Editors note: The following is a guest post from Tricia Meyer, longtime Affiliate and friend of ShareASale, she shares extremely valuable lessons from years of experience in the industry! Check out more from Tricia at http://www.tricia.me/
As marketers we are always looking to build long-term value while also leveraging on-the-spot opportunities. Sometimes our goals of being fast and first in the market end up impacting our long-term success. Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way that taking shortcuts in your work almost always results in having to redo the work or missing possible opportunities.
Not Branding Your Graphics
I’m not great at making graphics, but I sure do give it my best effort. Sometimes I spend hours in Photoshop trying to make something that I think has a chance at going viral. And yet often I forget one of the most important things—including my URL on it. How exciting is it when you upload a great image to your Facebook page or pin it on Pinterest and you see it getting a lot of shares? And then how disappointing is it to realize that no one has any idea where it came from?
Adding a little bit of branding to your images, graphics, and memes takes only a minute and the exposure can be great. It’s actually less about having someone steal your work and more about generating interest in your brand. The newest version of Chrome is going to allow you to right click on images and see where else they appear online (you can also do it now with a Chrome extension or tineye.com). Imagine doing that for one of your images and being able to reach out to everyone who has your branded graphics on their sites to see if they would add a backlink to you. There is no disputing your ownership of an image when it has your name on it.
Using Direct Links Instead of Redirects
I am a terrible offender of this even though I keep getting burned over and over. You pull an affiliate link and put it directly on your site in less than a minute. But what happens a year from now when that merchant is gone or has changed their products or landing pages? You may end up having a lot of great old content that is no longer being monetized. This is especially the case when you use the same merchant links or landing page links over and over.
Just recently I noticed that CafePress had a whole section of Percy Jackson merchandise. That seems totally random, right? It was actually pretty important to me because years ago I made a link to the search results on CafePress for their Percy Jackson merchandise. I’ve used that link over and over in posts on my site for years. Now there’s a landing page that I think will convert better and I have to go through and change the link in every single blog post. If I had used a redirect plugin like Pretty Links, I would only be changing the link one time (with a redirected link, of course!).
Failing to Collect Data
ShareASale gives us the perfect opportunity to better track our data and most of us fail to use it on a daily basis. How often do you bother to append a consistent value to the “afftrack=” parameter in your affiliate links? It’s so easy to just grab a link and drop it into a post. But six months from now when you are trying to figure out which post types made you the most money or which newsletters yielded the most sales, you will be missing out on key data that you could have used.
Taking the time to set up proper data collection mechanisms on every link, page, and website can be the difference between being profitable and wasting your time.
Not collecting data can result in missed opportunities. If someone were to offer to buy one of your sites, would you be able to substantiate your price with solid financial data? When deciding whether a site is profitable and you should keep working on it, are you just guessing at how much it makes or do you know exactly? Do you install analytics on a site as soon as you launch it or is it an afterthought after the site has gotten going? Taking the time to set up proper data collection mechanisms on every link, page, and website can be the difference between being profitable and wasting your time.
Back in “the day,” many of us started our SEO campaigns by building some backlink spokes, spinning up a lot of articles to drop anywhere we could, and submitting to directories. Those may have been effective for awhile, but now they are just a way to gain negative attention from Google. We’ve been learning over time that not only do SEO shortcuts not help, but they might even hurt. In fact, Wil Reynolds did an entire Affiliate Summit keynote in 2011 titled “No More F’ing Shortcuts.” And yet some of us still don’t learn and are trying the same old tricks. Google catches up with SEO shortcuts and always will.
If you don’t believe it, just ask the affiliate marketers who lost their businesses after Penguin. If your business is dependent upon Google for traffic, you can’t afford to take SEO shortcuts and risk your entire business model collapsing. I was lucky that the sites of mine that were hit were mainly low revenue producers anyway. If it had hit my bigger sites, I would probably be looking for a job today.
Social Media Shortcuts
Along with the SEO shortcuts, you will likely find that taking shortcuts through your social media accounts can hurt. The first is not sufficiently researching your possible names on different sites. You may have a great domain name but someone else has the Twitter and Facebook accounts that correspond to it. Do your homework across the board for what names you want to use for your sites. I love that I secured the “hungergamesfan” domain but hate that my Twitter account has to be “hungergamefan.” Slight difference but enough to cause problems.
In addition, buying followers is a shortcut that throws up a big red flag on your accounts. Twitter and Facebook look for engagement. What kind of engagement are you going to get from thousands of random fake followers? You can actually do your account more harm than good when you inflate your follower counts and then they do not engage with you. I have a page where I didn’t buy followers but I did incent them to like the page as part of a contest. As a result of a lack of engagement, only about 5% of my fans of that site even see my updates.
There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.
Beverly Sills once said “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” Without a doubt that applies to us in affiliate marketing. If you want to build a strong, profitable business, take the advice of someone who has learned the lessons of shortcuts the hard way.