Affiliate Marketing

Google Shopping Gift Guide and Importance of Trending vs Popularity

Google’s annual Shopping Gift Guide is out for 2020. While it’s a handy tool for personal shopping, it also has some incredibly helpful stats for marketing and messaging.

The trick is to focus on trending items using data. The same is true for Instagram… the hashtags that you should be incorporating into your posts for more exposure and likes (and follows) are the ones that are trending but not necessarily popular.

So, if you’re looking for some fun market research in your business’ sector, don’t pass up these sorts of insights:

  • Monitors and headsets with microphones both saw 450%+ spikes in searches.

  • Searches for streaming increased 33% this year.

  • Searches for ring lights are at their all-time high, as they provide ideal lighting for video recordings and meetings.

The Google Shopping Gift Guide provides a helpful list of products rising in popularity based on Search trends in the US.

Source: Google Shopping Gift Guide

ShelfJoy: Clever use of messaging and affiliate marketing


We are the place for book lovers to discover amazing books from a wide variety of topics. All lovingly hand-curated by people who know and love reading.

Source: ShelfJoy

Interesting messaging bot for Facebook Messenger that was just released today. Once you add Shelfjoy to Messenger, you “chat” with it to discover books in various categories (or “shelves” as they call them). If you find something you like, you click “Buy” and you’re handed off to Amazon to complete the purchase with the Shelfjoy affiliate code.


We’ve been doing this sort of thing for a while with affiliate marketing and niche recommendations. I had a friend who developed a chat bot for AIM (remember that?) back in 2003 that gave you suggestions about products based on your chats. What we haven’t had is the ability to do so in format like Facebook Messenger that already has all of your social graph data (friends, likes, credit card etc) already tied in.

I expect to see more of these and more intelligent versions of these as Messenger and Google’s upcoming Allo and Siri / iMessage continue to become more “intelligent” and tied into our existing data profiles.

Pretty soon, you’ll be paying your bills and ordering your pizza via voice with your messaging platform of choice (while forgetting how to type on a physical keyboard).

Google’s Affiliate Program for Play Store

Google is working on launching an affiliate program for Google Play similar to the one Apple runs for its own digital content stores, a source briefed on the matter has told 9to5Google. The affiliate program, which is said to still be in its early stages of development and could get called off or change significantly between now and its time of launch, is said to be powered by Performance Horizon Group, the same company which in 2013 began supporting Apple’s affiliate program.

Source: Exclusive: Google planning an affiliate program for Google Play, starting with Movies & Music | 9to5Google

Apple’s affiliate program for iTunes content has had some success for larger publishers I’ve talked to (who deal in media and music categories). However, they weren’t blown away by the results. I wonder how much Apple is seeing from the program?

It will be interesting to see if Google can make a significant push by leveraging the affiliate space. There’s so much competition now with Apple, Amazon, Spotify etc that partnerships via an affiliate program might be the way to go to increase market share.

Google has been doing lots of hiring for their physical products category on the Play Store, so maybe this is in conjunction with that effort as well.

Undervaluing The Click and Mobile’s Importance in Conversions

Mobile advertising is worth ten times the amount marketers think because it drives more offline sales than marketers are able to measure, according to Google’s Matt Bush.

Source: Google: mobile is ten times more valuable than marketers think

Part of me (the marketing consultant part) wants to jump up and down and say “YES! SEE! READ THIS, SKEPTICAL CLIENT!”

Another part of me (the cynical online marketing veteran part) looks at this relatively cynically since it is coming from Google. Google is making intentional moves to distance its majority of revenue from cost per click actions on desktops and laptops and focus on transitioning its largest advertisers to mobile, contextual, and video (YouTube) ads. The average Cost Per Click revenue is down 11% this past quarter from a year ago and will continue to plummet as advertisers continue to realize that clicks aren’t a scarce commodity. That would fall in line with this statement from last week:

According to Bush, marketers are underestimating the value of clicks on desktop by about four times and clicks on mobile by as much as ten times. “You can see if someone had clicked on an ad or visited store, we need to start thinking about the creative we put in place.”

So which part of me is right? As with most things (especially in advertising / marketing), it’s not a black-and-white issue. Yes, Google is right to encourage advertisers and marketers to realize that clicks are undervalued when it comes to the conversion process. However, that realization would serve Google well.

For over 10 years, I’ve been arguing that marketers need to get beyond the old metrics we were and have been using for evaluating click effectiveness (whether in a CPC mode or in actually clicking on a link).

We’ll see if mobile finally delivers on that promise.


You Won’t Make Money with Your Website

“The future for most publishers is likely that of pure content production only, save for the few — like Gruber — who are destination sites capable of selling native advertising in stream (or selling subscriptions, like this site). What is very much in question is exactly how users will feel when they finally get what they claim they wish for.”

