Tag : traffic strategies

Winning at Affiliate Survivor

affiliate survivalSometimes being an affiliate can be like participating in Survivor. To win you have to need to outwit, outlast, and outplay your competitors.

There’s a reason the show Survivor has endured on TV for 36 seasons. The premise is very simple. However, it plays out with unexpected twists and turns each time as the mix of various personalities navigate a social experiment with many factors out of their control. Participants surely understand the basics. Many are even super-fans or devoted students of the game. But crucial to the competition are adaptability and savvy in all facets of the game.

And while there’s no getting voted off the affiliate island, consumers do “vote”with their wallets. That means affiliates must be able to deftly navigate a myriad of areas including social, content, brand building, SEO, business planning and more. Faltering in any of those areas might extinguish your affiliate aspirations. Game over.

Outwit

Have a Plan – You’ve got to have a plan and execute on it. It’s inevitable  that things change – and rapidly. You’ll need to adapt and be flexible. But without a solid plan going in or an evolving plan, you’re not going to be able to move forward.You should review your business plans every 6 months and update as necessary.

Go Deep – Going a mile wide and an inch deep, isn’t going to get you to success. Instead think about doing the opposite. By focusing on a very specific niche and taking deeper dive into that specific market, you’ll be able to better serve the needs of the audience. It’s a more effective tactic to have a small, extremely loyal user base. , than a huge base that isn’t invented in what you are promoting. Maybe as a travel affiliate your niche is Las Vegas or vacationing families or roadtrippers or foodies.

Outplay

Leverage Content – One way to outplay rivals is to create content they can’t compete with. Because affiliates are often smaller companies they are more nimble than the brands they promote. This enables them to innovate more quickly. That’s true of leveraging content marketing as well. Creating unique, compelling content that has a laser focus on the target market, can be done very quickly by affiliates. And by using analytics it’s simple to see what resonates with the audience and what converts.

Be a Trendsetter – Get in front of breakout and seasonal trends. If you’re planning in advance it’s easier to see in July what might be hot for the holidays. There are also more seasonal events emerging – like Spring Break. Always be on the lookout for new trends in pop culture, art, among celebrities, etc. Often trends from other areas can be easily translated (with a bit of creativity) to specific niches. It might be a color that is hot, a style of decor or a something in fashion. For example if you’re a travel affiliate, you could leverage a return to nostalgia. More people are looking for experience getaways that recreate their childhood – like renting an RV and visiting all the National Parks or taking in baseball games at several major league parks.

Get Creative with Content – Think beyond the blog. Posts are great for some content. But think about mixing it up. You can use quizzes, infographics, video, reviews, user generated content. unusual content formats for recommending products and more. Variety keeps regular visitors interested. It also adds interest and can help with search rankings. Check out more ways to get creative with your content.

Outlast

Build a Brand – Consider what you’re doing to develop the brand of your affiliate website. That’s because brand building comes with many benefits. They include recognition, loyalty, a perception of size and quality, and the perception of experience and reliability.  These combine to provide a significant comfort level for potential customers. Establishing overall trust helps shoppers eventually become repeat customers, which can increase average order value and lifetime customer value – all important success metrics.

Think Recurring Revenue – With affiliate marketing, there is no assurance that your current strategy will work in a month. It could be Google updating their ranking algorithm, your favorite affiliate program shutting down, or media buying costs increasing. It’s wise to mitigate against the possibility of major changes.

Diversify Revenue –  Don’t rely on a single traffic source or a single monetization method. Affiliate, pay-per-click, sponsorships, paid placements all help your affiliate business from being vulnerable to one source of making money.

Look for New Promotional Opportunities – There may be some brands that perform well for your affiliate sites, but consider also joining new programs. Don’t get stuck in what’s working now. But you may be overlooking other programs to help increase your affiliate revenue and work well with in your niche.

Take Advantage of Tech Trends – Staying on top of what’s hot in tech can put you ahead of the competition. Whether it’s AI, chatbots, new mobile tech, blockchain and cryptocurrency developments or whatever else is coming down the pike, it’s always an advantage to be thinking about how developments might impact your business. Or better yet, how you can leverage that tech to make more money.

Careful consideration of all these areas can help make you the ultimate affiliate survivor with a sustainable, successful business.

Get Creative with Your Content

affiliate content and creativityEveryone gets stuck in a content rut. If you’re a travel affiliate or have a travel blog, you know that creating content feels like feeding a beast with an insatiable appetite. So, what to write? Another story about an amazing travel destination or how fun and exciting the vacation of a lifetime will be? Maybe. But you’ve been there and done that – many times over.

