a purchase, sometimes it is subscribing to a newsletter. Regardless, every site has a desired action, and CRO is all about improving that process. Below are some tips I find helpful in the CRO world. Leave some comments and I’ll post some more tips in the future.

1. Start at the end of the funnel
In optimizing your site, start at the end of the funnel or process flow. This is where the biggest impact can be realized. If you have a retail site with 20 conversions per day, but 20 abandon on the page prior to purchasing, a 25% lift on this one page will have the biggest dollar impact on the business. Starting at the end of the conversion funnel and working forward will not only give you the biggest value, but also allow you to manage your time effectively.

2. Maintain Scent
Every page of the process should carry the initial persuasive sell and design from the originating landing page. If you land your customers on a coupon page stating you have the cheapest prices in the business, don’t put your customer into a funnel where that persuasion or design isn’t carried through. You need to sell to your customer through the end of the process.

3. Optimize Buttons
Optimizing buttons is about the easiest task for any site to accomplish but can also have some of the biggest impact. What to do with your buttons? First, the button text should follow the action. If your button is subscribing someone to  a mailing list, the button should read “Subscribe”. If the button is placing an order, it should read “Place Order”. Button location matters as well. Your main call to action should be above the fold and follow the flow of the site. Button color, shape and size matter as well, but differ from site to site. These elements can be easily tested in a button multivariate test.

4. Optimize Site Speed
When thinking about CRO, a lot of businesses miss the impact of site speed. I along with most major retail sites find that site speed and performance directly effect conversion rates and bottom line sales. A site with slow performance is doomed to have high bounce rates. A couple of weeks ago I found a good tool to overlay your site performance against analytics (specifically bounce rates) at Yottaa.com. After giving access to your web analytics, you will quickly be able to put a dollar value on speed and get ideas for optimization.

5. Develop a Disciplined Strategy for Improvement
The most important part of CRO is having a disciplined approach. If your experiences are anything like mine, you have ten people coming at you constantly with ten different thoughts, ideas and actions for the site. To overcome having ADD in your optimization strategy, plan your optimization efforts a quarter at a time and share these action items with your team and business.

And no matter what your site does or sells, always remember to test everything you do using some type of testing tool.

Posted in Conversion Rate Optimization | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Impact of Google Instant on SEO

Just like any other search marketer or anyone interested in web technology, Google’s new Instant search feature is very intriguing. I saw leaked screenshots of the feature weeks before going live and my first thought was, “Wow – it’s fast, neat, and accurate” but I never thought the feature would actually roll out live. Like most other SEO’s, I thought Google would kill the feature because of its implications. While Google Instant doesn’t change search engine rankings, it does change HOW searches are performed and the behavior of the searcher. How you must ask?

1. Searchers are presented with more paid search ads – I imagine paid search ad clicks will increase 5-7 times because of Google Instant. Go ahead and search for “Blu-ray player cheap”. As you type in “Blu-ray” an ad impression for Amazon appears. As you type in “player” an ad impression for Amazon appears. And as you type in “cheap” an ad impression for Amazon appears. Thus, for the entire term, Amazon receives three ad impressions for their Blu-Ray players. Not only does this increase their potential for ad revenue, but also increases top of mind awareness for Amazon’s brand. These dynamics will change how paid search campaigns are conducted as well as their potential impact.

2. Google Instant’s new predictions feature will guide searchers, benefiting the few appearing in the predictions box. Websites will alter their SEO strategies to target the terms Google is predicting. Many have argued this move will take focus away from the long-tail and move clicks more toward bigger sites and more popular terms. It’s still to early to assess impact.

3. The importance of title & description in the SERP are now more important than ever. Because Google Instant expects to show at least 3 results per search, that means potentially more unique results and more competition for a click. Thus the persuasiveness of the title and description is even more important.

4. Keyword research is going to be much more difficult, especially for long-tail terms. Instead of sites performing keyword research search phrase by search phrase, sites will have to start thinking of keywords in terms of letter by letter.

5. Brands seems to have more power than general terms. Try typing in “a” or “b” and you’ll see the predictive feature suggests “Apple, AT&T, ” or “Bing, Best Buy, Bank of America” and no general terms. Again, more powerful sites seem to get the benefit.

Google Instant - Search for "b"

Google Instant - Search for "b"

To sum it all up – Google now has more control than ever.

Posted in Search Engine Marketing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

HTML5 introduction could be a game changer.

Last week Google blog leaked an experimental link to a web video utilizing the capabilities of the highly anticipated HTML5. The video for the Arcade Fire song, uses HTML5 in the Google Chrome browser. After a few seconds of loading the web browser, I launched the video and was blown away.

HTML5 has many new capabilities and features, essentially replacing the reliance of plug-ins like Adobe Flash and SilverLight to display video and animation. Everything is styled and clean. Google’s Chrome is currently the only browser that supports HTML5, but IE8 and Firefox 3 should be updating soon.

While the Arcade Fire video is clearly integrated with Google maps to display geo-targeted maps with graphical overlays, I think the most interesting prospect of the new language is the realm of possibilities open for retailing and merchandising ecommerce sites when it comes to the user experience. HTML5 could completely change the way people shop online for things like clothing. Imagine integration with a program that would allow you to see yourself in that clothing, or a retail site that uses HTML5 to allow the user to manipulate the way a page looks or responds to better explain visually how a product works. The wheels are spinning here at Bluewire Group.

At any rate, HTML5 will no doubt change the game. I believe the most exciting programming introductions are geared to make customer experience better, cleaner and faster. HTML5 is definitely a step in that direction.

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A Special Welcome from Bluewire Group

The team at Bluewire Group, A Bluewire Media Inc. is proud to launch our new blog to the world. Please look for weekly updates from our blog on the latest Internet Marketing techniques and strategies. We are staying on top of all of the latest trends to keep you abreast of breaking introductions into the market, technological windfalls and much more. Please feel free to bookmark our blog and site and help us get a discussion going. We appreciate your support and interest in our company.

Let the games begin.

Matthew Taylor
CEO and President
Bluewire Media Inc.

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