Posts Tagged ‘business’

Affiliate Marketing Programs – Pros & Cons

November 15, 2008

November 14, 2008

“Affiliate Marketing Programs – Pro’s & Con’s”

Affiliate marketing programs are revenue sharing ventures between a website owner and an online merchant. Basically, a website owner places advertisements on his site to help the merchant sell his product or service. Usually, the website owner does not receive any commission unless a sale or lead has been generated. There are several ways that a web site owner can receive revenue through affiliate marketing. There are also several pros and con’s to affiliate marketing for both the merchant and the website owner. Here we will briefly examine the different forms of affiliate marketing and the pros and cons of such programs.

Website owners can get paid one of three ways – pay per click, pay per sale, and pay per lead. With pay per click, every time a potential customer leaves the affiliate website by clicking on the merchant’s advertisement, a certain amount of money is deposited into the affiliates account. With pay per sale, every time a sale is made as a result of the advertising on the affiliate’s page, the affiliate receives a portion of this revenue. Finally, with pay per lead, every time a potential customer registers on the merchant’s website as a result of the advertisement, a predetermined amount is deposited into the affiliate’s website. The article at www.wisegeek.com provides a brief but to the point description of what affiliate marketing is, the different ways an affiliate earns revenues, and suggestions on what to look for in an affiliate relationship.

 There are various pros and con’s to affiliate marketing programs for both the merchant and the publisher. This particular article by Jason Gazaway at www.jobbankusa.com examines the pros and cons of affiliate marketing programs. Gazaway states that affiliate marketing gives the merchant a lot of exposure. He also stresses that the one thing the merchant needs to keep in mind though, is finding a website that will be a good “fit” with their product and where their target customers will visit. Through affiliate marketing the merchant gains more and more customers without spending the time to look for them.  Finally, the article suggests that different customers coming from various websites can provide the merchant with some insight into consumer trends and demands. As for the affiliate, well they get to make a little extra revenue from simply reselling and promoting the merchants website.

However, there are some downsides to affiliate programs. Gazaway’s article suggests that the merchant may suffer from high commission costs, as well as costly set up and maintenance fees that are charged by most affiliates.  There have been cases where merchants will close down programs without informing the affiliate and may leave without paying commission. Basically, if there is a downside that sums up all the pitfalls of this program it would be around trust, efficacy, and legality. Kathy Hendershot-Hurd’s article at goaticles.com examines the key to success with affiliate programs, and explains the process behind the one to multi tier programs. She also distinguishes between the pros and cons of affiliate marketing for the merchant and the affiliate using business based examples.

Despite its disadvantages, affiliate marketing programs are still considered one of the best ways to make money online. Surely, this notion of affiliate marketing programs is steadily increasing. It is a good way for website owners to make money at no extra cost to them, and it is a good way for merchants to market their products for considerably cheaper then other marketing avenues. However, it is also important to note the benefits and disadvantages of these types of programs and that affiliate marketing programs may not be in the best interest of all e-commerce participants. Having a good fit between the affiliate and merchant will probably make the difference in the effectiveness of the marketing efforts

Click Fraud- Types, Cases, Perpetrators, & Preventative Measures”

November 7, 2008

November 06, 2008

 “Click Fraud- Types, Cases, Perpetrators & Preventative Measures”

Click fraud is clicking on a paid advertisement for a fraudulent or non-legitimate purpose. It is something that negatively affects all e-commerce participants, online marketers and search engines. Click fraud can come in many forms such as: network click fraud, competitive click fraud, and impression fraud. Here, we will distinguish the difference between these types of frauds, examine an example of a click fraud case, expose the source of click fraud, and briefly explore some preventative measures against this type of internet fraud.

 

 Forms of Click Fraud

An article at www.clickz.com explores the different types of click fraud and its implications. In short, network click fraud occurs when a network partner (usually the search engine) manufactures clicks, either through human or robotic means. This type of fraud benefits the publisher and the network owner.  Competitive click fraudoccurs when a competitor fraudulently clicks on a paid advertisement that you have purchased or bid on. For example, if you are a law firm in New York and decide to bid on the term “New York lawyer” which exceeds $10 CPC, and your listing gets a click a day from five people from a competitor in both Google and Overture, you’ll pay and extra $1500 a month, with no true benefit. A page impression occurs every time a page is viewed that contains Google Ads. Each impression is counted only once regardless of how many Google Ads it contains. A fictitious illustration of impression fraud was found at sem-faq.com , in brief, the story outlines how impression fraud works.Cindy has an ad for Christmas trees running on Google Ad words, she is generating decent traffic through her PPC campaign. A lot of visitors end up purchasing. Bob also has an ad running for Christmas trees on Google Ad words but his ad is not getting a lot of clicks. He has to pay more just to keep his add on display, so he decides to do something devious. He starts to search for Christmas tree related words on Google and asks his friends to do the same several times a day, though they never click on any of the links. This causes Cindy’s click-through-rate to go considerably down and she is now listed at the bottom of the heap. In reality the loss from impression fraud may run into the thousand dollar mark, and even more for larger businesses.