It’s time to get more creative. Here are some suggestions to get your creative content juices flowing:

Be Bold

Don’t be afraid to be “out there.” Even if you think your idea or topic is wacky or offbeat – consider it. Bold gets noticed. I’m sure it wasn’t immediately clear that a TV show about life after the Zombie Apocalypse would be one of the biggest hits ever. But the Walking Dead captivated the attention of millions of loyal (okay, obsessed) viewers.

And, of course, being out there doesn’t mean taking a contrary stance on something simply to inflame people. But instead, flipping something on its head can attract attention.

For example: Everyone seems to be on a diet or eating according to some kind of rules (Keto, Paleo, Whole 30, Atkins, Dash Diet, Weight Watchers, Zone, etc.). You could do a blog post about how to eat in a particular destination according the guidelines of one of those diets. Or instead, focus on how many of these eating plans allow a cheat day or days. Write your where and what to eat post about how to “Make Your Food Cheat Day in Vegas Worth It!”

Think Like a Journalist

When a national news event or happening takes place your local news people will put a regional spin on it. What they’re thinking is “how does impact our specific audience?” So, the next time there is something in the news, look at through the lens of your target audience.

For example: Shootings and gun safety are big items in the news. You could do a post on the Safest Cities to Vacation In. You don’t need to specifically call out the issues related to guns. Simply by doing a post of that nature you are tapping into the emotions of people without throwing it in their face or getting into a polarizing political debate.

However, be careful about capitalizing on tragedy or disasters. It takes a deft hand to do it right and not seem like an opportunist.

Borrow from Pop Culture

See what’s hot in the world of music, movies, celebrities, food, art, culture, social discourse and more. Make a list. For example, right now mid-century modern is all the rage in furniture and decor. This design shift was sparked in part by the popularity of the TV show Mad Men. If you’re a travel affiliate, it might seem like that has absolutely no bearing on what you promote to your audience. But it could. Create a post about staying in mid-century Airbnb houses for a Mad Men weekend getaway. Or highlight destinations that feature tours of the homes of famed mid-century modern architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  Focus on hotels that offer that a cool mid-century modern vibe. Or how to do Vegas Don Draper Style.

Make the Connection

If you’re immersed in your business and thinking about it all the time, you might find that mundane things also spark ideas. The tedious weekly task of gathering up the recyclables for pickup might get you thinking about reuse and repurposing of items. That could lead to you reviewing your old content and maybe repurposing it. Or perhaps, you might be inspired to write about eco-friendly hotels or vacations where helping people in other parts of the world may make a difference to the health of the planet.

Walking by a bookstore and just catching a glimpse of the tile “The Tibetan Art of Living and Dying” could yield a host of inspiration (Why Tibet Must be on Your Bucket List, The Top Spiritual and Wellness Destinations, Las Vegas: Balancing Spirits and Spirituality). You may not even be conscious that the book title registered with you. Or maybe just seeing a window display of books ignites something – Book Lovers Vacations, The Best Beaches for Your Summer Read, etc.

Free Yourself

Ever notice that when you sit down to come up with ideas, it’s almost makes the task harder? You often can’t “will” yourself to think of something creative. People often say, “I have my best ideas while in the shower.” Well, for you, it might not be the shower. Maybe it’s the grocery store or while driving. That’s because your mind is freed up to wander. That’s often when inspiration strikes. So, walk the dog. Take a hike. Just take a short break to load the dishwasher. Deviating from normal patterns and routines also helps. These are the moments when ideas come – when you’re not forcing them.

Jot it Down

You never know when inspiration may strike. Keep a notepad (or use your phone) to write or record your ideas. Keep a running list of ideas – no matter how out there they seem. Not all of them will be winners or even turn into blog posts. But having that list, in and of itself, is a reminder to come up with new ideas. Plus, you can look back and might find that one of the ideas sparks a totally different idea.

Inspiration is everywhere. All you have to do is be open, receptive and allow yourself the time and space to let the creativity flow.

Get Started Promoting New Affiliate Programs – Part 2

getting started new affiliate programIn the previous post we looked at helping you get motivated to begin promoting an affiliate  program after you’ve signed up. In Part 2 , we want to offer some tips that will help immediately kick off your promotional efforts.

