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  1. #1
    Affiliate Manager PetsWarehouse.com's Avatar
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    Do pure banner web sites make money?
    My new AM, Ryan has been reviewing our affiliate members sites and asked if sites with nothing but banners can convert any sales.

    I looked at a few and IMO they are pretty bad, they just grab banners from any merchant and slap them on a page, in some cases there are about 30+ just one under the other.
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  2. #2
    Merchant & ABW Ambassador
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    The answer is No.

    These sites are caller banner farms. They do not do anything (or at least to the best of my knowledge). Some of them will have animated banners too and if 300 of those 120*60 banners with some animation, which one would you pick to click though?

    Unfortunately, some companies will sell these sites to people with little to no clue of online marketing and saying "Make $1000 in 1 week when you have your own online business". I have done some test with cookie cutter banners sites and it will not convert plus does not drive any traffic at all.

    My suggestion, deny them entry into your program in the future.

  3. #3
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    I think "banner farms" are essentially a waste of time for the webmasters, most of whom have absurd dreams of income without effort.

    However, I generally recommend that affiliate managers approve these sites, because although the site quality is almost always very low and unlikely to receive a non-zero pagerank, this is still an inbound link and there is some chance (however remote) that the webmaster will later produce a more meaningful site.

    Surprisingly, some of these banner-farm pages have long lifespans, and in my competitive searches while recruiting for affiliates, I've found some very stale banner-farm pages which my Google Toolbar tells me have pagerank of 2 or 3 or (once) 4.

    Another reason I like to approve all of these sites is that when my competitor uses Arelis or another tool to try to identify my affiliates for "poaching," the list will be clouded with all these garbage affiliates, who may waste the competitor's time.

    I think the main risk of approving a "banner farm" site (or any apparent garbage site, including "placeholder" sites and parked domains), is the risk that this account might just be a "front" for a parasite or other unethical affiliate who is trying to squeak past your defenses by pretending to be ignorant/innocent/naieve.

    Certainly, you should create a separate "grouping" for these affiliates (for example, "banner farms" and, if you approve them, a separate grouping for "placeholders and parked domains," within your affiliate-solution interface. In general, these should be zero-maintenance affiliates.
    Last edited by markwelch; June 17th, 2007 at 08:14 AM.

  4. #4
    Moderator BurgerBoy's Avatar
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  5. #5
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    So if they don't make money, why are there long term banner farms accumulating page rank?

  6. #6
    ABW Ambassador
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetsWarehouse.com
    My new AM, Ryan has been reviewing our affiliate members sites and asked if sites with nothing but banners can convert any sales.

    I looked at a few and IMO they are pretty bad, they just grab banners from any merchant and slap them on a page, in some cases there are about 30+ just one under the other.
    Sounds like my very first site. I just threw up the banners I thought that looked cool. Was making about $0 at the time. So as far as sales, probably near the very bottom. Usually people just starting out. Some might eventually come up and deliver sales.

  7. #7
    Internet Cowboy
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    Quote Originally Posted by markwelch
    I think the main risk of approving a "banner farm" site (or any apparent garbage site, including "placeholder" sites and parked domains), is the risk that this account might just be a "front" for a parasite or other unethical affiliate who is trying to squeak past your defenses by pretending to be ignorant/innocent/naieve.
    This is what would come into my head when I see an affiliate with a pure banner farm. I would go as far as to say that if you see a real amount of traffic/sales coming from this affiliate to dig and see where those sales are REALLY coming from.


  8. #8
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    Aunt Lily asked: > "So if they don't make money, why are there long term banner farms accumulating page rank?" <

    A page can have good page rank, but still little or no traffic, or it might draw traffic based on some keywords on the page which don't generate traffic that's relevant to the banners shown. (Remember that page rank goes to the individual page, not the entire site, and a page might have a pagerank of 2 or 3 even though it isn't shown as a match for any high or moderate-traffic search terms.)

    Sometimes the banners don't work (broken-picture icons, invalid link URLs) and yet there is still some content that seems "original, unique, relevant, or promising" to Google's algorithms, so pagerank stays above zero and is reinforced by longevity.