 

 

Cases & Perpetrators

 

A business week article entitled The dark side of online advertisingexposes the story of Martin Fleischmann who was deceived by click fraud. Fleischmann is the owner and founder of MostChoice.com a company that gives information and quotes on mortgages and insurance. Recently Fleischmann invested a total of $2 million in advertising fees (paid to Google); he later noticed a growing number of clicks coming from overseas destinations such as Bostwana, Mongolia and Syria, which seemed odd as most of his clients resided in the U.S. Fleishmann using high-grade software, discovered that the distant clicks had appeared not on Google or Yahoo pages but dummy websites with names like insurance1472.com and insurance060.com. When somebody would click on these recycled links on these dummy websites MostChoice would get billed. Google and the dummy website hosts and operators then share the revenue. To date he calculates that this fraudulent clicking has cost his business over $100,000 since 2003.

 

In addition to examining this particular case of click fraud, the article also talks about the “thriving click-fraud underground” community that has been populated by small-time players that makes detection difficult. The article gives an example of a married couple that engaged in click fraud and made more than $5,000 in four months. David and Renee Struck set up dummy websites with recycled Google ads and paid others to visit the sites and click repeatedly. There are actually numerous sites that disguise themselves as legitimate employment and will hire you as a “click agent”, where you can earn up to $10,000 or more of extra cash a year.  Google continues to defend their practice of recycled advertisements claiming that it helps point internet surfers toward relevant information.

 

 

Preventative Measures

 

The article on impression fraudat sem-faq.com suggests that keeping a close eye on traffic, CTR and impression activity is crucial. It also advises to reporting any strange or unusual activity such as lots of impression but little change in CTR to Google immediately and that this will help you get some compensation. But above all the article suggest that keeping a close eye on traffic coming to your site and the traffic that is not coming to your site is the most important point. Perhaps, general awareness may be the first step in terms of protection against click fraud. Awareness, education and prevention are usually regarded as the key components in detecting, avoiding and stopping fraud.  It will take a cooperative effort between law enforcement, search engines, advertisers, and publishers to stop or at least lesson the amount of click fraud out there.  

 

 

 

Search Engine Optimization – Tips & Myths

October 30, 2008

October 30, 2008

Search Engine Optimization

In General, search engine optimization (SEO) means ensuring that your Web pages are accessible to search engines such as Google, and Yahoo, and are focused in ways that help improve the chances they will be found. It is important to note the difference between search engine optimization, organic search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Search engine optimization is an automated way of optimizing the ranking of a particular website. Whereas, organic SEO is the process of optimizing a website to increase it’s rankings in unpaid search engine listing. While Search engine marketing revolves around advertisers bidding on specific keywords or phrases in order to ensure their sites are ranked at the top by search engines. One particular article at enzine.com explains more thoroughly the different between SEO, SEM, and what some of the implications for marketers are. Here, will explore some of the basics about organic SEO, some of the myths or misconceptions that surround search engine optimization, and visitor search behaviour.  

 

Most sources confirm that the more important technique in organic SEO is to arrange words carefully and in a planned manner. Words and the use of words are important because organic SEO is all about the placement of websites in the search engines based on the relevancy of subject matter given by the website.  Another enzine.com article suggests that “just framing a long list of ineffective words would only move consumers away”.  Organic SEO can save a lot of money in comparison to search engine marketing. However, planning a website for organic SEO can take months.  Alibiproduciton.com, provides an article that outlines some very useful tips and techniques that one can use in order to have their website reach its fullest potential. The article advises of three main tips to boosts your sites performance: 1) Keyword Research, 2) Develop Unique Content, and 3) Analyze Traffic.  To be effective organic search engine optimization takes ongoing maintenance and commitment.  For people who are new to the world of e-commerce and SEO or who want to broaden their knowledge surrounding SEO, reading the quide at http://www.seomoz.org/article/beginners-1-page is highly recommended. It is a guide that is designed to describe all areas of SEO – from discovery of the terms and phrases that will generate traffic, to making a site search engine friendly, to building the links and marketing the unique value of the site/organization’s offerings. Below is a diagram of the search engine market share in 2005.

