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Affiliate marketing clinic study guide: 12 resources to get you going

August 26th, 2009 2 comments

If you’re an affiliate marketing novice, you and I have plenty in common. A few weeks ago, I knew little about the ins and outs of affiliate programs: how they work, the players involved, how to get started or how it fits into the typical multichannel marketing mix.

That’s partly how we arrived at today’s web clinic on the subject.

Back in 2003, MarketingExperiments tested affiliate programs, interviewed affiliate industry pros, and published an extensive, two-part research report on the topic: Affiliate Marketing Tested, Section 1 & Section 2. In 2006, further experiments by our team led to another research brief: The ROI on PPC vs. Affiliate Marketing.

Upon review, it seems many of those findings and recommendations still hold true for affiliates and merchants today.

And after our director of channel optimization, Aaron Rosenthal, and analyst and affiliate specialist Rob Reynard returned from the buzzing Affiliate Summit East show, we felt the time was right to revisit this topic and look at some new affiliate experiments we’ve conducted — including how those tests achieved gains of up to 165%.


Research and resources for affiliate marketing novices

For our web clinic, 57% of early registrants characterized themselves as “novices”  and 27% called themselves “experienced” in this area. So the following shortlist contains a dozen of the best articles, research, forums, and related resources we’ve seen that can help those who are just starting out.

Let us know if you find these resources helpful and be sure to check back next week, when we’ll be posting Q&A and takeaways from today’s clinic.

Reminder: Our web clinic hashtag is #webclinic and you can follow us @MktgExperiments.

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Proximity Search: Slifter Promises to Unleash the Local Market

August 21st, 2007 No comments

Ultra-personal ad floggers promise to push hand-crafted, micro-targeted messages to all of your subscription media, whether you want them or not.

Local, mobile search, “LoMo” for short, is the other side of the coin in this new, “micro-targeted” realm. It offers a very strong value proposition: Find the thing I want and find it close to me, so I can go get it now.

Cashing in on a multitude of cultural factors such as Instant-gratification, vast product choices, global vendor options, perhaps even rising gas prices, GPShopper’s local search concept is deceptively simple:

Out-and-about Ms. Consumer searches GPShopper’s “Slifter Mobile” site on her cell phone for the “something” she’s gotta have right now, and Slifter spits out the nearest store. Ms. Consumer flies, buys, and the retailer pays GPShopper a fee for the product Ms. Consumer found on Slifter.

Ms. Consumer does not need a full-blown, global, Google search on her cell phone; she just needs to know if what she’s after is in her vicinity.

According to GPShopper’s website, “If your products and store locations are in our system, customers will see them. Savvy shoppers save their favorite items to a personalized shopping list on their phone or send them to a friend or family member for future purchase consideration. Either way, customers are guided to nearby locations where they can buy your products.”

The company also promises unique, “detailed analytics” to increase sales, track campaign effectiveness and show retailers “new insights about customer behavior.”

All politics are local? Now all wireless marketing could be, too.

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Ultra-personal ads to be produced offshore?

August 17th, 2007 No comments

“Extremely targeted advertising will become indistinguishable from content.” Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital, 1995

Targeted ads are in your email, on your search pages. Companies already track your habits and push selected ad content at you. That’s old news.

But how will people feel when “ultra” personal ads start showing up 24/7 on all subscription media: inserted in TV programs, popping up on cell phones, beaming in on satellite radio?

According to an Aug. 6 story on the New York Times’ website, CEO David W. Kenny of Digitas, an ad agency recently purchased by Publicis Groupe, thinks producing these ads in offshore “ad factories” then shooting them to an electronic screen near you is the way of the near future.

Kenny’s goal is to change the digital advertising strategy for the entire Publicis worldwide conglomerate: Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, Starcom MediaVest Group and the accounts of Procter & Gamble, American Express, Hewlett-Packard, and General Motors.

Kenny acknowledges some U.S. companies are already running thousands of ad versions for a single brand, but his vision goes much further:

“The plan is to build a global digital ad network that uses offshore labor to create thousands of versions of ads. Then, using data about consumers and computer algorithms, the network will decide which advertising message to show at which moment to every person who turns on a computer, cell phone or—eventually—a television. . . . The goal is to transform advertising from mass messages and 30-second commercials that people chat about around the water cooler into personalized messages for each potential customer,” according to the Times article by Louise Story.