Here are 10 ways to jumpstart your affiliate promotions of a new program:

1. Put up the Creative

Ask the affiliate program manager for the best-converting creative. They know what works best to drive sales and conversions and will be happy to share it with you. This means you’ll hit the ground running. If you do nothing else (and we don’t recommend that option) this is the single most important step to getting started.

2. Create a Landing Page

Having a dedicated landing page for a product or service sets up a clear action for users to take. And makes it as easy as possible for them to take that action. You can feature the product on your home page or in a category from the home page. But a landing page might be useful if you have several pieces of information about a single product or service (such as blog posts, reviews, in-depth descriptions or specs).  Additionally, when you link a landing page to a specific campaign, piece of content, action, or source, you can see which channels are bringing in the most leads. You can also determine , which topics and offerings are of most interest, or which campaigns are the highest performing. This generates valuable insights that can help refine your knowledge of your target audience and your campaign strategies, and improve your overall effectiveness. Of course, you can also simply link to the merchant’s landing page. 

3. Write a Blog Post

At the very least write one blog post. It gets the ball rolling for the content to be found when consumers are searching. Link the post to the product landing page. Having unique content helps you with search and give consumers the feeling that you care about what you are promoting and not just bombarding them with offers to buy. (In future posts we’ll cover easy and creative ways to generate compelling, unique content on a consistent basis).

4. Do a Review

People are far more likely to give credence to a product or service when there is a review. The more personal, the better. Generic reviews that are glowing don’t always do the trick to drive conversions. Consumers are often skeptical of reviews that are too positive. So, strive for balance and honesty based on your experience. Also, be sure to tag the review (whether it’s a blog post, video, or user-generated reviews) as a review. People often search for the name of something + review. This will also help you get noticed in the search rankings.

5. Make a Video

If you are promoting offers for a product that you can show or demonstrate – make a a video. Or do an unboxing video. Video is a an effective and powerful way to show off a product. It also will get people to spend time on your site. If the offers are for a service or something that doesn’t lend itself to being demonstrated, you can still do  video. but you’ll need to get creative. For example: you can use software to weave together still images of a hotel or destination you re promoting. Overlaying text on the images can make it more unique. Your audience will still have the visual experience even if it’s not “live” moving images.

6. Celebrate a Holiday

We’re not talking about just leveraging the big/obvious ones like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc. There are plenty of other days that you can use as a hook to tie into promotions. There are calendars that show offbeat and funny holidays (think Golfer’s Day, International Museum Day, National Wine Day, National Dog Day, and more).  You can use these as a jumping off point to create interest and excitement For example: if you’re promoting a hotel, or a travel destination, and it’s Golfer’s Day, you could promote the idea that the hotel brand has many locations close to great golf courses. Or for National Dog Day, you might highlight that the brand has pet friendly policies. Earth day – showcase elements that show he brand is eco-friendly.

7. Get Social

Don’’t be shy about spreading the news across your social media. One of the most effective ways to drive people to specific landing pages or pieces of content is to promote those offers to your followers. Use consistent branding and links across all platform, but tailor each message to the audience on the specific social outlet.

8. Boost a Post

If you have an offer, content or something that you’ve promoted on social media and you feel that it’s simply not getting the attention it deserves – boost the post. It’s often just a few dollars to boost a post on a social media platform. On Facebook the cost an be as little as $10. This enables you to see how these offers perform and if it’s worth it to purchase an ad on that platform in the future.

9. Leverage your Newsletter/Email List

If you’ve recently signed up with a program, let those that have opted into your email list or newsletter know. You can send them an email with the new offers. Including any new promotions in your newsletter is also a great idea. Highlight new programs offers as “Hot Deals”. Think about maybe even offering special or exclusive deals to your newsletters subscribers. Be sure to include offer links that go directly to your landing page.

10. Pin It!

If you already have a Pinterest account, add a board that specifically focuses on whatever you’re promoting from the newest program you’ve joined. Pinterest is a good way to visual promote offers. And remember that Pinterest is often aspirational. So, if you’re promoting travel and destinations, use compelling images that evoke emotions.

Good luck with promoting the new program you’ve joined. And, as always, reach out to  the affiliate program manager if you have any questions. Chateau 20 loves to help affiliates be productive and successful.

Read Get Started Promoting New Affiliate Programs – Part 1

Promoting Spring Break is Big for Affiliates

travel affiliates spring breakIf you’re a travel affiliate you know that seasonality can definitely impact your business. But affiliates promoting travel-related offers now have a new season to look forward to  – Spring Break.

