Online Marketing Lesson 48: Driving Traffic and Sales

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While you can influence the conversion rates of the offers that you will promote, ultimately this will depend on the landing page of the merchant and on the characteristics of its products and services. This means that affiliate marketing is partly a numbers game, where the higher the traffic you manage to send to the merchant’s website, the higher your sales and commissions. In this lesson we will cover the methods that you can use to drive traffic and sales to the offers you choose to promote.

Pre-Selling

As we mentioned above it is possible to influence the conversion rates of the offers you will promote, and your most powerful tool for this purpose is called pre-selling. With this strategy you won’t send traffic directly to the merchant’s sales page, but rather to your own website or landing page where you will review the product and place your affiliate links. For example, if you are promoting a certain affiliate product with a banner on the sidebar of your blog, you could make the banner point to an internal page of your blog where you review the product, instead of making it point directly to the product sales page.

Many people hesitate to use a pre-sell page because they fear it might reduce the overall traffic they will send to the merchant’s website. This is because only a percentage of the people who visit your pre-sell page will click on your affiliate links. However, this should affect your overall conversion rate positively, because the visitors who do end up clicking will have a much higher chance of purchasing the product.

Your ultimate objective with a pre-sell page is to get your visitors ready to buy even before they click on the affiliate link. In other words, once they click there and visit the product sales page it will be just a matter of filling out the forms and entering his credit card number.

Why is pre-selling so powerful? First of all because visitors will see your pre-sell content as a third party recommendation (and hopefully as an unbiased one). When people go to a sales page, they know that they will find a sales pitch there, and they raise their barriers and bullshit detectors as a consequence. On a pre-sell page inside your blog or website, however, their barriers are not up yet, so you have the opportunity to talk to them more directly and to communicate the selling points of the offer more efficiently.

This last point is the second reason why pre-selling works. It basically gives you an opportunity to complement and even improve the sales pitch of the product. For example, suppose that the landing page of a product that you are promoting only talks about the features of the product. The problem here is that features don’t sell, benefits do. You could therefore improve the conversion rate by highlighting all the benefits of purchasing that product inside your pre-sell page.

Finally, keep in mind that while pre-selling is a powerful affiliate marketing strategy, it does not work with every single product or affiliate program out there. It is important that you test your offers with and without pre-selling to see which one will perform better.

Primary Sources

Some of the methods below are also discussed under the “Traffic Generation” module, but in this lesson we focus exclusively on how they can be used to drive traffic and sales to affiliate marketing offers.

1. Blogging

Blogging is one of the easiest ways to drive traffic to affiliate marketing offers. Why? Because blogs tend to be content rich websites, naturally attracting visitors from search engines, social media and referring sites. Unfortunately, the amount of traffic that you can send to the merchant’s website is connected with the popularity of your blog, and conversion rates are not that good. This happens because blog posts and banners are more passive than the other traffic generation methods that we will mention below.

We could say that affiliate marketing can be used by bloggers as a complementary source of income. If you are planning to make a full time living from affiliate marketing, however, you probably should not rely exclusively on your blog for the traffic generation.

A more efficient strategy would be to use your blog to build an email list, and then to use the email list to drive traffic and sales to your affiliate marketing offers.

2. Email Lists

Email lists are one of the most efficient methods to generate traffic and sales for your affiliate marketing efforts, mainly because email messages are pushed directly to your subscribers, and because over time you can build strong relationships with them.

Usually marketers create landing pages that give visitors an incentive in exchange for them subscribing to the email list. This incentive could be a free report, ebook, video, audio, free access to a private section of a website and so on. After that an auto-responder is used to send specific messages to those subscribers at specific time intervals. For example, on the same day of the subscription a “Welcome to our newsletter” message could be sent. Then a message with some useful tips or tools would be sent every two or three days, to build the initial relationship with the subscribers. Finally, after one or two weeks the “useful content” messages would be alternated with promotional messages for affiliate products or services.

This method is very profitable because it can be automated, and because it is possible to tweak the messages and affiliate offers along the way, always maximizing the conversion rates and, therefore, the affiliate commissions.

