If my experience is any indication, most people trying to make a buck or two online start off with very passive monetization schemes like AdSense or TextLinkAds or a CPM network that you just slap up in your sidebar.
Advanced monetizers eventually learn that these easy methods are table scraps compared to what can be earned through sales or lead conversions. Unfortunately, the easy methods create bad habits that are hard to unlearn. AdSense monetizers earn more money when they receive a bad-match search then when they get a strong-match search, mainly because the searcher is unhappy with the information on the page and proceeds to click an ad in order to find more information.
For the beginner, this creates the impression that the only thing that matters is search volume, as opposed to search quality. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to affiliate marketing: your product offering needs to be a laser-match for what the customer is looking for, else you will probably not make any money. In affiliate marketing, 10 laser-targeted searches could be worth thousands of dollars whereas 1000 scattered, poorly targeted searches could be worth nothing.
Here’s a list of four things you’ll need to learn if you plan to succeed in online affiliate marketing:
1. Reverse Engineer Exact Search Matches
When using Google’s Keyword Tool there is an option over in the right column after doing a keyword search that is called “Match Type.” The default Match Type is “Broad.” That’s great if you are interested in getting lots of traffic. However, if you want to laser-target potential customers, change this setting to “Exact” to get the specific searches that people are actually searching on.
Admittedly, there’s a lot of overlap between Exact match and Broad match. But, the idea is to go through the list that Google returns and pick out the exact phrases that are likely to convert into sales. You don’t need to cast a wide net so much as a deep net. You need to find laser targeted, exact-match search phrases and start doing the hard work necessary to rank for them.
2. Branded Searches Do Better
When someone already knows what they want, they are more likely to purchase it. It’s that simple. If they are still doing research, then they are much less likely to make a purchase when they come to your site. People who are still doing research tend to do generic searches like “high quality credit cards.” People who already know the credit card they want will search the brand: “American Express Platinum card.”
Put yourself in the position of the consumer. If you know the exact computer that you are looking to buy and type “buy Dell Mini 9” you are someone that I want to target. On the other hand, if you are searching something like “best small laptop computers” you are less likely to be the sort of person who is going to pull the trigger and make a purchase directly from that search.
For this reason, as a marketer, it is in my best interest to focus on purchase indicating searches which are signs of a quality lead and more likely to result in conversions.
3. The Long-Tail Is Less Important
The long-tail of search is basically the totality of non-competitive, infrequent, longer keyphrases that people use when searching. For example, the search “american express platinum card” is competitive but “american express platinum 0% interest rewards card” is less competitive and much less searched. I’m not saying that you can’t get conversions with long-tail traffic. I’m just saying that your goal as an affiliate marketer should be to seek out a few high-value, high-conversion keyphrases and to let the long-tail take care of itself. The long-tail should be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.
The point here is that you need to make sure that you are competitive in a few relatively high-volume, ultra-targeted searches. The best place to start is with a common, branded search phrase where the searcher is looking to make an action. Put all of your efforts into ranking for this high-value search phrase and make it the foundation of your affiliate site. Once you’ve conquered that phrase, diversify by dominating another high-value search phrase.
4. Paint The Target Around The Arrow
As it happens, most product and service sites end up seeing a lot of search traffic directed to a landing page that is a poor match for the searchers’ interests. Lots of search, poor conversion. This is like throwing a dart at a blank white wall. When this happens, you have to effectively paint a target around the arrow. In a target shooting competition, this would be like cheating. But in the world of affiliate marketing its a case of better meeting your customers’ needs.
Here’s an example I’m encountering right now. Lots of people are searching for something like “credit cards that have no balance transfer fee”. They are landing instead on a page that features credit cards with no annual fees. Since the page does not have what they are looking for, they leave without me making any money. It’s in my interest now to find a way to change this page to better match the interests of the visitor.
The climb from AdSense monetizer to affiliate marketer is not an easy one, but it does have a much better payout. The key is to stay disciplined and make sure you are building pages of content that are designed to present products or services that match what the visitor is actually looking for.