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Sun
16
Jan '11

A Personal Note of Thanks to my AffSpot Family

As many of you know in the last couple weeks my father fell ill, and passed away.  It’s been tough.  But through it all, your thoughts and prayers expressed to my family and me have been both a comfort and have given that extra measure of strength we all needed.

In some businesses there are little, if any, real connections made with people.  Fortunately, working with all of you is an exception and it is both a privilege and an absolute joy to be able to have friends as well as business relationships with you all.

One of you sent me an email that contained the quote “some say life is too short, others say it is too long, but I know that nothing that we do makes sense if we don’t touch the  hearts of others…….while it lasts!”.  And that you all certainly have done.

On behalf of myself and my family, we all thank you so very much.

Scott Medlock

Burl Medlock
(November 1, 1931 – January 10, 2011)

Burl Millard Medlock

U.S. Veteran

Burl M. Medlock, age 79, of Gordonville passed away Monday, January 10, 2011 at Southeast Missouri Hospital in Cape Girardeau.

Memorials may be made to Christ Lutheran Church (Gordonville Missouri) Building Fund or the donor’s choice.

Wed
24
Nov '10

The True Story of the First Thanksgiving Bears Repeating

From the AffSpot Archives is the True Story of the First Thanksgiving and why it’s particularily relevant to those of use involved in Affiliate Marketing.

On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower sailed. It manifest included a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford.

The journey to the New World was a long and difficult trip. And when the Pilgrims landed on the New England cost in November, they found, according to Bradford’s detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate land. He wrote that there were no friends to greet them. There were no houses or shelter. But the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning.

During the first winter, half the Pilgrims – including Bradford’s own wife – died of either exposure, sickness, or starvation.  When springtime arrived, local Indians freely shared their knowledge, teaching the settlers how to plant corn, fish the local waters, and skin beavers for coats.  Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper.

The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share.  All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well. They were going to distribute it equally. Nobody owned or were personally invested in anything. They just had their common share.

Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, realized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken half their number. Bradford took bold decisive action. He assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace as each family was incentive’s for their own industriousness.  Their own prosperity was now coupled with their own performance.

Bradford wrote about this, ‘The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years…that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God,’ Bradford wrote. ‘For this community was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense…that was thought injustice.

Which also summarizes Performance Marketing and why being an Affiliate Marketer is so fulfilling.  We all are working together with our own individual endeavors to advance ourselves.  Our own ingenuity, hard work, accumulated knowledge combined with the sense of community this industry enjoys has allowed what began as nothing in the early 1990s to be a multi billion dollar industry today.  Many of us make our entire living in Affiliate Marketing.  A greater number are building their own business to sustain themselves or are involved to bring in a few extra dollars each month.  All because the Performance Marketing industry as a whole has not had to learn about using incentives to motivate individual marketers to attain ever higher levels of performance and efficiency.  We have never had to do a complete regroup and re engineering because the basic principles were already well known and practiced for three hundred plus years before Affiliate Marketing as we know it ever existed.

Bradford wrote of the Pilgrims new found prosperity, ‘This had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.

We are all thankful for many things.  For our families, our children, our friends, country, and that we are free to pursue our businesses as we see fit.  That we are measured for our performance and rewarded in kind.

All rooted in the original example where the Pilgrims, led by William Bradford, reformed their system and got rid of the communal teet and started what was essentially free market capitalism, they produced more than they could possibly consume, and they invited the Indians to dinner, to show how their lessons were applied by the Pilgrims and producing enough for all to share as they gave thanks.

And so today we all give thanks for all we have.  For our families.  For our friends.  For the unique opportunity we are privileged to enjoy as members of the Affiliate Marketing Community.

Mon
20
Sep '10

Teaching our Youth Affiliate Marketing, and Supporting Them!

Learning by Doing is a good way to gain experience.  And for our youth, teaching them Affiliate Marketing can better help them understand what it is that we do.  And build a solid work ethic for our kids at the same time.

As some of you saw on my Facebook status…  My Son has joined Cub Scouts.  I couldn’t be more proud.  I was a Scout at his age, and for a lot of years.  And what is one component of their fund raising effort to pay for camp, programs, craft items, and their badges and awards?  Affiliate Marketing!

