The Motley Fool wrote an article about the death of affiliate marketing, talking about how AdSense text ads were better at selling than typical banner ads. Of course he is right, banners are generally useless compared to what can be done in affiliate marketing because they scream "I am an ad. Please ignore me."
Yesterday I had one fairly well targeted visual AdSense group display a couple thousands visual ads, and it had a zero percent clickthrough rate. People do not want to click on banners.
While some of the affiliate marketing companies may have stocks that will continue to falter, that in no way means that affiliate marketing as a whole is dead.
Many smart affiliates create testimonials, or factual looking review based content with affiliate links embedded in it.
The two highly successful affiliate techniques I know of are:
Creating useless spam sites chuck full of affiliate links or AdSense. Make the sites so ugly that people have to quickly click on something. On these sites AdSense might work better, and since Google does not enforce any legitimate publisher quality standards you can create tons of these sites.
Create smaller sites that review most every product in an industry. If a page only makes a hundred or few hundred a month and you have 10 to 50 pages of useful related unique content per site then it does not take long to build a few revenue streams that can make you well over $100,000 per year.
Just yesterday I got a random check in the mail for unknown reasons, which tells me that bad affiliate marketing probably still has a while left, let alone good affiliate marketing, which will only get better as time passes.
Visitors to Yahoo's Music Unlimited will pay $6.99 a month for access to Yahoo's 1-million-song library. That's less than half what Napster and Real Networks' Rhapsody charge for similar services that permit the transfer of songs to portable music players. source
From my limited perspective there are a couple major recurring flaws in the buying / selling cycle of selling SEO services.
Client ignorance of pricing: some clients view SEO as free money. This leads them to hire a cheap guy or someone who heavily markets the free money angle. Either of which stand a good chance of leading to fraud.
Client ignorance of process: some clients assume they know how to do it or that SEOs are messing it up based on slow feedback loops.
Rapid changes: this kinda goes hand in hand with the ignorance of process since most available information is dated. Some search algorithms are changed in ways that could best be described as random.
Big leap of faith:
many SEOs want to sell a $10,000 + package right out if the gate.
Not that I am actively seeking lots of clients (because I am still bad at pricing and still am not sure what I want to do when I grow up) but I have found that by being not available demand is much higher.
Another thing which works well for me is to do an hour long or couple hour phone consultation. Then when you are done go through the clients site and write a report for them giving them specific action points for improving their sites visibility.
In doing that you can easily sell a $500 to $2,000 review package where you might be able to make a few hundred dollars an hour while still avoiding the longterm commitment of performing ongoing SEO services.
You get to feel the client out and they get to feel you out. At the end of that report you can say that if they have any questions or need any help they can get ahold of you.
By charging a decent bit off the start you help the client assume there is value which filters out many of the worst clients.
As long as the suggested improvements report and phone call do not sound like a sales pitch you start to build trust. If you and a client click you can go forward from there with a bit of trust built up.
I see tons and tons of sites sell full service SEO solutions, but few people seem to be looking for that middle ground where they can still deliver good value without expecting a longterm or big dollar commitment from the clients.
What are some of your favorite business models or sales techniques within the SEO space?
AdWords Spying: GoogSpy looks scrapes hundreds of thousands of searches from Google to determine who is bidding on what terms. The idea is killer, but the implementation is a bit lacking. Link found from ThreadWatch.
I don't really sell SEO services because they are time consuming and I am bad at pricing them.
Today I chatted with one of my friends about marketing their SEO firm. Many SEO firms spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars renting links each month, but otherwise remain somewhat anonymous.
Small Sale Steps:
With advertising they may rank great and get in front of a target audience, but after the audience finds the site it might make sense if there is an added step between finding a site and buy services. If you sell quality services they are usually going to cost a good sum of money. It is a huge leap of faith for a person to sign on from finding you in the search results. Research Notorious Salesmen:
This added step could further sell the client on you and prequalify them to meet what you are looking for in a client. I pretended I was interested in signing up for Cory Rudl's mentorship program because I wanted to see how they sold it.
There are lots of issues that make the mentorship program not appealing to me, but do you know how they did the sales calls?
They were not sold to me as sales pitches. They were sold as interviews to see if I was qualified for the program.
The whole time they were reminding me that they only wanted success stories. They were not willing to take me on unless I was serious. My first interview was to prequalify me for a second interview. The second interviewer normally is not available for a week or two, but surprise surprise they just happened to be available 15 minutes after my first interview was over. Why? They wanted to convert what they thought was a hot lead.
They reminded me the for common things that held people back:
time - a reminder that it takes time to see results and people should not be willing to give up quickly. Also a reminder that I would need to invest many hours of time into the program to see successful results. I would need to have time set aside.
money - they reminded me that I could take out loans, but that usually credit cards made it easier to get started right away. As a new unproven business is easier to get credit from credit card company than to apply for a loan.
knowledge - That is what the mentorship was supposed to provide me.
fear - It is an uncertain world. Some people fear success. Some people fear failure. By making the mentorship program seem overtly logical by addressing the above concerns they wanted to reinforce that I was making a good choice and there was no reason for fear.
Of course when I backed off when it came time to enter my credit card details they became even more aggressive in the hard sales pitch techniques. I said I had to talk to a friend and they said that I should respect my own thoughts and opinions. They said that I should put my own future and my business in my own hands. I agreed with them and that is why I told them to let me think about it for a while.
People buying SEO services likely share some of the concerns as people buying a marketing mentorship program. There are also a few others, but some of the most common questions might be easily packagable as downloadable PDF. To prospects sometimes the format of information can matter as much or more than the actual contents of the container.
Things that are under $100 (and especially things that are under $50) can be an impulse buy. The right kind of SEO client is typically not the kind who is doing impulse buying.
Most internet marketing techniques are fairly transparent.
Look at competing sites. How do they market on their sites.
Look at competign backlinks. How do they market via links.
Use Alexa. If you can afford it collect more data via HitWise.
Create seed sites in various industries. Have an auto insurance site that you market on AdWords or Overture.
Ask questions to friendly competitors.
Call or have a friend call other competitors as a prospective lead.
Ask for proposal documents.
Doing some of those might help show you where others are doing well, and then again the might do well in spite of, not because some of the action. Then maybe there are additional things you could do that most firms are not.
Some things firms could do to bridge the credibility gap beyond what algorithms say:
Write a bunch of articles and publish them on various sites.
Get interviewed by others.
Give away something.
Act your size. A large corporate account might bring in a ton of money, but they may suck up most your resources and have a ton of red tape.
Do not be afraid to put a personality into what you do.
Look for clients with common interests. Maybe there is some pent up demand in the local area?
Lots of other ideas. My friend came up with a great one, but I don't want to share it because its his idea. Hopefully he gives it a shot. :)
[disclaimer: I might be out to lunch here, but the intent of the post is to help...]
Not sure if many host companies are advertising for common errors at other hosts which their hosting packages support, but I would be willing to bet DOMXML hosting and DOM XML hosting and other similar derivative keywords are cheap ads - at least they looked it a few minutes ago.
Probably not a ton of traffic, but well targeted leads.
Just an idea for those stuck in that hyper competitive market. Not saying that I think people should sell hosting on the cheap, just that there might be some unsold inventory.
BTW, I have not got much feedback about Hub Finder yet. Apparently the host where it was hosted stopped supporting it.
Fatal error: Call to undefined function: domxml_open_mem
There is another copy here and here, and you can place the source code on your site if you want (change index.txt to index.php). Do you like it, or think it sucks, or...?