Year: 2012

Should Your Affiliate Blog Have Comments?

It seems like a no-brainer that blogs should have comments. Blogs, by their nature, are spaces of dialogue and personal viewpoints. However, Daring Fireball and platforms like Tumblr have paved the way for an acceptance of blogs sans-comments.

During my first attempt to reboot CostPerNews with the ill-fated adverbs.FM, I had a “no commenting” policy because I was so burned from the long epistles that would erupt on CPN from time-to-time (there’s nothing like friends asking you to look up an I.P. address of a commenter because they were upset someone would post something so hurtful under an anonymous guise). That blog failed due in no small part to its absences of comments.

However, the issue of whether to include comments on a blog (especially niche blogs like we have in the affiliate industry) reared its hydra head again this week.

Affiliate folks like Scott Jangro (who chastised me for not having comments on adverbs.FM) have been weighing in with salient thoughts…

Turning Blog Comments Off – a Short Case Study by @mattgemmell: “There are many times that I’ve also questioned the value and benefits of blog comments.  They tend to be a flash in the pan, and depending on the platform the blog is hosted on, it can be difficult to keep tabs on posts that you’ve commented on in various places.

But there are also some blogs that are a pleasure to read, due in no small part to the comments.”

I chose to go with Disqus here on PPT mostly because I’ve seen how well the platform works on my affiliate blogs that are so super niche that they typically don’t see the type of trolling that gets under the skin of most bloggers. Plus, Disqus is super easy to regulate, which is another reason I love/trust it with my precious commenting content.

However, Matthew Ingram has a great post on GigaOM this afternoon on the debate and he adequately sums up why your affiliate blog (whatever niche you happen to be covering) should have comments…

Yes, blog comments are still worth the effort — Tech News and Analysis: “A blog without comments is a soap-box, plain and simple. Not having comments says you are only interested in passing on your wisdom, without testing it against any external source (at least not where others can watch you do so) or leaving open the opportunity to actually learn something from those who don’t have their own blogs, or aren’t on Twitter or Google+. That may make for a nicer experience for you the blogger, and it may make your blog load faster, but it is still a loss — for you, and for your readers.”

Commenting on blogs opens the writer up to the type of frustrations and frictions that many affiliates would rather avoid if they are spending the bulk of their time on making their sites super optimized with loads of keywords and content that is sure to have them “rank” high artificially.

Yet, if you’re interested in long term organic growth, commenting allows for affiliates to present their sites/blogs as an opportunity to perform a job for its visitors.

Yes, commenting can cause friction, but friction should be a part of your affiliate strategy. This is the real growth potential for affiliate sites as people normally find your content because they want to do something. Limit their choices by providing a full service of doing the job they are searching to have fulfilled, but give people the option to provide a level of feedback that ensures for authentic engagement.

Piezo for Podcasting

I frequently use and love Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack Pro app for recording audio from Skype or my Mac to use on my podcasts.

However, Rogue Amoeba has a great new “lightweight” app for folks that don’t need the full power (or cost) of Audio Hijack Pro called Piezo ($10)…

Mac App Store – Piezo: “Piezo now offers full support for recording from VoIP apps like Skype, iChat, and FaceTime. Local audio is recorded to the left channel, while the remote caller is recorded to the right.”

Looks pretty straightforward and sweet to me.

I’ll be giving this a whirl tonight. If you have a Mac and do (or are interested in) podcasting (as you should be), go pick up Piezo.

More on Like-Jacking and Quality Traffic

Last week I posted about the rise of “Like-Jacking” on Facebook and why digital literacy is so important. The WSJ covers the issue this morning as well…

Spam Finds a New Target – WSJ.com: “A common social-spam attack on Facebook, known as “like-jacking,” involves duping users into clicking on an image that looks as if a friend has clicked the “Like” button, recommending it.”

When I first got my start in the online marketing world, I worked at an email marketing firm that helped spark the “Free iPod” phenomenon in exchange for just an email address and zip code. It was amazingly profitable and I soon learned why. People want freebies.

