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  1. #1
    Newbie InfiniteNesmith's Avatar
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    Question Semi-newbie with marketing questions
    Hi all. I call myself a semi-newbie because being webmaster has had me working with affiliate marketing for a while now, but I'm just starting to realize the amount of work that is truly involved in getting this kind of thing off the ground.

    The site I'm webmaster for is an online shopping mall. We have a lot of categories, and I've tried my best to make the site as a whole easy to navigate so that intent shoppers can find what they're looking for quickly and easily, while browsers can get a good idea of what's available without a hassle.

    At this point, I'm looking into promotion and wanted to ask about a few things I've come across.

    1) How effective is blogging as a marketing tool? Would it even be worth it to start one on a site that doesn't yet have a consistent amount of traffic?

    2) What kind of luck have you had with newsletters? In your opinions, would a newsletter benefit a site that covers several categories?

    3) PPC. I've been reading about it and much of it is still Greek to me. Without a decent budget (ours is currently low), is it worth it to try PPC marketing, or would we be effectively throwing our money in the toilet?

    Thanks in advance.

    Peace,
    ~ Sam

  2. #2
    Influencer Marketing GravityFed's Avatar
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    Hi Sam, I'll answer:

    >> 1) How effective is blogging as a marketing tool? Would it even be
    >> worth it to start one on a site that doesn't yet have a consistent
    >> amount of traffic?

    Wordpress.org would be of value to your site/efforts as long as you took the time to write compelling and helpful articles. A lot of Wordpress' power lies in an embedded plugin called 'Ping-o-matic which will syndicate your content to an array of blog directories. Plus the inherent nature of categorization/tagging and date stamping draws the search engines in and keeps them coming back

    The key is take the time to write helpful and relevant articles and don't be afraid to use outbound links in your post to improve the article that much more for your users. Good luck.

    Gary M

    PS/ Where in upstate NY are you? I grew up in central NY outside of Ithaca now in Utah.

  3. #3
    Newbie InfiniteNesmith's Avatar
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    Thanks, Gary! I'll give that a look this week. I've never used Wordpress before, but I've done some personal blogging on other sites, so it shouldn't be too difficult to figure out.

    (I'm about a half-hour drive outside Albany, near to a few relatively small towns. It's nice not to be in the middle of the bustle!)

    ~ Sam

  4. #4
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Blogger Pings weblogs.com, a blog update notification service that many individuals and services use to track blog changes.

    https://www2.blogger.com/start

    I've used Blogger since 2001 and I like it. One of these days I'm going to try WordPress but I haven't dipped my toes in the water yet

    You can publish your blogger blog onto your own server, then you have more control over it.

    Some affiliates discussed a problem of affiliate links being modified or scrambled in Wordpress:
    http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread.php?t=81227
    But not all affiliates have encountered that problem.

    Blogger doesn't seem to interfere at all with the links.

    This WordPress vs. Blogger evaluation might help you decide:
    http://peoplegetready.wordpress.com/...er-evaluation/

    BusinessWeek Online has a good article on how blogs can help your business:
    http://www.businessweek.com/technolo...3601_tc024.htm

    You can find other examples in a Google search (or other SE).

    I find that my blogs "reach out and 'catch the current.'"
    Sometimes I link blog entries to sections of my site[s] or I often will put affiliate links right into my blogs. I like the freshness of a blog and I find that freshness reaches out to people in ways that my main pages don't.

    I find Google publishes my recent entries fairly quickly and I know that my blogs' content can be found in SEs in a search.

    If your blog is really good and you'd like to get maximum exposure, you can submit it to:
    http://www.newsnow.co.uk/publishers/...ion-intro.html
    (free, but read their guidelines --NewsNow.co.uk doesn't accept every blog)
    Last edited by Rhia7; May 1st, 2007 at 10:45 PM.
    ~Rhia7 -- Remember the 7
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  5. #5
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary-AvantLink
    Wordpress.org would be of value to your site/efforts as long as you took the time to write compelling and helpful articles. A lot of Wordpress' power lies in an embedded plugin called 'Ping-o-matic which will syndicate your content to an array of blog directories. Plus the inherent nature of categorization/tagging and date stamping draws the search engines in and keeps them coming back
    Blogger will syndicate your content.
    Blogger now has categorization/tagging and date stamping.

    The key to control is to publish your blog on your own server.

    There's one catch to publishing [Blogger] on your own server: the categories will be beneath each post but if you'd like the tags in the navigational column follow these steps:
    http://blogger-tricks.blogspot.com/2...sy-method.html

    Blogger's updates threw me for a loop at first (one weekend I couldn't publish) but the kinks seem to have ironed out and Blogger publishes more quickly now
    Last edited by Rhia7; May 1st, 2007 at 11:58 PM.
    ~Rhia7 -- Remember the 7
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  6. #6
    ABW Ambassador Rehan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by InfiniteNesmith
    3) PPC. I've been reading about it and much of it is still Greek to me. Without a decent budget (ours is currently low), is it worth it to try PPC marketing, or would we be effectively throwing our money in the toilet?
    Starting with a small budget is the best approach when you're new to PPC. You wouldn't really want to blow big bucks when you're still wet behind the ears.