    On my personal web site, I have many content pages that I created in 1996 and 1997 and haven't updated since then. Some of these pages draw a handful of "real" clicks per month (excluding search engines), and show pagerank of 3 or 4. They aren't "banner farms" but they certainly aren't current nor relevant to many searches -- yet Google occasionally sends me someone, and once or twice a year I notice a transaction triggered from one of these pages.

    Perhaps somewhere on the internet, there is a "banner farm" page that actually make money -- but that's certainly not the way I'd bet.

  9. #9
    Outsourced Program Manager John Jupp's Avatar
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    I'd still approve them. Simply for the inbound links.

    I have one portal site that is half product datafeed and half banner links. The reason for banners is that not all merchants provide datafeeds. I don't like deeplinking because with loads of sites, every time a merchant updates their site, the url sometimes needs changing and there are only so many hours in the day.

    With banners, I do try to add at least a three paragraph description of the company and their products/services. I prefer however to just use datafeeds that are kept up to date (another problem in that merchants don't keep them updated).

    In terms of conversion organically, the banners convert once in a blue moon. The datafeeds convert better. Also with datafeeds and decent descriptions, it's then worth doing a little PPC for selected products as the advertising cost is just a few cents. Deeplinking costs far more.
    Flambi Media Limited - USA/UK/EU Affiliate Management Expertise

  10. #10
    More Cheesier Than Ever Cheesehead's Avatar
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    Banner Farms = Late 90's Affiliate Marketing.
    It worked then, I would bet. I remember seeing a few left even in 2003 when I started.

    Heck, now youi can't even make a nicely set up datafeed site work without some PPC and/or some really good content or really good site shopping features.
    This World is Not My Home
    We're gonna go inside, we're gonna go outside, inside and outside. . . And then we're gonna go go go and we're not gonna stop til we get across that goalline! Quotes from the movie Rudy, 1993

  11. #11
    ABW Ambassador Ron Bechdolt's Avatar
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    I always contact the affiliate to see if they have other more relevent sites that might work better for my merchants and/or ask how they plan to promote my merchants. I give them a week or two to respond and if they don't I delete them. I've had a few show me sites or pages where they would be a good match.
    Ron Bechdolt | Affiliate Program Management Consultant
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  12. #12
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    >>I'd still approve them. Simply for the inbound links.

    For traffic and branding? Or for search engine link juice and Pagerank?

  13. #13
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    If you have 1000 affiliates like that, one might make a sale once in a while, but none of them will be big (or even moderate) producers.

    For a website to make money, it needs traffic and monetization. A banner farm has nothing to draw visitors, and the degree of targeting is poor enough that even if it had traffic it would be hard to monetize.

    Some of those affiliates may wise up and build a more useful site, but most never will.
    Michael Coley
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  14. #14
    Outsourced Program Manager John Jupp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by webworker
    >>I'd still approve them. Simply for the inbound links.

    For traffic and branding? Or for search engine link juice and Pagerank?
    Definitely for the branding. Not so much for the traffic. Also for search engine inbound links yeh.

    Of course when a merchant starts to grow, they get all worried about their brand image and then don't want to be advertised on every sort of website.

    Sometimes a bit harsh but understandable.
    Flambi Media Limited - USA/UK/EU Affiliate Management Expertise

  15. #15
    ABW Ambassador
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Jupp
    Definitely for the branding. Not so much for the traffic. Also for search engine inbound links yeh.

    Of course when a merchant starts to grow, they get all worried about their brand image and then don't want to be advertised on every sort of website.

    Sometimes a bit harsh but understandable.
    I guess there's a putz born every minute who grows up and doesn't know any better than to give away free SEO.

  16. #16
    Domain Addict / Formerly known as elbowcreek Thomas A. Rice's Avatar
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    My first site looked remarkably bad, and if merchants had judged my abilities and perseverance on that one site ( as some merchants did ) , then they would have missed out on the hundreds of thousands of surfers I now send to merchants every year.

    JMO, unless they are violating rules, approve them and hope they take the time to learn about the business.
    Following everyone else is a GREAT way to become average.

