Affiliate Marketing Feed

Affiliate Summit Turns A Corner

Seth Godin recently had a post on finding your peer group. According to Seth  "it's the group of people who will push you in exchange for being pushed, who will raise the bar and tell you the truth. They are not in your business, but they're in your shoes. Finding a peer group and working with them, intentionally and on a regular schedule, might be the single biggest boost your career can experience."

Fast forward to Affiliate Summit East 2014, the sold out conference that attracted over 4,000 affiliate and performance marketers in NYC earlier this week. Think of it as a conference with 4,000 entrepreneurs, each promoting an on-line business that has similarities to your own, but that does not directly compete with what you do.

Summit had a perfect mix of large group presentations, small round-tables and networking opportunities.  Even better, everyone I met was an actual practitioner instead of the usual crowd of marketers who only know how to manage other marketers who then hire people to actually implement and measure something.  Spending even 5 minutes with experts like Sugar Rae on SEO, John Chow on blogging, Vinny O'hare for everything and Jeremy Palmer on Wordpress was worth the price of admission.

Affiliate Summit is also a barameter for the increasing complexity of the marketing industry. Every session demonstrated the need to be a subject matter expert in order to extract the full value out of the marketing channel.  The panel on Facebook moderated by Nathan Smith from Zynali Marketing Solutions and that featured  Ashley Coombe from Prosperent and Shannon Vogel from The Be Scene, drove home the point. They described the minute by minute changes going on at Facebook, with some moments of "I didn't know you could do that" discovery among the panelists themselves.

Kudos to Missy Ward and Shawn Collins for staging yet another outstanding event.



Google and the Future of SEO

Every year I look forward to the Affiliate Summit presentation hosted by Wil Reynold's, the iconic voice of search engine optimization and leader of Seer Interactive. Here are some highlights of his presentation at Affiliate Summit East 2012 on the recent Google Penguin and Panda changes and how to think about SEO.

How Are Companies Linking to You?

First Wil suggested doing backlink research. He recommended that marketers start by getting an overview of backlinks into a website from the Webmaster tools offered by Google and Bing (dates and links to get velocity), Majestic SEO and SEOmoz ( Note that Bing Webmaster tools will show you links into competitive sites. When you use, be sure to look at all pages on the sub-domain.

Next, look at the anchor text for those links. Anchor text should primarily be the name of your business not what your business does. In his case It is un-natural to see anchor text that says "SEO Company" vs. the company name, "Seer Interactive." If you are putting anything other than your company name in SEO you are eventually going to get dinged for un-natural SEO linking.

Check the Quality of Links that Link to Your Site

To check link quality use First enter your doman and click search. Next, look at the keywords tab and the resulting graph. It shows you how many keywords the site is ranking for. Next check the sites that are linking to you. If the sites that are linking to you are ranking for less keywords, then the links to your site will decline in value.

Unfortunately, if someone points bad links at a site, such as purchased links, this can tank a site. The best remedy is to let Google know if someone is funneling bad links to your site.

Stop Tricking Google, Do "Real Company Shit"

Wil's advice hasn't changed over the years, which is to never exploit temporary link building opporutnities. He suggested that you look at your site as you would have years ago before the internet and think like a marketer. Ask yourself, what you are doing adds value? 

Wil started the hashtag #RCS or real company shit to drive the point home.  He asked the audience to start doing real things. He urged everyone to consider how they make someone's life better and then to create a real business to do it. For example; answer reader questions with an intent to help.

Another tip was to act as if you would do it for free.  People who do things for free do not fill pages with ads, they fill the page with the answer to the search question.

HipMonk is a great example of a site built to help people who are booking travel by providing new and clear ways to present information. The site has the same content as other sites, but they've made it easier to read. Now compare gathering the same information on Expedia.  Big difference. Zappos is another good example of RCS.

Wil also showed Climbing Frames UK and the "real people" reviews. They encourage customers to take pictures of the backyard swings they sell and ask for customers to comment. A contest is to "get your purchase back" if you participate in their forum with a review. He suggested asking people on your email list to start writing for you and to stay away from writers who are not passionate about your topic.

