Written By: Tom Ogg, Co-Owner – Travel Professional NEWS
Google AdSense, Start Your Affiliate Money Machine
Google AdSense should be your first affiliate program to implement. With Google AdSense, you will make money within 15-minutes of loading the code onto your website(s). If your website generates a modicum of traffic, I guarantee it.
AdSense is a revenue share model in which Google will share the PPC rates that they charge for Google AdWords campaigns. Let us say that supplier “A” is running an AdWords campaign for the keywords “Eastern Mediterranean Cruises” and is paying $2.00 per click.
By signing up for Google’s advertising network of publishers, you can insert code to pages on your website that will deliver the AdWords advertisements to those pages. Google will crawl each page and determine the most relevant keywords for each page, and when a user views a page, Google will deliver the most relevant ads to the page. If a page on your the advertiser’s ad will appear on the page. If the user clicks on the ad to find out more information
and visits the advertiser’s website, Google will collect the $2.00 PPC rate from the advertiser and then share part of it with you. While no one knows the exact formula, just for the sake of an example, let’s say that Google pays you 40% of the click through rate they collected; you would have made $.80 from the transaction. While $.80 doesn’t sound like much, imagine if you were averaging hundreds of clickthroughs a day.
Advertising networks have a very specific role in your overall affiliate advertising plan. Having had years of successful experience with Google’s AdSense program, I will share with you what I have found to be the most uccessful ways to make the most money. Of course, all of this is from my personal experience learned by trial and error, so there may be more information out there that goes beyond this discussion. However, I must tell you, I would have paid thousands of dollars for what I am about to share. I would have eagerly done so, as I would have made much more money during my learning curve that could have easily paid for the expense many times over.
The AdSense Code
After your sign up and subsequently accepted by Google as an AdSense publisher, you will be given a unique affiliate number and access to your own control panel which acts as an interface with the AdSense program. You are provided with reports on activity that you can customize, tutorials, video training and ons of help understanding how it all works. Next, there is an “AdSense Setup” tab where you will generate the code for your website. Note that there are three ways to make money with Adsense.Adsense for Content: This generates the code that places the AdSense ads on your page. There are website is optimized for the keywords “Eastern Mediterranean Cruises”, then it is quite likely that several ad sizes and shapes, known as “units”, from which to choose. You can specify what kinds of ads that you want to appear on your site. I always use “text only” ads as they seem to look the best on the types of pages on which I insert the advertising. You can also select “text and image” ads, and this will allow Google to deliver both textual and image ads to your site. An image ad is basically a banner ad and may take up the entire ad unit. Your third choice would be to place “image only” ads on your page. Many times the image ads pay a CPM rate rather than a PPC rate and may be a good choice for sites with low click through rates. Note that the Google publisher’s agreement limits you to placing a maximum of three ad units on a web page. Now, you can use any size ad unit and any blend of textual and image ads within the three units.
Google’s Advice on How to Increase Your Revenue From AdSense
Createunique, Valuable Content: For starters, your site could be initially approved by Google AdSense, but later reviewed for quality assurance. In other words, you can’t fill your site with low-quality content to get 100 pages indexed and monetized.
Instead, find something you are passionate about and find other people who are passionate about the same thing. Then work together with them to create the kind of content that other people who are passionate about that topic would want to read.
Make Your Site Sticky: Visitors to your website might not click on your AdSense ads right away, and if they leave after looking at just one page, you’ve likely lost them and their potential AdSense earnings forever. That is why you need to create a site that is sticky.
What this means is you need to make sure that every visitor that comes to your site wants to dig deeper and deeper into the site. There are several ways to do this. For starters, have clear navigation at the top of your site so that visitors can find the best parts.
Next, make sure that every piece of content links to more pieces of content. That way, if your visitor isn’t enjoying the page they landed upon, they might see a link to another topic they would be interested in instead.
Finally, have more content links in the sidebar. Let your visitors know what your most popular content is, what your most shared content is, and what your most commented upon content is. Visitors will be curious why those particular pieces of content are so popular, and that will keep them on your site even longer. And the more times your pages get loaded, the more ads they will see, leading to more potential Google AdSense earnings.
