Affiliate Marketing: A Win-Win Situation?

July 31, 2012

Of all the marketing tools I mention, I rarely take the time to discuss affiliate marketing. It’s often known to be a win-win situation, which is probably true so long as both parties are performing up to expectations. If you’re new to this term, affiliate marketing is an agreement made between a merchant and an affiliate (usually a blog owner or affiliate professional) in which the affiliate posts links or ads for the merchant’s products and receives a commission from the sales. Below, I will take you through the basic steps of an affiliate marketing agreement. This should help you to understand whether this could a good option for you.

1. Affiliate and merchant enter into an agreement– No matter what side you’re on, be sure to research the background of the company/website you’ll be dealing with. If you’re the merchant, make sure the affiliate site is popular enough to drive sales. It should also be relevant to what you offer. Lipstick sales will be more effective from a make-up blog than a foodie website. On the affiliate side, make sure the merchant has a good product with sales potential. Once you find your match, set up the terms of commission, payment period and goals.

2. Affiliate links to merchant’s website or product– Again, lipstick belongs on a makeup blog, cake mixers belong on a foodie site. Affiliates should write articles that link to the product, so relevancy is key. Reviews are always a great way to promote a purchase.

3. Someone clicks to the merchants site and makes a sale– Success! The merchant tracks users who enter the site through the affiliate and takes note of each sale made by these users.

4. Affiliate is paid at the end of an agreed upon payment period– If all goes well, the affiliate and merchant get the results they hoped for. If not, it’s important to review the data from the time period and make some changes, even if that means one side moving on. Fortunately, affiliate marketing becomes more affective as you gain experience.


Kiip and the Future of Mobile Advertising

July 27, 2012
Kiip ad

I find that advertisers seem to speak somewhat highly of mobile advertising. It’s true that there are some great mobile ads out there, but for every great ad are 10 that are intrusive and unwanted. I’m not convinced that we’re anywhere close to a place where we can confidently state that mobile ads are effective. You can argue that they’re reaching a more specific demographic, but if the ad isn’t done well, it doesn’t matter who’s eyes are on it.

When I learned about Kiip, I felt like a big forward step was taken in mobile advertising. The start-up believes advertising should be based on reward and choice. Instead of simply serving an ad to a gamer after they achieve a high score or enter a new level, apps using Kiip present discounts or a free item courtesy of a brand. With this model, mobile application users will have better incentive to stop what they’re doing and pay attention to the ad.

By using this rewards system, Kiip recognizes that instant gratification may be the key to satisfying customers with branded content. It also allows users to specify whether or not they want to redeem the reward. The start-up noted that after some time, people who used apps that served Kiip ads sought out other Kiip apps. With the increased popularity, Kiip began developing its own app that customers can use to track past rewards they’ve received.

In the future, Kiip aims to create rewards for everyday life activities. It has already begun working with Secret brand deodorant to give free songs to MapMyRun users who achieved certain goals.

When looking from Kiip’s point of view, many of the mobile ads we see now are simply the beginning of the endless possibilities for advertisers. Without seeming intrusive, brands also win with this model as consumers aren’t frustrated by ads that prevent them from continuing the game. The ads are not only a part of the game, but also one of the best parts.

Finding Relevant Keywords For Your Website- DIY Style

July 27, 2012

Keywords rule the internet. You type them into search engines every time you look for something new and they’re practically the highlight of every SEO conversation. I talk about link building a lot and how you can use the keywords you have to create content that will give way to links from relevant websites. If you own a real estate company, you wouldn’t want your keywords to be about dating advice, would you? A site may link to your page because you wrote some valuable things about dating, but when it comes time to search for a real estate agency, the terms your customers use will not match up with your keywords.

My dating advice example is a bit extreme, but even keywords that seem relevant for real estate such as “apartment” or “house” may not work for you. For the small business, these words are too broad. These are merely the keywords you start with in order to build a much more relevant, detailed list of valuable keywords. When you come up with a list of these general terms, you can move on to finding specifics using tools like Google AdWords keyword tool (which is free!). If you need help finding general keywords, identify the terms your competitors are using or use your current analytics tools to learn which keywords customers are already using to find your site. It’s also important to use your own intuition at this stage. In the example I used, the top four keywords are a sample of general keywords used to describe a real estate company.

Once you have these keywords, you can move on to specifics. I used Google AdWords keyword tool to search for different combinations of the four general terms. Some of my searches are below.

Keyword search using all four general terms


Keyword search using a combination of two general terms

I started with all four keywords, but when I changed it to only include real estate and New York, it yielded a different set of keywords. Once you do this a bunch of times, you can get an idea for what types of keywords would be perfect for you. When analyzing keyword results on AdWords, keep in mind that words with low competition are often too general to realistically use. For example, New York City has low competition for real estate because people who use this search term can be interested in a wide variety of topics. It’s also important to note that keywords that yield a high volume of searches are not always the best ones to go for. Try some with less monthly searches to serve a niche audience.

