This article is an ‘all-meat-and-no-veg’ guide listing 20 practical things you should be doing to increase the long and short term value of the website(s) you own. Every item in this list can be outsourced, tracked and provides a direct return on investment which means unlike things like PR, or brand building, you’ll see a direct measurable return on the time and money you put in to make it happen. In other words, no excuses! Pick an item you’ve not yet implemented and start today.
Some of these techniques focus on increasing traffic, whilst others focus on improving conversion or adding revenue sources but ultimately, all will result in more cash, whilst you own the site and when you come to sell it.
1. Evaluate your current monetisation strategy
At time of writing, the average site being sold across the market places we track, makes an average of $0.65 for every unique visitor (http://flipfilter.com/statistics-figures.php).
How do your sites compare to this? Even if you’re significantly above the average, there’s usually room to increase the profit per visitor by conducting a quick analysis of your monetisation strategy.
The following is a monetisation heat map* created with information from a multitude of sources including Amazon, Marketing Experiments Blog and research published by Mailchimp and Aweber. (Technically, this isn’t a heat map, but it has the color red and sort of looks like a map, so for now, it’s a heat map!) The red areas indicate a negative effect and naturally, the green areas show a positive one (i.e. above average response rate for that factor with that audience). The grey areas are either no effect , or no data for this factor.
Most of the information here is common sense, but there are some surprises which could mean missed opportunities (and also the fact it seems the best market to make from are the over 40s!)
2. Create a discount code
Many affiliate programs offer discount codes that serve to both identify you as the affiliate (even without the cookie) and also provide the customer a discount on whatever they order. Placing a small text only link in your side bar (e.g. “Get 30% of at XYZ Mart with this digital coupon“) to a popular online retail destination in your niche, has been proven to outperform both a display ad and a selection of targeted product offers in the same space.
This is so simple, it nearly didn’t make the list, but if you lack the time or technical expertise to implement a full affiliate or ecommerce store, this is a simple way to generate a small amount of additional revenue. Remember to use just one code / offer at a time in a prominent position on your side bar, then track and test various offers to see which performs best.
3. Check your Adsense mechanics
I’m no Adsense Guru but I think I generally do ok with it. I know my CTRs are above average for all my Adsense only sites, especially one in particular.
Improving your Adsense CTR is not rocket science, but going back to a site and ‘fixing it’ against a checklist will ALWAYS improve your earnings. Here’s a brief run down:
- Forget about design. My belief is that an ugly Adsense site is generally a more effective one. I used to debate over doing certain things because they ruined the aesthetics of the site, but this is where focus and strategy comes into play. If your aim is to build a brand, and monetise through other channels then skip this section. However, If your aim is to maximise your Adsense earnings, forgot about having a ‘good looking’ site. Your sole purpose should be to get people to your site on the strength of your information, and get them off just as quickly by clicking on an advert that offers something more relevant.
- Check your advert layouts against an adsense heat map.
- Remember to blend your colours and font sizes to match your ad (or vice versa) so they blend into your page and it’s navigation.
- Apparently, the most optimum block is a double 336 * 280 (side by side), however I’ve personally had more luck with a single 300 * 250 block just below a headline and a few lines of text but above the main copy.
4. Adding affiliate-commerce to Adsense
Within select niches, such as shopping, health and beauty, having a small selection of ‘recommended products’ (designed to look like an ecommerce store), as opposed to affiliate links scattered throughout articles have been known to significantly increase revenues. These links simply take people through to a specific product page on a retailers store (with your tracking code) but as a general rule:
- This only tends to work with products that are somewhat hard to find. Selling a collection of cds or video games is unlikely to sway people who could just as easily search on Amazon, but a well chosen selection of hard(er) to find products collated into one resource will often work well.
- Whilst you will ultimately take the customer through to a product’s landing page, the ‘store’ on your site must look like a uniform ecommerce store and not a collection of affiliate links.
- Whilst there are probably plugins that may do a better job, the easiest way to start is simply to create four – five subcategories (assuming you’re using a platform like WordPress) and create HTML tables on each page, to hold cells for each product containing a picture, title, price and ‘more link’ which will ultimately take the user through to the product’s page on the retailer’s site
Some publishers have gone one step further and created keyword rich landing pages for each product, increasing the number of indexed pages and their chances of showing up in long tail product searches, but this isn’t necessary if you’re short on time.
5. Get listed in Google Base
This is another point that seems so obvious, it shouldn’t really be listed, but I’m still amazed how many ecommerce sites don’t have their products listed in Google base, which feeds search results to Google product searches. Some ecommerce platforms provide modules for exporting your product data directly to Google, but even if you run a DIY or WordPress based system outsourcing the job will cost no more than about $70 on Elance or Guru.