    You could try focusing on either MSN or Yahoo instead of AdWords... Or if you want to try going straight into AdWords, you could aim for only the "long tail" keywords at first. Your ROI may even be higher when you target the right areas with a small budget rather than going big with a large budget.

  7. #7
    Influencer Marketing GravityFed's Avatar
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    Good info about Blogger, Rhia. Thanks

  8. #8
    Newbie InfiniteNesmith's Avatar
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    Rhia, thanks for all the info on Blogger. I've been using it for some personal blogging, so until recently I haven't had a reason to check out its business potential. I'll give it a look!

    I guess my next step is to figure out what kinds of things to blog about to both draw people in and draw them to the site...hmm...

  9. #9
    Influencer Marketing GravityFed's Avatar
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    >> I guess my next step is to figure out what kinds of things to blog about

    You should pick a topic you're passionate about and one in which you have authority in. Otherwise it will be difficult to keep updating with compelling articles. Plus, readers will know right away whether or not you're the expert in the area you're blogging about.

    Just my opinion

    Gary M

  10. #10
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    blogging takes time to build a following, sometimes a long time. if it's a subject you're passionate about, do it as one channel of yours. but don't let it be the only channel.

    blogging isn't often shopping centric. it can be, but most times well followed blogs aren't. think of "selling", more than content fodder.

    mall sites are similarly not shopping centric (i make crazy statements like that all the time). yes, they are about shopping, but they aren't usually about sufficient to overcome the brand strength of real malls / merchants. i often find no compelling reason to visit mall sites over the merchants themselves. the value you can add to change that is completely up to you. coupons change it. price and feature comparison tools change it. but generally, mall sites lack specificity needed for good seo and ppc. yes, they can work and there are members here who do it, but they have done it for a long time and know exactly what sources of traffic make roi sense for their sites.

    before you get the idea that i'm saying start over or toss the mall idea... please post the compelling aspects of your mall site for me and others to comment on. if it's a mall site made specifically for members of the southern baptist church, i see a possible interested audience. if it's a fishermans mall, i see niche. if you specialize in imported items, i see uniqueness and an esoteric mystique that may attract. but if it's a multi-feed presentation by standard categories, i see a tough, tough road for you to convey compelling-ness.

    parting thought... get sticky.

  11. #11
    Newbie InfiniteNesmith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donuts
    blogging isn't often shopping centric. it can be, but most times well followed blogs aren't. think of "selling", more than content fodder.
    I was thinking of having a blog of commentary/ideas/insight on current issues. There's always a tie-in that can be made without being pushy or blatantly trying to up-sell.

    Quote Originally Posted by Donuts
    but generally, mall sites lack specificity needed for good seo and ppc. yes, they can work and there are members here who do it, but they have done it for a long time and know exactly what sources of traffic make roi sense for their sites.
    Aye, I've long suspected that might be the case and keep trying to come up with ways to narrow the focus or create a more compelling mall. Thus far, I've drawn a blank on something that will work across the board.

    Quote Originally Posted by Donuts
    please post the compelling aspects of your mall site for me and others to comment on. ... but if it's a multi-feed presentation by standard categories, i see a tough, tough road for you to convey compelling-ness.
    Aye, again. Thus far, our only "compelling" spot is our specials page, which I'm almost embarrassed to show off due to it needing major cleanup in the design department. (But what the hey, here it is anyway. Constructive comments for a better layout are welcome.) I'm also pretty happy with the landing pages for the larger categories and am hoping to keep them, in a cleaner form, when I do the site-wide update.

    I'm afraid this all shows how green I am, but I suppose I can't learn if I pretend that I already know everything.

  12. #12
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    Use the site review section here for more feedback:
    http://forum.abestweb.com/forumdisplay.php?f=146

    Move that drop-down you have at the bottom of the page to the top right hand corner, where people can see and use it.

    Add an "about us" page - this will help you focus on what's special / compelling about you.

    Add a privacy policy page - some networks require it and it does add legitimacy to your site.

    Add a site map.

    At the bottom of every page, have a copyright statement and links to your site map, about us, contact us and privacy policy pages.

    You left side nav bar highlighting thingy is confusing - instead of changing the shade of the currently selected category, it disappears completely.

    tidbits above are minor points compared to your biggest problem - there's nothing special or compelling at all here. What is cpc stand for? How do people figure it out, so that it is meanigful? (I may have missed it- but same point - make your mission and specialness VERY obvious to people) is that a planet behind the cpc? I see "Relaxed, Peaceful, No-Hype Shopping" at the bottom... hmmm... are you the tree hugging type (no offense meant!!!)? perhaps a hippie shopping mall or one that is about saving the planet or going green... is that a gig that interests you? you might donate a portion of your proceeds to green causes and keep a ticker on every page about how much money you've contributed... and let members vote for which green cause gets that month's percentage of the profits... something, you need something special. You strike me as special and smart - seriously. Figure out what it is you want to be, then BE it. Right now, you are a listing of merchants - a fairly short one compared to your competitors - all 310,000 of them.