Digitas already uses data from major search companies like Google and Yahoo plus customer data from advertisers to feed its models. The results indicate which ads will be pushed first, which ad the returning visitor will see, what is seen after a purchase, and more. The ads also take into account such things as the customer’s age, location, and past exposure.

Ultra-personal ads embedded in all of your digital media content, zeroing-in on what kind of car you drive, what you ordered for dinner last night, your upcoming anniversary, and things that might make you blush.

Will it be too creepy for some, inviting a backlash? Or seen as a value-added service and a smart move for savvy advertisers?

Will the successful business model be to outsource ad production to offshore factories—churning out not sneakers and T-shirts, but sneaker and T-shirt ads, “handcrafted” just for you?

And from the vantage point of MarketingExperiments, how best to measure success?

peg.d@marketingexperiments.com

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Has Your Site Conversion Peaked?

July 31st, 2007 No comments

Let’s suppose you have taken a few marketing courses and have created a fundamentally sound webpage with all the bells and whistles . . . clear headline, natural eyepath, low friction, credibility indicators, etc.

And let’s suppose with 2% conversion, your sales are at an all-time high. Should you accept this as the best you can do or is it possible to achieve 10% conversion?

Think of it this way, if only 2 people out of 100 who entered a retail store actually made a purchase, we would naturally assume something is categorically wrong. Whether it be the products, customer service, or overall appearance, this store will be going out of business soon.

So why are online marketers content with such relatively lower standards? The answer to this question is complex and far reaching. But I can say with confidence that the buyer’s motivation and trust play an important role.

Someone who spends time driving to a store is usually much more motivated than a person who simply types in a search term and clicks a mouse a few times. It’s also much easier to click an exit button than it is to leave a store and navigate back through traffic.

Not only does physically being in a store signify a high buyer motivation, but it also makes it much easier for a customer to trust the merchant. Holding a shirt in your hands, trying it on, and knowing there will be an immediate exchange of ownership effectively makes trust a non-issue. Whereas when you order a shirt online, you can never be sure it will fit, if it will be delivered to you, or if it is even there at all.

As marketers, we unfortunately cannot control a buyer’s motivation. But we can effectively use incentives to keep visitors from leaving our store. To learn more about using incentives, take a look at our research brief “Creating Effective Incentives.

Unlike motivation, we can control a buyer’s trust by using credibility indicators, testimonials, guarantees, and other anxiety reducing techniques. To learn more about reducing anxiety, take a look at our research brief “Optimizing Site Design.”

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Email Format

July 31st, 2007 No comments

HTML vs. Plain Text has long been among the most hotly debated email-oriented topics. HTML format offers a visually pleasing design that 1) affects readers’ ability to process and benefit from the information and 2) provides marketers with the ability to track the effectiveness of emails.

Two of the most recent MEC email tests provide significant insight into this debate. Test One was Lite HTML email format Vs. Plain Text email format. Lite HTML outperformed Plain Text by 55% in click-through rate. Test 2 was Heavy HTML (Ad style) email vs. Plain Text email. Plain Text outperformed Heavy HTML by 34%.

I believe HTML format will continue to reach more readers because of its pleasing appearance and functionalities. No one likes to read boring messages, especially today’s readers who are getting more and more sophisticated with new ways to interact. The ability to tinker with fonts and font color and to do other things such as italicize appeals to many people. With that said, we also need to constantly remind ourselves to respect our readers with every marketing effort we make. With the same respectful content in both emails, a Lite HTML email looks like a nicely layed out letter and Heavy HTML email looks like advertising material. I suspect most people would prefer a nicely layed out letter.

With HTML format, it might be possible to track the effectiveness of emails and provide readers with “what really works” insights of how such email campaigns perform from the beginning to end. However, if it is done wrong, HTML format can face the danger of being blocked by email services and irritate readers with such things as improperly embedded images or aggressive advertising.

The important thing to remember is to test until you become convinced about what really works best for you—and then continue to test periodically.

Maria Hendricks

Research Analyst

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Can you tell which Free Trial Offer page performed the best? And by how much? And why?

August 21st, 2006 No comments

Here’s a test of your online marketing skills…

The topic of our free webinar this Wednesday is “Optimizing Free Trial Offers”.

We thought it might be interesting to give you a preview of two of the pages. One page is before optimization, and the other is after.

Can you tell which page performed best? Can you estimate by how much? And can you list eight reasons why?

You can see the pages and complete the survey here.

Be sure to register for Wednesday’s webinar…and all will be revealed.

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