Give Your Visitors Multiple Channels Back to Your Site: Don’t let your visitors forget about your site. Your header, sidebar, end of content, and footer are the perfect places to include multiple channels that visitors can connect with you so they can follow you. You should include options such as email opt-ins and social networks. That way, each time you produce or promote a piece of content, you can remind your visitor about your site and hopefully get them back to potentially click on more of your AdSense ads.
Optimize Your User Experience: One thing that hurts many site owners is user experience. You may have the greatest content and the best ad placement possible, but if your site doesn’t load on mobile devices or loads slowly, you could lose a lot of your visitors long before they get the chance to consume your content or click on your ads.
That’s why it’s essential that you do a couple of things for your site. First, run some simple tests using Test My Site with Google to make sure your site works well for mobile users and loads quickly. If your site has any issues, both of these tools will point them out to you so you can fix them.
Second, sign up for Google Analytics and Google Search Console if you haven’t already. Google Analytics will allow you to keep an eye on your traffic levels, so if you see a drop, you can look into it right away. Google Search Console has a wide array of tools that will help you find out if your website has any performance issues or other errors that could be causing your visitors problems.
The best part of all of the above-mentioned tools: they are all free (some with premium options) to improve your site’s user experience!.
Now that we have explored adverising networks and how Google AdSense works, it is time to start marketing your site.
Marketing Your Affiliate Website
Having all the content in the world loaded with affiliate links is just an effort in futility if no one comes to read the content and click on the links. This brings us to the topic of how to drive visitors to your website(s) to generate a flood of click-throughs and subsequent revenue stream. There are many strategies for driving traffic to travel oriented websites, and much depends on the value proposition that your site offers. If you re both selling travel and generating additional advertising and affiliate revenue streams to supplement the total income from the site, this is the best possible scenario.
Based on the conversion ratio of your visitors to primary value proposition sales, advertising and affiliate revenues may be an excellent way to dramatically increase visitors to your site and subsequently increase your conversions. Many sellers of travel argue that they do not want to have their visitors know about their competitors, and they do not want to send them away from their site. Here are some typical objections and concerns, rebuttal responses and subsequent realities to consider.
It Doesn’t Make Any Sense to Send Visitors to My Website to Another Website. Don’t I Want Them to Stay?
This is at the very heart of the issue and manifests itself into comments like, “I don’t want my clients seeing advertisements on the web”, or “I don’t want my clients leaving my website” and so on. Look, whether you like it or not, clients know how to use Google and they surf the web looking for information. There is no way that you can prevent this from happening. In fact, I suspect that clients find a illingness to connect them with the best information on the web as a major positive and a reason to award business to the site that offers this connectivity. It is this simple. A client visits your site, evaluates your value proposition and either decided to make a purchase, return later or leave.
There is no such thing as a client that logs onto your website and stays forever. Why not make some money when he or she exits, while at the same time, giving your client options that might result in his or her completing their search?
The contextual ads or affiliate links that are presented in any given page of your website are from advertisers that are the highest bidders for the dominant keywords that appear on your specific page. Because they are the highest bidders, their content is likely to be very relevant to the information that the visitor is seeking. The fact that they are choosing to leave your site validates the concept that they have not found exactly what they are looking for on your site. While you didn’t make a sale on your value proposition, you did create revenue from what would have otherwise been a visit that had zero impact on your bottom line.
Reality #1: Evolve an effective exit strategy for your visitors that will maximize your advertising and affiliate income. Focus on click-through rates, yield and overall CPM rates to maximize revenues.
“Why Would I Allow My Competition to Run Ads on My Site?”
You don’t have to. Most Advertising networks offer competitive ad filter that allows you to block ads that send traffic to your competitor’s website. If you enter “example.com” into your competitive ad filter it will block ads from appearing for “example.com”, “www.example.com” and all subdirectories of the website.
Reality #2: Use competitive ad filters to block your competition and also the domain names that sponsor low paying ads.
“I am Currently Running a Google AdWords Campaign (Paying around $5 per Click). Common Sense Tells Me Not to Pay to Get Them to My Site Just to Send Them Away”
Look, if the visitor found you through a Google ad, then they are highly responsive to contextual advertising and tend to make better users of AdSense. They are either going to find what they are lookingfor on your site or not. Why not subsidize your AdWords budget with AdSense revenue? You will be able to afford more clicks if you reinvest the AdSense revenue into your AdWords campaign to generate even more traffic. If you can maintain your current conversion ratio of clicks to sales, you should be able to dramatically increase your overall revenues.