Over the last few years, Spring break has officially become its own seasonal occurrence and promoting it can be big business. IBISWorld estimates that Spring Breakers spent $1.8 billion in 2017, boosting revenue for travel and hospitality industries in the United States.

Of late, consumers are more focused on taking a break and getting away than searching for a specific destination. In the past Spring Break has primarily been associated with rowdy college kids partying in warm climate locations such as Daytona Beach, Florida and Cancun, Mexico.

Spring Break began in the 1930’s as a vacation period in early spring at universities and schools, However, it now includes time off for all educational levels from kindergarten to college. It’s also often known as Easter vacation, Easter holiday, April break, Spring vacation, mid-term break, study week, reading week, reading period, or Easter week. And while Spring Break is mostly about shaking off the winter chills in a warm climate, it’s more about just taking a needed and scheduled break.

So here are some ways that travel affiliates can make hay during Spring Break:

Go Big for Spring Break

Just as you would other seasonal travel times like Christmas and Thanksgiving travel, be sure to group offers together. Having all offers in one place under a single creative on your home page can help drive sales. It also streamlines the search process for consumers who aren’t sure what they want to do over the break. 

Highlight Top Destinations

The leading booking engines will send out lists of top destinations. Be sure to highlight offers for those popular destinations. Think about having your own list of top 10 or 25 Spring Break destinations to draw in consumers.

According to Booking.com these are the top destinations for 2018 spring break

  • Atlanta
  • Atlantic City
  • Cancún
  • Clearwater Beach
  • Corpus Christi
  • Daytona Beach
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Key West
  • Las Vegas
  • Miami
  • Miami Beach
  • Monterey
  • Myrtle Beach
  • Nashville
  • New Orleans
  • Ocean City
  • Orlando
  • Palm Springs
  • Panama City Beach
  • Playa del Carmen

Think Beyond Fly and Flop

With Spring Break becoming more popular beyond just college partiers, you need to think about other travelers. There are families, baby boomers, and millennials. Many of those groups aren’t looking to fly to a warm beach destination and just soak in the sun. Beach destinations remain popular, but travelers are also using spring break to explore Europe, Asia and other parts of the world.

Additionally, many travelers want to balance relaxation with experiences. That can mean promoting cultural immersion tours, backpacking adventures, yoga retreats and spas, as well as wine tasting tours and more.

Think Inside the (Batter’s) Box

Often there are other annual seasonal events that correspond with Spring Break – like Spring Training. There are millions of baseball fans that are devoted to their teams. And promoting offers for destinations in Florida and Arizona where all the Major League Baseball team have training facilities, is a good way to draw in more travelers. Having a special Spring Training page and listing hotels and accomodations near each team’s Spring Training field is a good idea.

Remember Not Everyone Wants Sun

While beach and sunny destinations are hugely popular, there are a lot of travelers that relish the chance to hit the slopes in the spring. There’s still plenty of great skiing out West in Colorado, Nevada and California. In addition, many East Coast ski resorts are still experiencing perfect skiing conditions. 

Pound the Pavement

Not everyone taking a Spring Break will be flying. Some folks use the break to travel by car. Catering to these road warriors is well worth your time. Be sure to promote these offers under your Spring Break umbrella but have a separate page for road trips. You can offer links to driving maps, local attractions and promote festivals or events as well.

With Spring Break firmly establishing itself as a seasonal event, it’s important for travel affiliates to make the most of the time period. So, start establishing some solid promotional plans that can act as a foundation for you to repeat every year.

Will Affiliates Turn a New Leaf for Cannabis?

affiliates cannabis legalizationThere’s a popular saying “as California goes, so goes the nation.” The implication being that tech innovation, social and political movements, pop culture trends and more often start in California and then become widely adopted across the country.

This week it became legal to sell pot in California for recreational use. So, as affiliates enter the new year looking for new niches and new opportunities to make money, will the legalization of marijuana in California convince mainstream affiliates to embrace weed as viable online marketing opportunity?

There are 28 other states where cannabis is legal in some capacity. But legalization in California – especially since the Golden State is the largest and most populated state in the US (with 39.5 million residents)  – might just represent the tipping point for more online marketers to promote cannabis. which is predicted to do over $7.1 billion in sales in 2017.

According to a Yahoo News/Marist Survey from April 2017, nearly 55 million Americans (22 percent) have used marijuna.at least once or twice in the past year. Close to 35 million are what the survey calls “regular users,” or people who use marijuana at least once or twice a month.