  17. #17
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    I normally approve such sites (unless, as elbowcreek said they violate any rules), but I never pay them activation bonuses. They do not add value.

    Geno

  18. #18
    Outsourced Program Manager Rick - Bitcom's Avatar
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    I believe these folks should be approved. Everyone had to start somewhere. Perhaps they will see the light and realize that they are wasting their time.

    The point is all affiliates are learning. I know I still am. Part of my job as an AM is to provide the tools so they can move to higher ground.

    Remember the old saying... "There but for the grace of ABW go I."

  19. #19
    ABW Ambassador Sam Bay's Avatar
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    AFFILIATE MANAGERS! Listen Up, Please!

    Here is what to do whit banner-farm type, really seemingly-useless websites.

    Obviously, these guys are just starting with the affiliate marketing so they don't how to go about it, what works and what doesn't. When they see available flashy banners, nice graphics at Linkshare and CJ, they just slap them on a page wait for "Ka-Ching" sound.

    So, why not write a 2-3 page manual that will teach them
    - how adding text is important
    - why they should add product links
    - how they update their sites with latest promotions
    - why they should focus on one specific topic
    - etc.
    And email this manual to them, as a Word file, simply after approving them.

    This will help them learn and grow faster in the affiliate marketing world. They will appreciate you for pointing to them to right direction, hopefully, promote your program more productively. As you can see in this thread, that's how many of today's sucessful affiliates got started.

    In 1998, Bizrate(Shopzilla) was a very simple online shopping mall.

    P.S.: Affiliate network links to a merchants sites, doesn't help as far as search engines concerned, because it's a redirect link.

  20. #20
    ABW Ambassador
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    P.S.: Affiliate network links to a merchants sites, doesn't help as far as search engines concerned, because it's a redirect link.
    No, they don't - but there are people out there looking for software for affiliate programs that does give backlink and PR credit. They post in SEO forums asking and usually get jumped all over for it.

    When you think about it, how many programs are there that just tell people all they have to do is put up links or the colorful banners provided to make money from their sites? And how many don't provide anything else? It's understandable that people would come along, join up and believe it.

  21. #21
    ABW Ambassador Sam Bay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by webworker
    No, they don't - but there are people out there looking for software for affiliate programs that does give backlink and PR credit
    And those are people whose sites probably not worth promoting, if they are in it for backlinks and better PR.

  22. #22
    Affiliate Manager cbsturg's Avatar
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    I subscribe to the thought that if they aren't hurting you (and they're following the Program's TOS), why decline them? However, I definitely flag merchants whose web sites look, uh, like they ought to convert at a lower rate. If I find lots of traffic and sales coming from them, I definitely take a closer look to make sure everything's on the up and up.

    But again, who's to say that the website they have on record is the one from which they are promoting your product? I believe in keeping a program clean, but I don't believe in disallowing affiliates just because I think their site is lacking. Perhaps they have their first site listed and forgot about it?

    There's little reason to automatically disapprove these type of people (in my opinion).
    Chris Sturgill
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  23. #23
    ABW Ambassador Snib's Avatar
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    Maybe it's better to deny them challenging them to build a better site for approval. I've requested links from prominent sites where the response was to build a better site to get the link. I improved my site and eventually earned the link.

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

  24. #24
    Merchant & ABW Ambassador
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    I am not sure why people think that banner farms will help in back links or help in PR. It will do nothing like that as it is being redirected via LS, CJ, SAS servers. So it does not help increase value in back links.

    As to 2-3 page manual, most of those affiliates that purchase a banner farm might have no idea what is HTML. I was talking to an affiliate that bought a mass produced banner farm. I got 7 calls from that affiliate asking me how to pull links....what links to, use to what size, how to navigate the Linkshare interface. I applaud this affiliate's dedication but it does take a lot of resources for a merchant to maintain the elementary affiliate trainning session for each and every affiliate that might need affiliate trainning 101 from interface usage to how to use this as a HTML.

  25. #25
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    Eric, there are outfits out there peddling their "network" services under the guised of being "affiliate networks" when in reality all they're doing is brokering backlinks for a monthly fee. They may be wearing a tag-line of affiilate network, but all they are is all dressed up with a dirty neck.

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