Source: Why Web Pages Suck – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Ben is mostly right with his analysis here – the only point I’d include is that there are possibilities (still) for small and niche sites to utilize affiliate marketing for profits. Even better are sites that are shaped around podcasts (*cough* Thinking.FM *cough*) or video etc.

If you’re looking to start a site, grow a large readership, and make money from advertising… that ship has sailed.

As I told a client this morning, websites and podcasts and YouTube channels aren’t direct money makers… they are marketing channels.

Google Affiliate Network 3.0


“To be clear, the merchants will still handle the actual product fulfillment, although the pages will be hosted by Google. The company emphasized that it’s trying to reduce the friction in mobile purchases without interfering in the relationship between merchants and consumers. That’s why the purchase page will carry the merchant’s branding, and if the product isn’t exactly what the shopper is looking for, they’ll even be able to search for other products.”

Source: Google Unveils “Purchases On Google,” Which Are Basically Buy Buttons In Mobile Ads

Sounds a lot like affiliate marketing to me.

Ah, the good ole days.

Affiliate marketing always was a good system in theory, but I’m always a little sad its promise of a democratized marketing industry never really materialized. Like our social interactions, I guess it’s up to the large silos to run the show.

Nice rundown of “Purchases on Google” over at Marketing Land.

How is GMail’s Promotion Tab Affecting Your Email Marketing?

How are things going with your email newsletter as we head into the all-important holiday season?

Trends don’t look good if you’re doing your email marketing the same way you did things in 2004…

Before the tabbed layout, open rates to Gmail had been above 13% for 15 weeks. They never dipped below that threshold unless there was a specific holiday. For instance, weekday opens for Gmail fell to 12.5% on the week of Valentine’s day. Open rates between Christmas and New Years are an abysmal 10.5%. Something about spending time with loved ones just isn’t conducive to combing through your inbox. Weird, right?

What bothers me in this case is that open rates stayed down for 3 consecutive weeks. From looking at a year and half’s worth of data, I can say that kind of behavior isn’t normal. I’m not willing to declare an emergency just yet. After all, I don’t even know what the adoption rate is on Gmail’s side. However, I would say this is an early indicator, and we’re definitely keeping our eye on it.

via How Gmail’s New Inbox Is Affecting Open Rates | MailChimp Email Marketing Blog.

Of course, GMail isn’t the only email provider but you’d be downright ignorant if you chose to ignore the new tabbed interface of the service. Since the changes started rolling out earlier this summer there have been handy “how to survive” guides that you should read (such as this one). Whether this is anti-competitive or helpful to users (or somewhere in the middle), the reality now exists and marketers must deal with it.

While it may only be Labor Day, you should be in full swing of planning out your holiday season promotions. There’s a very specific calendar mindset that successful email marketers use (you should read that), so it’s time to dive into your email marketing provider analytics (we love MailChimp but affiliates and marketers should be careful when using the service and look to others like AWeber) and see what kinds of trends you can spot from the data over the summer.

One of the most helpful things you can do for your own lists and subscribers is education. Even outlets such as No Agenda, one of my favorite podcasts, is relying on user education to make sure their email newsletter (via MailChimp) gets delivered to listeners’ inboxes after seeing a dismal drop in user contributions (they don’t run ads) since the GMail changes.

Email marketing is just as important, if not more so, than ever as we enter into the 2013 holiday season. Make sure you’re doing your homework before things really heat up and plan for success.

Tim Storm on Building a Team

Good read from industry legend Tim Storm on the ShareASale blog…

FatWallet started when there were already a number of coupon sites to be found on the internet (and hundreds more yet to be started).  One of the great differentiators early on was that I hired employees to help build and operate the site, where many of my competitors clung fiercely to going it alone.

via #Lessons Learned: A Guest Post from Legend Award Winner Tim Storm | ShareASale Blog.

Tim is one of those people that I’ve always looked up to. Reading his thoughts about building a great team and finding the right people is so important for the affiliate industry. Let’s face it, we’re a group of hard-nosed folks who do like to go it alone. That works sometimes, but often you need a team around you to challenge and compliment your talents.

Affiliate Marketing’s Bad Rap

From VentureBeat courtesy of Scott Jangro on FB:

“Be very careful when you sign up to affiliate networks. Do all your analysis. Profile the traffic, and then make an educated decision for yourself. Even though we were managing to get $200,000 a week of sales for all but nothing, this is not a sustainable business model.

Read more at”

To be honest, I can’t blame the guy. Despite the correct admonitions by affiliate marketing heavyweights in the comments, it’s a shame that an industry with so much promise continues to field a bad reputation from large scale brands (and state governments looking to make tax revenue from affiliate sales).

I love and believe in the affiliate channel, especially when it is “democratized,” but it only takes a few bad actors and not enough storytelling to ruin the message.

