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  1. #1
    ABW Ambassador
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    Well, it's been a while since we've had a good debate about content v. sales sites, but content sites can really convert. Since many affiliates out there probably would like to try a content site but don't do it because of the bias against these types of sites (or bad experiences with older content sites), just wanted to put in word that a content site can make you a nice chunk of change if you do it correctly.

    For the month of July, my one and only site (first in Google in October) made over 3K in commissions so far - which really blew me away since I was expecting a fall off in both traffic and buying (I've been in the 2-2.5k range since April, which I was also thrilled with). Conversions for my primary merchants were also quite good, ranging from 1.5-3% (with the exception of posters, which absolutely do not convert well!).

    Traffic, to top it all off, also continues to climb - much to my surprise. Average unique visitors, factoring out the SE spiders and AOL people (who mess up my stats) are around 1500-2500, with Monday being the high traffic day and Saturday the lowest. All traffic is the free way, from the SE's, links, and - most importantly - direct referrals. My bandwidth usage is also surprising me for just this one site - going over 10GB in bandwidth this month alone which is going to require yet another plan upgrade with my web host (I remember when I was happy to have used 10 MB a day not too long ago!)

    So, if you're thinking of doing a content site, don't let the bias towards sales sites deter you. If you set up your site correctly, you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

    While it is indeed work to prepare good content (not just product related content, but other types of stuff that are non-commerical related), this content acts as an anchor for your site which will continue to draw in traffic day after day after day.

    Things that work for me: For me at least (and your mileage may vary), it is vitally important to have a strong, highly visible sales area on the site. By and large, few sales other than books and magazines actually originate from the links on content pages Instead, the content pages point people into the shopping area of the site. Once there, people read all the content I've prepared about the various products sold on the site and click on whatever is of interest. Of course, all the product information as well as my own reviews and write-ups about the products also bring in their own search engine traffic as well.

    Also, think twice about using banners on a content site. I used to use them (one 234x60 per page), and got my very first sale from them on the day I made the decision to pull them from my site! They had 1000's of impressions, but absolutely no click-throughs, let alone any sales. So, I pulled the banners, replaced it with text and pictures, and watched immediately as people stayed significantly longer on my site as the pages loaded faster and the annoying banners weren't hanging around irritating my visitors.

    Navigation is important on all websites. Many a websites failure (sales or content) can probably be traced to navigation and poor layout. But on a content site, it's REALLY important, as you want your visitors to easily find their way into your shopping area. If they can't find it do to poor navigation, you're not going to get much in the way of sales from them.

    A good domain name - not sales oriented, is also suggested for a content site. Easy to remember names make it easy for people to find your site again, whether it be by using a SE or by typing it into the address bar.

    Content sites are also, of course, well set up to take full advantage of Google AdSense. I really wasn't expecting much when I first ran their ads (no one clicked on my previous banners, so why would they click on the skyscraper Google ads, was the reasoning). But, my conversion ratio has been excellent - far higher than expected - and right in line with my conversion ratio with my prime merchants. A content site can really send some nice, targeted traffic using Google AdSense.

    A good content site also seems rather impervious to the moods of Google. While pages have risen/fallen/risen again by various amounts in Google, overall traffic from the SE's has been steady and consistent - depsite all the changes going in the SE's these days. What kind of happens I think is that one page may fall a few notches, while another one rises on a different keyword search - taking it's place. On a site with a total of 2000 pages (excluding the forum pages), things just seem to balance out.

    And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, watch your logs for something that says FAVICON. This is perhaps the best indication of how good/bad your site is to the eyes of your visitors. The FAVICON represents how many times people using IE 5 or IE 6 bookmarked your site. The goal of a content site is to get free , non-SE return traffic - and if no one is bookmarking your site, you're probably not going to get much. If you don't see FAVICON in your logs and you receive lots of SE traffic, take a look at your site to see how you can provide more value to your visitors. Ultimately, the more value you can provide to your visitors, the more people will bookmark it and come back to again and again.

    There is, of course, a drawback to content sites. It's in the fact that your unique visitor to conversion ratio will be awful. Content sites DO draw primarily info seekers, although many eventually do buy (good reason to use parasite free merchants with long return days). Thus, if you measure the success of a site by the number of unique visitors who actually buy something, content sites probably do pale in comparison to sales sites.

    To me, however, it's the bottom line that counts. And for me, 3K in one month from one content site during the doldrums of summer is more than I was making at my old job last year and really more than I ever expected to get from the site to begin with.

    Now, I'm just hoping that the doldrums of August don't set in too hard. Not really expecting to duplicate July, although it certainly would be nice. Still, I'm always happy to hit 1K (meets my minimal living standards, at least for a while anyway!) and am thrilled to hit 2K (always my monthly goal).

    Anyways, just my two cents on affiliate marketing of a content site, learned the hard and sometimes painful way.

    OK, now I'm running for cover as I'm sure Leader and other sales site affiliates will be around shortly to correct me on my ways!



    Jim

  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador
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    >OK, now I'm running for cover

    No need to run for cover

    What is the definition of a content site?
    I've seen a 400 page "cigarette" content site - that also sells.