However, the quality of traffic was terrible and the lists were sold and resold so many times that any value they might have had were soon distilled into the ether.

The same holds true for Facebook Likes and retweets today and the growing realization that all traffic is not good traffic (especially traffic derived from passive social traffic that is unqualified and not valuable).

Some Things Never Change

It’s fascinating to me that mobile ad networks are making the same mistakes that we made with web-based performance advertisements 10 years ago…

Airpush – Developers: “Developers are paid on a CPM basis (cost per thousand impressions) rather than CPC. An “impression” in the case of Push Notification Ads includes any time an ad is pushed to a device, whether or not the user actually views the ad or not. The actual CPM rate which you are paid for a given app is driven by the CTR, CPC, and Quality for the given app.”

A mobile ad network based on real CPA or even EPC makes much more sense given what we know and the experience we’ve had over the past decade (going on two for some people).

What job do the ads do? Why would people click on them within an app? Those are the issues that these types of networks don’t address to their detriment.

Mobile is relatively young as a performance advertising and marketing space, but no reason to re-invent the wheel.

The Kids Are All Coding; Why Aren’t You?

I’m working with a group of 6th-8th grade girls in our Middle School who easily blew past the first five or so lessons on CodeAcademy today.

I was impressed how quickly and easily they groked ideas like substrings and declaring variables. Turns out they aren’t the only ones interested in coding…

Codecademy’s CodeYear Attracts 100,000 Aspiring Programmers In 48 Hours | TechCrunch: “Two days ago, Codecademy — a startup that’s looking to bring programming to the masses — launched a nifty initiative called Code Year. It’s pretty straightforward: sign up, and each week you’ll receive some programming lessons in your email inbox.

And apparently, there are a lot of people who want to learn how to code. Code Year just had its 100,000th user sign up — a remarkable milestone given that the site has only been up for 48 hours. And that number continues to grow at a rapid pace.”

We’re using CodeAcademy as the first steps of a trimester long endeavor to make an official iOS and HTML5 app for our school.

I didn’t come up with this idea… they did.

Pretty soon, these girls and their peers who are toting around iPads, iPod Touches, Kindle Fires, iPhones and Android Devices like we toted around Walkmans are going to start demanding more from their web experiences just as we of the Walkman generation demanded more from our music experiences (and we see what happened to the music industry in the course of a decade).

If you’re going to have a viable web business in 10 or 20 years, it’s time to learn how to code beyond some basic PHP or WordPress hooks.

The kids are alright.

Dash and Affiliate Pageviews?

Interesting concept for a company looking to posit itself in the already heated analytics space…

Parse.ly Will Launch Its Pageview-Generating Machine Called “Dash” This Month | TechCrunch: “Dash aims to help publishers increase pageviews by providing insight into what topics are trending and what topics they should write more about or less about, among other things. But most importantly, its predictive analysis engine is able to recommend what topics publishers should cover right now to be on top of future trends. Simply put, it’s a pageview-generating machine.”

Dash sounds like it might have the predictive chops to fill a gap between aggregate analytics programs and more real time programs by focusing on the predictive side of things.

The question will be whether it actually works for niche sites and not just mega Twitter-style trends.

If Dash does work well with niche traffic predictive analysis, it could be a very very useful tool for affiliates.

Keep an eye out.

DreamHost is Down; Affiliate Sites and Hosting

One of the questions I get the most frequently from folks new to affiliate marketing is which host to use for affiliate sites.

There is no one true answer to the question, of course. The answer will vary depending on the person.

However, it is not a decision that you should arrive at quickly or easily. There are many many variables involved in picking a good host and price is just one of them.

For instance, DreamHost is down again (evidently this has been happening frequently judging from the comments):

DreamHost Status » Blog Archive » Major Network Outage: “Our admins are currently investigating this matter. This outage is impacting all of our central databases. Which controls nearly every service ( ex. DNS, Panel, WebMail, Customer Websites, etc ). Therefor if you are encountering any type of downtime, it’s likely related to this outage.”