    Let your specialness come through. Sounds cheesey - but I can feel it in you, I just can't see it yet.

    Your chosen icon at ABW is far more interesting than your website. This is not an insult, but a compliment and an urging to let YOU come through your commercial activity more - somehow. You know the best way - it's in you now. It's capped inside by misconceptions and relative newness. Shake it off and show us who you are.

  13. #13
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donuts
    You left side nav bar highlighting thingy is confusing - instead of changing the shade of the currently selected category, it disappears completely.
    I got this part wrong on my first pass - you don't have a highlighting thingy there....

    Links that have been visited have a different color than unvisited links. Learn to use Cascading Style Sheets to control these colors. Your "visited" link color is the same color as the nav bar's background color - so the visited links (the ones that interested the person!!!) disappear after they've been clicked. You need to fix that!

  14. #14
    Newbie InfiniteNesmith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donuts
    Your "visited" link color is the same color as the nav bar's background color - so the visited links (the ones that interested the person!!!) disappear after they've been clicked.
    Egads, how did I miss that?? Thanks for pointing it out. I already see where the problem is in the style sheet; I'll have to fix that ASAP.

    Quote Originally Posted by Donuts
    I see "Relaxed, Peaceful, No-Hype Shopping" at the bottom... hmmm... are you the tree hugging type (no offense meant!!!)? perhaps a hippie shopping mall or one that is about saving the planet or going green... is that a gig that interests you?
    The mall is actually the brainchild of my dad, who came up with the idea of a one-stop online mall. He doesn't like real malls, and I have to agree with him that there is a percentage of people out there who are also sick of the rushing around, the crowds, etc. That is the main goal of the site--to be the opposite of a real shopping mall with regard to stress and time-wasting. Being that I'm the web savvy one in many ways, the site has pretty much passed to me, and it's my job to streamline the heck out of it until it can meet that goal.

    Funny you should ask about going green. I've been thinking of incorporating that into the site to some extent. We're big into organic farming and alternate energy around here. Something along those lines was the first thing that popped into my head as potential blog material.

    Quote Originally Posted by Donuts
    Your chosen icon at ABW is far more interesting than your website. This is not an insult, but a compliment and an urging to let YOU come through your commercial activity more - somehow. You know the best way - it's in you now. It's capped inside by misconceptions and relative newness. Shake it off and show us who you are.
    Aw, thanks, brother. And thanks for the suggestions! I'm working on a test version of the front page this week. When I'm done, I'll post it over in the site review section.

  15. #15
    Outsourced Program Manager Rick - Bitcom's Avatar
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    I don't mean to be Mr. Negative but to me you're missing the point of what makes people buy...

    Your site is one step away from being a "banner farm." That basically means you add no value for your visitors and give them no compelling reason to click to merchants or come back.

    For example... in your golf section... you have straight banners that just go to the home page of merchants (for the most part). As the former AM for GigaGolf I can tell you those banners just don't convert. You need to create urgency by at least showing the coupon banners that they offer.

    All those golf merchants offer coupons and promotions. At least give your visitors the help of pointing them to those deals. That's adding value.

    Also you could create a page for each merchant that presells them. A little story about each merchant in your own voice adds some credibility for you and them and generally warms up your visitors so they are in a "ready to buy" mood. Your conversions will go way up. Plus people will come back because you helped them.

    Great marketing is not about selling things it's about creating relationships.

    Here's a free eBook that might help you understand how affiliate marketing works. At least in my opinion.

  16. #16
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    I'm about a half-hour drive outside Albany, near to a few relatively small towns.
    Cool! I am from a town an hour north of Albany, and

    I grew up in central NY outside of Ithaca
    I went to university in Ithaca. Small world!

    Anyway, I totally agree with Rick. "Personalizing" those stores is key. It's time consuming, but it will pay off later. Creating a warmer atmosphere would certainly inspire me to enter more of the stores in the mall

  17. #17
    Newbie InfiniteNesmith's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the suggestions. Between this and the thread in the site review section, I've made myself a to-do list. I've also broken down what needs to be done into "phases" so that I can get the new site up sooner and still get everything done without overwhelming myself.

    Wish me luck!

  18. #18
    Affiliate Manager MINDsprinter's Avatar
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    Just another thought on blogging. If you've got a topic you are passionate about you can most definitely get traffic. I've been running a blog for almost six months now. I love doing it, and the traffic has been going up every month. Not that it is really an affiliate site, but blogs can bring in the visitors if you write good stuff, update often, and seed your articles out to social news services like digg, reddit, stumbleupon and others.
    Jason Rosenbaum
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    MINDsprinting

  19. #19
    Newbie InfiniteNesmith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MINDsprinter
    seed your articles out to social news services like digg, reddit, stumbleupon and others.
    Have you tried and/or had any luck with Technorati?

  20. #20
    Affiliate Manager MINDsprinter's Avatar
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    Technorati hasn't been my biggest source of traffic, but it has helped. I save my posts as favorites and write a WTF for them. I do better on digg and reddit usually, plus facebook and myspace.
    Jason Rosenbaum
    Affiliate Manager
    MINDsprinting

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