Posts Tagged ‘website’

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.  

 

 

 

Building Community within your Website

October 9, 2008

October 9th, 2008

“Building Community Within you website”

The notion of customer experience in e-commerce refers to targeting a customer’s perception & interpretation of all the stimuli encountered while interacting with a firm. There are 7 C’s to effectively building and maintaining a customer experience: context, content, community, customization, communication, connection and commerce. Here we will focus on community and explore some underlying methods of building community within your website.

Community refers to how sites build relationships between users. Strong community encourages stickiness and loyalty. Some examples of the way firms can build communities in their websites are: support forums, discussion/message boards or forums, member areas and blogs. Basically, building community is a way for users of your site to connect and communicate with each other. We will now look explore some of the tools used to build community in particularly discussion/message boards and blogs.

One article about discussion/message boards  examines the several advantages of a message board over an email list or instant chatting.  One of the advantages that stood out in the piece was the fact that past and present messages on a message board are readily viewable. This means that evidence of quality participation and a large group of participants is necessary to encourage more visitors to contribute.  The task then here is developing topics that drive traffic to the conversation.

Blogs can be a great way to encourage users to participate in your website and remain engaged with your websites content. However, professional blogger for Viral Garden, Mark Collier, has a some very interesting points and suggestions made in his article about blogging. He suggests that there is a big difference between blogging and expecting people to participate, and actually creating a viral community within your website. Some of the few blogs he links to include: Jack Yan’s “The Persuader Blog”, Clyde Smith’s “Hip-Hop Marketing”, and Toby Bloomberg’s “The Diva Marketing Blog”.

Priya Shah, a partner at a search engine marketing firm, in her article “How to build Traffic to your Blog”, states that “Write and they will come” isn’t exactly a magic formula to bring in traffic by the boatload. In her article she has 8 points of consideration for anyone wishing to build community through a blog.

  1. Write posts that People will Want to read
  2. Optimize your Post for Search Engines
  3. Submit your blog and RSS feed to directories
  4. Ping the Blog Service
  5. Build Links to Your blog
  6. Edit Your Blog Posts into Articles
  7. Create buzz about your blog
  8. Capture Subscribers by Email

Alot of things must be taken into consideration when implementing tools to build community and keeping that community together. Justilien Gaspard, at SerachEngineWatch.com discusses various aspects about building community in his article. He states that that a viral marketing campaign, whether it be blogging, forums, or discussion boards, or any combination of tools, has a greater likelihood of success by having specific objectives and targeting communities. There are no guarantees with viral marketing, he admits. Finally, he states that if it doesn’t succeed, explore what you can improve on, what you’ve learned and put that new knowledge into another campaign. He says at the very least you developed some relationships with people to promote your next vial marketing initiative. Building viral communities in your website is a good way to bring a group of people (your customers) together that share common interest(s), who can generate content to your website, and feel that they are an important and integral part of what you are offering. 

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.

 

Key Performance Indicators and Website Goals

September 25, 2008

 September 25, 2008

“Key Performance Indicators & Website Goals”

Key performance indicators (KPI’s) of a website are important; they help build, determine and analyze the effectiveness of a website relative to the websites goals. In other words, you need a way to measure if what you are doing with your website is helping your firm achieve its goals (KPI’s are those measurements). How do you use these measurements appropriately based on your firm’s goals? What KPI do you use?  Here we will explore, some of the guidelines surrounding key performance indicators in relation to a firms objectives.

In order for KPI to work effectively in relation to firms goals, the KPI’s should be quantifiable and reflect the firm’s goals, and secondly the firm’s goals should be specific.  An article found at Management.about.com, (http://management.about.com/cs/generalmanagement/a/keyperfindic_2.htm), distinguishes a good key performance indicator from a bad one by using real business based examples. Overall, the findings suggest that, any goal set, must be specific, “increased sales” is too broad a goal. There are a number of smaller yet just as imperative goals that lead up to increased sales such as: increased website traffic, returned visitors, reduced complaints, or maintaining web presence and user availability.  Similarly, if a KPI is to be of any value, they must be quantifiable. The article also, (http://management.about.com/cs/generalmanagement/a/keyperfindic.htm) explores poorly set key performance indicators and effective ones. It suggests that “Being the most popular web-based company” will be useless as a KPI unless there is a way to measure the company’s popularity or compare it to others.  It is important to remember that what you are measuring can actually be measured numerically.