Do your research and due diligence when picking a hosting provider for your affiliate sites. Sure, it’s great to get a site up and going for $10 on a domain name and $5 a month for co-location hosting, but is that really the best provider for you? As always, research research research.

The prices run from $5 to around $25 for entry level hosting and minimal traffic but once you start scaling, things like downtime, versions of PHP offered, ability to add subdomains, mask links etc really become more valuable than a few bucks. And trust me, it’s a pain to move a site once it has a home.

By the way, if you’re wondering, I always suggest the fine folks at MediaTemple and use them for all I do on the web.

Geek Dads Weekly 106

I was on this week’s show and had a blast reminiscing with Daniel and Drew and looking ahead to what’s around the corner for affiliate marketing, gaming and social media…

Always Made My Jumps – Geek Dads Weekly #106: “In which Daniel and Drew welcome Sam Harrelson back to the show for our New Year’s Special. Topics include spotty resolutions, video games, social media, Shoemoney, affiliate marketing and more.”

The show runs about an hour and is a fun listen.

Here’s the mp3 or click the link above to hear the stream.

I Love TinyLetter

Awesomely Simple TinyLetter Admin Page…

Yesterday, I wrote about the seldom discussed differences between RSS subscribers and email subscribers to websites. It’s an interesting discussion when you ponder what it means to actually engage visitors and create sustaining revenue channels and interactions beyond just a one-time visit.

One tool that I’ve been using on my affiliate sites of late to generate sustainable email lists is TinyLetter.

TinyLetter is a fantastic service that is a product of the awesome MailChimp folks (which is, itself a robust and very competent email subscription platform).

However, I love TinyLetter’s sense of style, ease of use and feeling of mutual respect between subscriber and news list owner. There’s a quirky feeling to it that leads to goodwill (or so I think).

After much testing (I’ll publish that info on the newsletter), I’m even going with TinyLetter for the PayPerTrends Newsletter (linked above or here you go):

PayPerTrends Newsletter by Sam Harrelson: “Get more in-depth information and examples of practical “Job to Be Done” case studies involving the frontiers of performance marketing in mobile and social media once a week or so (soon to be premium feature).”

Feel free to sign up if you’d like to see the walk thru process. This will be a “premium” feature in the near future (something like $5 a month) but will go into much more depth and actual case study type materials than most people are needing or want to read (plus, it is a ton of work and a lot of info on what I provide to/for clients).

Most people in the affiliate industry seem to prefer Aweber for email subscription platforms, but I’ve never liked the look/feel of their product. Plus, the testing I’ve done on my own sites suggest I’m not the only one that is more likely to join a TinyLetter list over its more “robust” competitors. Sometimes, small is indeed beautiful when it comes to conversions.

There’s something about TinyLetter that resonates well with me.

Falling Off a Segway

Good show this week from Lisa and Shawn…

The Great Affiliate Summit West 2012 Preview Podcast: “This week on the Affiliate Thing podcast, Shawn Collins and Lisa Picarille preview Affiliate Summit West 2012, covering the list of parties, tips for first time attendees, and how to get a free massage in Las Vegas.”

My middle school students are particularly big fans of the infamous Sam-Falling-From-a-Segway video Shawn mentions.

I’m all in favor of the live Cast of Geeks show in Vegas next week (and beyond). Let’s rebrand, though. AffiliateCasters?

RSS is Still Important for Marketers

I love my RSS feeds that I’ve been curating over the last six or so years. I still think that as a delivery medium RSS is part of the future of the web.

However, RSS has always taken a back seat to other ways of capturing and engaging visitors to other tactics such as email. As Scott Jangro wrote in a recent comment here:

All Traffic is Not Good Traffic | Discussion: “But can you do something to capture them as your own?  That should be the primary focus on that traffic. Give them something that will get them to give you their email address, or sign up and get involved in a website.  The latter is harder than the former.

So regardless of the traffic source, who are these users that are coming by, and what can you do to make them *yours*?”