In my example, you can see that the keywords below the general four are some of the combinations I found using Google AdWords keyword tool. You may feel overwhelmed by the amount of keywords you find, so it’s important to flesh out the best ones and identify them as priority keywords. Once you have these, you can begin to use them on relevant pages on your site. Map out the best places to insert these keywords and include them in your online strategy.

If you’re having a hard time finding valuable keywords, you can run a pay per click campaign using Google AdWords to quickly test combinations that may work. This will cost you, though it may prove useful in the long run. PPC campaigns are a great way to test keywords, though it’s important to remember that testing is crucial no matter how you use your keywords. It’s important to note which keywords are performing better than others and adjust your strategy as you go.

Comparing Mobile Sites

July 26, 2012

Every mobile site has its own specifications that fits to its needs. Every feature is different, and some more necessary than others. In this post, I’ve reviewed 5 e-commerce mobile sites that should help you to compare, contrast, and pick up takeaways for your own site. I hope that by the end you will feel like a mobile site extraordinaire.

1. Kmart


Kmart’s site has a consistent and sleek design and all pages possess the red, white and grey colors that match its PC website. One thing left to be desired is the page speed, which lags due to an abundance of graphics. Selecting Browse brings up a long list of product options that may seem overwhelming to the casual browser, but is convenient for the decisive shopper. Product descriptions include detailed pictures and are easy to add to the shopping cart. I also like the local ads and deals section, which locates deals at Kmarts in any area, kind of like a “smart” circular.

2. Nordstrom

I like Nordstrom’s site for its simplicity. The homepage advertises current sales and the top links let you choose from Department, Brand, Stores, and Your Account pages. Product categories are concise and specific enough for users to quickly narrow down results. For those who are interested in buying apparel from the site, the company offers sizing details, descriptions of the clothing, shipping details, and suggestions for other products that complete the look. The user is also given several pictures of the product and the ability to view other color options, just like on the PC website, but smaller.


A company that is based solely online should have a mobile site that’s on par with its PC website. accomplishes this by extending the convenience of computer shopping to its well-organized mobile shopping. The homepage features different products and clearance items. In another tab, the user can browse through many categories of products. Being that offers practically any product, it is important for the site to be easily navigable. There are many options to choose from before you reach the desired product, though the company makes searches easier by constantly providing a way to go back or return home and start fresh.

4. Staples

Staples is constantly working hard to maintain a close relationship with its customers. My favorite feature about its mobile site was the link areas that allowed for large fingers to make the proper selections. The top bars on the homepage link to Customer Login, Shopping Cart and a Keyword Search. Under these were smaller links to Products, a Store Locator, and Weekly Advertisements. More links occur at the bottom of the page including Easy Reorder, which lets frequent customers buy previously purchased products. The options that stand out most on the page are catered to repeat customers who are looking to quickly purchase products. Staples knows the routine and knows its loyal customers will be willing to make a quick purchase on mobile.

5. StubHub

Less is always more when it comes to a mobile site, and StubHub captures just that. The homepage gives you two options- Find Tickets and My Account. Once in the Tickets section, you can choose your location, pick the type of tickets you want to buy (sports, concerts, theater and even favorite events that you marked during past browsing). If you’re looking to find an event taking place the next few days, you can view the Upcoming Tab. If you would like to search for a favorite band, team or show, you can select the Browse Tab and scroll through alphabetical order. Once you select your ticket, you are asked to log in and finally continue to your purchase.


Branding Your Pinterest Personality

July 19, 2012

In spending more time on Pinterest, I’ve realized that many of the people who flock to the site look for lifestyle-related content. It offers tips for new hairstyles, home decorating ideas, arts and crafts and fashion. The homepage is sprinkled with DIY projects, inspiring quotes, recipes, sunshine, and lollipops (well maybe not the last two, but you get it!). It’s true that the site promotes shopping- where will you get your arts and crafts supplies anyway? But Pinterest is also much more than a potential monetary transaction and should be treated as such when it comes to brands.

Whole Foods Market is now one of the most followed brands on Pinterest for a similar reason. Its page presents a human side of the company. If it could walk and talk, it would be a lot like its Pinterest page. Below, I listed a few boards that I feel helped the brand achieve its success. These boards may hint at a supermarket, but they scream Whole Foods.

1. Share the buzz– Whole Foods sells a ton of honey products including products made with the help of bees. Being a natural foods supermarket, supporting bees is a fitting cause to take up. The board has pins with pictures of bees and bee facts. Not only do they support the cause, this board shows customers how far their interest really goes.


