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  1. #1
    ABW Ambassador Snib's Avatar
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    Giving Away Free Links as a Marketing Strategy
    Maybe this is where affiliate marketing misses the boat? Many successful websites have been willing to give away free links, notably the top 3 search engines. They owe their success to giving away free traffic. Some of the newer sites like Digg, MySpace and del.icio.us are doing it too. A link to most anything can be posted on these sites and they welcome it.

    And now we've got social shopping where users submit products from merchants of their choice. There are even a few coupon sites that allow their visitors to submit coupons. All of this without affiliate links. The charm is that the listings aren't sponsored, so customers trust the site more knowing this. Then there's Shopwiki and Froogle who aggregate product information from anywhere and everywhere. Listings are free.

    Generally affiliates tend to stray away from this because why should we give away any of our traffic for free? Maybe because the more free traffic you accommodate, the more paid traffic you'll generate.

    - Scott
    Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions.

  2. #2
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    You faked me out, Scott! I was ready to take you up on what looked like an offer of free links.

  3. #3
    ABW Ambassador Snib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcia
    You faked me out, Scott! I was ready to take you up on what looked like an offer of free links.
    Maybe I should have been more specific. Something like "Giving Away Free Links as a Marketing Strategy".

    - Scott
    Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions.

  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador purplebear's Avatar
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    Yeap, thought that was what he was doing too. lol

  5. #5
    Classic Rocker Mack's Avatar
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    Every time I read the word "free" it makes my wallet pucker.

  6. #6
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcia
    You faked me out, Scott! I was ready to take you up on what looked like an offer of free links.
    Quote Originally Posted by purplebear
    Yeap, thought that was what he was doing too. lol
    Yea Scott! ( AKA Snib )

    What's with the "Giving Away Free Links" BS title?

    I too, thought that you was giving something free to the ABW members today!


    Your sig says "PHP & mySQL Specialist", so I thought that today, you was going to give out something free, even just a basic php script to do something with the datafeeds.
    ...

  7. #7
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snib
    Many successful websites have been willing to give away free links, notably the top 3 search engines.
    And if nobody would pay for the syndication of those results, nor for ads next to them, see how fast they'd go away.

    When I see several major merchant sites--experienced companies who are in business to sell products from their sites, not just sell ads or syndicate their stuff--giving away links, then I might be interested. (That is, if I don't just think they have gone nuts!)

    Affiliates have a lot more in common with merchants than with any kind of free content site that isn't even trying to sell stuff to consumers.

    (BTW I fixed the title for you.)
    Last edited by Leader; April 3rd, 2007 at 07:08 AM.
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  8. #8
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    When Apple links to Microsoft with a product recommendation, or better yet - when pigs fly and when bears don't sh!t in the woods.

  9. #9
    Affiliate Manager MINDsprinter's Avatar
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    I think this is a good strategy, with some conditions.

    For the blog I run, I try and link out to other blogs if I can at least once per post. Not only does Google examine those outbound links and help me out if they are relevant, but the blog I link to gets a trackback and usually comes over to check out my site.

    Second, I allow people to post working links in the comments and I don't even implement the nofollow tag. Why? Because if someone has a relevant link and they are participating in my conversation I think they deserve a little link love. Of course, I moderate my comments before they appear live...

    Linking out is a good strategy IMO.
    Jason Rosenbaum
    Affiliate Manager
    MINDsprinting

  10. #10
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    if i had general traffic and were providing links for "free", i'd bounce.cc them. i'm an affiliate and see value in handing my traffic to others. so do they. i can see why folks like G and Y need to maintain a slightly different position, to seem unbiased or whatever, but removing my bias, as i choose my partners to receive my traffic, ain't gonna happen. i'd say them provding ppc there would be analogous to me bounce.cc'ing my links - they take the position that only some are redirected (bounce won't monetize every link, some aren't monetizable) and that it's clear to everyone which are which... even though studies show huge numbers of visitors are confused by "Sponsored Links" labels. if they were dead serious about being distinctive, they'd say "Paid Ads" and they'd stop jostling the ppc in places other than down the side. they won't and shouldn't do that... and neither would i. i'll label mine "the really good stuff", "preferred partners" or something else juicy... maybe "pretty people use these, the rest of you get the cheap stuff over there ->"... or... "smart shopping links"... or... "look younger and slimmer by using these links"... label the other ones "old fat guy links"... or... "verified herpes free and vaccinated" and "skunked up and nasty, take your chances"... i think i'll create a funny search engine... crap, just went and registered a domain name... darn to-do list looks as tall as Shaquille Oneil.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leader
    free content site
    Whoa, are you feeling ill? I thought you spelled it "c*ntent."
    Dr. Strangeweb, or how I learned how to stop worrying about SERPS and love the WOM.

  12. #12
    ABW Ambassador Snib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donuts
    if i had general traffic and were providing links for "free", i'd bounce.cc them.
    This is what Kaboodle is doing. I just added a product from Gamestop to their site and the product page that resulted had a Linkshare link appended to the URL automatically. So that's definitely part of the strategy.

    But what if somebody adds a product from a merchant that doesn't have an affiliate program? Social shopping sites need to accept any link their users submit. So some links will be monetized, but many will not. The customers win because they can find products that affiliates won't promote due to the lack of an affiliate program.

    - Scott
    Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions.