If you compare Climbing Frames vs. the larger sites such as WalMart, they are both using drop ship to fulfill orders.  The difference is Climbing Frames is focused on building a business around backyard swing sets that provides high quality content to the buyer.

He did point out that because of a company's size they are able to leverage their domain power. He also urged the audience to remember that "your competitors are not stupid forever." All this says is that you need to continually innovate and out think the larger company.

Passionate Competitors Will Do it For Free

If your passion is to make money, the problem is that there is always someone that is willing to do it for free. To compete, you need to share that passion and understand how to add value to the audience.  He gave an example when working with Bank of America. Wil pointed out how search is going to get more and more personal, with Google checking your circles to influence results.

He also suggested that if you use the Google author association, make sure you do it with someone that is recognizable. You are more likely to click if you see a person that has shared something of value in the past. The author project is about sharing their influence, not authors. 

The will take a link and show you other places that they have authorship. Wil suggested that you take a list of people that every commented on your blog  and twitter (use follower wonk), and drop all of your links on the tool to see if they take guest posts.  You can also export people that left a comment  on your blog using http://bit.y/export-commenters.

Google is Changing The Appearance of Search

Wil provided examples such as Linkin Park and the Philadelphia Zoo.  Google results are now eliminating listings from random websites in favor of organized results that are provided by Google. Said another way google is substituting information provided by the search engine and eliminating publishers using tools such as

Google is Rewarding Brand Activity

Wil ended the session by recalling the days when if you had no followers and no engagement you could win by gaming SEO. This game is now over. Today, you need to have rabid fans that are engaged.  He suggested that building relationships is more important than building links.

The net of his talk was that to win in today's search your you need to "build something amazing." You should seek to help people with your expertise on sites such as and build your reputation.

To build followers you need to be a leader in your field. In Twitter, there is search where you can look for people that asked questions. If you want to meet a major speaker, search for their name and your city. Use the tool "If this Then That" for be alerted whenever someone you are following asks a question or seeks advice about something you know, such as a restaurant in your home town.

The bottom line is that "Google is knocking out the crap," and sites that should win, are starting to rise i the rankings.  All I can say is that it's about time.












Link Building in the Age of Panda and Penguin

One of the themes at this years Affiliate Summit East is the role of link building in light of algorithm changes recently implemented by Google (known as Panda and Penguin).  These notes are from the Link Building presentation given by Loren Baker, VP of Business Development, BlueGrass Interactive. His focus was on how to build a web presence via quality links.


1. Do you deserve the links? If you don't, you shouldn't have them.

2. Are the correct social signals available. Is Google+ linked to your site?

3. Evaluate link targets. Old link evaluation metrics are less important. Think audience potential over domain age. If the link can't send you traffic, you probably don't want ot. Is the site a bug? Do people rely on it to get their news?

4. Look for metrics related to engagement when evaluating link targets. Check overall traffic, number of comments per post, social sharing per post and average links generated per post.

5.  Link building cannot be seen as a separate strategy any longer. Links should be seen as a byproduct of creating remarkable content.

6. The best way to get your brand out in front of consumers is via a content marketing solution. Great content builds your brand and your audience. Great content drives traffic and brand exposure in tandem with high value links. Great content is highly shareable.

7. Links generated from content marketing initiatives are nearly always freely given, contextual and relevant, long lasting and diverse.

8. Content and Topic relevance is key.

9. It's all about relationships. Great content marketing relies on great exposure. The bigger the initial seed for content, the better the result. The larger and broader the reach, the better. Don't get too niche.

10. Make your content valuable. Create content in tandem with publishers. Work together and involve them as partners. Thank about the audiences of potential publishers. They may differ from your target audience. Find commonalities. Add value for publishers. Make them look good. Give them ore than they give you.