6. Restructure your supply to increase profit
For most of us, myself included, our primary focus online is usually chasing new traffic; more visitors = more sales = more profit but we often overlook the simpler task of reducing sales. Consider this;
The average affiliate commission on physical goods in approximately 8.5% across the industry
The average ecommerce site listed in the marketplaces we index generates $1420 per month or $17,040 in commission per year. To simplify this example, it’s assumed all revenue is generated from selling products.
This would equate to $200,470 in revenue (sales volume) for the year. A switch to a merchant that offers 13% commission, even if just on the products with at least 80% of sales volume, would create a yearly commission of $26,061 – almost $10K extra from the traffic you already have.
To restructure your supply
- Outsource the task of finding new affiliate brokers that have merchants who sell similar products but offer a higher commission.
- Contact merchants directly, and providing you have sufficient volume, they may be able to offer favourable terms if you can give them the bulk of your business.
- Some merchants have tiered commission structures, that they don’t publish. Speak to your affiliate manager and explain what you intend to do and see if they can offer a better rate without you having to change merchant.
7. Think outside of the box to find newer, higher margin products
Affiliate marketing tends to attract people searching for low hanging fruit, and consequently, affiliates gravitate to what’s easiest to both source and sell. Selling the same products as everyone else means higher competition and higher PPC costs, so it pays to think outside of the box when looking for additional products to sell, either as an extension of your current offering, or a rebranded mini site (for example a trade only domain).
The best markets are often fairly technical (and usually B2B markets) as there is always a minimum product requirement needed to get started and to know what to sell. There is however a greater reward and less competition, and after you’ve conquered the initial learning curve, there’s little that will separate this from any other ecommerce venture.
- For a long term strategy, aim for mature markets where people have been traditionally slow to adopt new technologies and you’ll more than likely be ahead of the curve as trends change. Some examples include niches like product engineering and tools, agricultural supplies and machine spares.
- Alternatively, find a new market or emerging technology that requires some technical understanding, but not too much (i.e. rocket fuel chemical compositions = bad. Renewable energy supplies = good!). Speak to retailers and manufacturers to get an idea of what people value (price, brand names, service) and what sells well.
- The best arrangement is where you can negotiate a drop-shipping agreement with a supplier that does not already have an affiliate program as you know there will be very few people selling the same products online. You will more than likely have to prove that you already have significant traffic in order for most suppliers to consider this.
- Another alternative is to use a fulfilment house, who will order the product from your supplier, repackage and deliver it to your end user. This relies on the product having fairly healthy margins to accommodate the additional postage and fulfilment costs, but with many FF houses struggling after the collapse of the printing industry, you should be able to negotiate sensible rates.
8. Become your own dropshipper
If you’ve followed the steps above and found a unique, high volume product that isn’t already sold by other affiliates, keeping it exclusive to your site will initially seem like a logical way to go, especially if you can justify extra links to your site on the strength of this product.
There are situations where offering the product to other higher ranking affiliates in your space can work to your advantage, especially if your traffic figures are significantly less than theirs. As a guide
- This will usually work best when you have exclusivity on the product for a period of time, or import the product creating a barrier to other retailers trying to cut you out of the loop.
- If you choose the fulfilment house route, you can also invest in stock and take advantage of volume pricing, ensuring that you will always be able to supply cheaper than the retailers (as affiliates / drop-shippers) could buy it at themselves working alone.
- If you only have a white-label drop-shipping arrangement with a manufacturer, you can still offer the product to affiliates, but you’ll need a simple script to manage and automate the process of receiving orders and sending them through to the supplier.
9. Sell leads to offline businesses
Without generating leads, you could be missing the opportunity to both help your customer and boost revenue. For example, if you sell a central heating boiler, offering an opt in for a representative to contact the customer to give them an installation quote will create a lead that can generate anything from $8 – $50 depending on the timing and the industry. Every product has its ‘partner’ service and selling a lead (with permission) can sometimes be more lucrative than the revenue generated from the product itself.
10. Work out your strategy first
As a site that makes its income from selling one or more affiliate products, there are three clear strategies that seem to work best
- Strategy A – Have a site focused on selling one product, usually an information / digital product. These sites tend to work better with ‘popular’ products (e.g. Clickbank products with a high Gravity score) and usually consist of several informational inside pages and a ‘money-page’ which sells product. As there are likely to be several affiliates competing for the same product, branding and bundling (covered below) are likely to be the best options.