  13. #13
    Classic Rocker Mack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by weisinator
    Whoa, are you feeling ill? I thought you spelled it "c*ntent."
    Sometimes employees make mistakes. We can forgive.

  14. #14
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MINDsprinter
    Linking out is a good strategy IMO.
    Jason's post is good.

    I think the theory of linking out is connected to creating a base of interest and to starting a reciprocal dynamic: not just one link exchange, this would not be a one shot deal.
    A reciprocal dynamic is when there is a continual exchange.

    BlogHer: How to Build Your Audience offers good advice on this topic. While blogs are the focus of the article the advice could apply to other types of sites as well.
    ~Rhia7 -- Remember the 7
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  15. #15
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snib
    But what if somebody adds a product from a merchant that doesn't have an affiliate program? ... The customers win because they can find products that affiliates won't promote due to the lack of an affiliate program.
    - Scott
    The site wins in terms of loyalty.
    People come back for the variation and for things they might not find on
    the average affiliate site.

    If your site has a link to something different, something your site doesn't sell but someone searches a search engine for that term (that term is found on your site) then doesn't that help in terms of SEO?
    ~Rhia7 -- Remember the 7
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  16. #16
    Affiliate Manager MINDsprinter's Avatar
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    I think both Rhia and Snib and right. You help your customers and your SEO by linking out to useful, relevant things.
    Jason Rosenbaum
    Affiliate Manager
    MINDsprinting

  17. #17
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MINDsprinter
    I think both Rhia and Snib and right. You help your customers and your SEO by linking out to useful, relevant things.
    That's the idea although some discretion may be advised.
    ~Rhia7 -- Remember the 7
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  18. #18
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mack
    Originally Posted by weisinator
    Whoa, are you feeling ill? I thought you spelled it "c*ntent."
    Sometimes employees make mistakes. We can forgive.
    I'm not some empl*yee!

    It was 6:32 AM when I made that post that didn't censor "c*ntent." It was time for bed.
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  19. #19
    Affiliate Manager MINDsprinter's Avatar
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    Discretion is important. The links only work for you, SEO, and your users if they are relevant. Just linking out to anything and everything IS NOT a good idea.
    Jason Rosenbaum
    Affiliate Manager
    MINDsprinting

  20. #20
    ABW Ambassador Snib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MINDsprinter
    Discretion is important. The links only work for you, SEO, and your users if they are relevant. Just linking out to anything and everything IS NOT a good idea.
    What I'm talking about is allowing your visitors to post links to your site like Digg or del.icio.us do. You do need to have a system for moderating the links so pornographic or offensive content doesn't get added though.

    - Scott
    Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions.

  21. #21
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snib
    What I'm talking about is allowing your visitors to post links to your site like Digg or del.icio.us do. You do need to have a system for moderating the links so pornographic or offensive content doesn't get added though.

    - Scott
    Create a separate page or section for that.

    I have an idea: create a page made to look like a pond or a lagoon where visitors can create links and call it the Link Lagoon -- create a separate section with a gimmick & it will be seen as a cool novelty.

    You might want people to register in order to be able to submit links.
    If they have to register (a simple form such as first name or nick name & a working e-mail address, don't make things too complicated) it might deter the wise guys and the spammers
    Last edited by Rhia7; April 4th, 2007 at 05:45 PM.
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  22. #22
    CPA Network Rep adFinityJoe's Avatar
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    I can see both sides of the equation here, but I think the OP's point is a worthwhile one (sorry, I know this is kinda an old post)...

    The issue that I think faces most affiliates is how to strike the appropriate balance. Obviously none of us are in the business of freely distributing traffic, but look at the success of sites mentioned, and others like craigslist or newsvine. The overriding question is "what is my value proposition"?

    In most instances, if your site adds value because its comprehensive on a certain topic, yes, at some point your going to have to give away some free links because you cannot be comprehensive and charge everyone something at all times. However, if you can find enough of a representation of your topic that are asking for traffic (in the form of affiliate programs and / or CPC campaigns) then you can provide selective coverage of your topic and still provide value to your visitors.

    In the end, users aren't stupid nor do they desire less-than-best results. To that end, trying to be too closed minded about providing CG links or unpaying links may deteriorate the value of your site, and in turn deteriorate your ability to earn large and long term commissions as an affiliate.

  23. #23
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    In the end, users aren't stupid
    In terms of statistics, 50% of a population is below average. "Users" are not exempt from the bell curve effect.

  24. #24
    Affiliate Manager cbsturg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leader
    In terms of statistics, 50% of a population is below average. "Users" are not exempt from the bell curve effect.
    That could be one of the funniest things I've read in a long time.
    Chris Sturgill
    "All my life I've had one dream, to achieve my many goals." - H. Simpson

  25. #25
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    When I was with Backcountry one of the sites was tanking and we pitched management on turning it over to the affiliate program. The idea was to make a community site where affiliates could write about the products they used, preferred and loved. They would be rewarded by allowing affiliate links and they keep the commission. It was written up by a very savvy SEO guy and programmer. Part of the idea was that the articles and reviews would link to other Backcountry sites thus giving them more inbound links.

    The end result was that management turned it into a huge task list of unrelated questions and a power struggle between departments. They fiddle f@cked around until all the idea people lost interest and dropped it. The idea was still worth pursuing. Reward affiliates for writing content on the merchant site, because they are the best customers too!!

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