11. Embeddable infographics are highly effective as generating traffic and direct links. Find something topical such as the "content explosion" infographic used by BlueGlass. Thank every site that embeds the infographic and request attribution where none is provided.







Affiliate Summit West to Kick off 2012

Company logoImage via Wikipedia

Las Vegas promises to be the epicenter of the marketing universe from January 8 - 10, 2012 as affiliate marketers from all over the world meet to discuss 2011, the most turbulent year in marketing history. As we close on a year in which Google awoke from a long slumber and turned into a Panda, Amazon changed the face of publishing with the Kindle, and tablets became a rage, Affiliate Summit is the first conference to help marketers make sense of it all.

Spending some time at Affiliate Summit is invaluable since most attendees are hands on practitioners. For this crowd, understanding performance marketing is personal as it directly affects their livelihood. In an industry that continues to proliferate greater levels of complexity, it's the one place where marketers can piece it all least for a day.

Not convinced? Let's add on the need to understand the impact of Apple iPhone's Siri, the mysteries of You Tube, the need to master social media, mobile couponing, not to mention benchmarking the performance of your affiliate program.

I'll be at the conference learning, networking and preparing to make 2012 a profitable year. Drop me a note if you are planning to go.

- Jeff

Update from Shawn Collins and Missy Ward: It looks like the final day to register for Affiliate Summit West 2012 before they reach capacity, will be Monday, December 26th.


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Affiliate Summit West 2012 Voting is Open

Company logoImage via Wikipedia

Voting is on for Affiliate Summit West 2012 sessions. For those unfamiliar with the show, it's the largest annual gathering of affiliate marketers and a must attend for anyone involved in the performance marketing industry.

I've proposed a session on what to do when your merchant program is not meeting expectations. The session is called "Merchant Failure to Launch."  I need your votes to make sure that it is part of the show agenda. I'll be co-hosting with Deborah Carney, one of the best known podcasters and OPM's in the industry.

Please register here, and then click here to vote for the session. 

Thanks for voting and be sure to say hello at the show.

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What is Affiliate Marketing

I came across this great infographic today that does a great job of answering the question "what is affilaite markeitng" and "how does affilaite marketing work."  Thank you to Sugar Rae for putting this together.

Click here to view a larger version.
How Affiliate Marketing Works

[Image provided courtesy of the Sugarrae affiliate marketing blog.]

The Reinvention of the Coupon

On Long Island, my home, buying without a coupon is heresy. If you don't have a coupon in hand at Shop Rite, Kohls, or Macys, you can easily be voted off the Island for failure to demonstrate that you are frugal.  I expect to be stuck behind someone at the supermarket checkout arguing that their out of date coupon for the product that kinda sorta matches the one on the coupon, is valid (my favorite was the woman at Dunkin Donuts that insisted on using the "free small coffee" coupon as a down payment against a medium coffee).

On Long Island It's common to over pay for whatever the latest "it" item is, but then feel good about the purchase since you bought it with a coupon or on a secret,that everyone knows about "friends and family" sale that just happens to be available to everyone.  Bloomingdales will even hold your purchase so that you can come back and buy it on a sale day.

Unfortunately this coupon hysteria is now spreading on-line. The recent news that Google was trying to acquire Groupon was a wake up call to marketers that coupon marketers are starting to dominate PPC results and may start to influence SEO rankings as well.

Groupon logo.Image via Wikipedia

Long story short, the coupon sites such as Groupon, ebates, Living Social etc are buying PPC keywords that say something like <your brand here> discount coupon.  The consumer than clicks the link back to the coupon site for the offer.  Given the millions being spent in PPC by the coupon sites, and the quality of the information provides, a consumer discount, these sites are supposedly getting high quality scores from Google.  This translates into lower PPC pricing and a competitive advantage for these sites.  Said another way, a company's acquisition costs can potentially be lower by working with a coupon site.


