I went to Affiliate Summit this week. I probably could have went to more sessions than I did, but I had too much fun hanging out with the TLA crew.
I did see the keynote speech by Jim Bouton. His thesis for success was that you must be persistent and you must love the process of whatever you are doing. Jim made it to the majors twice, co-created Big League Chew, and wrote a groundbreaking book titled Ball Four, which in many ways changed the way baseball operated as a business. I have attended many conferences, and it seems like most everyone says the same thing, but with their spin on it (based largely on their own experiences). Go to SXSW and you will hear how important design, standards, and blogging are. And you will hear how you have to be persistent and work hard and keep learning, etc (that is generally the thing you hear everywhere, that and maybe if someone had good market timing they say they were lucky too).
At Affiliate Summit I also listened to Rosalind Gardner offer affiliate marketing tips. I think she is highly focused on getting email addresses to create large targeted mailing lists and use pay per click to protect your site from the engines. Her tips for success seemed similar to things Jim Bouton would say, I would post here, or things I have read on many SEO forums. The one downside I felt in her speech was that she really talked down on SEO as though it was not as reliable, predictable, and as safe as pay per click marketing.
While my position is largely biased by my own experiences, I never really understand when people say pay per click is going to be more reliable long-term than SEO is. All of the markets are growing increasingly more competitive. With PPC someone can overspend you out of the market, and the market makers weed noise from the market. Both of which result in many casualties.
People can also spam the heck out of email too, which may limit how effective email is. And what happens when the major email providers allow more targeted ad buys on their email products? Competitors to your business may subscribe to your newsletter and bid against its contents to show up wherever you are.
With SEO, if you have good market timing and can create better ideas than the competition you carve out a market position and then are sorta stuck there, with the help of reinforcing links. I recently launched that SEO for Firefox extension. Assuming I keep the software functional the download page will probably rank in the top 5 for SEO Firefox and Firefox SEO for years.
The best converting terms are typically brand related terms and search is about communication. As long as you build a brand and gain mindshare search engines will deliver an irrelevant user experience if your site is not showing up.
In some cases it makes sense to buy mindshare, even if it only barely pays for itself and lowers your overall margins. Why? Because it provides another lead source and strengthens your overall brand awareness and mindshare (and, of course, exposure leads to more exposure).
I spend about $1,000 a month on AdSense just breaking even on the ads because the additional 12 or so unit sales does not increase my customer service load by much, but the $1,000 ad cost provides millions of ad impressions and increased mindshare. If I ever need to cut that ad cost I can.
Once people see your brand enough they will assume you are successful and offer free honest feedback. Exposure not only leads to more exposure, but it seems the less you need help the more people are willing to help you. And they may offer you free help that is better than anything you could have paid for.
Using any single medium as your exclusive lead provider is going to be risky, but by using multiple you can make your business profile less risky.
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