online reviews

Considering The Affiliate

This month’s theme is showing love to businesses and, much like we’ve formalized love with marriage, the formalization of business love online can be an affiliate agreement.

An affiliate is someone who reps/represents your company a mutually agreed upon way. They aren’t an employee but they’ve typically signed up to let you know they are interested in doing this. You may have terms for them, like they can’t use the product you are trying to sell in a certain way or can’t do certain things with product links. Once signed up, your affiliate can recommend your company and typically they get a financial kickback for doing so (ex: when someone becomes a paid member or upgrades their account.) In other words, they can recommend all they want but until your company gets a conversion, you don’t owe them anything.

By Googling “Warby Parker affiliate” I see what the terms are for me to recommend cool frames and where I can sign up. This brings down Warby Parker’s overall marketing costs while giving me incentive to share my love of them.

How do you know if an affiliate has made a sale for you or not?

Option 1: Give them a custom link.

For example, let’s say your name is Bob and you LOVE our blog and wanted to get people to subscribe. We talk about it and I say I’ll give you $1/person who signs up for email list. I could make a custom email newsletter subscription link like breakingeveninc.com/newsletter%bob that you can share. The people you share that link with are directed to a normal looking page; I’m just tracking it in a special, distinct way. In my website software, I could set up for it to track when someone who got to that link signed up for our email newsletter (filled out and submitted a form successfully). Every month, I sendBob a check for the amount of subscribers he sends.

The link makes things easy because the ‘customer’ doesn’t have to do anything. As the affiliate, you have to remember to use your special link and as the company, I have to set up tracking but the person clicking through is mostly unawares. Note: Bob could do something cool with his website like make bobswebsite.com/becrocks redirect to my fancy affiliate link. That gives Bob’s friends/customers something easy to remember and lets him use the affiliate link we agreed upon together.

Option 2: Give them a coupon code. 

The other way to do this, especially if this relationship involves purchasing, is to offer a code. Let’s say as someone entered their email into my website, I have a ‘coupon code’ portion where the person signing up is supposed to write ‘Bob’ for him to get credit for sending me a subscriber.

The good thing with this is it’s very deliberate coming from the customer… but most people aren’t going to take the extra step unless they get something for doing it. That’s why most coupon codes involve a discount code or free download or something for the customer for taking the trouble. Maybe by entering ‘Bob’ in the signup form, the people get a free ebook from me.

Whether option 1 or 2 is used, both Bob and I understand what is supposed to happen and what Bob will get when that agreed upon thing happens. 

Anchorspace is an affiliate for StandDesk which means when someone buys from our link, they save $50 and we get $50. So we’ve earned $150 just by recommending a product we already use and love and given people too far afield to come into Anchorspace a way to support us through their purchase. You can click on this photo and get taken to our affiliate link to see! http://go.standdesk.co/fHSGR

How do you set up an affiliate program?

You may think this seems complicated. Why set up something just for Bob?

If you think about the power of even having ten people like Bob as sort of un-salaried salespeople for your company, you’ll see that this can be a good idea for you. First of all, you’re only paying when you get what you want and second, by rewarding Bob and people like him, you’re incentivizing him to refer you more often, even if it’s a discount on your own products versus cold hard cash.

So you have two options with affiliate programs.

Option 1: Use an existing (third party) affiliate program. 

Websites like shareasale.com or Commission Junction offer a ‘plug and play’ option where you can set up agreements, have it automatically generate/track links, etc., which is perfect if the idea of DIY totally overwhelms you. If what is preventing you from doing this is the tech, please take that away as a concern. That said, Moz has an excellent point as these websites are creating links that aren’t as direct as you making the links yourself, which can detract from search engine benefits. Also these probably cost money since they are attempting to make your life easier.

Option 2: DIY on your own website. 

Tools like Google Goals and plugins like AffiliateWP Wordpress plugin allow you to set this up on your own website directly. So long as you are clear about how you want it to work, it’s totally doable to set up and even have it create cute reports and stuff. If you ask someone like us, we can get you an estimate at the very least and you can make your decision from there.

(Aside: Whenever people ask me about the difference between using something like Squarespace and Wordpress, I always say your website can ‘do more stuff’ with Wordpress and this is the kind of thing I mean. Here’s what Squarespace forums say about setting up affiliate programs.)

The best thing you can do to understand affiliates better is to try them out yourself as a referrer.

To become your own version of Bob, think of companies you already like. Visit their websites (the best first stop is the navigational menu that is  typically on the bottom of the page) and look for an ‘Affiliates’ link. If you don’t see one there, ask Google if the company has one, or write to the company via their website and ask.

Once you have a few affiliate links/codes, try them out with people you think would genuinely appreciate those goods/services. Are people receptive? Does certain language/certain websites seem to work better for you? Do certain things seem to make people take action? Use these experiences as the referrer when you make your own affiliate program.

Like any tool, when used sparingly and in the context of an overall marketing strategy affiliates can be an effective way for people to love your business and get rewarded for it. (Yes we are considering an affiliate program ourselves; contact us if you are interested.) In the meantime, let us know if you are an affiliate yourself or if your company uses affiliates to drive sales!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Finding And Using Niche Social Media Websites

We’ve all at some point heard the adage of ‘quality over quantity’. Usually, we are not hearing it for a good reason, but as a reminder to ‘be happy with what you have.’

In the case of niche websites, however, it means something a little different.

We know about the giant social networks: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. like we all know about big cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. But let’s say you LOVED cheese. Sure, you can probably find tons of good cheese in most big cities, but Madison, Wisconsin is near lots of local cheesemakers and may be a better destination for you if you are looking for all things cheese.