Image representing LivingSocial as depicted in...Image via CrunchBase

No where is this change more pronounced than in the affiliate marketing space, where coupon sites are quickly becoming the go to affiliate partners.  For those just catching up to the affiliate conversation, affiliate marketers pay a percentage of sales to the affiliate partner in exchange for the lead or sale.  It is estimated that 10% - 20% of all ecommerce moves through the affiliate channel.  Affiliates promote product via PPC, SEM publishing, email, twitter, newsletters etc.

The coupon sites are also teaching the consumer not to buy before searching for and using a coupon.  This is further reinforced by the ubiquitous "coupon code" request on the check out screen of most major on-line retailers.

Coupons are going be a top story in 2011.  Marketers need to get on board in now.

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Affilite Summit East Sets Direction for Industry


Company logoImage via Wikipedia

Affiliate Summit East once again set the tone for the affiliate marketing industry through a combination of inspiring keynotes, topic specific sessions, an always crowded exhibit hall and the even more crowded meet market.

This year in particular the keynotes were outstanding, with Frank Luntz, author of "Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear " describing those ideas and phrases that are motivating in an environment that is understandably pessimistic given the economy, housing downturn and unemployment.

Jim Kukral, the 2nd keynote provided inspired insights into what it takes to be successful in affiliate marketing.  He shared the simple insight that the internet is visited for both entertainment and to solve problems.  He suggested that affiliate marketers avoid blogging and develop quality sites that solve these two problems. Jim also shared wisdom from his new book Attention! This Book Will Make You Money: How to Use Attention-Getting Online Marketing to Increase Your Revenue

The trade show floor and more intimate meet market were both crowded and represented a cross section of the industry. While it was incredibly difficult to separate one affiliate network from the rest, mixed in were also some innovative companies that offered new go to market tools and strategies. Some of the more interesting exhibitors included VigLink, that turns ordinary links into affiliate links, and others which provided models for marketing to targets such as women and the education market.

There were multiple affiliate networks represented, although it was incredibly difficult to differentiate one from the next.  This appeared to be a symptom of having too many offers to manage.  Missing from the show were many of the companies represented by CJ, Linkshare, ShareaSale, Buyat and Google, making it appear that affiliate marketing was more about the get rich quick offer than building marketing programs that use mainstream companies for monetization.

Sessions as always provided valuble marketing information, tools and techniques that I can put to use immediately.  These include timeless advice by Wil Rogers, an affiliate summit regular who never disappoints. His link building case study was insightful and provided perspective on proactive link building vs. the somewhat less effective public relations approach.  The other outstanding session was on crowd sourcing resources, and the many sites that can be used for that purpose.

For me, the event also included an outstanding dinner hosted by CJ at Tao, valuable networking and I even met a few readers of this blog.

Thanks to Shawn Collins and Missy Ward for another informative Affiliate Summit. This was once again a show that shouldn't be missed by any marketer, whether you operate in the affiliate space or not.

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Affiliate Summit Almost Sold Out

There seems to be a conference on digital marketing scheduled every week in New York.  While each has its merits, one of the best is Affiliate Summit East at the New York Hilton from August 15 to 17.  Most conferences focus on a cross between marketers trying to get more ROI out of digital marketing programs and advertising agencies that are looking for new ideas to bring to clients.

Affiliate Summit is different in that the focus is exclusively on affiliate marketing and the entire conference is made up of practitioners, people that make their living from executing ROI positive SEO and PPC campaigns. There is a big difference between receiving your paycheck from an advertising agency based on advice packaged for a client, and paying your mortgage based on insights into how to use digital media.

The event kicks off on Sunday August 15th with a few presentations and the meet market, one of the highlights of the event.  The purpose of the meet market is to provide an informal gathering where affiliate marketers and the affiliates themselves can meet.  It's a great opportunity to pick up new ideas and network.

This years keynotes include Frank Lutz, author of the incredible book Words that Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear (on my list of must read books for marketers) and Jim Kukral, who frequently writes and consults on digital marketing.

The conference is expected to sell out by July 31st, so you need to act now if interested in attending (when was the last time you attended a conference that sold out).

I'll see you at the show!