Reality #3: Expand traffic to your website by reinvesting your Google AdSense revenues into a contextual keyword advertising campaign.
“I Am Running Google AdSense, But Not Making Much Money.”
Managing AdSense revenues is a relatively simple task. It is a function of the traffic a site(s) receives, keyword optimization on each page, ad design and layout and the quality of the content that resides in a web.
Reality #4: Google gives you all of the answers that you could ever want to increase your AdSense revenue on their site. Visit https://www.google.com/support/adsense for tons of information, and study Google’s “Heat Map” that gives you the most desirable (effective) zones for ad placement. By studying this heat map, I made one simple change to my AdSense program that increased my click-through rate by over 1%. The same concepts that work for AdSense also work for all of the other contextual publisher networks. The more familiar you become with contextual advertising, the more successful you will become.
How Much Money Can I Make as a Home Based Travel Affiliate?
Travel websites are in a unique position to exploit opportunities such as Google’s AdSense program and other affiliate opportunities. The skill set that is required to organize and present complex and detailed research is exactly what is necessary to ucceed. Consumers wanting to purchase from suppliers directly on the Internet represent an unbelievable opportunity for those that are able to make the shift to a new paradigm created by the
development of contextual advertising. Six figure incomes are commonplace in this new environment.
Reality #5: If you can invest the time and funds to learn the skills required to evolve web content, your existing skill set can create meaningful additional revenues that may dramatically enhance your overall profitability.
Marketing Your Web Site
Contextual Advertising: When we think of marketing, we always think of advertising first. Of course, you should consider running a contextual advertising campaign to drive traffic to your site. But, be cautious to pay less for the keywords that you are bidding on than your average earnings per click. Let’s say that you average $3.00 per click and have a click through rate of 5%. This would tell you that you are earning $15.00 per 100 clicks or $.15 per click. You can feel comfortable that if you ran a campaign buying relevant keywords for $.05 to $.10 per click, you could potentially drive up your profits by buying traffic, simply because your average per-click income is above your average per-click cost. Of course, you would need to closely monitor the performance of the increased visitors to make sure that the CPM, CTR and subsequent income per click rates stayed stable. One of the most desirable aspects of focusing on travel is the high bid rates for keywords and high CTRs imbedded in the travel category. If your website(s) also offer a value proposition that substantially increases the yield per conversion (click to sale) to a much higher level (say $25.00), you can easily justify spending considerably more on contextual advertising. This is assuming that your conversion ratio stays the same. Here is how to impact your click to sale conversion ratio.
Use Landing Pages: If you are selling a 4-islands Hawaii tour for $995.00, use the words “to make a reservation, Book NOW!” or some other action oriented term that tells the visitor that they are going to be delivered to a page requesting them to spend money.
Never use the terms “for more information” or some other generic term that does not invoke a sense of action and urgency. Once someone has clicked on the ad, be sure to send him or her to a landing page that is specifically designed to convert the click to a sale. The page should have only the information that is needed to complete the sale, but allow the visitor to access ancillary information they might need to make a final decision. Serve the information in a pop-up window that when closed, leaves the landing page to complete.
Use Keyword URLs for Your Landing Pages: By isolating your landing page away from your main website, you remove the likelihood that the visitor will get sidetracked looking around other content on your site. By using specific keyword urls, you can dramatically increase the number of clicks that you get. In turn, the higher percentage of clicks that you generate reduces the overall cost per click. Google specifically rewards popular ads by granting them a lower cost per click than those that are not as prolific.In the example of the Hawaii tour, I might use the URL 14DayHawaiiVacation.com or 995HawaiiVacation.com. The domain name tells the potential clicker that the information that resides at the URL is focused and serious. Plus, the URL is memorable so that they may not click but simply enter it into the command bar thereby saving the cost of a click.
Turn a Click Into a Relationship: Nothing works better than personal contact. You might try collecting an e-mail address, or better yet a telephone number, before disclosing all of the details of your value proposition. So many times, a telephone call is the difference between a conversion and just a click.