California’s pot legalization is already having an impact. Nearly $2 billion has been invested in the stock market since California’s January 1 statewide marijuana legalization, and shares of companies producing, distributing or selling marijuana soared on Tuesday, Fortune reported.

Cannabis and Affiliates

The cannabis vertical is already growing within the affiliate space. Last year Weed Reader published the top 10 marijuana affiliate programs. These programs (and hundreds more) focus on everything from growing seeds and cannabis growth training to selling edibles and actual marijuana (to medical patients where legal).

Obviously, some affiliates will question the moral and ethical issues of legalization. Those online marketers will likely avoid the space – just as they do other areas considered controversial like adult content websites, online gambling, and some nutriceuticals.

However, some affiliates may opt to promote products that tout that the medical and health benefits of cannabis. Some may choose to pursue the more recreational use aspect as they do with liquor and wine products.

Additionally, there could even be travel affiliates that more aggressively promote California and other states where cannabis is legal as a premiere destination. Think Amsterdam’s tourist messaging in the 1980’s and 1990’s that made it a must-visit location for travelers that wanted to indulge legally.

Additionally, millennials may be a huge factor in deciding whether or not to promote cannabis products. Millennials make up one quarter of the US population with a total of 77 million. (Nielsen). Their generation is larger than the Baby Boomers and 3 times the size of Gen. X. (Aimia). This demographic doesn’t have a social stigma associated with marijuana (52 percent of the estimated 55 million users are millennials). Also, millennials wield about $1.3 trillion in annual buying power. (Boston Consulting Group). They will have the most spending power of any generation by 2018. (Bazaar). And specifically, their spending power is projected to reach $3.39 trillion by 2018. (Oracle).

The Challenges

Although state governments are rolling out more progressive cannabis legislation, marketing marijuana is currently fraught with roadblocks. Mostly because while marijuana is legal in more than half of  the US, it’s still illegal on a federal level. This makes advertising and marketing extremely complex. Online marketers fear being liable for aiding and abetting the sale of drugs – a felony crime.

There are, however, some federal law exceptions. They can be granted for “any person authorized by local, State, or Federal law to manufacture, possess, or distribute such items”.  Still, social media sites like Facebook and Instagram have strict advertising policies. These policies deny paid posts that “constitute, facilitate, or promote illegal products, services or activities” – including marijuana.

Because of advertising restrictions and  inconsistencies in enforcement regarding “educational content,” cannabis-centric social networks have emerged. Cannabis-centric social networks include MassRoots (valued at $44 million with 725,000 users). There is also  the social app Duby, which functions like an Instagram for the cannabis savvy. And a glut of digital marketing agencies and consulting practices dedicated to serving the cannabis industry have sprung up.

For now, most cannabis affiliates choose to focus on content and educating the public. That means using traditional digital marketing tactics. Affiliates are blogging, optimizing SEO, linking to influencers in the space, sending out newsletters and email, and establishing partnerships with researchers and doctors for more legitimization.

But that also means those marketers are likely preaching to converted. Reaching new users and increasing brand awareness online is difficult because advertising is restricted.

Cannabis might not be a market for all affiliates. But there’s no doubt it is growing vertical that will evolve over time as pot becomes legalized and more socially acceptable. Affiliates are likely to play a big role in pushing forward this space.

Personalization Goes Hyper-Relevant

personalization hyper relevancePersonalization is considered the Holy Grail of online marketing. However, according to data from a new study, online marketers still haven’t found a way to balance consumers’ worries about data privacy with their desire to be catered to on a one-to-one basis.

While 44 percent are frustrated when companies fail to deliver relevant, personalized shopping experiences, nearly half (49 percent) are concerned about personal data privacy as they subscribe to intelligent services designed to understand and anticipate their needs. according to the 13th annual Accenture Strategy Global Consumer Pulse Research.

Specifically, 41% of US consumers said they ditched a company because of “poor personalization and lack of trust,” the study says. In financial terms, that’s a staggering $756 billion in lost retail and brand sales in the US this year. And, globally, it’s $2.5 trillion in lost sales, according to Accenture.

It doesn’t help that consumers are practically begging to be treated as unique individuals. They want to reap the rewards – discounts, convenience, better customer experience. But are simultaneously reluctant to give up personalized information over privacy concerns.

It’s a conundrum for online marketers. They have the seemingly herculean task of offering consumers a personalized experience. They are expected to anticipate consumer needs without seeming overly intrusive or creepy.