So my Son is learning how to sell, online.  Below is his first email effort.  Not bad for a 9 yr old (he did have a little help, but I’m happy to say not much).  And yes (shameless plug), click his link and help him reap some rewards for his efforts.  He gets to earn his own way to camp next summer with Affiliate Marketing.

Did you know you can help me earn my own way in Scouting?
cubscoutpopcorn
Just click here and place an order for Trail’s End Popcorn on my behalf.

All microwave products are made with canola oil and all caramel products
are naturally sweetened, so there are plenty of healthy, flavorful snacks
to choose from.

And 70% of your purchase will be returned to my council, my unit
and my Scout rewards.

Online purchases help us fund fun, educational activities and help more
kids experience all the things that make Scouting great.

Thanks for your support,

Powell
trailsendcomputer

If you cannot click on the link above, please copy and paste this full URL
into your Internet browser address bar:

http://www.trails-end.com/estore/scouts/email_referral.jsp?id=7957459

Tue
7
Sep '10

100 Years of Scouting… Longevity of Excellence

Not too many things last 100 years.  Some buildings do.  Fewer people do.  And this year the Boy Scouts are celebrating 100 years of excellence in service.  The founding of the Boy Scouts in England by Lord Baden Powell, the Scouts have had a profound influence all over the world by helping young boys become young men (and unbeknownst to all but a very few, the real reason my son’s name is Powell).  The best of those young men achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.  Of which I am proud to be one of.

The lesson for us in the Performance Marketing Industry is that short term gains do not provide security, nor longevity.  Excellence in what we do, does.  How about we take a couple examples of some Scouts who by their striving for excellence in their own professions, have made their mark and have achieved both personal and financial success.  Which by no fluke marked their own young lives by becoming Eagle Scouts (less than 4% of all Scouts achieve this honor btw.).

  • Mike Rowe – Famous as a champion of hard working people with his own pursuit of “Dirty Jobs”.
  • Sam Walton – Founder of Wal-Mart.
  • Neil Armstrong – World Record Setting pilot in the X-15 program and First Man on the Moon.
  • Gerald Ford – 38th President of the United States.
  • J. Willard Marriott, Jr. – President of Marriott Hotels.

This short list is representative of the majority of Eagle Scouts in our midst.  In business, government, media, and other pursuits they stand out because of the things they learned in Scouts.  To do their Best.  To do their Duty.   For their God and their Country.  High standards indeed.

All too often we chat amongst each other about the scammers, spammers, and the cheats in our industry.  Perhaps it’s time we raise each other up to a higher level and praise achievement, success, excellence, honesty, integrity, and the generosity that the best in our industry have to offer.  And share these accolades with our customers, friends, other industries.

And by building on our excellence over time, perhaps we will one day celebrate a century of excellence.  Much like the well deserved accolades we owe Scouting today.

Mon
9
Aug '10

Affiliate Marketing is a Sweatshop…

Do you think Affiliate (Performance) Marketing is a Virtual Sweatshop?  It seems that the folks over at pcpro.co.uk think so.  In an article titled Inside the online sweatshops there is a section denoted as Affiliate marketing schemes.  And no, they don’t mean “schemes” like your thinking.  That’s what the Brit’s call an Affiliate Program.

The interesting thing to me is that they (pcpro.co.uk that is) contends (citing an eConsultancy study) that 13% of websites earn just under $100,000.00/month while around 33% generate $90.00 or less per month.  And more shockingly to me is that just over a third of all Internet purchases happened via an Affiliate Program!  Now, that’s the UK (and yes, I did a conversion from Pounds to Dollars).  Which I think is the real story here.

It’s not that Affiliate Marketers make a pittance.  It’s that over 1/3 of all Internet Sales in the UK came from Affiliate Programs!  How much did you earn your first year as an Affiliate?  Not much I’ll bet.  And for most of the newer Affiliates I deal with they don’t do much initially as well.

But, the Affiliates that treat their activities like a real business.  Organize their activities like a business.  Implement a Marketing Plan/Business Plan, and Accounting/Bookeeping structures like a real business…  Tend to stick it out, learn the trade, master the craft, and go on to be successful Affiliate Marketers.

Which doesn’t mean that those earning $300/month are failures.  Far from it.  I have many friends who earn $100/$200..  $300/month and that’s their goal.  A little extra cash.  They consider themselves successful, they are meeting their own goals, and I wouldn’t call them failures.

