| Rules to Live by for Aggressive Affiliate Engagement
BY Jason Ciment | January 18, 2002
Today we are going to profile the initial steps taken to launch a new Web site in a highly competitive marketplace. Hopefully, by following these extremely simple and easily duplicable steps, you will find a methodology that can be applied to your own e-commerce endeavors — even in an environment with many established players.
Best of all, you will be able to implement these ideas for practically no money (other than the initial cost of the software).
Our model site, www.highperformancenutrition.net, has been in development for about 30 days and is set to go live in early February. Briefly, these are the steps that Danny, the site owner, has taken in anticipation of the impending launch.
- Identify keywords. Danny came up with a list of about 100 keyword sets that closely match the nutrition values he intends to provide. For example, by using some deductive reasoning and some keyword matching software — which works similarly to how NameBoy comes up with domain name matches — he was able to come up with “nutrition products,” “health food,” “protein drinks,” and “keeping fit” as highly relevant terms that people would type into search engines to locate relevant nutrition product sites.
- Create personalized pages. Then Danny built separate static HTML pages specifically designed for each one of these keyword sets. Additionally, he created multiple versions of each of these pages. The idea is to design each page with slightly different content and target it to a specific demographic audience. For example, on the two pages designed around the keywords “health food,” the content on one page is targeted at health food store owners and the content on the second is uniquely targeted toward health food lovers.
- Suck up to the search engines. Next, Danny submitted each of these HTML pages to the different search engines with a focus on the 10 most popular engines, such as Google, AOL, and Yahoo! He accomplished this with relative ease by manually submitting pages each day to each engine for about an hour a day — making sure not to violate any spam provisions that would get him banned by particular engines. Additionally, Danny used some readily available software, such as WebPosition Gold and Site Submitter, to track his ranking results and automatically notify hundreds of minor search engines about his different Web pages.
- Link to other sites. Danny used a Web site spider to quickly build a list of Web sites offering content or commerce specifically relevant to nutrition products. He then contacted many of the most applicable sites and asked permission to link to their sites from a links page he was building. For example, on the page targeted at store owners, he added links to other health food stores online (mostly noncompetitive) so that his buyers would think of his nutrition site as more than just an e-commerce store. A few software solutions, such as LinkCrafter and Zeus, make this task much easier.
One of the byproducts of contacting each of these sites is that the site owners were added to Danny’s contact list for future emails.
- Ask for affiliates. When Danny asked permission to link, he also personally called (not emailed) a smaller selection of the site owners he targeted to discuss more intricate affiliate relationships. Sometimes, instead of offering them the standard affiliate commission arrangement found on his site, he would even doubled the commission, depending on the nature of the deal.
- Question quality. The bottom line in affiliate marketing is quality — not quantity. Danny realized that 10 targeted super affiliates could bring him much more business than 1,000 randomly acquired affiliates. Additionally, Danny dramatically raised the bar on the quality of the deals with each affiliate by requesting two things: referrals to other affiliate marketing or joint venture opportunities and frequent updates on the types of promotions (and the results) each affiliate was running internally. This way, Danny could leverage their experience when planning his own campaigns.
- Pay per click. Danny used some relatively new pay-per-click management software, like Tangare, to bid on high placements on pay-per-click engines such as Overture (formerly GoTo.com). Quite simple – Don’t buy untargeted ads; the best ROI for your money today is specific keyword buys on search engines or pay-per-click engines.
- Provide something for free. This is the easiest step of all. Using the guidance of Robert Allen, author of “Multiple Streams of Internet Income,” Danny has already started emailing his list of contacts (developed in step 4) short surveys designed to motivate participation in the development of the site. Of course, he’s also hoping to stimulate interest in the impending site launch. He is spacing the surveys a week or so apart and slowly building momentum among the email recipients. And, to whet their appetites for his “revolutionary new nutrition site,” his email surveys include some viral recommendation components attached to a giveaway (either a discount coupon, a contest to win free supplies, or a surprise bonus gift to be determined).
So there you have it. For less than $1,000, Danny — who also saved money by personally designing his site — should be able to super-charge a site launch with instantaneous traffic from both affiliates and search engines. After he launches, we’ll see how he did and what other indirect promotions he undertook, such as public relations and personal appearances.
Jason Ciment is CEO of MagMall, which he founded 1997. He designed, programmed, and developed the fully interactive java and perl-based magazine subscription Web site that has more than 10,000 individual and corporate partners. He has also worked with manufacturing companies such as Liz Claiborne and Jones New York to maintain quality standards and prompt order fulfillment.