3. Mini Websites

Mini websites are sites with a small number of pages that target one or a couple of narrow keywords. Their sole objective is to rank well for that keyword in search engines, and as a consequence to attract organic traffic.

Usually mini websites are monetized with contextual ads like Google Adsense, but they can also be used to drive traffic and sales to affiliate offers.

The key ingredient here is to perform an extensive keyword research to discover exactly how your target customers are searching for products and services on the web. If you want to create a mini website to promote online dating offers, for example, you need to discover the search queries that people looking for an online dating site use.

The narrower you can go, the better (provided the keyword has enough traffic to justify the development of a mini website around it). For example, instead of a creating a mini website targeting the “online dating” or “free online dating” keywords, you could target “African American online dating.” Apart from facing less competition, with the latter approach you will also have a higher conversion rate, because you know that people using that search query would be interested in your affiliate offers.

4. PPC

PPC (Pay-Per-Click) is probably the most popular traffic generation method for affiliate marketing. There are several factors behind this popularity. First of all PPC traffic is flexible, meaning that you can get clicks from people looking for “dress shoes” today and for “wedding flowers” tomorrow. Secondly, well optimized PPC campaigns can generate targeted traffic for very competitive costs. Thirdly, the amount of traffic that you can generate with PPC is limited only by the amount of money that you can or want to spend.

First of all you need to identify the offer that you want to promote. Once you have it, you will need to send some initial traffic there and calculate the conversion rate. Let’s suppose that the offer in question converts at 5%, and that you get paid $10 for each lead that you send to the merchant. This means that for every 100 visitors that you send, 5 will convert, generating $50 in commissions for you. At this point you know that if you can buy targeted clicks for less than $0.5 you will be making a profit.
Let’s assume that by using Google Adwords you manage to buy clicks for $0.25. This means that for every $100 that you spend on Adwords you will send 400 visitors to the merchant’s website. Out of those 400 visitors 20 will convert, generating $200 in commissions.

Once you have a profitable campaign locked down, it is just a matter of raising your spending while keeping within your margins. If you could spend $10,000 on AdWords monthly and keep the same cost per click and the same conversion rate, therefore, you would be running a monthly profit of $5,000.

Keep in mind that some affiliate programs do not allow affiliates to send PPC traffic directly to their sales pages. For those programs you will need to send the PPC traffic to a pre-sell page and insert your affiliate links there.

Secondary Sources

The four traffic generation methods mentioned above are the primary ones that you should be using in your affiliate marketing efforts. If you have time to explore other methods, however, here are some places that you could also try.

1. Online Forums

Just like you can use online forums to promote your own blogs and websites, you can also use them to promote your affiliate offers. The process is similar. First of all you need to join the forums that cover topics related to the products and services that you will be promoting. After that you will need to become a member of the community and add some value with your posts. Finally, you will include your affiliate links either in your signature or directly inside your posts, when the links could be relevant to the discussion.

It is important to understand the guidelines of each forum before posting affiliate links, though, as in some of them this might get you banned.

2. Article Directories

The articles that you submit to article directories can also be used as pre-sell pages for your affiliate links. In order for this method to work, you will need to spend some time optimizing the content of the articles and building links. Once the article is ranking well for its main keyword, it will start receiving organic traffic and possibly generating some leads and sales for your affiliate offers.

It is not that easy to get single articles ranked well for profitable keywords, so try to target very narrow keywords, and aim to generate traffic and sales from a wide range of articles, as opposed to a couple of articles targeting broad keywords.

3. Social Networks

Any place where millions of people gather together is a potential vehicle for affiliate marketing promotions, and social networks are no exception. From YouTube to Facebook, from MySpace to Twitter, it is possible to use those services to get your affiliate links in front of eye balls.

The specific techniques will vary from site to site, but your overall plan should be to build an audience, and then to expose that audience to your affiliate links in a natural and relevant way.

Action Points

  1. Remember to test your affiliate offers both with and without a pre-sell page. Track the results and stick with the top performing option.
  2. Decide which of the four primary sources of traffic you would prefer to use, and start working with it. You can also test with two or more before making your decision.
  3. Creating profitable affiliate marketing campaigns takes a lot of testing, tweaking and persistence. Do not be discouraged if you can’t see the results after a couple of days.

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