More Channels to Drive Traffic
Blogging: The largest initial benefit that blogs offer travel affiliates is simply a by-product of the functionality of blogging. There are a number of places to setup your blog. Google owns and operates a completely free blog site at www.Blogger.com. You can start with one here, however I would suggest paying a nominal amount monthly for a commercial blog such as the one located at www.TypePad.com. The reason for this is you can assign a separate domain name to the blog and also enable an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed for the blog.
Search engines love blogs because they tend to be updated often and generally contain current and relevant information. Many people subscribe to RSS feeds to keep up on their blogs and websites, so it is a great way to keep your readers posted on anything new and exciting. The best way to use a blog is to post new activity daily and simply give a highlighted description with a link back to the content for the complete details. While you can now include AdSense on your blog posts, it is much better to direct them to an optimized page on your website where they will be exposed to more advertisements and opportunities to click. Folks that subscribe to your “feed” will be notified every time that you update your blog.
The very best way to create a formidable blog is to use WordPress and YoastSEO. Not only do you have the best of technology, but Google completely understands WordPress and Yoast.
Social Media: While social media is covered in-depth in this book, suffice it to say that all of social media offers an excellent opportunity to drive traffic to your primary site(s). Operating business pages, video channels and a strong social presence.
eZines and eNewsletters: eZines and eNewsletters can be very effective for driving traffic. The key to using an eZine or eNewsletter is to only offer an opt-in /opt-out format. Your readers should have complete control over his or her subscription. When it comes to aZines and eNewsletters, it is content, content and more content that matters. Never waste a reader’s time and energy by including old or redundant content. Your magazine or newsletter should be current, precise and meet the vital needs of your readers. The entire function of a newsletter is to drive traffic back to your website in droves.
Today’s fully interactive flip page publications offer you the ability to include textual, video, audio and graphical content all in an engaging. format. And, yes you can also include affiliate links throughout the publication whicih make this technology state of the art. For an example of the software necessary check out 3DIssue.com. While this is the most expensive, you can see what it is capable of.
Write Articles: Earlier in this chapter we discussed the various sources of free content made available by authors that are allowing their articles to be used by virtually anyone. They do this because the agreement is that the author’s signature is attached to the article.
The signature is sure to contain an active link back to the author’s website, and if the article is meaningful, will generate traffic everywhere it is published. You can take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to have your travel articles published all over the web by other travel affiliates looking for content to publish.
It is a win-win situation for all parties. The more that you submit, the more opportunities you have for free traffic.
Links: Inbound links from another website is a very important element for the success of your affiliate efforts. Search engines see links from other sites as verification that your content is athoritarian and valuable. The more links, the better. Search engines also look at the quality of the webpage giving the link and if it is a high quality, you site gains even more credibility with the search engine.
Links to your website not only help develop more traffic, they also help with your SEO efforts. All search engines see organic links from important websites as a strong vote for your website. And, when I say “organic” I mean valid one-way links from an important website to your content.
Search Engines have become very wise to “Link Reciprosity”, “Link Exchange”, “Buying Links” and other plans to try to load a site with uplinks for the purpose of trying to make the site look more successful. These schemes are likely to hurt your ranking more than help.
However, having a robust uolink presence is quite likely to drive traffic to your site. Organic traffic from uplinks is one of the click through rates that there is simply because the visitor is very prone to follow links in content as evidenced by the fact that they click on a link to find your content..
Look for content that compliments your content on the web and then reach out to the publisher of the content to see if they might link to yours as a benefit for their readers. Contact influencers in your industry for links. The best way to reach out is to create a relationship using the telephone initially and then whatever way the individual would prefer from that point forward. Every successful website entreprenuer receives multiple link requests a day so you must communicate differently if you want positive results.
Online Communities and Groups: Many people overlook the obvious opportunity of driving traffic to their site(s) by participating in online communities and groups. Virtually all social media sites have keyword searches of their members and groups. As an example, let’s say that your website deals with cruises and cruising. You can join FaceBook.com, establish a formidable business page profile based on your cruise experience and then market it to member profiles based on keywords, geographical location and other key demographic data.