Julie Mason is the General Manager for Kellysearch.com, a comprehensive online buyers’ guide and vertical search engine, with over 2 million companies listed worldwide. In her blog, (http://www.searchenginejournal.com/practical-guide-to-website-key-performance-indicators-kpis/5692/), she gives some direction as to how a company can determine what KPI’s it should be using.  She also advised that if certain KPI numbers don’t add up with your websites goals, there are areas of your site that need improving. 

Certain KPI’s will be used to measure certain goals, based on the firm’s purpose, size and scope. Let us observe just some of the more commonly used measurements that are available.

          Visitors per Conversion, Lead or Order: This is a basic calculation: leads divided by site visits. This is a primary metric to watch as changes are made to the site (http://www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3382981)

          Cost per Lead (CPL): CPL defines how much revenue a publisher receives when he creates a lead for an advertiser. For example, the publisher may place an ad for an investment site on his website. If a user clicks on the advertisement link, she is directed to the advertiser’s website where she can sign up for an investment account. If she chooses to sign up, a lead has been created and the publisher is paid a certain amount based on the CPL. (http://www.techterms.com/definition/cpl)

          Stickiness: measures the  level of involvement and length of time a visitor spends in a specific content area ( http://www.searchenginejournal.com/practical-guide-to-website-key-performance-indicators-kpis/5692/)

          Percentage of New Visitors: this ratio tells you how many people out of all your prospects were new to visiting your site, it is calculated by the equation

New Visitors/Unique Visitors = Percentage of New Visitors

(http://books.google.ca/books?id=g3sWkbuPTQcC&pg=PA114&lpg=PA114&dq=how+do+you+measure+the+percentage+of+new+visitors+to+a+website&source=web&ots=LLo_Aiyf6N&sig=1ySXNpzO1kAFbtvzUXUNiuy-m-k&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result)

 

Let us now put one of the KPI’s to use in an example. If for instance, you are an independent music artist and you have just set up your website, maybe one goal of your site is to get as many people as possible to join your email list. The question then raised is how would you use KPI’s to see if your website is achieving this goal?  Well, you could use the visitors per conversion measure. If 100 people visit your website but only 5 subscribe to the email list, this could indicate that there is a problem with this area of your site. Perhaps, there is content on the site that users find unappealing or invasive, or there could not be enough engaging content encouraging the user to join the list. Or possibly, this part of your site is hard to navigate or confusing, the layout could be poor, or it could require that users provide too much personal information. On a side note, as a website visitor, personally, I would want to join an email list, because by doing so I will get something in return, which I think should be taken in consideration by any organization wanting to create an email list.  

 

Those are just some of KPI measures that were found across a number of different articles and websites. One blog in particular located at http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/2008/09/rules-choosing-web-analytics-key-performance-indicators.html, is a great read concerning KPI’s. In this blog Avanish (the blog writer), posts what he thinks are the most effective KPI’s to use, eight tips to use KPI’s effectively, and accompanies his opinions and reasons with great graphs and charts. Avanish states that one of his favourite KPI’s is “Days & Visits to ‘Purchase’”. He comically compares consumer shopping habits to their dating habits.  He states whilst referring to people’s shopping habits, that, “Life rarely is about one night stands. People don’t behave that way. We like to take our time”.  The “Day’s & Visits to ‘Purchase” measure basically counts how long it takes for a person to complete and outcome on your website, with that outcome most commonly being a purchase.

 

 

Avanish also suggests the following KPI’s as most effective: average order value, visitor loyalty & recency, and task completion rate. For anyone considering the application and use of key performance indicators, Avanish’s blog is definitely insightful.

Determining which KPI’s to use will be based on the purpose and goal of your website. It is important to keep in mind that goals should be specific, and note that they will change over time as your firm gets closer to achieving its goals. Also, KPI’s should be measurable, and relevant to the firm’s goals.  Firms should start to see results if the KPI matches the goals and if the results are analyzed effectively.