Niche social media websites are like Madison for cheese seekers; they are small places enthusiasts of [fill in the blank] are most likely to be. If you sell something to these enthusiasts, you are also more likely to talk to a potential paying customer on these websites than some of the larger websites.

What are some examples of niche websites?

If we think of something we want to connect about, we can probably find a niche website for it.

So here’s my random list of things (yes, I made this up with no reference to Google when I did):

microbrew beer
amateur woodworking
gymnastics coaching
first editions of books

Hey look what I found:

Untappd gets points for reminding us all there are still people with Blackberries.

I appreciate that this social network didn’t spend a ton of time on design. Hey, it gets the job done!

I bet if I made a login (and was actually a gymnastics coach), I could find other gymnastics coaches.

Two million people doesn’t seem like a lot compared to Facebook’s one billion but, hey, it’s still actually a lot.

OK, you made your point, there is a social network/niche website for probably everything. How do I find them?

Well, you aren’t gonna find many with an attitude like that! Kidding.

Google searching whatever term plus ‘social network’ is a good place to start. Thinking of some synonyms may actually help, as well as thinking of things a little more broadly (ex: I bet Library Thing has at least a group or forum for bestseller enthusiasts.

Another place to check is blogs in the same arena. Back before social networks, communities of frequent commenters were established on blogs. In some cases, in particular if there’s already a good group hanging out on a blog but not a giant enough group to go set up a whole new website, the comment section of a cool industry blog can lead you to where those people are hanging out. In some cases, it may be the forums of a woodworking website and in others, it may be a private Facebook group.

You can also look at big websites/blogs and see what drives traffic to them on Similarweb.com. For example:

Tools like this can help you see interlinking websites and the overall landscape of a particular industry/topic. Note: websites like this only seem to track websites that have a lot of traffic so this won’t provide you a complete list so much as a way to find more sites.

Why spend time on niche websites if there is less people there?

Because 1) even though there is a smaller group, they are more likely to be engaged 2) because if they are more engaged, they are more likely to buy what you are selling and 3) because there is less activity, your presence is more likely to be noticed.

Am I trying to give you more to do? Of course not. But I am trying to say, give niche a chance, as a participant or a more ‘commercial’ user. You may find yourself saying that quality is better than quantity after all.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Online Reviews: An Introduction

Last year, I packed up my family and moved us to a new apartment, a process I liken to having a root canal, only with less sitting, fewer painkillers and far more cursing. I hired movers for the job, and was pretty impressed with their humor, chill attitude, and the fact that one of the guys kept right on working despite needing to bandage a wound on his palm with paper towel and duct tape.

Yes, I tipped, but then they told me that if I was really happy to give them a review on Facebook. This was a first for me, but it made sense. This was a Maine micro business at its core, just starting out. Online reviews were pretty critical in generating good word-of-mouth.

Making your own business available to online reviews is a double-edged sword. The folks at Yelp acknowledge this on their guidelines for responding to reviews: “Negative reviews can feel like a punch in the gut. We care deeply about our business too, and it hurts when someone says bad things about our business. For you founders and sole proprietors out there, a negative review can even feel like a personal attack.”

Sometimes a business can do everything right, but there may be no pleasing a customer who has had a terrible day, perhaps because he’s just spent the entire week DRIVING AROUND A MOVING VAN THAT GETS 5 MILES TO THE GALLON AND WOULD IT HAVE KILLED YOU TO INCLUDE THE EXTRA SAUCE IN HIS TAKE OUT ORDER LIKE HE ASKED?!?! ONE STAR!!!!!!!!

Sorry about that flashback.

The point being, is it worth buying into online ads? Yes, but it takes courage.

Unlike traditional print reviews written by critics, online reviews keep coming, and coming and coming, so long as internet-savvy folks keep using your products or services. The advantage of this is that each day is another day to get it right, to improve your weaknesses and build upon your strengths. Here are a few more popular choices to get you started in this brave new world:

Yelp is enormously popular, having garnered more than 115 million reviews last year. Making money off ad revenue, Yelp is free for both the business itself and for consumers. Seemingly everything — from local restaurants to doctors, from prisons  to showgirl supply stores — gets reviewed through their website or mobile app.

The company uses an algorithm to  weed out fake reviews or reviews written by owners about their own businesses. Yelp’s relations with small businesses hasn’t always been rosy, as owners have complained that the algorithm weeds out positive review and leaves negative ones. Yelp admits its algorithm isn’t perfect, but the company has become so ubiquitous, so popular since its 2004 founding that utilizing Yelp makes still makes sense.

Facebook reviews are a pretty organic extension of your existing business’s page. And it makes all the sense in the world to utilize this free service. As we’ve noted before, 79 percent of American adults who use the Internet use Facebook.

Like Yelp, you can respond to reviews positive and negative. Search Engine Journal also notes that Facebook reviews will be giving Yelp a run for its money, in part, because Facebook is already integral to our everyday lives: “Facebook is a platform that nearly everyone uses on a daily basis. We use it to document our lives, connect with friends through Messenger and check into businesses. It’s the one-stop shop for us to get everything we need to get done, from collecting information about our friends, finding news and stories to read and to watch cat videos.”

Google, like Facebook, is seemingly everywhere. Similarly, it only makes sense to integrate product and service reviews with the search engine giant, especially considering how powerful and important Google Maps has become for finding, well, anything.

Our theme for February is “Loving Your Favorite Businesses Online.” Leaving a review, whether on Yelp, Facebook, Google, or elsewhere, is one way to give a business a boost. Stay tuned for other ways you can share the love this month!

Tech Thursday: How to Deal with Difficult People Online

Let’s face it, people don’t always play nice online. Have you ever had someone leave a negative comment on your business page? Give you a harsh review?

We’ve got a few pointers on how to put these fires out. Remember, you can’t control other people, but you CAN control how you react!

 

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.