A few weeks ago, after the “Marketing With No Money” seminar given by Doug Richard at the School for Startups hosted by the University of Edinburgh School of Informatics, I thought I’d give affiliate marketing a try. The idea was to put a blog, with a little content, market the blog on Twitter, and make revenues using the Amazon Affiliates scheme. Easy!?
Step 1: Upload WordPress somewhere on the web, pick a design, put some content. WordPress is an incredible piece of software, it is probably one of the most friendly web application to install by yourself out there. Hundreds of great design templates are available, and can be uploaded directly. The most difficult is to actually put some interesting content. I added a domain name: www.revoluted.com and decided to write on entrepreneurship books.
Step 2: Sign up for the Amazon Associates program. This should not take more than a few minutes. Once signed up, you can just create a link to any item sold on Amazon. You will earn referrals fees each time someone buys an item after clicking on one of your links to them.
Step 3: Think of your marketing strategy. This can be SEO (Google, Yahoo, etc.), social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc.), or more traditionnal ways. Remembers, this is marketing with no money, don’t be tempted by putting an advert somewhere. Personally, I created a Twitter account: @revoluted. I started randomly posting descriptions of the articles, from this account.
Step 4: Realisation that your marketing strategy is not working. Luckily I came across Tweetdock, a service which automatically posts messages to Twitter via your account each time it detects someone posting on one of your chosen keywords. The service is actually quite amazing, within a few days the @revoluted account posted more than 2000 updates, followed nearly 2000 twitter accounts, and generated 650 followers. I also added Google Analytics to the blog in order to see how many people actually clicked on the links posted via twitter, and make an attempt at calculating the conversion rates. The blog had 386 visits and 500 page views, mainly from the US, other visitors were evenly distributed from around the world.
Unfortunately, Tweetdock isn’t free anymore (good thinking Mr Tweetdock, I believe he’s the one making all the money now). However, there must be other services out there offering the same features, and I don’t think it would be too difficult for a good programmer to recreate a similar service.
Conclusion: After a few weeks running this experiment, and several hundreds of clicks, 1 person actually purchased a book through Amazon after following one of my links. Interestingly enough, the book is not one of the those advertised on the blog. Amazon calcutated the conversion rate to be 2.08%. I believe it’s more like 0.00259%. The sale earned me £0.58! In order to make a basic living out of this, I would have to sell between 75 and 100 items per day, which would mean driving tens of thousands of visitors to the blog every month.
One of the reason why the conversion rate is so low is because most visitors were from the US, whilst my links redirected to Amazon.co.uk which isn’t interesting for these visitors. Another problem I see is that if you want your visitors to make an impulsive purchase, you need to give them a compelling reason to purchase the item you’re offering right now. Otherwise they’ll go, have a think about it, then purchase the book directly from Amazon or elsewhere without going through you. Another reason for the failure of this experiment is the quality of the articles published, they were basically a mix of reviews found on the Amazon items’ descriptions, just enough to get Google to pick it up without putting too much effort. The bottom line is: if you want to make money out of affiliate marketing, it is possible, but like anything else you’ll have to work hard at it before it starts paying back. You’ll have to offer top content for your readers, find an innovative and free way to drive traffic in the first place, and cut a deal with your merchants in order to offer a better incentive to your potential buyers.