Just as I don’t think that Affiliates that arn’t serious about the business (by their actions) are “Sweatshop Workers” either.  Sweatshop workers have no choice.  Affiliate Marketers enter the industry because they want to.  It’s their own business and their not slaving away for the benefit of others by being locked up in a building sewing beltloops.

Some make it, some don’t…  But Affiliate Marketing is by no means a “sweatshop”..  And I think being lumped into that category by pcpro.co.uk is a continuation of the bad rap we receive as Affiliates in the greater Performance Marketing Industry.

Sun
1
Aug '10

The Goldmine Affiliates are Missing… Consumer Tracking

privacy

The Wall Street Journal had an enlightening article a couple days ago about “The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets”.  Enlightening indeed.  And after reading this interesting piece (with a few more to come out in this series) the “lightbulb” lit up…  How many Affiliate Programs are planting beacons, etc. for the specific purpose of tracking your site visitors/audience/customers?  So I did a little experiment.

I built out a new OS load on an ancient computer.  Then visited a few known sites that are nothing more than lists of affiliate advertisements.  Nearly every network had programs on these sites (Coupon/Deal/Bargain listings w/o much content).  And what I found was shocking.  100% of the sites planted tracking cookies and beacons that didn’t come from the network or the site.  They were from the advertisers!

And the other shocking finding is that there were more pixels, beacons, and cookies set than there were advertisements!  Accounting for simple innocuous tracking (the affiliate program tracker, password save cookies, session cookies, etc.) the numbers still leave no doubt.  Some advertisers were setting multiple ways to track with a single advert.

And where does this data go?  Why, to tracking companies who accumulate specific data about specific computers and then sell the data for around $0.001/identity.  Now let’s add these numbers up.  Your average small to midsized network is displaying 5 million adverts / day (more or less, depending on the network).  Which means 5mil * .001 = $5,000.00 / day in potential revenue for doing nothing more than selling the data on open exchanges to other advertisers.  And where is the Network’s and Affiliates share in this?  Why, it doesn’t exist!  The Network is paid a retainer and a percentage of sales, and the Affiliate is paid a percentage of sales.  Neither are being paid for distributing tracking pixels/beacons of other companies.  But they’re being set.

$5,000.00/day = $150,000.00/month.  That’s alot of money.  Divided out it isn’t much money per affiliate/network.  But given that most networks have hundreds of programs and most affiliates do too.  It adds up.  And right now Performance Marketers arn’t getting paid for it.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t much care for the concept of aggregated tracking beacons.  It’s a little creepy when I look up something and then every advert I see is about that subject.  Give me the “creepy willies” when that happens.  But I also don’t like it when I work hard to promote affiliate offers on my sites and am not paid for it.  Like when an offer is setting a tracking mechanism that the advertiser is either using, or selling, without getting my fair share of it for my efforts.

I’ve started tracking my sites with TrackerWatcher and if I find an advertiser that has anything more than the network tracking set…  They’re gone.

What are you going to do?

Fri
23
Jul '10

Ad Industry Makeover Mistakes And A Win for Performance Marketing

I was reading an article today in an online version of a newspaper that details the creation of the Institute for Advertising Ethics at the University of Missouri Journalism School (the USA’s oldest and perhaps most highly regarded journalism school).  And I noticed an item that really upsets me…  And a backhanded acknoledgement of the Performance Marketing industry as well.

Margaret Duffy, a former ad executive who now teaches at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and is helping to organize the ethics institute is quoted in the article as saying that advertising persuasion can be done in an “Ethical and Tasteful” way.  But the sentence containing this quote is what I have an issue with.  Here it is:

But even though the industry’s fundamental purpose is to convince shoppers to buy a product they may not actually need, such persuasion can be done in an “ethical and tasteful” way, she added.

Now I don’t know if the context is from the writer at the Associated Press, or from Ms Duffy.  But it’s dead flat out wrong.  The fundamental purpose of advertising is to help shoppers find and buy products that fulfill their needs.  The shopper may not know they need it.  The shopper may be seeking out a solution to a problem.  The shopper may purchase items simply because they perceive the need even though they don’t really need it.  But convincing shoppers to buy products they neither need (or want) puts our industry in the worst possible light for no good reason.