 

 

Search Market Share 2005

Search Market Share 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is a brief summation of some of the more common myths surrounding search engine optimization.

          Many people believe that keywords in the title are enough. This is not the case; keywords must appear in the title, description, Meta tags and in strategic locations on each page. (source:enzinearticle.com) 

          Search engine optimization implies an influx of traffic overnight. This is also a misconception as search engine optimization is a slow process.

          Once your site is at the top it will usually stay there. Untrue, there is no such thing as guaranteed top position. Most major search engines have some sort of disclaimer stating that they ultimately decide which Web pages will be included in their indexes.

          With the right bid, one can buy their way to the top. Also untrue, there’s no such thing as a permanent top position. New content and external links are added to sites all the time, which affects the search engine results. (source:clickz.com) 

          People only search once and then purchase.  This is also not the case. People usually search more than once before purchasing and there is usually a long time delay between the first and last click before purchasing.  An interesting article at asis.org outlines a scientifically based experiment that was done in order to examine consumer search behavior and the implications for advertisers.

This subject of search engine optimization is very impetrative to a website’s traffic, and therefore, it is an issue that should not be overlooked or undermined by marketers.  Many businesses these days are utilizing a combination of organic, standard or paid search engine optimization in order to give their sites the most exposure possible.  However, the element of quality content and the appropriate placement of keywords with either of the search engine methods cannot be overlooked.  In addition, as this concept of search engine optimization continues to grow, it is quite possible that the search engine behavior of visitors will play a more integral role in the way websites are optimized.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Networking Communities (MySpace and Facebook)

October 23, 2008

October 23, 2008

“Social Networking Communities (MySpace and Facebook)”

Many marketers are now discovering the importance and value of online social networking communities. Facebook and MySpace are great social networking tools that people can use to promote or sell their service, product, or message.  Different people will use various networking sites in a variety of ways. It is quite possible for someone to utilize a combination of networking sites in order to achieve their goals. The most important thing to remember when dealing with social networking sites is the ability and need to connect to people. Here we will examine some of the ways that marketers can utilize theses networking tools to their advantage. 

 

MySpace

MySpace and other social networking tools give the marketer a built-in audience to sell to. Dotty Blake in his blog suggests that digital products are the easiest to sell online since there is no shipping charges or hassle.  In his blog he outlines what he think are the necessary steps that need to be taken in order to use both clickbank.com and MySpace to sell your product.  He suggests treating each MySpace profile like a person and to give each profile person-like characteristics.  He actually suggests setting up numerous profiles and making each profile an “actress or actor”. For example, he says if you were to sell a quit smoking product on your MySpace page, then you would initiate a blog about your product and other people (actors or actresses) would start to comment, and that would hopefully initiate conversation among actual visitors.  He says that on affiliate profiles you could even have the actors or actresses suggest the product by posting comments such as “yes I had the same problem till I discovered this book”.

 

Facebook

Brian Wallace at Nowsource.com  compiled some tips and suggestions on how to fully take advantage of Facebook. He emphasis the importance of facebook’s applications, such as Blog Friends where you can add in your friend’s blogs as well as friends of friends. He also makes note of RSS feeds.  You can put other website feeds on your Facebook profile, which is great for small businesses and entrepreneurs.  Justin Smith is the author of “The Facebook Marketing Bible”. His blog is a synopsis of this book. For anyone wanting to use Facebook to the fullest this blog if not book ,is definitely a useful read. Smith states that the most important part of utilizing Facebook is your profile page, because that is where your audience gets to engage with certain parts of your identity. He admits that the profile page is where you can express your passion for you brand, company or product. Smith explores every possible application of Facebook. Some of the less traditional Facebook applications that he examines include:

Social Ads:   With Social Ads, Facebook offers advertisers the option to pay on a CPC or CPM basis, whichever they prefer.

Integrated Opportunities: if you represent a large account, Facebook has partnered with Microsoft to serve advertisers wit higher campaign budgets.

Polls: polls offer an easy way for marketers to quickly conduct research within their targeted audience.

Finally Smith admits that Facebook marketing campaigns will require much more creativity than any other SEM campaigns. Facebook provides brand marketers the opportunity to design immersive and persuasive brand experiences.  Some of the success of Facebook should be credit towards its instant feedback nature, where user’s activity is constantly being updated and displayed.

 

Whichever social networking tool(s) you decide to use it is important to note that these tools are effective because they are personal yet non-intrusive.  If your audience consists of young people then Myspace may be the tool for you. If you plan on creating a Myspace profile consider leveraging third party services to bring multimedia content (i.e. flash widgets) onto your page. The fore mentioned piece on Myspace was merely an example of how one could use the Myspace to sell or promote a product but certainly not the only option available.  If you plan on using Facebook or Myspace or a combination of the two, it is important to remember that creativity and need to connect to people are two of the most important success factors. There is presumably more research online about how to fully utilize facebook and MySpace then could be fixed into this blog.