There’s a mighty good reason that RSS takes a back seat to email or some other “capture” mechanism… RSS is insanely nerdy and grows more so every day/month/year. There was a great hope of people like me who saw RSS as a very viable platform that could transform the way the web delivers content and news to most individuals and we’d all be running around reading our feeds on browsers or our devices to our whims (instead of turning to mediated sources like cable news or heavens forbid network news).

That didn’t happen.

For sure, RSS is alive via platforms like the awesome Flipboard app, which is much more “user friendly” than NetNewsWire or Google Reader will ever be (though much less satisfying if you ask me).

RSS is still very much alive as a pure web medium as well. So why should marketers care about RSS subscriptions?

Because all traffic is not good traffic. The traffic you should be concerned about as a marketer is the highly qualified traffic that has the potential to not only convert into some action but become a part of the actual community that will grow and build a site over the long run (if you care about such things, which you should).

Yes, that can be accomplished via email newsletters and lists. However, email lists and RSS subscribers are almost apples and oranges in terms of comparison when considering how they interact with a site and what type of user community can be built with their help and engagement.

RSS subscribers are by nature a nerdy and dedicated bunch… don’t count them out in your efforts. Their numbers may be small (and growing smaller all the time in your Feedburner etc stats) but their power is mighty as I consistently encounter.

Long Strange Trip #asw12

Speaking of Affiliate Summit, found this trip down memory lane on Scribd (where the Affiliate Summit folks have uploaded a ton of material that you can fish through for hours):

Affiliate Summit 2003 Programhttp://www.scribd.com/embeds/27091560/content?start_page=1&view_mode=list&access_key=key-9a7xf92he412mjpzcqx(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

I tried to get a seat to the first Affiliate Summit since I was in town for AdTech that year, but waited too long and missed out. It’s amazing that the conference is almost 10 years old.

Especially of note is the AdBumb article on page 3.

Why Are There No Affiliate Network Apps?

Thousands of affiliate marketers will be traveling next week on the way to Las Vegas for Affiliate Summit.

We affiliate types are notoriously compulsive about checking our stats on the affiliate and cap networks, on Google and in our various analytics packages (as we should be).

I can check my Google stats, email subscription numbers and analytics numbers all from the comfort of my iPhone (and even make changes as needed). However, there’s no way to easily check CJ, Linkshare, ShareASale etc network stats. Why?

With thousands of affiliates traveling for hours and hours next week, it sure would be nice to be able to pick up an iPhone, iPad (or heavens forbid an Android device or Kindle Fire) and check on our stats with ease.

Yes, you can get to most affiliate interfaces on a smart phone as you would see them in a browser. However, it is 2012 now. Time to app up.

And this, Linkshare, is just janky:

LinkShare Mobile Dashboard Launches: “LinkShare has launched a mobile dashboard (“Mobile Dash”) that allows affiliates to login from a mobile device to find and promote links.”

So, my hope is that the affiliate app space will begin to grow up a little in 2012 beyond this (do a search in the App Store for “affiliate marketing” and you’ll be embarrassed too).

Maybe by Affiliate Summit East later this year, we’ll be able to open up the CJ or Linkshare or ShareASale app on our iPhones and rest our compulsions.

Or, you can use the name AffTrack.

Edit: I was wrong. Vinny O’Hare (aka My Little Vinny) reminded me that AvantLink does indeed have a functional mobile app for its network. Thanks, Vinny and AvantLink! Will look more at your programs now.

Time to Learn to Code

I use MarsEdit more than any other app out there. If you write content for the web and have a Mac, MarsEdit is a must.

Its developer, Daniel Jalkut, has a fantastic post on the topic of programming as the literacy of the 21st century…

Red Sweater Software Blog – Learn to Code: “Literacy isn’t about becoming a Hemingway or a Chabon. It’s about learning the basic tools to get a job done. I think programming — coding — is much the same. You don’t have to be the world’s best programmer to develop a means of expressing yourself, of solving a problem, of making something happen. If you’re lucky, you’ll be a genius, but you start out with the basics.”

That’s why I’m crazy enough to be working with a group of 15 6th-8th grade girls to help them learn how to make an iOS or Android app. Coding is the new literacy.