I don’t know anyone in this industry that purposely tries to elicit purchases from people who don’t need or want their products.  It’s too much work, too little profit, too high cost, and would damage the brand if they did so.  I know plenty of people in the industry that believe in the products they promote, provide the best information they have to help consumers make the choice to buy these products.

If I suddenly started promoting a useless eBook claiming to teach you how to successfully use a left handed monkey wrench with your right hand and found a way to convince you that you really needed to buy it…  Would you (after buying it) every purchase something from me again?  No, I didn’t think so.  Which is the point.

If you look at highly successful Performance Marketing Affiliates your not going to see them promoting bad products.  It would sully their name, destroy trust in them and their sites, and hurt their bottom line.  Just the same as you only promoting products that are good for your audience.  Provide a solution to your followers potential problems.  Fit their lifestyles, etc.  You simply make more money and build a loyal base of people who will buy from you again and again.

The interesting thing about Performance Marketing in the article is it did recognize (backhandedly) a portion of our industry.  The scam diet, and “make money now” portion.  Not a huge win.  But at least a part of our industry is being recognized as part of the overall advertising community.

Now to get on with the real work.  Leading by example and showing the AP Writers and Journalism School Faculty that their impression of our industry is just simply wrong.

Wed
14
Jul '10

The Value of the Affiliate Performance Marketer

Yesterday I received a call from an Affiliate Manager friend with an issue.  Affiliates running ads on reserved trademarks, coupons dominating, backend tracking getting more and more difficult and the workload it was causing.  Generally, my friend wasn’t having a good day.

So I suggested that we go through each item one by one and maybe my suggestions would help, and maybe they wouldn’t.  But in any case my friend would at least have things to think about.  And as we worked our way through the high spots everything boiled down to this.  The true Value of the Affiliate Performance Marketer is being hindered by artificial means.  That instead of fighting the Affiliates they should get creative and work with the Affiliates.  And that there is “hidden” value that needs definition and measurement.

And here are the ideas along with the Value:

If Affiliates want to bid on your product names, etc. how about enabling them on terms everyone can be happy with?  Allow the bidding as long as the links go to you.  Then figure out a way to make that work in your favor.  For example,  Running special banners/text leading to specific “landing page experience” sites just for those affiliates that are bidding on your trademarks?  Make it special, and exclusive enough that you leverage the behavior to the benefit of your brand/store?

Since “Coupons are King” right now.  Embrace them in intelligent ways.  Maybe have your discounts/coupons tied to a Facebook “like” button?  Tweet this page to enable your Coupon?  etc. and by all means find a way to have the hard working Affiliates link in those “share” items so they get a little credit.  But how many high performing affiliates will promote your program knowing that your going to tie the use of a coupon/discount to spreading the affiliates links?

Leverage your Affiliates for SEO.  There’s a million ways to do this.  Some good..  and some downright evil.  Stick with the valid, honest, and realistic ways to do this.  Work with your SEO people and build up a plan that works for everyone.  When a consumer searches for your keywords, and the first couple pages of Google are totally filled with your own site and those of your affiliates (and not your competitors) there’s value that makes the two items above nearly priceless.  Take your time, be smart, and figure it out.  It’s worth it.

And lastly, the combined cost of Affiliate Commissions and Discounts.  The conundrum of a 20% discount and a 15% affiliate commission costing so much.  To that I asked a simple question.  “Does your Affiliate Program show a profit, or a loss”?  The answer was profitable.  So my response is “So What”?  If your making a profit from the program (including management costs, network costs, etc.) then the discounts and commissions arn’t completely out of line.

One final subject was discussed.  Defining how to measure the results!  Some subjective, some objective, and some objective with subjective judgements.  Sales, EPC, etc. are all good.  But go through some other things as well.  How many links from your affiliates on the first page of Google/Bing, etc. for your keywords?  Over time, when those numbers increase do your sales increase?  If you trade bidding on your own trademarks for letting your affiliates “help out” is splitting that gain 50/50 with your affiliates helping them work harder for you?  Do you have any “leading/lagging” indicators in your data used to help you predict, then measure, what’s happening?

And yes, I basked in the comments of my friend of how helpful I was, etc.  But really, my friend knew all of these things already.  It just took a little discussion to clear out some clutter and think about that program from a fresh perspective.  Are you tossing away perceived conceptions and looking at your affiliate programs in ways that help you drive sales and value your affiliates for what they’re really doing for you inclusive of the non-direct sales benefits?