Intelligent Services

Meanwhile, technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and digital assistants becoming more sophisticated and mainstream. That has companies are creating new touchpoints, offerings and services that intelligently anticipate and flex to their customer’s precise needs. This offers a level of hyper-relevance not experienced before.

However, there is a telling example in the study. Forty-four percent of US consumers said they are frustrated when companies fail to provide relevant personalized experiences. Meanwhile, 49%  said they are concerned about personal data privacy. This is especially pertains to  “intelligent services” such as Amazon’s Echo or Google Home.

Nearly 36% of consumers said they use digital assistants. And almost 90% of those said they are satisfied with the experience. Yet,  40% said it can feel “slightly creepy” when technology starts to correctly read and anticipate their needs, according to the study.

Hyper-Relevance

For affiliate marketers the key is to create personalized website content to resonate with visitors. According to Liad Agmon of Dynamic Yield, this method is delivering more sales, revenue, and profit for the entire affiliate ecosystem. He notes that Dynamic Yield has seen automated personalization deliver a 100% increase in profit (not just sales!).

But to move further towards  ultimate personalization, Accenture is touting something called the hyper-relevance customer experiences as the next wave for  online businesses. However, hyper-relevance requires two things: more personalized data about the customers and the trust of customers.

The Accenture study says that to pivot to hyper-relevance, companies should consider:

  • Giving customers full control over their data – Organizations must become more transparent. Customers need full access to, and control over, their data which will demonstrate responsible stewardship and ethics. Furthermore, they must ensure the appropriate safeguards are in place to protect it.
  • Creating new customer value – Look beyond the traditional customer journey. Businesses must prioritize areas where they can dynamically deliver something that customers value, at the right moment every time.
  • Investing in precise insights – Invest in predictive analytics, Businesses need to collaborate with an ecosystem of partners to capture real-time customer insight, and mine data in new ways to understand their specific needs.

With new technologies and approaches, online marketers who thoughtfully consider the customer experience, will eventually solve the personalization problem and reap the rewards.

Branding is Key for Affiliates

affiliate branding is keySavvy affiliates understand establishing their website as a brand is key to their long-term success. Even though the foundation of affiliate marketing is based on marketing and  promoting offers from other brands, affiliates need to be a brand in their own right.

That’s because brand building comes with many benefits including recognition, loyalty, a perception of size and quality, and the the image of experience and reliability.  All of these combine to provide a significant comfort level for potential customers. Establishing that overall trust helps shoppers eventually become repeat customers, which can increase average order value and lifetime customer value – all important success metrics for affiliates.

Size Doesn’t Matter

Some of the largest affiliates (RetailMeNot.com, Coupons.com, and LowerMyBills.com) have done a great job at creating unique identities and name recognition for their respective websites. In fact, most online shoppers simply view them as a destination rather than an affiliate site.

Kim Rowley, founder of KEY Internet Marketing, has several affiliate sites (including ShoppingKim.com, WorkInMyPajamas.com, and ShoeaholicsAnonymous.com), and has  been in the affiliate space since 1998. Rowley, who received the 2012 Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Award for Affiliate Marketing Legend, says branding is crucial for affiliates of all sizes.

“Branding is one of the most beneficial things any affiliate can do to stand out from the crowd,” she says. “I have a handful of affiliate sites and by making sure each has its own look, unique value proposition, and clearly defined market position, I am making them memorable to visitors. That gives me a leg up on my competition and fosters loyalty with my audience. And that branding brings repeat visitors because each site is a known entity.”

affiliate branding is keyBuilding a Brand

There are many ways to cultivate your affiliate brand identity including:

  • Creating consistent visual branding (colors, design, logos, fonts, etc.) across all platforms and communications
  • Establishing messaging that solidifies market positioning
  • Touting differentiators
  • Doing SEO for higher search rankings
  • Establishing and sustaining a social presence
  • Marketing and advertising efforts to gain mindshare
  • Consistent engagement  with existing and prospective customers via retargeting, emails, newsletters, social media
  • Providing relevant content and information

Unfortunately, there’s no one size-fits-all for how to implement each of these elements. Specific tactics and execution largely depends on many factors, including:

  • The size of your business
  • Your target demographic
  • The type of offers you are promoting
  • The type of affiliate your are (reviews, content, coupons, etc)
  • Your revenue model

However, there are some common, over-arching themes to keep in mind when working to build your brand. You should be thinking about these cornerstones as you execute on specific initiatives. These are all intertwined and work together to create your brand.