2. Texans are pinning it BIG!– Whole Foods originated in Austin, Texas, which is why this board is an appropriate fit for the company. The brand is one of 40 others who contribute to this board. Contribution is a great way to make followers on Pinterest because it brings exposure to the brand. In this case, it’s also a great way to get together with like-minds from your hometown and have fun pinning.


3. Mom Rocks– No one cooks better than mom, right? Mom Rocks was a contest held for Mothers Day that sent sons and daughters pinning Whole Foods recipes for the sake of mom. Once at least three recipes were pinned to a board, the user could enter into a Mother’s Day contest. Pinterest contests are a common way to promote brand interaction within the site.


4. Strength– Food is supposed to make you strong, right? Whole Foods brings that concept to light with this board about fitness, meditation and yoga. Not only do they want to express that foods should be healthy and ‘whole,’ they also encourage a wholesome lifestyle.


5. Delicious Art– This cute board features food art from Obama sushi to Van Gouge vegetable art. Some are ironic, some silly and all reveal a little more about the Whole Food’s personality.


Whole Foods Market doesn’t just promote its brand on Pinterest, it also respects the preferences of Pinterest users. The page is full of lifestyle elements that are sure to keep any true pinner clicking away, pushing sales to the side if only for a little while.

The KISS Rule Never Fails in M-Commerce

July 18, 2012 is a Seattle-based e-commerce website affiliated with Walgreens and partially owned by Amazon. Given that information, I chose to write about its mobile commerce (m-commerce) site, expecting a higher level of quality. It’s an impressive site and would prove helpful as a benchmark for any e-commerce company looking to expand into mobile.

The site is simple and clear, which is most important for a mobile website. A lot of time should be spent organizing the site in a way that’s understandable to users and beneficial to you, which is what I feel has been able to accomplish here. They have a banner for featured products at the top, their free shipping offer (which is crucial for a site with low cost items like this), a search bar and a listing of each category that takes up no more than the whole screen.


Allowing customers to see every category without scrolling is hard to do, yet very helpful in terms of getting them to the product fast. The subcategories seem to be grouped according to the product types (ie: eye care comes after contact lenses). Depending on the nature of your products, you can also organize items in alphabetical order, though grouping by type is best here as customers may be thinking of different terms when looking for an item on your list. To group properly, think of a brick and mortar store where these items are sold. How are products grouped there? Typically, these groupings are what customers come to expect from their shopping experience both online and offline.

The success of mobile commerce sites rely on the ability to organize properly. It’s true that any site should follow this rule, though the lack of space on mobile devices leaves no room for mistakes. Like many mobile shoppers, customers are most likely busy urbanites looking to get a purchase in during their commute home or while at the office. Users aren’t interested in spending time on the site so much as they are to accomplish the task the came for. Keeping this in mind when designing your m-commerce site can save a lot of greif. Always remember the KISS rule. Keep it simple, stupid!

Privacy What?

July 13, 2012

I appreciate the idea that innovation is all around us. Technology is always changing and it’s nice to have information at my fingertips whenever I need it. I often wonder how I was able to get by without a GPS maps function on my phone.

Despite the excess data on our phones at present, developers are always looking for new ways to provide even more for us. I understand that it may be helpful, but at what point do we step back and question the necessity of such things?

Behavio is a new start-up that’s received awards from Google and at the SXSW festival for its Android platform that aims to give consumers the type of insight I mention above. The company aims to tap “smart sensor” information from smartphones and use it to give consumers control over their own data and for entities to gain actionable insight into trends in both individuals and communities. They claim this will make consumer’s lives more productive. In the picture below, Behavio shows the type of data they can obtain using the smart sensor- all of which is already being picked up by your phone whether you know or not. By streamlining this data into an interface like the one below, individuals will be able to explore data about their own lives. Other entities will too.

Behavio has all the makings of an honest, youthful tech startup. They even promise to obtain and use data ethically and to ask for consent from users before going forward with certain functions, which all sounds nice in a utopia. Maybe it’s because I’m learning about Behavio on the same day I’ve learned that Facebook is inserting political posts into users’ newsfeeds, but I doubt the public will have any trust in a concept like this.

Website Review- This is Why Good Web Development is Important

July 10, 2012

I like to explore the yellow pages for examples of websites because of the wide variety between downright terrible to well designed. The website I chose for this post is not terrible, in fact it sits right in the middle, with mistakes that anyone can make if they’re not being totally careful. The business is a swanky west side hair salon that I once visited on a deep discount.

The site struggles between nice design and bad development. What I mean by that is, it’s glitchy.

First, it’s not totally optimized for Chrome. The homepage doesn’t scroll down without having to manually click and drag the side bar, which is a common mistake. Always check each major browser before you decide to launch a site. If it doesn’t work for one, make that fix.