Brent Simmons, maker of NetNewsWire and overall deep thinker on programming, has launched Code Year. Go and join up here (free, you get a weekly newsletter to help and prod you as you learn programming).

Go and learn.

My Favorite SEO Plugin

I do most of my own SEO but when I have an affiliate site on WordPress (as most of mine are), I like to use the great SEO Ultimate Plugin. There are a few others out there (probably equally as good) but this plugin is my go-to when it comes to quick link masking, 404 detection, deep linking prefs etc.

There’s a new update out that expands on some of the functionality…

SEO Ultimate WordPress SEO Plugin Version 7.2.1 Released: “Link masking has two benefits: First, it lets you replace lengthy affiliate URLs with short, clean, internal URL masks (using 301 redirects, which have no search engine penalty). Second, Link Mask Generator automatically generates robots.txt rules that disallow your masked URLs, effectively neutering the juice-flow of the link, without resorting to the rel nofollow attribute. This combination makes Link Mask Generator a perfect tool for affiliate marketers.”

If you use WordPress, it’s worth a look as a plugin.

Here’s a PDF with all of the new features.

Web Design and Fixed Screen Sizes

If you take seriously the appearance of your affiliate site (as you should… design is how it works), this is a must read thought piece…

State of the web: of apps, devices, and breakpoints – Jeffrey Zeldman Presents The Daily Report: “When I see fragmentation, I remind myself that it is unsustainable by its very nature, and that standards always emerge, whether through community action, market struggle, or some combination of the two. This is a frustrating time to be a web designer, but it’s also the most exciting time in ten years. We are on the edge of something very new. Some of us will get there via all new thinking, and others through a combination of new and classic approaches. Happy New Year, web designers!”

Granted, this debate is not for every affiliate out there but the issue of fixed-design screen sizes and how your site gets presented on a laptop browser compared to an iPad compared to an iPhone compared to an Android device with a near 5 inch screen compared to a Kindle Fire is a very real and tangible aspect of your business that you should be considering.

Why Freemiums Aren’t the Future Path

Interesting piece by Tac Anderson on the concept of Path as an Upstream Social Network (USN below) compared to traditional networks like Twitter and Facebook which he terms Downstream Social Networks (DSN below) and how USN’s could affect the engagement of marketers with lucrative data-rich networks:

What Path Teaches Us About The Future of Social Networks | @NewCommBiz: “Lets assume for a minute that as social networking evolves the social graph is filled with private USN and more open, commercial DSN. And what if most of those USN didn’t allow brands and advertising in? (Most of them will but humor me for a minute.) If marketeers and brands want to reach people inside their private USN, they need to be brought in by the members of those networks. Brands need to create experiences worth talking and sharing. A small example is when I shared my new Star Wars Moleskine I was going to be using on Path. You can see the reactions I got on Path as well as those I got on Instagram. Both of those went to Twitter and received their own reactions there.”

Basically, he ponders what if these Downstream Social Networks could thrive with a fermium model where brands and ads weren’t allowed to participate.

I’m not certain this will ever happen for a couple of reasons.

1) Social networks, unlike apps, don’t necessarily proliferate based on individual user experiences. Freemiums work on iPhone apps or even cloud based services that are more single user in nature. Social networks are, by their nature, commons that we don’t have complete control over and we’re more willing to make compromises on design, ads and privacy (hence Facebook).

2) The data-based nature of social networks is so lucrative that even new networks that are beautifully designed and based on the idea of limits (150 friends only, limited sharing etc) will certainly find more and better funding by relying on brands and marketers to subsidize the costs of running a network.

Path (and Facebook) can and should do all they can to encourage marketers to think above the “All Traffic is Good Traffic” blasting approach that many marketers use to get passive and relatively unqualified (and thereby low quality) traffic to their sites/offers/links and think towards better engagement based on some qualitative value in the exchange.

However, freemiums aren’t in our future for social networking.

This may all sound like it has more to do with brand advertisers than direct or affiliate marketers, but I’d argue affiliate marketing has the most to gain from the idea of interacting in these rich spaces of real human interactions and frictionless sharing.

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