Tue
13
Jul '10

Implications of the Massachussetts “Harmful to Minors” law to Affiliates.

Granted, the main purpose of the “Crimes against chastity, morality, decency, and good order” law in Massachussetts is to prevent porn from being made available to children.  Which is good.  Adult items should be for adults, and childrens items should be available for the children.  But what happens if in the extremely “wide” language of this new law in the hands of unelected officials?

Let’s take a look at the law itself first.  Specifically, the revision to this law extended “harmful to minors” to the Internet. In addition to smutty books, films, pamphlets, pictures, plays, dances, and statues.  Yes, statues.  And what constitutes the “intent” assumption of a violating item?  From the statue (linked above) “…denotes sexual suggestiveness or a willingness to engage in sexual activity”.

Now, I don’t want Playboy or Penthouse available to my kids.  But it really doesn’t bother me all that much that the underwear section of the Sears Robuck Catalog, Victorias Secrets, or articles from National Geographic showing ladies in various states of dress/undress are on the Internet.  But what happens if your running banner ads for Victorias Secret on your blog?  Or for DVD Classics like “The Graduate” that shows Mrs Robinson alluringly posed in front of Dustin Hoffman?  Or links to the current run of Calvin Klein fashions?  None of which have a credit card gateway preventing the under 18 crowd from seeing the advertisement in the first place?

The point I’m getting at is that at anytime a faceless, nameless, individual in Massachussetts could decide that a particular advertisement for Calvin Klein, Victoria Secrets, or even an old movie on DVD could declare that the advertising banner that your running on your sites to be “…denotes sexual suggestiveness or a willingness to engage in sexual activity”. And, in theory, you could be held responsible if any child in Massachussetts should run across your website.

Now, I don’t think this would actually happen anytime soon.  But it’s best to be aware of what’s going on where and make sure that your affiliate sites are in compliance with the laws of ALL states.  Why?  Because if you inadvertently do something that violates a law (in say, Mass) it is likely that you would be held responsible in that state for violating that states laws.  Even if your in Iowa, or Florida, or wherever.

Not unlike some states wanting to require you to pay sales taxes to them because someone in their state clicks on your affiliate link.  Sound familiar???

Thu
8
Jul '10

By Which All Other Inventions are Measured….

Yesterday marked the 82nd anniversary of the Invention that all other inventions are measured against.  And while it wasn’t Performance Affiliate Marketing it does relate to the current state of our industry.  Every single day I receive an Email, a Tweet, a FB Friend request from another new network, a revolutionary traffic system, datafeed aggregator, etc.  And no matter what message they’re trying to get across it all comes across the same to me.

It would be simpler if they would all just say that their network/system/widget was the best thing since…..

But they’re not.  A network is nothing but a tracking system.  An OPM is just a management company.  A “method/system/formula” is nothing but an outline, and it seems that the only thing new I see out of most of these is the hype surrounding them.

And it really doesn’t and shouldn’t be this way.  If a new network is truly different then they should clearly say why they are different.  “Bigger Better Offers with High Conversions and Fast Payouts” doesn’t cut it.  OPMs need to distinguish what it is about their firm that is different and better.  People selling SEO software should make it clear about how using their product is an advantage.  Otherwise, they’re just celebrating the 82nd anniversary of the invention that all other inventions are measured against.

I firmly believe that by evidence and action that some networks are far superior to others.  I also know for a fact that some OPM firms bring tangible results for their Merchants and Affiliates in superior ways.  I have historical tracking to show that some tools I use for SEO and organic ranking simply work better.  And in every case not one of them told me why they were superior outside of self promotion equating to the equivalent of comparing themselves to the invention that all other inventions are measured against.

Soon…  And I think sooner rather than later, we’re going to see serious consolidation in the OPM arena.  And it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if it’s a network that starts rolling up OPM firms in order to distinguish themselves from other networks.  And it is my hope that this will be heralded for the competitive advantage it would give both Affiliates/Publishers and Merchant/Advertisers instead of the usual hype.

Because on July 7, 1928 the Chillicothe Baking Company of Chillicothe, Missouri introduced Sliced Bread.  And although many inventions can be said to be “The Biggest Thing Since Sliced Bread”.  The equevalent hype in our industry simply cannot stand up to just simply telling what you have and why it’s better.  Even if it is the biggest thing since sliced bread.