The site also varies in page lengths. The homepage has a ridiculously large Facebook plugin that takes up the bottom of the page. Reducing the size is likely a quick fix, as Facebook plugins are not supposed to be that large. There is also a random enter button in the middle that directs the user to a page of the same length, only without the plugin. Here’s what the homepage looks like from top to bottom:

The pages shorten to a normal length once you click into the categories. As you can see in the picture below, the side bar shows I’m at the bottom of the page. This is an optimal size for the site.

I also noticed that a lot of the links aren’t clickable or lead to blank pages. When I checked, some of the links that don’t work in Mozilla work in Chrome or Safari. Everyone gets his or her own experience, but overall it’s quite frustrating.

After all this, I must say that I like the design of the site. The black looks chic and the pictures are nice. If the gallery works on your browser, there are some nice photos that give prospective clients a good idea of what to expect. You can book an appointment online and learn a bit about the staff before coming in.

If you weren’t sure why you would ever need to seek a professional web developer, I hope this post can help you to understand their importance. If you still think it’s a waste and want to go DIY, be sure to check for these types of glitches. A beautiful website is good to look at, but without the right developer, it’s just for looking.

Everything You Need to Know About Goole I/O 2012

July 4, 2012

I’ve always appreciated the youthful attitude that Google’s helped to inject into tech society. It’s true that they may have privacy issues similar to Facebook and that they’re trying to take over our world, but there’s something about its personality that makes it a lot more okay. At the Google I/O conference, that colorful attitude contributed into the presentations and giveaways that they so openly distributed to developers. You have to hand it to these guys, they’re passionate about what they do. So what are they up to? Here’s a list of all you need to know from Google I/O 2012.

1. Google Chrome and Drive can be used on the iPhone and iPad


I’ve don’t use Safari on my desktop because I personally think it’s terrible compared to the alternatives, so I naturally downloaded Chrome for my iPhone upon hearing this news. It’s exactly what you would expect from a Chrome browser. Fully integrated with everything else Google, the browser shows tabs that are open on your Chrome desktop browser. The Google Drive app is also pretty cool. A fancy way of saying Google Docs, the Drive app makes viewing a Google Doc much easier than when users had to load the web page on their smartphones. Drive also allows you to put select documents into offline mode so that you can edit it wherever you are.

2. Android 4.1 Jellybean is smooth like butter

Jellybean was actually coined project butter by its team because of its focus on making user interaction with Android devices smoother than ever. Android 4.1 is so smooth that it claims to anticipate where your finger will land before it hits the screen. The new OS also includes a voice assistant, which isn’t so much news as it is an indicator that Google is keeping up with competitors. In addition, Google Now creates ‘cards’ that will automatically provide information such as the weather, how long a commute will take, the date of an upcoming appointment and the best way to get there, flight times, public transit information, and more. Just indicate what you’d like to know and the cards will appear on the Android device throughout the day.

3. Nexus 7 is super sweet and really cheap

My biggest takeaway after learning about the Nexus 7 tablet is that its only $200 and allegedly better than the Kindle Fire. Google’s step into hardware manufacturing is important for its success as a company. Close integration with hardware is key in ensuring that its software is being used to its full potential. The Nexus 7 runs using the Jellybean OS and can be bought at the Google Play store.

4. Nexus Q is a lot like Apple TV, but possibly worse

The Nexus Q is a home-entertainment media device that focuses on music and video playing. It competes with other media hubs, notably Apple TV, for a much higher price ($299 compared to $99). While you can stream music and videos, you can’t use Netflix, Hulu Plus or Pandora. You can’t access it without an Android phone and the only movies you can watch are the kind that are purchased through the Google Play store. It does integrate with Google’s cloud software like Google Music, but it’s not quite as exciting as one would hope.

5. Google maps and earth now have an offline mode and a new compass

Users can now save regions of maps for those times when they’re stuck underground in the subway station or in the middle of a dead zone. In addition to a smoother compass, Businesses can now provide a tour of the inside of its store using maps.

6. Project Glass is becoming real

I questioned the reality of Project Glass in an earlier post, and while I still think it will only amount to a lot of tech hype, Google is pushing to get it off the ground. This video of skydivers seemed to impress most tech nerds at the conference:

Though I still prefer this:

7. Google+ Events may give people a reason to use Google+

Unlike your typical social media invite, Google+ Events looks a lot more personal and works before, during and after the party. Before, the host can send out invitations with personalized themes to guest’s email inboxes. The invitation unfolds like a regular mail invitation, which adds a nice formal touch. During, guests can take and post pictures to the event page and they will be chronologically updated. After, attendees can relish in the fun they had by looking at the page.