This article is guest posted by Sarah Wallace.
The secret is out; affiliate sites are a great way to make money online. But like any juicy secret, once it gets out there’s no stopping the fall out. In this case the rampant success of some internet entrepreneurs has caused a flood of affiliate sites. This influx has created a more competitive market that demands greater creativity from everyone that wants to excel in it. That’s why it’s not enough to just do the minimum and hope for the best. In order to stand out from the crowd, it’s going to take a few strategic moves that will boost the selling power of your site.
The content of a site is more than just words and pictures. Content is really, at its core, about what the site has to offer. And I mean beyond just the products and services they are selling. There are so many reasons that content can make or break a site. That’s why the phrase “content is king” has become cliché in record time. See, content attracts links, links affect rankings, and high rankings bring traffic. But it’s even more than that. Content establishes credibility, demonstrates authority and generates buzz. Or at least it can and it should aim to.
Content creation can be a highly effective method of increasing the ways in which a customer can come into your site. If you have focused all of your time and energy on strictly ranking your homepage or landing pages for major keywords, you’ve missed a very large boat. According to Google 20-25% of searches are brand new, which means there is a very large portion of the population that is coming up with queries that don’t fit our keyword molds. That’s why it’s so important to try to think like the researching user. What are they looking for? Create that page and give them a place to land. Drawing visitors in is the fist step, and the more nets you have in the water the more fish you can catch
If you are seeking to elevate your affiliate site to the next level, consider offering more. Not more product or not signing up to more programs. I mean more free, quality information. From infographics, to videos, to widgets and games, people need a reason to call a site a destination. If you can give them that reason, they will come.
A great affiliate site not only has compelling content that brings in and keeps visitors. Successful websites also focus on the other most important aspect of the user experience; usability. Yes, this is a broad term, but it generally refers to the ease with which your site can be used and navigated. Usability research and modification is also a process which will never really be finished. There will always be information to track, user behaviors to analyze and changes which can be made to improve performance.
There are thousands of little ways usability can be improved. But there are a few major elements which are at the crux of it. First if you don’t have one, do yourself a favor and add a search function to your site. Most users would rather use a search bar than spend time trying to dig for what they want. However, if you happen to find a preponderance of visitors using your search function it’s likely an indication that your navigation needs work. It’s important to have each area of your site clearly labeled and whenever possible, singular in purpose. The more specific each page, or series of pages, can be the more accessible they become.
The other major usability issue to address right off the top is dead ends. Broken links and pages which that don’t lead a user logically to an end point can be a huge deterrent. There are so many free broken link checkers online that there really is no excuse for broken pages. Search engines and people hate broken links so do yourself a favor and clean them up. And while you’re at it, for the times when someone does reach one of these pages, create a custom 404 which is helpful and keeps the visitor on your site.
Finally, make sure you have plenty of clear and accessible call to actions. Whether the desired action is “buy now”, “sign up” or even just “read more” make sure that they are every where. Keeping the end goal front and center of every part of your site will help increase the chances that your visitors will actually wind up doing the action you want.
This part is one of the real defining elements of a great affiliate site. Is there a brand associated with this site? Does it conduct itself as a real legitimate business or a fly by night operation? Just because you don’t directly offer products or services, it doesn’t mean you can’t aren’t a real company. It doesn’t mean you have to be only a doorway to another site. If you implement the right strategies you can become your own brand without ever laying hands on a product.
Branding incorporates a lot of different elements, a logo, consistent themes and professionalism to name a few. The purpose of creating a brand is to identify and convey your voice and point of view. It also creates an entity which is distinctly memorable and unique. With an affiliate site in particular branding can be a huge advantage. Branding breeds recognition, which is something many affiliate sites struggle with. By focusing on building your site into an entity which is branded you make yourself more memorable which elevates you beyond the status of just another storefront. By establishing your site as brand with a distinct image and unique perspective you can not only increase your following but improve your overall credibility.
We are so far past a point where offering products for purchase qualifies as a reason to visit a site. Everyone is selling something and the proliferation of spam and web garbage has created an audience that expects more. Users have dwindling patience for websites which are not comprehensive. If you cannot provide education and/or entertainment in addition to what you are selling you are limiting your own opportunities to attract visitors. If you are getting regular traffic and not constantly monitoring behavior patterns for usability flaws you are probably losing business. And if you haven’t actively worked at establishing a brand you are not maximizing the potential of your business. By instituting these three power boosts n your affiliate site then the good news is you have a lot to gain. The bad news is you have a lot of work ahead of you.
Sarah writes about branding and marketing for a website that creates logo products. She has worked in online marketing for several years and loves challenges of promoting websites and making money online.