- Strategy B - Have a site focused on selling multiple products such as a review site, or Amazon affiliate store. These sites often require little design differentiation or branding as they rely on long tail search traffic, but by definition work better with more pages as this gives a greater chance of attracting a search visitor.
- Strategy C – A blog or content driven site that offers several products around a niche to its audience through both the site and via email. (One of the best examples I’ve seen so far is on http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com)
(A more recent model I’ve seen being tested on the Warrior Forum is offering several products (one at a time) via a popup or alert box when you first log on, but without seeing numbers, I’m unsure how successful this is.)
Too many affiliate sites make the mistake of losing focus and trying to combine two or even all of the strategies and end up confusing the user. Each strategy has a different end result and call to action, so setting a clear focus from the start will always help to improve your conversion rates.
11. Bundling Products
Info marketing 101 teaches us that buyers love bonuses, and whilst I’m no fan of the clichéd one page sales letter, offering bonuses do work especially if you use strategy A in a crowded marketplace. With so many affiliates selling the same product at the same price, offering a few additional bonuses can ultimately win you the sale if a user is shopping around.
Creating a bonus is as simple as collating useful content, and rewriting it into a series of guides or PDFs (think popular blog posts on industry blogs, free eBooks from others in the same space (ask permission first, but this could also earn you commission on a backend sale) or even collating publically available information into a guide (e.g. 48 sources of grant funding for UK businesses or a list of national hardware retailers selling supplies to build your chicken coop))
12. Adding Adsense to Inner Pages
I’m a little on the fence about this one, as in my opinion, Adsense will generally ruin an attempt to build a brand with a site, and building a brand is ultimately how you will create long term value. But the numbers rarely lie, and adding Adsense to non-money pages (inner pages designed to attract people to your site) seems to increase profit in that the number of people who leave your site though clicking on an advert (rather than potentially buying your product) are offset by the revenue you make from the ads effectively monetising all the people who wouldn’t have purchased from you.
I have only my limited experience to go off on this one, and no external figures, but it’s something certainly worth trying and split testing.
13. Incorporate CPA offers to access content
Most affiliate sites give content away in order to build a list, but sometimes (depending on the demographics of the industry – see the ‘heat map’ above) users will be just as willing to complete a CPA offer in order to access the information they are looking for, as well as building your list.
The smartest info marketers have known for a long time that free can often be outperformed by a small charge simply because
- People on the internet tend to be suspicious of your motives, thinking that nothing is really free (except Flipfilter … but even that will soon change ). Without understanding how you benefit, some people will be reluctant to proceed for fear of what might be required further down the line.
- With a small charge in place, the value of the information being given increases. It’s the same as the old “It’s usually $999 but if you sign up today the first 20 spots are just $2″ trick (sorry…did I say I trick…I meant trick… )
The best results in this have been from affiliates who are honest enough to explain that they get paid by the user completing the offer, and this will pay for whatever they want to download. Always offer the alternative of simply paying for the product too.
14. Outsource creation of your own (info) product
Another no brainer but this requires little effort and just a few steps. This is ideal if you utilise strategy A and sell a specific info product. The methods are somewhat cheating, but legally and morally correct.
- Buy the top two or three performing products that are similar or identical to what you currently sell. This can also include the product you currently sell (interesting statistic -apparently 70% of affiliates have never read or watched the information product they sell!).
- Visit a popular blog within your niche and find the top five – ten posts.
- Create a job on Elance or Guru to rewrite a product based on the material you have in 1) and 2). If you want a higher quality product use Australian, Canadian, US or UK writers or to save costs use writers from the Philippines, Eastern Europe or South Africa and hire a UK / US editor to proof read and edit the project.
- In addition to selling your own product, you can also list it on Clickbank and take advantage of additional affiliate sales.
Grey hat Techniques and General Quick fixes
Steps 15 – 20 are more specific quick solutions that all add a minimum of 20% to your site’s value and all cost less than $50 to implement. Two of the techniques touch on ‘greyhat’ tactics that will give you a guaranteed boost, but only if you’re comfortable using them. The remaining steps will be published to RSS Feed subscribers only as a thank you for your support (feed subscribers and comments are like tips in a restaurant!). To receive this, stay connected with this feed link.
When I first started blogging here, it was a little like shouting in the dark; I knew what I wanted to say, and wanted many people to hear it, but didn’t know exactly who I was speaking to. This changed after time and after getting to know and speak to many of the members here. I still need a little more focus and would appreciate your help to do this.
Could you take a minute to answer the poll on the sidebar, so I know how best to create the content on here?