 

 

 

 

Choosing A Web Designer/Service for small Business

October 2, 2008

October 2, 2008

“Choosing a Web Designer/service provider for small businesses”

There are many different roles and functions needed in order to create an effective and successful website, such as web hosting, a website programmer, a web designer, a graphic designer, and an internet marketing specialist. Sometimes if you are lucky you can find all these essential services from one individual or company, but finding this really is a rare occurrence. Here we will look at the issue of web design and choosing a web designer or web designing service. Web design is the second phase of the whole web site development cycle, so we will be analyzing issues within this framework or phase.

 A web designer is someone “helps you to determine the page layout, graphics, text location and colors of your site, as well as the navigation and how pages will cross-link to one another. He may also do the actual computer programming and graphic art work for the site, or may hire out that work to a programming specialist. A Website Designer is the project manager for your site design or redesign” (http://www.passionforbusiness.com/articles/choose-website-designer.htm).   Choosing a web designer is not easy, and is actually a very critical step, especially when launching an e-commerce site for the first time.  When launching an e-commerce for the first time, a good website can attract customers and bad one can draw customers away, regardless if you are self-employed of a small –medium sized business. There are a number of factors that should be considered when choosing a web designer.

Firstly, one should consider their business and their customer’s needs, and what exactly they are attempting to offer their customer through their website. Website requirements will vary for service-based websites, information-based websites and so forth.  Secondly, in brief, it is important to have a realistic time frame and website plan and a budget to go with this plan. Thirdly, comes actually choosing the website designer, which should be accompanied by some research.

There are a number of things that should be considered prior to choosing a web designer such as: credentials, cost, contact, experience, vision, planning, testing, technology, consultation, legality, and ongoing support.  There is a great deal of informative articles, blogs and sites concerning this type of research for organizations to review. Based on some of this research, below is a summation of tips and suggestions that surrounds choosing a web designer, with a focus on credentials, cost, and experience. 

Credentials

An article found at mediacollege.com, (http://www.mediacollege.com/internet/intro/choose-designer.html), suggested that there a lot of web designers out there who claim to be qualified but have no real experience.  The sites suggests asking any prospective web designer if they can: manually write HTML code, work with languages such as JavaScript, create meta-tags, and optimise for search engines, create forms and other interactive content and work with websites in a secure server environment. If a web designer is lacking in any of the previously mentioned areas, they probably aren’t qualified to work on your website. The article also gives out advice with regards to warning signs, or indicators of a qualified versus an unprofessional web designer. For example, very few professional designers use Microsoft FrontPage; this would be a bad warning sign. Where as, many professional web designers use programs such as adobe dream weaver – this would be a good sign. 

Cost

Even if you are working on a tight budget, do not be blinded in by cheap quotes.  However, one should keep in mind that cost and end results go hand in hand. Karen Greenstreet is a self employment expert and small business coach, sharing tips, techniques and strategies with self employed people. In her article found at Passionforbusiness.com (http://www.passionforbusiness.com/articles/choose-website-designer.htm), she gives great advice concerning cost and web design. She states that if a web designer gives you a quote or estimate before even discussing the content or features of your website this is a bad sign. She also advises to pay attention to whether or not the designer will stick to your budget, or whether they will continues to suggest new add-ons and expensive features.  Finally, she suggests asking what the costs for maintenance or upgrades will be.

Experience

Always ask a web designer for his portfolio, a professional web designer will have one to show you.  In addition, actually talking to some of their previous and preset clients to see how the process went is not a bad idea. Creative behaviour.com (http://www.creativebehavior.com/index.php?PID=47), suggests to first asking the designer how long they have been in business, and that this will be a good indication of how familiar or unfamiliar they are with the current technologies of web design. The websolutions blog at http://jyotitis-websolutions.blogspot.com/2008/01/how-to-choose-website-designer.html advises to ask the designer for a small test in order to examine their web designing ability. They also suggest checking out the potential web designer’s reputation online. Chances are that if a web designer has any sort of track record or history, whether it is good or bad, it can be found online. Finally, one should always look at the web designer’s site or company site; this will be a very good indication or professionalism and quality.

Having no website at all is better than having one that is unprofessional or amateur in design.  With any type of customer relationship, there should be a certain “fit” and the same applies to choosing a web designer. The research required in order to locate the web designer suited for your needs and business may be a little time consuming but it will be well worth it in the end.