    Big Daddy Smokes
    Real American Tobacco
    FAST Shipping
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    Lifetime Accounts
    http://www.bigdaddysmokes.com/recruit2.html
    affmgr@bigdaddysmokes.com

  3. #3
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    Well the first site I made was a content site on tripod. I moved it to its own domain almost two years ago, and it has maintained a steady 400-500 unique's a day ever since. I started with CJ also about 2 years ago and put only one banner at the top of each page. In the beginning I was generating about $150-$200 a month in commissions but midway through 2002 this dropped to just barely making the min. $25.

    I have dropped all CJ links to this site now and only use one indy program which generates 8 times what I was getting from CJ. And more recently added that Google goose that lay's the golden egg.

    These two programs alone have brought my once $25 a month content site close too four figures now.

    So yeah for me content sites can produce.

    Side note: I kind of get laugh now when I see some of the merchants I was promoting with CJ with very little success I might add are some of the same ones appearing in the Google ads, and now have to pay me for every click.

  4. #4
    Outsourced Program Manager Chris -  AMWSO's Avatar
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    Heck yes, Both Mondera and NetMagazines number one partners this month are content sites

    Great post Jim

    Cheers

    Chris

    Chris Sanderson
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  5. #5
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> Things that work for me: For me at least (and your mileage may vary), it is vitally important to have a strong, highly visible sales area on the site. By and large, few sales other than books and magazines actually originate from the links on content pages Instead, the content pages point people into the shopping area of the site. ~Jim<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    In other words, you have a sales site making the money, which happens to have a content site front-end sending traffic to it. But the CONTENT part sells cheapie books and magazines...

    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> Side note: I kind of get laugh now when I see some of the merchants I was promoting with CJ with very little success I might add are some of the same ones appearing in the Google ads, and now have to pay me for every click.~glaikit <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Yeah, that IS funny!

    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> Heck yes, Both Mondera and NetMagazines number one partners this month are content sites ~Chris<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Googlebot just hasn't been looking in the right places...

    ~Revenue is King

  6. #6
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Jim,

    Nice post!

    I'm moving to Newbie FAQs as it could help some fellow "content" based publishers.

    Continued Success,

    <font size="2" face="Verdana">Haiko


    The secret of success is constancy of purpose. ~ Disraeli
    </font></p>

  7. #7
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    Jim -

    You've done a great job on your site... I visit it often. Makes me homesick! I do quite a bit of browsing there.

    The way you educate your customers on your sales pages works very well... I havent seen a better 'pre-sale'! You tie your product into your content nicely, has the same 'feel' as the rest of the site.

    Great navigation, great content, great sales pages, GREAT BIG CHECK!

    Congratulations on the passing the 3k mark! Good job...



    With the recent local news, I bet you dont feel bad at all not being at your former job anymore!! You should consider putting on a few seminars for your fellow 'ex-employees'... rent one of the conference rooms at the Outlaw and charge 50 bucks a head!

    Are you going to put up any 'hot' photo's? Saw a couple on various news sites... very dramatic. Those made me homesick too!


    Keep on Rockin Jim!

    Mel
    Goal: $4500 per month by Christmas, 2003
    Sunset Beach Trading Company - Financially Free in 2003

  8. #8
    ABW Ambassador phillyburbs's Avatar
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    Jim:

    Obviously, I agree with you 100%. There are a lot of ways to monetize a Web site and content is one of them.



    Keep up the good work!

    Karl Smith
    phillyBurbs - Your Internet Starts Here

  9. #9
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    Good post. Of course it kind of makes me rethink my idea for a content site where I was going to have a poster store. Being a newbie in the realm of affiliate marketing I was always under the assumption that the only way to be successful was with a content site. The old pre-sell idea. I was under the impression that sales sites were difficult to make work.

    Isn't it tough to find a niche to sale into with a pure sales site? I thought that the SE's like a lot of pages. How do you create a ton of pages for selling into a niche if you don't offer content? I mean I guess you can get a datafeed and mimic Amazon's whole store but what would be the point? I mean does something like that actually work?

    I've been writing and adding content to my site. I won't stop, because I like the topic and I find it enjoyable. My idea was to start another site and do the same and I probably will. But the original post made me realize that there is another way. How are the successful affiliates doing this? I'd like to visit some of the sites of the posters here but I guess posting your site's URL is against the website's policy?

    Affiliate marketing is a very confusing business to try to be in. Just when I think I get a decent idea or a little bit of a handle on this stuff something throws the proverbial wrench into the works.

    hopper

  10. #10
    ABW Ambassador phillyburbs's Avatar
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    Hopper:
    If you haven't already, you should probably spend some time scouring the boards for other posts on relevant topics. Consider it research. You'll find a variety of opinions and practically every aspect of affiliate marketing. As for posting URLs, some folks are reticent to do so since some people copy sites for their own use.


    Karl Smith
    phillyBurbs - Your Internet Starts Here

  11. #11
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    Yea. I've been lurking on here for a month now. I've actually contacted some of the content managers and asked some questions about how some of their better affiliates do what they do. What I've found though is some of the more supportive of the managers are in business in areas I have no interest in, which is a bummer. At any rate more than a couple of the managers said SEO was the key for their most successful affiliates. This appeared to be the case regardless of content or sales oriented sites. I'm just going to work towards both. What's the worst that can happen? Nobody visits my sites? Nobody buys anything from my links? Heh, that's already the case. There's only upside as far as I can see.

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