Let me explain why banners are not necessarily the best way of using an associate or affiliate program. There is a term that explains why banners are so ineffective. That term is “banner blindness”. The web today is completely covered in banners. They all look slightly different, but all being roughly the same size and shape, they are easy to differentiate from the content of the web page. People do not read them any more. They simply look at them, recognise them as banners and ignore them! Average banner click through ratios have decreased over the last couple of years from around 5%, to less than 0.5%. That should illustrate the point perfectly!
Having said all that, do not dismiss banners altogether. There are ways of increasing the number of clicks that a banner receives. The main two of these are targeting and clever design. Believe it or not, designing banners to put on web sites is a full time job for some people. These banner professionals often produce banners that get up to 20% of people clicking them. Few associate programs will provide you with banners this great, but it may be worth trying a banner that you like the look of, just in case it gets a lot of clicks. Targeting the banners you put on your site to the visitors that your site receives will also increase clicks. The thing to look out for is a banner that will catch the eye of your visitors. Don’t forget to change your banners regularly, so that repeat visitors to your site do not get bored.
Beating banner blindness is the key to success. Visitors browse your web pages very quickly, and will generally filter out anything that looks like an advert (not just banner adds). They are searching for real content, so that is what you have to give them! Write about the sites you have chosen to link to! Explain why they are worth visiting, and what is so great about their products or services. Surfers are always looking for the next site to surf to, and they are far more likely to visit a site that they know something about, particularly if it has been recommended to them. Beginning to get the idea? If you want to use banners, write a little summary of the site next to the banner. If you think that the site you are linking to is worth a visit, tell your visitors that it is. It is simple, quick and easy, but it can increase your click throughs and sales ten fold.
Experimentation and variety is another key to success. It is not easy to predict whether “click here to visit a really cool web site”, will appeal to visitors at your site. For some, it is precisely what they are looking for, but others would look at your site in disgust and think you were a nine year old playing with the family computer. When you start using a new program, I recommend that you use a slightly different link each week for a couple of months, and compare carefully the effectiveness of each (number of click throughs, number and size of sales, plus overall profitability). Try using banners or button graphics at the top of a page one week, the middle of a different page the next. Write a recommendation for another week, then a review, a small text link, a full page article… It will be a very educational experience getting to know your web site visitors, and what they respond to best. This will also help you with the overall design of your site!
Once you have something that works really well, use it until it doesn’t work any more! Keep a close eye on clicks and sales, and vary what you have only slightly to “fine tune” your link. There is no reason to only use one style of link at a time, so you can leave the best one in operation whilst you experiment with another. This is a continuous process that will keep your profitability high, and provide your visitors with variety to keep them interested.
Something else to vary, is the programs that you use. If your site gets a lot of repeat visitors, and half of them have bought the gadget that you recommended, then it’s time to recommend a new one! New and better programs are being launched all the time. Keep your eye on this page for latest and greatest programs.
Most sites have some sort of links page. If your site has, then check the sites you link to every now and again to see if they have started an associate program. If they have, then join it – your link could be earning you money! Also keep an eye open for associate and affiliate programs that would be suitable to add to your links page. There is usually no reason not to join and add them to the list.
Click through or trick through? That’s an interesting question. I’ve already mentioned in passing the things to look out for when assessing the success of a link, but I would now like to take things a step further. Few people would make the distinction between a click through, and what I call a “trick through”. A click through is when someone clicks a link, and a trick through is when someone is tricked into clicking a link. Now you know the difference, let’s look at the consequences of the two.
The way in which a person finds a site can make a big difference to how they rate that site. If a person clicks a link following a glowing review, then they will have a picture in their mind of a good site, and a valuable product or service. With this comes certain expectation, which they will be hoping to justify. As you can probably guess, this ‘high quality’ visit is far more likely to end in a sale. If they were deceived into clicking a link and arrive somewhere unexpected, then their reactions will be surprise, confusion and possibly even anger. These people are obviously more likely to press the back button than explore any further. A glowing review followed by a terrible site could produce the same negative reaction. As always, honesty is the best policy! Not only will your sales figures be affected, but also the reputation of your web site.
You will read other advice in these pages that may seem to contradict the above. As always it is important to adapt what you read for your own use. I am putting these pages together as a collection of help, advice, hints and tips. Not as something to be followed word for word. Many options are presented, and it is up to you to choose which to follow.
If you want to use some programs with an existing site, but are not quite ready to dive in yet, then try reading the general linking methods page.
Discalimer: These pages contain only hints, tips and suggestions that I hope you will find useful. I give no guarentee that any of them will work for you, and will not be liable for the consequences of following the advice on this site. Do so at your own risk!