Establish Trust/Credibility

Everything you do should be working towards letting people know you are a trustworthy business. From design to messaging to content you create to partners you work with and everything in between. A big part of that is transparency. Be sure to comply with all disclosure regulations, privacy laws and make those easily accessible to visitors.

If customers feel like are you are legitimate business, they will want to give your their business. There are too many scams out there and people want to know they can trust you.

“Consumers have almost limitless information and more choice than ever,” Lisa Riolo, Chateau 20’s Vice President of Operations and Special Projects, says. “With all the digital noise it’s important for marketers to build trust at every touch point in the purchase journey. Otherwise the consumer will just bounce.”

Put the Customer First

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Think about how they will be navigating around your site. How they want to find the best deals. What they would want to know about products (details, specifications, images). How they might need to contact you if there is an issue (is there an email, contact name and email address). Focus on solving problems for customers. That includes telling them what problem is solved by a product, why they need it, etc. Give them good information in your content. Have them sign up for newsletters or email alerts so you can contact them with good deals that are relevant to them.

Be Authentic

Building a brand means showing who you are as business. A human element can make you more relatable. If you’re all about busy moms getting a deal, share your perspective about things that you found useful. Or deals that helped you in some way. Think about what you stand for. Your ethics. Your position. People want to do business with people. And the best brands have a clear message of what they stand for (quality, good deals, great content, finding helpful item, etc.) .

It takes some effort to build your affiliate brand. But in the end having a recognizable brand will make you stand out, increase repeat customers, protect you from increasing competition, and create a long-term sustainable business.

Selling Travel as The Ultimate Holiday Gift

Selling Travel as a Holiday GiftAffiliates focused on promoting travel as a holiday gift face some unique challenges. But they also have a good opportunity to cash in as they ramp up for the holiday season. By focusing on the experience, minimizing buyers perceived hurdles, and offering flexible options, travel affiliates can make the holiday very merry.

The Challenges

Selling travel to an individual using it for themselves is much easier than selling it to someone who is buying it for another person. When buying travel as a gift, potential buyers may have some concerns. It’s likely that most hurdles involve the complex logistics that surround travel due to strict booking requirements and current security regulations.

As a travel affiliate you’ll need to address those challenges head on (locking in specific dates, the cost, choosing the right destination, etc.). This will help assure buyers that the gift of travel will be the ultimate present and not an expensive mistake.

Sell Experiences

The idea of giving a trip, vacation or even a staycation at a local hotel,  as a gift is a good one. Increasingly, people value experiences over material things. Travel is often recalled as an “extraordinary experience” just below life’s major milestones, according to a study on happiness done by researchers at Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. More importantly, experiences like trips are far better remembered over time than material gifts and get a rose-colored patina with the retelling of memories, found Cornell University researchers in a 2014 paper aptly titled “We’ll Always Have Paris.”

Using language that assures the buyer they will be providing a memorable experience for the recipient is key. You want the buyer to know they are giving a unique experience. It’s one that may be a dream gift or even one that lets the recipient cross an item off their bucket list. That’s priceless.

Put Flexibility First

The biggest issue with buying travel for someone else is often being locked into specific dates, destinations and other things that once determined cannot be changed or carry a hefty price for the recipient to modify. Travel affiliates can avoid this by offering open ended options. These can include gift cards and vouchers. Most hotels, airlines, cruise lines offer gift cards that will allow recipients to book at their convenience.

Think About Themes

It’s the time of year when gift givers are searching online. Having Holiday Travel Gift Guides can help you get noticed as well as offer great suggestions for potential buyers. Be creative in curating these gift guides. Think Girls Getaways, Dream Vacations. Family Fun, For the Wine Lover, Best Travel for Empty Nesters, Bucket List Trips, Adventure of a Lifetime. You probably already have some of these lists, but putting a gift giving spin on them with seasonal graphics could prove to be a powerful motivator for buyers.

Selling Travel as a Holiday GiftSell Around Travel

Travel affiliates should also consider promoting gifts that go with travel such as guide books, luggage, travel accessories, etc. Because giving someone a trip or a vacation as a gift most likely involves a gift card and there’s not much for the recipient to unwrap. Having a physical present such a travel guide to the destination or a new carry on bag, can be a great way to have a themed present.