While Facebook does allow you to post affiliate links, they will severly limit the reach of your post so that it makes it quite difficult reach your followers without boosting the post. This fact makes affiliate marketing on Facebook a losing proposition. since the cost of boosting is quite likely to cost more than the revenue it might generate.
Facebook groups is another great place to mine for traffic. But, I must caution you that each group has a different tolerance for advertising (even the most subtle advertising). You should lurk in the group for a period of time before posting. Once you decide to post, begin with the most professional responses to questions that you can compose. After several posts community members have become familiar with your presence and consider you a part of the community, Familiarity in the group will lead to group members clicking on your profile for more information about you. This is how you can effectively market yourself to like minded people who are likely to use your services.
Once you are established in the group the Administrator will see the number of posts and see their quality, you are usually given substantial latitude in whatever you choose to post. But again, never openly solicit or spam an online community, as this will immediately cause the Administrator to take action.
Reviews: Review sites can be an extremely valuable resource for driving traffic to your site. As an example, after a cruise, write a thorough review of the ship and the ports. You can write one large cruise review and then separate the review into segments covering each of the ports of call. Be sure to include many references to your website (potentially several different pages with relevant content), but do not insert active links. Review sites are wary of reviews that look too much like advertising and will generally not post reviews with active links. The very best way to include your web address is to end your review with something like, “If you have any questions or wish further information about (topic), be sure to visit my DomainName.com site”. This tells the reader where to go without inserting an active link. Once you have completed the reviews, submit them to every review site that you can unearth. It was not uncommon for a review of a popular ship at my CruiseReviews.com site to be read over 20,000 times in its first year on the site. This is a lot of exposure to a focused market and well worth the time it takes to write the review. By the way, you should also put your review (with pictures) on your website and include the fact that the complete review, including pictures, can be seen at YourDomain.com.
One of the best ways to drive traffic is by creating micro-reviews of the cruise in video and then posting them on your YouTube channel. Each keyword micro-video will allow you to define the keywords that the video will respond to and will also carry a link back to your website to the full review.
Glossary of Affiliate Marketing Terms
The nomenclature of affiliate marketing is sometimes confusing, so here are some of the more common definitions that you may run across.
Above the Fold: Portion of the website visible when the page loads.
Administrator: One who owns and/or controls an Internet group or social media.
Affiliate: Partner or associate
Affiliate Link: Is a unique linking code which helps the advertiser track the4 activity of the link. The code is specific to the individual affiliate and is embedded into whatever is bing used as a creative.
Affiliate Networks: Entities that exist as intermediaries to bring those offering affiliate programs together with publishers that use affiliate programs.
ALT Text: Is the text used to describe an image or other graphical asset to tell search engines what the image or asset is.
ASP: Active Server Pages is Microsoft’s server-side script engine for dynamically-generated web pages.
Backlink: A link from another website to your site.
Below the Fold: The portion of a website that is visible only after scrolling.
Blog: A hybrid of the words “web” and “log”. A Web Log (blog) is simply a very easy to use website that was designed as an on-line diary, or daily log.
Bulletin Boards: A discussion community that exists for the primary purpose of allowing members to discuss the topics of the various forums that exist within the bulletin board.
Cartoon and Comic Strip Marketing: The use of viral cartoons and comic strips in social media to drive organic traffic to your website or other destination.
Click-Through: The action taken when a visitor clicks on a web advertisement and is taken to the advertiser’s website.
CTR (Click-Through Rate): The CTR measures the percentage of clicks to impressions. The higher the CTR the better the results.
Contextual Advertising: Ads on a website that are targeted specifically to the person visiting the website.
Conversion Ratio: The average percentage of online visitors that take a desired action.
CPC (Cost Per Click}: Knowing exactly what each click is costing you will help understand your overall profitability.
CPM: Cost Per Thousand (‘M’ is the Roman numeral abbreviation for thousand) is used by Internet marketers as a rate basis to price ads.
CPS (Cost Per Sale): It is critical to understand exactly what your CPS is to determine a campaign’s profitability.
Crawl: The act a search engine performs as it creeps through a website.
CSS: Cascading Style Sheets is a code that is used to set standards for HTML websites.