Taking Up the Challenge


This week, MarketingTrends is turning into a group blog focused on the always fascinating space of online marketing, analytics, trends and thought development. If you’re interested in blogging regularly about this space and want to be a part of something special, email me or @samharrelson on Twitter.

I plan on operating much the same way the old ReveNews did with no editorial approval process, comments wide open and actual pay for bloggers (see below for more on that).

MarketingTrends will look different as we move into Phase 2 this week so stay tuned for the new theme and features.

This is something I’ve had planned for a while, but a conversation about ReveNews tonight made me speed up the process.

When Affiliate Summit acquired ReveNews in February of this year, I was elated. As a former editor and publisher of ReveNews (and the one that ushered us through the incredible process of moving from MovableType to WordPress with an updated look/feel in 2008-2009), I have a deep love for the community and ecosystem of thoughtful bloggers and commenters that once made the site a mandatory read for folks in the online marketing industry.

I can even say that it was ReveNews that launched my career in 2002-2003 as I was reading insights from people like Wayne Porter, Jim Kukral, Brian Clark or Jeff Molander and pondering what I could contribute to this industry. They took me in and made me a part of the ReveNews family in 2006.

However, watching ReveNews become just a press release outlet for Affiliate Summit since February has been sad to say the least. This once proud banner stood for insight and thought provocation and real dialogue in an industry still trying to find its own identity (and identities).

While I can’t purchase ReveNews and right that ship, I can take up Shawn’s challenge after I posted my own thoughts about ReveNews’ direction this afternoon.

Here’s the whole Twitter convo:


To which Shawn replied:



Good point by Shawn on the previously dwindling but still salvageable content being produced by bloggers there:



And that’s where things turned. Shawn thinks that “print > group blog” but I find this sort of coasting to be the antithesis of what ReveNews once meant to lots of folks in our industry.

Not to mention that a healthy group blog is, in my mind, needed and required in an industry where the main group voice is behind an editorially produced dead-tree printing that serves as an advertising platform for the main conference of an industry and itself makes its owners money (with a traditional 20th century ad model) without paying its writers.


I was ready to leave things there and move on agreeing to disagree. Shawn wasn’t ready for that just yet.


To which I responded with a tongue-in-cheek:




Which earned this:


So, we’re taking the challenge.

Moving MarketingTrends to a group blog paradigm is something I’ve had planned for a while, but Shawn’s tweets tonight reinforced my realization that something akin to what ReveNews was in years past is not only needed but required in the online performance marketing space.

Group blogging means turning over some aspects of control, such as in the editorial space. I’ve never liked the idea of a editor to correct grammar or thoughts on something like a blog and our bloggers will have the freedom to post when the spirit moves them, whether on the floor of a trade show with their mobile device or after carefully plotting out a detailed thought piece over a long weekend.

The look and feel of MarketingTrends will reflect its group blog nature and that new theme should be live this week. I’ve got experience doing this and I’m excited about how things are shaping up.

Our revenue model is not just based in a mid-20th century banner display ad model. There will be a few of those ads, but the majority of the revenue to pay bloggers will come from a content-specific marketplace, newsletter placements and micro-transactions. You’ll see what we mean when we roll out the redesign this week.

In many ways, what I wanted to do with ReveNews in 2008 is finally coming to fruition with MarketingTrends in 2013. I’m excited.

I hope you’ll stick around and participate.

YouTube Introducing Live Streaming For Channels with 100+ Subscribers

One channel that’s particularly valuable for many marketers, particularly in the affiliate industry, is live video (for webinars, etc), so this is great news:

YouTube Creator Blog: Investing in you: more tools to build your channels: “Start live streaming if you have 100+ subscribers: All channels in good standing with at least a hundred subscribers will be able to live stream, within the next few weeks. Check your Account Features page for an ‘Enable’ button, and click it if you’re interested.”

Todd Crawford the Podcast

Todd Crawford joins Sam for 45 minutes of fascinating talk about domains, online marketing, mustard bbq and knives (and what exactly Impact Radius is doing today and in the next few years).

There’s a different performance marketing landscape in 2013 and Todd has a great vision of what might lie ahead for networks, advertisers, agencies and publishers.


(Cross published with our Thinking.FM network and about 45 mins and change)

Avoiding SEO Mistakes and Finding the Right Agency

Great post that highlights a few of the mistakes that companies make when having to deal with SEO, but this is the highlight:

The SEO Mistakes That Wiped Out 80% of My Organic Traffic: “The best marketing and SEO is done by a committed in-house team that builds real relationships with others in their niche. And if you’re marketing your first site, I strongly recommend doing your own SEO and marketing to learn the ropes and build your experience. If you ever do decide to outsource it in the future – or hire your own in-house team – having the knowledge from doing it yourself will be crucial to properly manage the process.”