Offer a Variety of Price Points

Travel is an expensive gift, but as an affiliate you can promote a range of items and experiences at different price points. Even if someone can’t afford to send their parents to Barcelona, they could send them to a luxury spa at a swanky local hotel. Or those shoppers who know that someone is going on a trip could contribute to the experience by getting them a gift certificate for a local attraction or day tour. Additionally, if you know someone will be vacationing or travels frequently, you could purchase a membership to a travel service such as Medjet that offers comprehensive medical coverage and transport to a hospital in the event of emergency.

Be a Resource

As an affiliate you naturally want to promote offers that make you money on commissions. However, it’s also important to be viewed as helpful and knowledgeable. You don’t need to monetize everything on your site. Including links to things such as online passport services, Honeyfund (where people can contribute to a couple’s honeymoon fund), or services like Clear (for no-hassle TSA airport security check-ins).

Using Social to Sell Visuals

Using social media platforms that rely heavily on visuals is also a perfect way to promote travel as a gift. Be sure to put all your holiday gift guides on your Pinterest Boards and on your Instagram feed. Images are powerful and a great motivator – especially for purchasing travel.

Naturally, you’ll also want to do all the basic things associated with having your affiliate site in tip-top shape – optimizing landing pages, being mobile ready, readying holiday homepage promotions. Those efforts along with also taking some of the extra steps to aggressively promote travel as gift should make for a successful and lucrative holiday season.

Drive Traffic Using Forums and Groups

Drive Traffic Using Forums and GroupsForums have been around since the dawn of the Internet, and you can leverage them and their active and loyal followers to drive more traffic to your website and blog. Forums are ripe for driving targeted traffic, but you’ll need keep a few simple things in mind when using forums as part of your traffic-driving strategy:

Pick the Right Forum

Look for popular forums that cater to your niche or vertical. Consider forums where there is a large and active group of members Be sure you like the tone of the forum and the nature of the discussions. You don’t want to get into flame wars and negative conversations. Look for a positive vibe and people willing to share information. Focus on a just a few forums (maybe 1 or 2) where you can be an active member for an ongoing basis. Be sure the forums allow you to include a signature, so that you can add your URL. Otherwise, you’ll have trouble driving traffic to your website or blog.

Select the Right Username

Your username will be how other members identify you (and your brand).  Think about the message you want your username to send. Using your name as a username gives your interactions a more personal feel than if you just used the name of your blog or business. But you can try for combination of both. For example JoeSmithHotelGuy. It’s important that your username fits in with your niche and the feel of the forum – whether it’s casual or very professional.

Add a Link in Your Signature

Your signature will appear below each one of your forum posts. Putting a link to your blog or website is the backbone of any solid forum-based traffic strategy. Depending on the forum’s signature limits, you may be able to also include a tagline or description of your website or a link to a newsletter sign-up page in your signature.

Carefully Craft Your Profile

Be sure to include an avatar (or photo of yourself), a short but descriptive bio, and another link to your website or blog. Remember, you want other members to know they are interacting with a real person and not just a business. Don’t be afraid to include some personal info (you love bull dogs, or are an avid hiker or write science fiction on the side). This information makes you seems less one-dimensional and gives others more reasons to interact with you. If there’s space, include links to your social media – like your Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram and LinkedIn – and invite members to connect with you there as well.

Skip the Spammy Behavior

Use the same social etiquette and manners as you would when interacting in person. You probably don’t meet someone at a party and shove a business card in their hand or drone on about your company the minute you meet people. Get to know people. Be helpful first. Then once you’ve established yourself in the group, you can start including some information about your business into your discussions.

Be a Helpful Resource

Provide clear, well-thought-out, informative, helpful replies. Link to other resources both inside the forum and elsewhere online. The idea is to add value. If you’ve written a post on your blog that might be helpful, you can summarize it, then add something like, “if you want to know more, I have a blog post on this topic”, And then include a link to drive members to your blog or website.

Start a Thread/Be First

If someone opens up a thread, they are obviously going to read the first post in the thread. The first post in a thread gets read more than any other, so being in that position is a great way to leverage your forum posting. You can ask a question or solicit others opinions on a subject. It’s a great way to get noticed and create interaction.

Be Active

Remember this isn’t a sprint. You can’t just post for a month, stop, and expect traffic. Your posts will eventually be pushed down and replaced by new threads and additional comments. You have to devote the time and effort and maintain a presence for the long haul.

If you follow these few simple steps, you will likely notice (over time) some additional web traffic. You will also likely make some new contacts, establish yourself as a helpful expert, and probably learn from other members along the way. Its a win-win!