CTR: Abbreviation for click-through rate
Dashboard: A website or servers control panel.
Deep Link: Refers to a link on a website to a page on the site other than the home page.
Digests: A digest differs from a bulletin board in that members communicate with one another, but the posted messages are sent to every member in a digest format.
Domain Name Authority: Developed by MOZ, a domain name’s authority will predict how well the site will do in search engines.
Dynamic Packaging: Compiling items from different disimilar sources and bundling the components into one transaction.
Embed: A term used to denote that code is available to “embed” images, video or other functional code on your website.
Feed: A shortened version of a web page document created for syndication.
Flash: Vector-based images or animations that are used on a website; animated graphic displays that appear when a site is loaded.
HTML: Hyper Text Markup Language is the code used to build basic websites. It defines the layout and structure of a web page.
Java: An object-oriented, high-level programming language.
Keywords: Words used by search engines in their search for relevant web pages.
Keyword Density: The amount of times a keyword is used on a webpage.
Landing Page: A landing page is the page a visitor is delivered to after clicking on a link. Its sole purpose is to complete the action that you want them to which could be a sale, aignup or any other action.
Meme Marketing: Using user created memes in social media to drive viral and organic traffic.
Meta Tags: The HTML command specifying how a document should be formatted that provides information about a web page.
Moderator: A community member that helps with one or more forums in an online community. Their function is to stimulate conversation and to enforce community standards.
Newjacking: This is the viral marketing perocess of intercepting news relevant to your brand and releasing it as current news when it is still new news.
PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor is a server-side, HTML embedded scripting language used to create web pages.
Podcasting: Similar to RSS in that it allows subscribers to subscribe to a set of feeds of syndicated web content. The difference is rather than reading the feeds, they are listened to via an iPod or similar device.
Portal: A website that offers a wide variety of services and resources.
PPC (Pay Per Click): An advertiser agrees to pay a publisher (affiliate) a fixed rate each and every time someone clicks on the link from the affiliate’s website to the advertiser’s site.
PPA (Pay Per Action): An advertiser agrees to pay an affiliate a fixed rate every time one of the affiliate’s readers clicks on the advertiser’s link and completes a stated action. This is also known as PPL (Pay Per Lead).
PPS (Pay Per Sale): This is a form of Revenue Share whereby no one makes any money until the consumer actually has an economic impact on the supplier. Once a financial transaction has been completed, the affiliate is rewarded by sharing in the generated revenue.
Referral Program: Another name for an affiliate program, a business arrangement in which a vendor pays someone a commission for referring customers to the vendor’s site.
RSS: Acronym for Really Simple Syndication used to describe the standard for syndication of content for the web. It allows subscribers to subscribe to a set of feeds to view syndicated web content.
SEM: An acronym for “Search Engine Marketing” SEM defines the effort to gain higher search engine ranking by using SEO, Contextual Advertising and paid inclusion
SEO: Search Engine Optimization is the process of increasing the number of visitors to a website by ranking high in the search results of search engines.
Spider: Also known as a “WebCrawler”, a program that automatically obtains web pages and feeds them to search engines.
SERP: “Search Engine Ranking (or Results) Pages” Search results are delivered based on a webpages SERP based on the search term or phrase being searched. The higher a website’s SERP, the more traffic that will be delivered to it.
SQL: Structural Query Language (specialized language) for requesting information from a database.
URL: Also called a Domain Name the Uniform Resource Locator is the global address of resources and documents on the Internet.
Usenet: A global textual compilation of “Newsgroups” (same as bulletin boards) that are a venue for online communication and discussion.
User Content: Refers to content that is created or submitted by those who use a site and is usually shared with the user “community”.
Viral Marketing: Refers to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social media to produce an increase in product awareness through self-replicating viral processes such as word of mouth.
VoIP: Voice over Internet Protocol enables people to use the Internet as the medium for transmitting phone calls.
VPS: Virtual Private Server space does not limit bandwidth and number of domain names that can be served.
Web 1.0: Refers to the period of time prior to the debacle of the dot com crash.
Web 2.0: Refers to the evolution of the next generation of technology that has occurred since the bust of the web in 2001.
Web Optimization: Fine tuning your website so that it performs at its greatest potential.