We do SEO for many of our clients. They trust us with this very crucial and necessary facet of doing business, or just having a presence, online. However, I’ve had great fun and success working with companies where I ended up teaching an in-house team or person how to manage their own SEO and eventually their affiliate management etc.

In the long run, the web becomes a better place when agency and marketers stop trying to keep an Oz-like curtain up in order to keep the income flowing in. Sure, we have to pay our bills but the clients will come since what we’re offering is good.

It’s much more satisfying to work with a company (large or small) as it learns and grows along with this constantly evolving web. We much prefer those types of clients than the “set it and forget it” types.

Affiliate Marketing After Coupons

Affiliate marketing as a mainstream channel is something we talked about a great deal in 2006 and 2007 when the industry was largely dominated by either email marketing or coupon marketing.

It has been fascinating to watch the combination of social media and content marketing really transform the paradigm of affiliate marketing from faceless high volume publishers to a more transparent stream of traffic and clicks. That’s been a positive development:

Affiliate Marketing Going ‘Mainstream’ Says VigLink CEO Roup: “Roup adds, ‘[Affiliate marketing] has gone from coupons to content. Though coupon sites were dominating up until a few years ago, what you’ve seen since that time is mainstream publishers, who deal in real content are starting to delve into the affiliate world.’  Huffington Post and Wanelo are among the larger media companies using VigLink products today which, he asserts, ‘proves’ that affiliate marketing is less on the fringes than ever.”

More to the point, the idea that the affiliate chain can include compensation beyond the last-click has been a hot button topic for over a decade now. Roup speaks on that as well:

But we suspect that coupon sites intercept a lot of the value that our publishers are creating and that the coupon site gets the credit. At this point, publishers are not compensated for any click other than the last one. We are working to try and understand that more deeply. Ideally, we would like to compute that value and be able to deliver as promised to the publisher. I wouldn’t say we’re there yet. We are doing some fairly detailed experiments with some merchants though.

It’s interesting to see the notion of affiliate marketing becoming both mainstream as well as realizing the pitfalls of having a core publishing center based on coupling. As the economies and scales of affiliates and performance marketing channels continue to evolve in the next few years (with the steady rise of social media and location based advertising), I suspect we’ll see a very real and solvent affiliate space that need not rely on coupons.

However, what does that look like?

At Least Give a Disclosure, LinkShare

You’d think there would be … I don’t know … a disclosure near and/or at the top of a post on a blog such as MarketingLand clarifying the author’s intended purpose (or at least job) here:

Managing The Migration To A New Affiliate Network: “The topic of affiliate network migration is at the top of the agenda for a lot of advertisers these days. Whether a transition is driven by the urgency around the closing of the Google Affiliate Network, or you’ve bandied about the idea of switching networks for some time, moving to a new network requires thoughtful, strategic planning. Otherwise, you may find yourself hopping across different networks while you disrupt your brand, sales and publisher relationships.”

Kinda scummy, Scott.

Google Kills Its Affiliate Network

In yet another round of Google Spring Cleaning surprises, GAN hits the chopping block (to the surprise of many in the affiliate marketing world including myself):

An update on Google Affiliate Network | Google Affiliate Network: “Our goal with Google Affiliate Network has been to help advertisers and publishers improve their performance across the affiliate ecosystem. Cost-per-action (CPA) marketing has rapidly evolved in the last few years, and we’ve invested significantly in CPA tools like Product Listing Ads, remarketing and Conversion Optimizer. We’re constantly evaluating our products to ensure that we’re focused on the services that will have the biggest impact for our advertisers and publishers.

To that end, we’ve made the difficult decision to retire Google Affiliate Network and focus on other products that are driving great results for clients.”

Certainly, this isn’t along the lines of a Google Reader surprise (let down) but it does provide an interesting high water mark for what was once the promise of open-web marketing.

It’s no secret that the rise of the “social web” with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ etc has led to traffic flow and even content production being offloaded from once-independent web publishers and sites (affiliates) to respective walled silos. In turn, these silos have realized that co-opting the affiliate model within their own walls to drive advertising revenue.

Therefore, my biggest concern in this is the further consolidation of web content production (especially advertising based) and what it means for small to medium publishers and website owners. Whereas publishers had a chance to compete and thrive and be seen as a valuable channel to advertisers in 2005 or so, that business model is rapidly realizing its own end-of-life.

It’s a strange new world for affiliate marketers and this is only another phase of what started in 2006.

Search for Affiliates via Geolocation on AvantLink

Now we just need to get this narrowed down to states (and eventually zips):

AvantLink Launches Geolocation Affiliate Tool – Affiliate Marketing Blog: “AvantLink has announced an update to their affiliate recruitment and application management tools.
Merchants can now search for affiliates based on the originating country for the majority of an affiliates traffic.”